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Questions to Ask to Find a Good College Fit

I recently attended a college fair hosted by College That Change Lives. This group of 40 small colleges is selected by a non-profit organization originally run by Loren Pope, who wrote a book by the same name. Several hundred high school students and their families attended, and I went to talk to a few admissions representatives to learn more about those colleges on behalf of my clients.

The organizers handed out a helpful list of questions to ask of admissions officers as students and their families investigate colleges. It is worth sharing with my readers.

On the Academic Environment

  • Do faculty members hold students to high standards?
  • How much time do students spend on work outside of class?
  • What type of evaluations (i.e., exams/papers) do faculty members use most often?
  • What type of thinking do exams and assignments require?
  • How do students receive feedback on academic work, and how often do they receive it?
  • Do students work together on projects?
  • How often are students required to do presentations in class?
  • How often do students discuss ideas in class?
  • Is there a required first-year program and a culminating senior experience?
  • Are students able to easily access courses outside of their major?

On the Campus Environment

  • Do students and faculty serve together on campus committees?
  • How well do students get along with each other?
  • How many students participate in community-based service projects?
  • How easy is it to be involved in student leadership activities?
  • How often do students interact with peers of different racial or ethnic backgrounds or social, political, and religious views?
  • How many students study abroad?
  • What do most students do for fun?
  • Are there opportunities for spiritual activities?
  • What kinds of activities are students involved in outside the classroom, and how accessible are these activities to first-year students?
  • Are activities in music, theater, and fine arts limited to students majoring in these areas?
  • Are the students satisfied with their experience? Would they make the same college choice if they had to do it again?
  • Is athletic participation limited to varsity athletes?
  • What percentage of students are involved in athletics or intramural sports?

On Campus Resources

  • What types of financial aid and academic scholarships are available? Are they renewable each year?
  • Who assists students with course selection and career advising? How often does this happen?
  • How accessible are library and technology resources?
  • What safety/security services are available, and how often do students use them?
  • What health and personal counseling services are available?
  • What career planning and job placement services and/or internship experiences are available? How early can these services be accessed? What data is available on graduate and professional school enrollment and job placement for students?

This is a pretty exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of how to get beyond the marketing glitz and the official tours. Sometimes you have to get off the beaten track and ask students and random folks you meet on campus about college life.

Further, you need to tailor this list to your individual interests and priorities. My clients call upon me to help them develop a list of priorities, and together we map out a strategy for the college visits. There is no sense traveling half-way across the country to look at colleges just to passively absorb the marketing messages and take a look at the landscaping. You have to have a road map. This is what we provide at Montgomery Educational Consulting. Call us today to help you map your college journey.

Mark Montgomery
Educational Planner
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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  1. […] For prospective students: remember that the tour guide is only one student of many (at UT, our tour guide was one of nearly 50,000). The guide’s perspective cannot be taken as representative of the entire school. Sometimes you’ll “click” with a tour guide. Sometimes you won’t. The tour is an important aspect of your overall evaluation of a college. But try to separate the tour from the tour guide. Furthermore, you need to become inquisitive. You need to ask questions of everyone you meet. Walk up to information desks. Ask the woman behind the counter what she thinks of the students. Ask the student at the library reserve desk where he likes to study, or what dorm he lives in, and ask him about his experience. Talk to the waitress at the local diner what the students are like. And most important, try to corner a professor for a few minutes…they are generally the best sources of information of all. Walk around classroom buildings and look for open faculty doors. Introduce yourself as a prospective student and ask a couple of pertinent questions (see my previous post here for some tips of what to ask). […]

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