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Thinking About College

By John Raftrey And Lori McCormick

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About this blog: We are writing this blog to give practical advice to students and parents, to reflect on issues affecting college admissions, and to provide a platform for a robust community discussion on post-secondary choices. We occasionally f...  (More)

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Spring Break college touring

Uploaded: Mar 22, 2018
(written by Lori McCormick)

Students and families might use the opportunity of Spring Break to visit colleges. Some students are visiting to decide if they will accept their admissions offer, while others are determining if this college gets added to their short list when they apply to college. If you are visiting during spring or summer breaks please take into consideration that the college(s) you visit might also be on break, so it could feel very different if classes were in session.

Here are some questions commonly addressed during college tours and informational sessions. This list is an oldie but a goodie. If you have recently visited colleges and have additional advice to offer, please leave a comment.

Admissions Information Session
What are your graduation/retention rates?
How many students applied/accepted last year?
Parents should ask what the process is if their daughter/son is a victim of a sexual assault/physical assault/bullying by a fellow student, and what safeguards are in place to protect the accused student from being unfairly treated.

Ask specific questions in the area(s) you are interested in.
What is the faculty to student classroom ratio?
Does the campus offer research programs for undergraduates?
Are the classes taught by professors or teaching assistants?
What is the average amount of time students study outside of the classroom?
What is the grading system like (curve, A-F, evaluation based, etc.)?
If your campus is religiously affiliated, you will want to find out what those requirements are.
What career opportunities does this major offer and how successful have former students been in finding an agreeable, well-paying position?

If they can't show you a dorm, ask very specific questions.
How many students in a room?
Are there same-sex dorms or same-sex floors?
Does the campus offer theme floors/dorms, etc.?
How many students live on campus and how many are commuters?
What are the housing requirements (some campuses require you to live on campus two years)?
Is freshman allowed to have cars on campus (this is a popular question)?
What does the college do if my roommate and I are not getting along?

Financial Aid (if this is applicable)
How many students receive Financial Aid?
What is the average Financial Aid package?
Are there merit-based scholarships? What are the requirements to qualify?
Does the campus offer work-study jobs?
Will the Financial Aid office work with me on payment plans?

Campus culture
If there is a club/activity you are particularly interested in, ask questions
What is the campus culture like?
What type of clubs/organizations are offered?
What do students do on the weekends? Specifically, if you are at a campus where students tend to go home, you want to make sure you have a built-in community; otherwise, you are on campus bored and alone on weekends.
What kind of activities are available off-campus?
What types of Arts and Cultural events are offered on campus or in the surrounding community?
If your campus is religiously affiliated, you can clarify is attending a religious service (i.e., mass or chapel) is mandatory or optional.
Are there social and support programs available for first-generation students?

Greek Life
How many students participate in Greek life?
How many fraternities and sororities are offered on campus?
What is the time commitment to be involved in a fraternity or sorority?
What is the pledge process like?

This especially plays a critical factor in decision-making for students moving to a dramatically different climate.
Does the campus offer light therapy for students who suffer from depression?
How have students from (California, for example) adjusted to living in cold conditions (like New York or Boston)?
What policies does the campus have for snow days?
What if any policies are in place for "natural disaster" situations? (Basically, how prepared is the campus for this kind of situation?).

What is the food like? If you have a specific food request (organic, locally sustained, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) be sure there are enough options available to you.
What are the meal plans offered?
How many dining commons provided are on campus?
How are the dining establishments off campus?

Your tour guides are current students. Ask them where they are from, what their major is and how they decided to attend this college. You can also ask them where else they applied or which other colleges were they accepted to.

Campus Resources and Safety
What types of academic resources (counseling, tutoring, EOP/First Gen, etc.) are available to students?
What type of personal services (counseling, health and wellness) are available?
How safe is the campus?
How many incidents (crime, assault, etc.) are reported annually?

Be sure to allow enough time to walk around the surrounding areas of the campus. See if the neighborhoods are student-friendly (is there ample off-campus housing, safe bike routes, laundry, grocery stores, etc.). Visit a local coffee house or eatery to get a feel for the community culture and compare that to the campus culture. And, most important, students need to ask themselves if they can live, learn, and become an integral part of that college's community for the next 4-6 years.

What is it worth to you?


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