My February issue (among others) discussed important points worth researching when considering possible college choices. The online research, of course, is very important and much more convenient than it was in “the old days.”
But getting out and visiting schools in person is essential as well. For seniors, that means going back to “Accepted Student Days” or making a second visit on a typical school day. It’s important to sit in on a class or two and consider spending the night.
Juniors, on the other hand, will likely be visiting for the first time and deciding whether or not to keep a given school on their list. It’s helpful to visit before May so that students will still be on campus prior to their summer break. Keep in mind as well that many schools do not offer tours at all in May, as their student tour guides are taking exams and then heading home. Typically, tours start back up again in June.
Overall, here are some important factors that should be compared at each school:
Academics: What is the strength of the school or the program your student is interested in pursuing? Are teaching assistants used to teach? Is the school’s emphasis on undergraduate teaching or graduate research? Is the atmosphere more competitive or collaborative? What is the level of student stress?
Class sizes: How large are the freshman classes (not just the faculty to student ratio)?
Graduation Rates: Check for 4 years and 6 years. Make sure to compare apples to apples at each school.
Retention: Percent of sophomores that return. If it’s low, that can be a red flag
Support: Are there resources to help transition to college? Are there writing, math and foreign language labs? Is there a fee for content tutoring? Are tutors peers, grad students or faculty? Is there help with time management, organization and study skills?
Internships: What percent of students complete internships (a college degree is not always enough these days!)? Does the school help secure the internships?
Housing: What percent of students live on campus? Is housing guaranteed all 4 years? If students live off campus, are they commuters or do they live in near-by housing?
Student Body: What is the level of diversity in all areas – racial, socioeconomic, geographical, etc? What is the level of tolerance for differences? Is there a political leaning one way or another? Do at least some of the students seem like people you could be friends with?
Campus life: Do the students look happy? (Keep in mind that no one looks happy on a college campus early in the morning or when they are dashing to class in the rain.) Try to talk to students in addition to the tour guide. Ask what they like about their school and what they wish were different.
What percentage of kids go home on the weekends?
Are there activities for students who are not interested in parties?
Is there Greek Life and, if yes, how dominant is it?
Are there ample opportunities for volunteering?
Does the school have the amount of school spirit you are looking for?
Do students regularly attend sports games or dance, music, drama performances?
Special note to seniors: Make a list of the Must Haves and the Nice to Haves to help you make a decision. Remember, you have worked hard for many years to get here – you will be happiest in the long run if you make this choice in a thoughtful manner!
Upcoming College-Related Events
Tune in here to hear my interview with Alexis Avila of Prepped and Polished (tutoring and test prep).
Local College Fairs: Some schools attend from outside of New England, so it can be good to make contact if you are unable to visit the school.