A client recently asked me to identify the most important questions to have answered at a college open house. My response below about the top questions would apply to any campus visit lasting a half day or longer.
I have probably listed more questions here than can be fit into one campus visit. In advance of a campus visit, review the questions and choose those that are most relevant to evaluating that college as a fit. Note that the student should be the one asking the questions in most cases.
If the college does not address the question as part of an information session or other program, ask your student tour guide. Then you might ask some students in a dining hall or student center, if the tour guide is unwilling or unable to provide a complete answer.
1. Signing up for classes
What is the registration process? How often do students get shut out of a class or classes they want or need?
2. Graduating in four years
Can a solid, committed student expect to graduate in four years from this college? Or do many students find that it takes longer? If so, why?
3. Academic support
a. What types of academic support are available? Are there peer tutors for math? Any other subjects? Are there professionals providing support? Is there a writing center? What services are available there?
b. Are faculty members required to have office hours? How accessible are they for help (in the opinion of most students)?
4. Investments and facilities
a. What investments has the college made in the last three years to improve the student experience? That includes new, renovated or expanded academic buildings, student center, library, and residence halls. Is the faculty expanding or contracting? What about academic support?
b. What changes in policies, curriculum or facilities are expected that will affect students entering in the fall of 2017?
5. How are first-year students assigned to housing. If first-year housing entirely on campus? What is the process for obtaining housing in subsequent years? Does the college help students get off-campus housing (if relevant)?
6. What policies, services and staff are in place to ensure safety on campus? Has the school established a climate in which students are encouraged to report assaults or harassment?
In addition to what I have called the top questions, there are some for which it can be very difficult to get a reliable answer. In part, that is because each student’s experience can be quite different. However, you might still ask some students about their experience or perspective with regard to the following.
– What type of student usually succeeds here / what type often transfers out
– How challenging are the academics / are most students serious about learning
– How would you assess the area surrounding the campus / does it offer opportunities for entertainment, volunteering, employment / do you feel safe
– What are weekends like at this school / do most students find things to do on campus or does the campus seem to empty out each weekend
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask about something very specific that is important to you. Let’s suppose you are interested in music, but not aiming to be a music major. Ask about the opportunities for non-majors to take music classes, get lessons or perform.