|Don’t overlook these important details when researching colleges
Finding colleges that meet your academic, social and financial needs is important, but there is much more research that needs to be done. There are things that are just as important, but are not always things students and parents think about when considering colleges. Here is a list of things both students and parents should consider:
1. Freshman retention rate: This tells you how many freshman return for their sophomore year. A high retention rate usually indicates students are satisfied with their experience at the school. If there is a low retention rate, it is worth asking why?
2. Graduation Rates: What percentage of students graduate from the college? What is the four year graduation rate? (more than 4 years means much more money spent). While freshman retention rates may be high, graduation rates could be low. You need to ask why the rate is low.
3. Course Availability: Many graduates from four-year colleges took more than four years to graduate. Sometimes the reason for this is because students cannot register for the classes they need to graduate. You need to inquire if it is possible to graduate in four years in the program you are interested in. You should ask if it is difficult to register for the classes students need each semester. You also need to keep in mind that many federal, state, and institutional grants and scholarships are only for four years.
4. Academic support: For many students, they find college much harder than high school. Some students need help transitioning to college. Other students may need additional help with their academics, such as tutoring and writing assistance. You should ask about the support resources available to all students.
5. Campus safety:By law, every college and university must have their crime statistics available for anyone who wants to see them. The campus guide will tell you about the well-lit campus and the emergency phones but the statistics from the safety/police department will give you in depth information about the crime scene in and around the campus.
6. Surrounding community: Researching online does not give enough information about the surrounding community. The campus might be a serene place but once the student walks off campus it could be another world altogether. Make sure to check out the surrounding area. While much of their time will be on campus, students will need to venture off campus during the school year.
7. Transportation:For students who plan to have a car on campus, what does it cost to park a car on campus? For those without a car, is there a reliable public transportation system near the college? Is it easy to navigate? Is it easy to travel to the airport or train station using public transportation? Does the school have a shuttle service?
8. Campus housing:Guides usually show the nicest residence halls. However that may not be the one the student is assigned. You should ask about all the possible residence hall they may be placed in and ask to see the locations. Then , when filling out the housing application, you might be able to give preferences as to which one you would like to be placed.
9. Dining services:Some colleges have multiple dining halls, while others have just the one. Make sure the college has the dining options you will need while living away from home. Don’t forget to sample the food while you are there.
10. Health services:Everyone gets sick sometimes, including college students away from home for the first time. Find out the health care options on or near the campus so that the student will know where to go if they get sick or injured.
11. Study abroad:Many students want to study abroad while they are in college. Study abroad is not the same at every college. Can financial aid be used to cover study abroad? Will courses transfer toward graduation so as to stay on track? Does my desired major allow for study abroad or will this require additional time on campus?
12. Financial aid:Everyone loves to hear about all the scholarships offered by colleges. However, not all scholarships are renewable. When researching cost of attendance and financial aid options, learn about the terms of any scholarship. Don’t assume.
13. Career services:The goal of many students is to find a terrific job after graduation. Having a supportive career center on campus can be very helpful during a student’s college career. In addition to helping students find jobs, they can also offer services such as resume writing, interview skills and career counseling.
Finding a college with the majors and activities you want can usually be easy. But there is a lot more to the process. The above can help you get to know a college better and help you narrow down the list.
(adapted from article by Jessica Velasco)