Your view of whether a college or university is right for you can be influenced by many competing factors.
When you are visiting a college campus, be sure to consider the following:
☐ Do they offer courses and programs that are interesting to you?
☐ Do class sizes feel comfortable?
While it is not necessary to know specifically what you want to study, the right school should have options for majors that you’d like to explore. When picking a college, you should also consider whether you learn best in small classes or in large lecture halls.
You can get a sense of academic offerings and class sizes by visiting a class. Sometimes, admission offices post a list of approved classes students may visit. If no list is available, contact the admissions office directly.
When visiting, be sure to observe both the professor and the other students in the class. How the students interact with one another in a seminar or ask questions in a lecture can reveal a great deal about the intellectual motivations of the student body.
☐ Are there students clubs or extracurriculars that sound interesting to you?
☐ Are those activities actually active on campus?
As you tour campuses, you will likely pass bulletin boards or posts with flyers about upcoming events. When you do, take a peek!
It’s one thing to read online that a school has 400 clubs, but seeing these boards gives a glimpse of how student life actually takes shape in the campus environment. You might be surprised to learn that some clubs are more organized or active than others.
Distance from Home
☐ How far away is the college?
☐ Will you drive home or fly home?
Some students prefer to attend a college that’s close to home. Others enjoy the feeling of independence that comes with attending classes somewhere faraway. Whatever your preference, you’ll want to keep in mind both distances and the mode of transportation.
Traveling from the east coast to the mid-west may only entail a two-hour flight, but that same trip could require an 8-10 hour drive. Flying can be very easy, but it can also mean dealing with baggage limitations or not being able to afford the trip home quite as often. Driving long distances, on the other hand, increases the risk of having a traffic accident and also implies that you’ll have to keep up with the responsibilities of owning a vehicle. When you visit various colleges, ask yourself if you will be comfortable making the trip between the college and your home by yourself.
Campus Living Arrangements
☐ Where will you live as a freshman? And for the following three years?
☐ What are the dorm rules and how are roommates assigned?
For some students, housing will have a heavily influence whether or not they choose to attend a particular college. You’ll need to think about which living conditions are important to you and ask questions about residential life.
Beyond the basics of where you will live and what the on-campus rules are, you should also consider talking to a current student about their experience. Hearing first-hand about the pros and cons of housing rules and restrictions can help you to make an informed decision about where to attend.
The Area’s Culture
☐ Are you open to exploring a different culture?
☐ Do you prefer hot weather or cold weather?
Specific customs, the pace of life, and even language and speech patterns contribute to the culture in different parts of the country. College is a great time to go outside of your comfort zone, but only if you’re up for the challenge.
Weather is also an important factor to consider. If cold weather and snow give you the winter blues, then you might want to seriously think about attending college somewhere sunny.
Visiting a college is the best way to take note of cultural and climactic difference. Remember: the happier and more comfortable you feel in your new home, the better you’ll be able to take advantage of the academic adventures that await you.
A version of this article was published on Emerson Educational Consulting on March 2, 2017.