Selecting a College
You're going to be spending a big chunk of time — not to mention money — at your chosen college. After you've narrowed your list to your top choices, it's time to hit the road to see if you and a college are a good match.
Get a game plan and get going!
High school juniors often visit their top picks in the spring, but there's no reason not to pop in whenever you have time. Try to visit more than once if you're really having a hard time deciding. Many early decision deadlines fall soon after you begin your senior year, so begin now. Check out each college's website and review its catalog before you visit so you can fine-tune your questions. Be sure to check out the campus newspaper (either online or once you get there) to get a feel for what life may be like for students.
Make an appointment with each college so you can know the best time to visit, because many colleges offer programs for visiting students. You'll want to see the campus while classes are in session, but try to avoid mid-term or finals weeks. If you can, try to visit a class or talk with a professor in the major you're considering to get a feel for the program and its facilities. Take notes and ask lots of questions, keeping in mind how what you see and experience will translate into a successful college experience for you. Visit the financial aid office and discuss how the school determines eligibility for aid and when it makes decisions on financial aid packages.
For detailed information about colleges you're interested in, you can visit the College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics.
The College Navigator from the National Center for Education Statistics will provide detailed information for more than 7,000 colleges, universities and technical schools. That information includes costs, majors and campus characteristics.
Stuff you need to know:
- What do I do if I need extra help in a class?
- How big are typical freshman/introductory classes?
- How much reading and writing is assigned the first year?
- Is the food good? (Eat a meal there and ask about meal plans.)
- How do you pick classes?
- How much time is there between classes?
- If I bring a car, where will I park?
- Where are the freshman dorms in relation to the rest of campus? (Try to visit one: Is it cramped, noisy or studious?)
Stuff you'll want to know:
- What's access like to computer labs?
- Who will teach my classes: faculty or graduate students?
- What kind of extracurricular activities are available — athletics, drama, band, clubs, yearbook, debate team, etc.?
- How much does it cost to do laundry?
- What happens if I get sick and need medical attention?
- What's the social scene like, both on and off campus?
- What are the most common campus crimes, and how many are there?
- If you plan to work when you finish your academic program, find out how many graduates get jobs in their chosen fields.
- If you plan to earn a degree beyond a bachelor's, find out how successful the school's graduates are at getting in — and completing — graduate school, dental school, law school or medical school.
Stuff you probably don't need to know:
- Names of campus buildings (at least while you're visiting). But you can always get a map and learn it by the time you enroll!
- How many books are in the library. You only need to know this if you plan to read them all. Instead, ask about access: Are they returned regularly so others can use them?