College campus tours are a rite of passage. Ideally, you pick a beautiful fall afternoon and drive to the campus of the college you are considering attending. An upbeat tour guide takes you to the nicest buildings, gives you impressive stats, talks about the latest events on campus and paints the school in a bright, positive light. It can be a lovely experience. However, if you don’t ask your own questions, and understand what you are looking for in a college, the entire experience can be pretty useless.
When I speak to college grads about their college experience, they often talk about how they did not spend enough time researching colleges and determining if they are the right fit for themselves. I am a firm believer that a student needs to determine what they are looking for in a college and what type of environment works best for them. It is crucial that you are asking the right questions and seeking the information you need. Here are five questions you should be asking on every campus tour.
What Is The Average Size Class?
In my online course, How To Select The Right College For You we spend the entire first lesson talking about determining the type of environment you need to be successful. Certain colleges have class sizes that are similar to the ones you experienced in high school. However, larger colleges can have class sizes of 50, 75, or even 100 students.
Larger class sizes mean less face to face time with your professor. It also means you may not be able to ask as many questions and will have to figure it out on your own. Take time to think about how important this is to you. If you are an independent learner, you may not care about how many students are in your class. If you are someone who enjoys asking questions and often needs specialized attention to understand concepts, then a smaller class size should be a top priority.
When Do I Have to Declare A Major?
Before you choose a college, you should have an idea of what type of industry you are interested in. In the course mentioned above, I encourage students to discover what type of person they want to become. This allows them to understand what they are interested in pursuing as a career, without having to commit right away. If you have an idea of what you are interested in but want to keep your options open, the deadline for declaring a major is crucial.
Some colleges require a declaration by the end of your freshman year. Others allow you to wait until the end of your sophomore year. If you enter college undecided, it will enable you to continue to explore your options. You can use this time to talk to other students, faculty, alumni, and the career center about the various career options that will be open to you. It is crucial to have a plan and understand when you have to make important choices, such as choosing the right major for you.
What Type of Internships Do You Offer?
When you graduate college, you enter the workforce with hundreds of other graduates who, on paper, will look exactly like you. You will have similar degrees and come from similar types of colleges. Internship experience is what is going to help you stand out. Internships will allow you to showcase your skills and prove you can be a reliable, valuable employee.
Internships are also a great way to understand what your chosen career is going to be like. You can learn the day to day responsibilities of your career and ensure that it is something you will enjoy doing on a daily basis. Lastly, this is an opportunity to connect with working professionals and learn from them. You can pick up valuable pieces of information about how to apply to jobs, workplace professionalism, and much more. If you create a secure connection with a particular contact, you can ask them for a letter of recommendation. This is a letter that tells future employers how valuable an addition you will be to their team.
Ask your tour guide or admissions counselor to provide details about the internships the school offers. Do they have partnerships with companies in the area? Do they have an active alumni network that is actively looking for interns for their companies? If you do not get the answers you are looking for, contact the career center. Stop by after a tour or ask for staff members email address. Make sure that you are going to be able to apply to and serve in several high-value internships during your years at that school.
How Do Students Get To Class?
This is an important question that often gets overlooked. It ties back into my earlier point about finding a college situation that works for you. Smaller colleges have all their buildings on one campus. A students class is never more than a 10-minute walk away from their dorm building. This makes getting from one class or activity to another very easy. Larger colleges often have several campuses. Students are required to take a bus to each class, and that bus will not wait for you if you are late.
You should not disqualify a school if it has several campuses or requires mass transit to attend class. You should determine if that is important to you. You should also know that this is something you will be required to do and plan for it accordingly. Several grads I have spoken to over the years had no idea what attending one class entailed. They were thrown completely off guard, and their grades suffered as a result.
What Percentage of the Student Body Commutes to Class?
Again, this is important if you are planning to live on campus. If you choose to dorm, then you are committing to spending a significant amount of time in a new place. If you go several hours away, then you will be spending most of your weekend there as well. You want to make sure there is stuff to do. That the school is committed to planning events for students who stay on campus. If the majority of the student body commutes from home, the school may not invest a lot in keeping the small number of dorm students entertained.
Now, a high percentage of commuters does not necessarily mean you will be bored to death on the weekends. If it appears as if the school you are looking at is considered a “commuter school,” there are a few follow up actions you can take. First, ask about campus events. Is there something every weekend or are they only highlighting the big, yearly events? The second thing you can do is take a look at the flyers around campus. What types of events are they promoting? Look for events where you can hang out with friends, meet new people, and experience new things.
While you are looking, see what types of networking events they provide. Do they have guest speakers or opportunities to meet working professionals? This will tell you how invested the school is in preparing you for the workforce. Knowing that you can keep busy meeting new people and learning new things could be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a college.
A college should earn your money and your time. They should be offering you a wide variety of opportunities that are going to help you build the career you want and become the type of person you want to become. You should also have a clear picture of what life is going to be like at that school. You need to know you will feel comfortable in order to be set up for future success. It is up to you to take control of this process, ask the right questions, and choose the college that is right for you.
About How To Select The Right College For You
This online, on-demand course is designed to help students navigate through the college selection process. We help the student identify what type of environment they need to succeed and coach them through asking the right questions to get the information they need to make the best choice for themselves and their future
Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one on one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it at www.ToTheNextStep.org or by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org.