With school vacations around the corner, families are packing up the car for road trips and campus tours. If you have a sophomore or junior in high school, now is the time to visit! Most families will sit obediently in information sessions soaking up what is said, but few will raise their hands and ask the tough questions. College is the second largest investment you will make in life, next to your home. So, here are the 6 most important answers you should uncover when you are on campus:
Question 1: What percentage of students graduate in 4 years?
A 5th year of college can bust your budget if you aren’t prepared for it. And with cutbacks, many students are finding it difficult to secure all the required courses in order to graduate in 4 years. So, ask about graduation rates and access to courses.
Question 2: What percentage of students return for sophomore year? Junior year?
This speaks to how happy students are with the college and also the support that they are given to succeed. If fewer than 80% of students return for sophomore year, it raises a red flag that you should dig deeper to understand why.
Question 3: Does the college offer merit aid, and what factors are considered when determining merit?
Many elite universities only offer need-based aid. Those that do offer merit aid may base it on grades, SAT/ACT scores, leadership roles, talent, etc. Also ask what the average award is and understand how you will be evaluated and how much you are likely to receive.
Question 4: How easy is it to transfer colleges within the university?
At medium to large universities, it can be nearly impossible to transfer from the College of Arts & Sciences to the College of Business or Engineering. So, you need to know what you want to study when you apply. At smaller liberal arts colleges, this is not usually an issue.
Question 5: What percentage of students who start in pre-med, finish in pre-med?
Colleges will often brag about the percent of students who are accepted to medical school, but if half are weeded out before they apply, that doesn’t bode well for you. You can also ask similar questions about the engineering or business schools, if that is your area of interest.
Question 6: What support are students given to secure internships?
Many colleges tout great internship programs, especially in a down economy. However, few have open and active positions listed in their career/internship office that need to be filled. In many cases, you are really on your own to find internships, get them approved and secure credits. Understanding where the college has relationships and active openings is critical. If all the opportunities are in engineering and you plan to be a journalism major, that isn’t going to help you much.
Campus visits can be overwhelming, but leaving without all the information is a mistake that can cost you dearly. So, take the time to uncover the real story behind the pretty presentation and marketing materials. You will make better decisions academically and financially if you know all the facts.
Thanks to: Cristiana Quinn