While you are applying to colleges (assuming you apply to more than one), one thought that is likely to be running through your mind is which college you will be attending. This is a hard decision because a lot of schools sound good on paper, but the question is how are they in reality? A great way to figure this out is via tours of the university as well as contacting some of the staff at the school.
1. Financial Aid
Before you commit to a college definitely reach out to the people in the financial aid office. See how they answer the phone and treat you while they answer questions. This may not seem like a lot but if they’re giving you a hard time as a prospective student whose money they don’t even have yet. Imagine when they’ve already got your money in hand and they can charge you with no remorse. This is also good because sometimes they will remember names and refer you for scholarship opportunities.
If you have any idea of the major you would like to study, go on the site and get the contact info of some of the people in the department. See how passionate they are about the courses that they teach. It would also be good to ask them how most classrooms operate. For example, at some universities there are flipped classrooms where you are supposed to watch videos online and then come to class knowing the information already and then do problems in class itself. Also asking them if the class will be taught by professors exclusively or if teacher’s assistants and graduate students also teach. There is difference between the teaching styles of the professors and graduate students, so it is important to find out if that is how your classes will be taught.
If you are granted the opportunity to go on tour, talk to some of the people in the group. The reason for this is to see the kind of people you could be going to school with. While you won’t be friends with everyone of course, you’ll see what students who are looking at that school have in common. You should also talk to the students around campus. Ask them how to get places and see how they respond. It tells you a lot about the culture of the campus when you ask questions to the students. If the students answer the questions of prospective students passionately and with a smile on their face it makes you think they really love their school. Whereas if you visit a college and you don’t see any students and the students that you do see seem stressed and depressed, maybe that’s not the environment for you.
4. Student Affairs
If there are extracurriculars you are interested in, stop by the student affairs office or contact them. The people there will be able to talk to you about extracurricular activities. If you’re really passionate about community service, it would be good to see if the university you’re interested in has a lot of organizations that are dedicated to that as well. Also if you want to try something new it’s a great way to see how many types of clubs there are to join. It’s also key if you’re interested in Greek Life. If you pick a college and don’t know if they have Greek Life in advance and you do want to participate, but they don’t have it, that could be very disappointing. This is something that you should keep in mind.
5. Health Services
The health services/counseling center is another great place to visit. The health services building is what you’re going to rely on when you’re sick. Your parents likely won’t be there to rush to school and tend to your needs. This is why it is important that you know what kind of services your health building gives. Do they provide medicine? Do they have doctors or nurses or nurse practitioners? What can they test for? What can they vaccinate for? Do they have a relationship with a close by emergency room? These are the kinds of questions you would want to ask because in the case of an emergency you wouldn’t want to find out all your school has is bandaids.
You should also talk to the counseling center, or even find out if your school has one. College can be stressful. The counseling center is an important resource on campus to have. If your school seems to always be looking for counselors this could be a sign it isn’t for you. How many people have they had to send to the hospital for stress? This could be induced by the type of college that it is. A support system away from home is vital which is why friends and sometimes counselors are good to have.
Ask questions. Closed mouths are not fed. When it comes to the school you could be spending the next four years of your life at it is important to make sure the fit is right for you. Yes you can always transfer by why not avoid that by finding out the essentials before you get there.