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Seven (More) Questions to Ask Colleges

By Tom Nicholas

September 5, 2014

A little while back, we ran a post called Seven Questions to Ask Colleges, designed for high school juniors as they started to explore colleges and make their first college visits.

As we head into autumn, those questions are just as valid for high school seniors to ask. But with the application process and college itself so much closer, and with more in-depth visit options often available to seniors, there are also some deeper questions that you ought to be asking when you visit campuses now. Here are seven suggestions.

1. Can I see myself here on a typical Tuesday?

Forget game day. Forget concerts. Forget those huge events that, while awesome, won’t make up the everyday fabric of your college experience. Instead, imagine yourself walking to class on a Tuesday morning, homework in your backpack, the whole day in front of you. What do you think of the students passing by? Do you see anyone you know, or are they mostly strangers? Do you see yourself finding close friends here? How do you feel about the campus environment? The climate? (What if it’s raining? Or snowing? Or 105°?) Incidentally, the easiest way to answer these questions is to visit campus on a typical weekday and see for yourself, rather than imagining it.

2. Can I eat this food for 4 years?

College food is an amenity – but it’s a pretty critical one, seeing as it’ll fuel everything else you do for four years. So how does this college stack up? Even if it’s not a residential college, or you’ll spend much of your time living off-campus, consider local restaurants and grocery stores, and whether they’ll meet your needs. And be sure to try the food before you leave campus.

3. Are the professors engaging?

Though food is important, the main reason you’re going to college is to learn. So one of the most critical things to discover is what that learning will be like, and whether you’ll enjoy it (or at least find it interesting enough to keep you motivated). Lots of factors play into this question – class sizes, student-faculty ratios, and many more – but perhaps the most important factor is the profs themselves. Are they experts in their fields? Are they interesting? Do they engage you – whether through their lecturing, their teaching style, or (liberal arts college bias alert!) through individual conversations? The best way to answer this question is, of course, to sit in on a class or two, and try to meet with some professors if your schedule allows. It’ll tell you a lot about whether the college is a good fit for you.

4. How will this college challenge me?

College is all about learning, growing, and trying new things. It’s possible to coast through without much excitement, but who wants that? Look for colleges where you get the feeling you’ll have some unexpected experiences. Some things to consider investigating as you visit campus are study abroad options, community service, research and internship programs, academic courses and fields of study that sound unique or interesting, engaging professors (see #3), and the diversity of the student body.

5. Where do I turn if I need help?

Most students go through at least one point in college where things get rough. Maybe you find yourself homesick, or you get your first weak grade on an exam, or you come down with a bad case of the flu. Mom and Dad aren’t around to take care of you anymore, so what do you do about it? Does the college have resources – academic tutors, residence life staff, a health center – where you can easily find help? Are there deans, advisers, or professors who are accessible and supportive? Don’t worry yourself over this question, but think about it objectively when you’re visiting college campuses.

6. Can I get in?

This is a critical question when finalizing your college list. You might be in love with everything about the school, but if it isn’t an academic match for you, it’s not worth getting your hopes up. Be sure that you have a reasonable chance of being admitted to most schools where you apply, keeping in mind that highly selective college’s academic profiles aren’t particularly reliable as predictors of admission. You’ll want to apply to at least one college where your acceptance is all but guaranteed, and not too many where it’s an uncertain prospect. The best place to find this information is usually the admission office – always worth a stop whenever you’re visiting campus.

7. What homework do I have tonight?

That’s right. Though you’re spending a lot of time these days looking forward to college, don’t forget about high school. Even as you visit campuses and polish your essays, it’s still critical that you apply yourself as strongly as ever in your senior year. Why? Well, frankly, because learning is important. But, additionally, admission offices will soon be looking closely at your midyear grades, so if you hope to get into that college you’re dreaming about, it’s important to stay strong on your report card.

Tags: Admission Tips Application Process College Search

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Tom NicholasTom Nicholas
Associate Director of Admission 

A Richmond alumnus (Class of 2007), Tom has been working and blogging for the Office of Admission since he graduated. He loves his alma mater and the city that shares its name.

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Beth Anne SpachtBeth Anne Spacht
Senior Assistant Director of Admission

Beth Anne was a double major at Richmond (English and Latin American & Iberian Studies) and now enjoys helping prospective students discover the best of her alma mater.

Learn more about Beth Anne

The University of Richmond is a highly ranked liberal arts university offering an extraordinary combination of the liberal arts with law, business, leadership studies, and continuing education. The university is consistently named a best value in higher education by leading publications.

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