As you get your senior ready for college tours this year, you may feel a little overwhelmed. You know that you need to look below the surface to find out the “real deal” about a school, but you may not know what to ask.
Fortunately, parents in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group recently weighed in on this exact question. Here are suggestions from our parents – and a few of our own ideas for good measure!
What Surprised You and What Would You Change?
Often college tour guides are college students themselves. One great idea that came out of our Facebook group was to ask the guide about what surprised them, and what they wish they could change about the school.
One parent said, “Ask the student guide if there’s anything he wished he knew about that college prior to going there or if there’s anything he would change about the college, university housing, or dining halls.”
Another parent added, “I always ask the guide, ‘Once you started attending what surprised you about this school?’”
Finally, there’s this advice: “We always spend time trying to find out more about the personality of the student body and what our tour guide like the best and least about the school.”
These kinds of questions will give you some good insight!
Questions About Registering For Classes
One concern many parents have is to make sure it’s possible – and easy – to graduate in four years. One stumbling block can be classes that are not offered every semester, or required classes that fill up quickly.
Try to find someone in the major your child is focused on, and ask if there are classes that are hard to get into. Find out if there are roadblocks to registering, or if the process is complex.
Our parents said, “Ask the student guide about the process to register for classes, and how easy it is to get classes required to graduate in 4 years.”
Another parent brought up a different concern: “Find out how big of a department their major is. If it is a small department or not a popular major ask about class sizes. How many students have to enroll in a class for it to take place?”
You may also want to find out about average class sizes, attendance policies, and how easy it is to switch majors.
Campus safety is a big deal on any campus, no matter how large or small. Find out what steps the school has taken to protect students. Are there campus-wide alerts for emergencies? How do individuals get help if they feel unsafe?
You can ask the tour guide if they or their friends have felt unsafe on campus. Ask how someone would get help in the dorms, or report an incident.
Job Placement and Internships
You can find out the graduation rates and other statistics online, but being on campus is a great way to see whether the website matches reality. You can ask the guides about where the career placement office is and what services they offer.
If you have a chance, take this parent’s advice: “I have my students meet with their department of choice and ask about job placement, internships, etc. IMO, the goal of college is to get a job.”
One thing to consider is how many classes your student’s department are taught by TAs vs. professors. TAs may not be as well-trained, and they may not be available to give recommendation letters or provide assistance as your child nears graduation.
Finally, find out what internships are available and how many students take advantage of them. Internships give valuable experience before graduation and can help your student land a job.
Dorms and Food
Because many students will be spending a lot of time in the dorms and dining halls, do your best to get a tour of them. Check to see if the food looks fresh, appetizing, and healthy. See if you can try the food as well!
One parent in our Facebook group suggested a great question for students who are attending school in a large city: “Do you guarantee housing for all four years? (Important for city options where off-campus housing is exorbitant.)”
You may also want to ask if there’s a specific freshman dorm, and what housing options juniors and seniors tend to take advantage of.
Finally, find out how easy it is for students to travel from school back home, and how many go home on weekends. It may also be helpful to know the percentage of commuter students.
Find the College With the Right Fit For Your Student!
You want to make sure you choose a college where your student is comfortable and has the right educational, social, and professional opportunities.
However, that’s not the only concern. Make sure you know how generous the school is as well, especially to families in your specific situation. If you’d like to focus your college search on generous schools, we can help. Check out our Merit Scholarship Toolkit today!
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