Interviewer (I): Let’s say now that the student and family have picked out eight (8) schools that they’re interested in visiting. What homework does the student need to do before goes?
Janice (J): Well, I always encourage the students to review the school’s website and any printed materials they might have. They should prepare questions that aren’t answered in the materials that they have. So, in other words, when they get to a school, they have a chance to ask the questions that they can’t necessarily find the answers to. They will have an information session so they can ask people from the admissions office to answer their questions. They possibly have students that can answer those questions – but they have that chance to ask the questions that they can’t find elsewhere. They can also go on to Facebook page, usually there’s an admissions Facebook page that they can go to and see what types of information’s on there. So there are various ways where they can get that information, and then they can go ahead and put together some questions that they might have.
I: Just off the top of your head, what might some of those questions be that the students wouldn’t find an easy answer, either on a website or in the printed material?
J: Some of those might be, for instance,
- What percentage of students live off-campus? This is an interesting subject because not everybody, when they start looking at colleges thinks of this.
- And something I bring up often to students is what kind of an environment, and again, what kind of community are you looking for? Are you one of those that’s going to want to live off-campus, or would you prefer to have a community where 90% or 95% of the students live on campus, cause it is very different. It is a different type of feel. So, what percentage of the students live off campus? Or vice-versa, what percentage live on campus? Do only upper classmen live off campus? This is an important one, I know, this is important especially for parents. I think that you guarantee housing for all 4 years – if not, do you help students find this off campus housing? Because it’s something you want to know before you enroll or you’re accepted, or is it even a place based on what they tell you that you want to apply? So, you go on to make sure that it’s not difficult to find housing, whatever type of housing you’re looking for.
- Here’s another one: do students have to apply to a specific school or college within the university when they’re applying as a freshman? In some cases, especially with the bigger universities, you may have to make that decision, so it means that you may have to decide what your major is? Is that something that you need to do when you’re applying? Or do you have a chance to do that once you are in there and you’ve taken some courses?
- The other question is, and I find this is a very important one – if you have to decide on the major, when you apply, how hard is it to change your major? Because many students think they know what they want, and then they get there and they take some courses and they’re interested in other things, and they want a change. So how difficult is it to change majors once you’re in the school and you’re enrolled and you’ve taken some classes? Do you need a certain GPA? Do you have to make up certain classes? So it’s a really important question to ask.
- A lot of students are interested in undergraduate research. What opportunities are there for undergraduate research?
- Others want to bring their car to campus – can freshmen have cars? And if they have cars, how expensive is it to have your car there, and how easy is it to park? Things like that.
- What types of student support services are offered? What is there for students in terms of support once they get there, both academically and in terms of other student affairs?
- What is a typical weekday like for students? What is it like to be there, as a student?
- What are some of the most popular courses offered?
- What activities and services are there to help first-year students get settled? That might be orientation, in some schools actually have other orientation programs that students can do their optional, whether it’s a trip, whether it’s some type of program. So what does the school offer so that they can help them get acclimated to life at that college?
- These are just some of them, and students, I’m sure, can come up with others on their own, and parents too as well.
I: No, but I can definitely see that, if these are questions that students are thinking about, they’ve put a lot of thought into that particular college already, and so this is rounding up the whole picture. Certainly, things having cars on campus is huge, and not something that is the first thing that when you’re choosing a college, certainly not the first thing you’re looking at is oh, can I have a car on campus? So, I can definitely see the value in having questions like these ready to ask people that know the answer.
J: Exactly. And it also helps again when they start to narrow down their list. They may have say 20 schools on their list, they can’t apply to 20 and maybe there are certain factors, based on some of the information that they garner from some of these universities that will help them narrow things, and it may not be cars. So these types of questions help them narrow their focus a little bit, because it get difficult toward the end, trying to figure out okay, well I have this many on my list, I like them all – how do I decide which ones to apply to? So you really have to hone in on some of the information.