FINDING THE RIGHT “FIT”
Finding a college that is the right “fit” for you involves more than just finding out if the school offers your intended major. When visiting college campuses for the first time, it’s important to ask yourself and others some questions as you go through the campus, meet people and listen to information being given to you by the admissions office and by students on campus. When you are at each school, ask yourself some of the following questions:
The “gut check” questions:
- Can I picture myself on this campus?
- Do the students look like people I want to study with and learn from?
- Do the students look happy, stressed or other?
- Are the students I’m meeting enthusiastic about their school and excited about what they study, as well as the experiences available to them?
- Do I get a good feeling from this school?
The last question, “Do I get a good feeling from this school?” is often the question that puts a school at the top of your list or knocks it off the list. You might find that a school has everything you want on paper, but when you get there it’s just not what you want for some reason. You might not even be able to verbalize that reason. Be honest with yourself about these feelings. This is why you are visiting. As I like to say, finding the right school is like dating. You need to get to know the school and see if it’s the right fit before you attend.
Ask Your Tour Guide
In addition to the “gut check” questions, you need to ask some other questions about the schools you’re visiting. Below are questions you can ask your tour guide or any other students you meet on campus. Don’t be shy! This is your chance to get as much information as possible. Many times, you’ll ask the question that others are thinking but may be too shy to ask.
Questions to ask your tour guide or students you meet on college campuses:
- What are you studying?
- Can you tell me some ways that your professors have made the classroom experience exciting? Examples include guest lecturers, field trips, hands-on learning.
- Have you had an internship? Do you plan on having one or more? Are they easy to get?
- Do you interact with your professors?
- What is the social life like on campus?
- What do students usually do on weekends?
- How would you describe the student body?
- What are the Residence Halls like?
- Can students live on campus for 4 years? Can they live off campus?
- Can students have cars on campus?
- How is the food?
- Why did you choose this school?
- Are you happy here?
You may find that you like to ask just one or two of these questions at each school or you may want to ask all of them. It’s up to you.
Jot Down Immediate Thoughts Before Leaving
Finally, after you visit each school, take 2 minutes to write down three things you liked and three things you didn’t like (or liked less) about each school. Also, make a note of one or two buildings that really stood out on each campus and why. For example, St. Lawrence University has a really cool, brightly colored library with tiny cubicles and bean bags that the students can use to study. I still remember this from my tour 25 years ago! If you mark down a distinguishing characteristic for each school it will help you remember the schools better.
I hope your college visits go well. Keep in mind that this is your journey. Enjoy it and learn from it!
Before going on your college tour road trip with your child, make sure they are prepared to talk with admissions officers. Check out Insightful Questions To Ask An Admissions Officer.
Anna Seltz, our guest contributor, is the owner of Higher Ed U, College Admissions Consulting located in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. Prior to opening her own consulting business, Anna spent 13 years working in Admissions for American University in Washington, DC and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Anna can be reached at Annaseltz71@gmail.com. Check out Higher Ed U’s facebook page too.