There’s more to choosing a college than its academic reputation and cost. A big part of deciding where to go is visiting the schools you’re interested in to get a feel for campus life. Visiting classrooms, living facilities, and the surrounding community can all give you a better idea of what life on that campus is really like.
Here are some of the most important questions you should ask the financial aid office and current students while visiting:
- What will the total cost of my first year be?
- What is your financial aid deadline?
- When will I receive my financial aid award letter?
- What do you like best about this school?
- What’s something the school needs to improve on?
- Which departments and programs have the best reputation?
- Were you able to take most of your first-choice classes?
- How big are the classes?
- How are the dorms?
- How easy is it to find summer jobs and other kinds of work through your school?
- What’s the social scene like and what do you like to do on weekends?
Ask the financial aid office
1. What will the total cost of my first year be?
It’s a good idea to ask the financial aid office what the average total cost of your first year will be. This isn’t just the sticker price of tuition, but the true cost. This includes expenses like room and board, books and supplies, fees, and more. So, ask an advisor what the average cost of each will be to help you figure out about how much your first year will cost.
2. What is your financial aid deadline?
The federal deadline for filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is June 30 of each year. For example, if you’re planning to attend the 2019-20 academic year, you have until June 30, 2020, to submit your FAFSA. But most states and schools each also have their own deadlines, so it’s good to ask what that is so you don’t miss it.
3. When will I receive my financial aid award letter?
Another good financial aid question is to find out when your award letter will arrive. This is important because it outlines how much aid you will receive if you choose to go to that school. Don’t forget it’s also a good idea to compare financial aid award letters before deciding on which school to attend.
Ask the students
4. What do you like best about this school?
This is one of the most important questions you can ask a current student. Finding out why other students chose the school you’re interested in can help you make a decision. It could even bring something positive about the school to light that you hadn’t previously considered.
5. What’s something the school needs to improve on?
Just like you want to know the school’s best qualities, you should also know the negatives. No school is perfect, but knowing exactly where one school lacks can help you make a decision.
6. Which departments and programs have the best reputation?
Many schools are known for having the best programs or specific academic departments. The University of Michigan, for example, is known for its College of Literature Science and the Arts (including departments like Sociology and Anthropology). So, if you were pursuing a major in that field of study, U of M could be one of your best options. Look for schools who specialize or have the best reputation in the field of study you’re pursuing.
7. Were you able to take most of your first-choice classes?
One of the best questions to ask some current students is whether they were able to take most (or all) of their first-choice classes or not. After all, getting into the college of your dreams might not be that great if you have a hard time getting into the classes you want. And if it was difficult for them to get the classes they wanted, they might even have learned some tips to share with you (like registering immediately).
8. How big are the classes?
Along with asking about getting into the classes you want, it’s good to know how big the typical class is on campus. For example, some general education classes can be very large, depending on the school you go to. If you prefer a smaller class, or just learn better in a more intimate environment, you might want to take that into consideration.
9. How are the dorms?
If you plan on living on campus, you should also ask some current students what they think of the living arrangements. Hopefully, during your college tour, you also get a tour of the dorms. If this isn’t part of the typical tour, your best bet is to ask a handful of students who live on campus what they like about the dorms and what they dislike.
10. How easy is it to find summer jobs and other kinds of work through your school?
Finding a part-time job while in school can be important — especially if you’re trying to cut down on the amount of student loans you borrow. But depending on the campus and the surrounding city, it could be more difficult to find a job. Ask a few students who have jobs how easy (or difficult) it was for them to secure one near or on campus. This will help give you an idea of how long it might take you to find something that’s a good fit for you while taking classes.
11. What’s the social scene like and what do you like to do on weekends?
One of the biggest parts of the college experience is the people, so the social scene on and around campus is an important factor to consider. You could even take it a step further if you’re visiting a college you’re truly considering and stay the weekend in the area. This way you can explore the restaurants and shops nearby, as well as get a feel for what your social life might be like if you decide to go there.
Make the most out of your campus tours by asking these questions to find out if a school is the right fit for you. And check out even more ideas on questions to ask current students.