13 Questions to Ask Before Enrolling in College
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- Asking questions around college enrollment can help students avoid disappointment later on.
- Both in-person and online students can benefit from asking questions.
- Students should do their research and determine what factors are most important.
When choosing a college, students must consider a variety of factors to ensure they have a great college experience that will serve them well long after graduating.
Long before ever committing to a college or university, prospective students can start doing their research. They can also reach out to admissions counselors to get their questions answered.
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Ready to Start Your Journey?
Keep reading to learn about 13 important questions to ask before enrolling in college.
1. What Do I Want to Get Out of My College Experience?
When thinking about college enrollment, students seek an array of outcomes from the experience. Some see college only as a stepping stone to a great career, while others also want opportunities to experiment socially, continue building on their athletic accomplishments, or discover more about their own identities.
Because of this, students need to think carefully about what they want to get out of their time in school — and how prospective colleges stack up against these criteria.
2. What Am I Willing to Pay in Tuition?
According to the Education Data Initiative, as of July 2021, the average student carried $36,510 in federal student loan debt. With the cost of higher education steadily rising, students must ask themselves how much they're willing to pay in tuition.
In addition to submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for federal funding, students should compare tuition rates at schools. In general, public colleges charge less in tuition and fees than their private counterparts.
3. Is This a Good College for My Career Interests?
In addition to making sure any college you seriously consider offers a major that aligns with your career interests, it's important to learn what resources and support services are available there.
For instance, does your major's department help learners find internships and provide networking opportunities? Students should also investigate whether their chosen school maintains appropriate institutional and programmatic accreditation.
4. What Student Services Are Available to Me?
Not all colleges are created equal when it comes to student services. Therefore, it's critical for prospective learners to research what a specific major or department can offer them.
Some students look for programs with particularly strong academic and professional resources. Others want a robust financial aid department that can help them avoid massive amounts of student debt.
Whether speaking to an admissions counselor or touring a campus, you should ask about these components.
5. Do I Like the Location?
For degree-seekers planning to study on campus, location can play an important role in the decision-making process. Besides ensuring you enjoy the campus, you should take time to get a sense of the surrounding cities and towns, available nature escapes, and the variety of activities available.
Students looking for a metropolitan experience probably won't thrive at a rural college. Likewise, those seeking a quieter experience likely won't enjoy studying in New York City.
6. Are the School's Demographics Right for Me?
School demographics can play a big role in student happiness and satisfaction, so don't overlook this aspect when considering college enrollment. Some schools may cater predominantly to younger, first-time students, which may not be the best fit for nontraditional learners.
Historically underrepresented and minority students may decide they want to study at a school specifically created to foster equity and inclusion, such as historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.
7. What Are the College's Graduation Rates?
Graduation rates for schools and specific programs can illuminate how well students perform in class and how much support they receive to stay on course and graduate. Top schools like Harvard boast a 98% graduation rate, while most good institutions maintain a 70-90% graduation rate within six years.
If you can't find this information online, ask an admissions counselor to provide the most recent data available.
8. What Kinds of Extracurricular Activities Are There?
Colleges commonly offer a variety of extracurricular activities to meet both students' professional and social needs. Common examples include leadership activities, political clubs, academic teams and clubs, and intramural athletic teams.
Getting involved on campus can help students branch out, connect with like-minded students, and even gain experience that will help them find a job after graduating. Ask for a list of extracurriculars to see how these align with your interests.
9. What Is the Average Class Size?
Some students want a small, intimate college experience, while others can't imagine attending a school that doesn't have a Big Ten feel. Average class size figures can help determine how much access students have to their professors and how much support they can expect to receive.
While some college class types may be larger by nature, low student-to-faculty ratios typically indicate better learning outcomes.
10. What Are My Housing Options?
In most cases, students can choose from both on-campus and off-campus housing. Many learners decide to live on campus for at least their first two years of study, as this can help cement social relationships, cut down on commuting time, and increase scheduling flexibility.
That said, student housing can often cost more than off-campus housing, making some students consider their options. If you're planning to live off campus, check out surrounding neighborhoods and the rental market before committing.
11. Do the Meal Plans Match My Needs?
Many schools offer a variety of meal plans to meet individual student needs, with some universities requiring campus-based students to take out a meal plan each semester or during their first year.
Students hoping to lower their costs typically try to bypass meal plans when possible, or discontinue them after their first year of study. Learners with food intolerances or allergies that the school cannot accommodate may be able to receive an exemption.
12. Does the School Have Any Study Abroad Programs?
Many students aspire to complete a study abroad program as part of their learning experience, both to immerse themselves in another culture and to build skills in other countries that hiring managers find attractive.
The country you decide to study in may depend on your chosen major and career options, but there are several top countries for learning abroad. Learners should also ask about funding opportunities to make sure a study abroad experience fits within their budget.
13. Can I See Myself Being Happy Here?
At the end of the day, trusting your instincts can go a long way in deciding whether or not a college meets your academic, social, financial, and professional needs. Rather than rushing to commit to a college or program, take a step back to think about your short- and long-term goals and how the colleges you're considering best meet them.
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