As you’re crossing colleges off your list, while short-listing prospective ones, know that there’s a lot more to understanding a college environment than just a campus tour. Meeting with the admissions counselor, attending informative seminars and sessions, and following a campus tour guide around to take in the atmosphere are all vital aspects of getting to know a college.
However, an equally vital element is testing out the college on your own, in a more up close and personal kind of way.
Get to Know Your Professor
As someone who’s about to or just graduated from high school, it is perfectly normal to be unsure about what you want to study as you visit your prospective campus. Still, it is good practice to get well-acquainted with the academic atmosphere.
Many colleges are happy to let prospective students sit in on a session, though, this usually means you’ll be sent to only their top professors’ classes. To get a better feel of things, you can identify key academic areas you’re interested in, and reach out to the relevant departments.
Some high school graduates might find it intimidating to sit through a college class. If you happen to be among those who generally don’t feel comfortable with the whole thing, you can always get in touch with professors during the summer season.
Particularly during summers, most professors tend to be busy doing their research and what they generally love the most; they might be willing to talk openly about their work and the campus in general.
See the Dining Hall
Students love to hang out in their dorm hallway, though it would look awkward if you hang around there for no reason. Your best bet while blending in: the student center or cafeteria. You’ll get to see where the college kids are coming from, when interacting with each other in their ‘natural habitat’.
The best time to hit the cafeteria is during lunch hour, which is at or around noon. Many will tell you this is among the best places to get a genuine feel of a college’s environment.
Take a Read at the Local Paper/Magazine
With most colleges and universities, there’s at least one creative magazine or newspaper – also referred to as a student publication – apart from the local newspaper. Get a copy of each. What you want to do is keep an eye for events the student magazine or newspaper is covering. Check out the opinion pages to read about hot-pressing issues that may be going on at campus.
This is also a great way to get insights into the kind of questions the community wants answers to. You see, colleges tend to do a rather nice job of making everything look nice and clean on the outside, and it isn’t very easy to peak beneath the covers to see what’s actually going on (if that is the case).
The local newspaper can help in this regard as well: the police blotter. Campus safety should be very high on your list of criteria for selecting a college and the blotter as well as local sections can give you a clear picture of the crime rate or occurrences around or at the campus.
Check Out the Community
It doesn’t matter if your prospective college is located in a busy city center or in the serene and scenic countryside; it’s always good to take a look at nearby off-campus areas. Take out the time to see some museums and other points of interest like the local restaurant or cinema hall.
Throughout your college stay and experience, you will inevitably go through times of stress and burden of studies, trying to perform at your best, being busy with college clubs and organizations etc. It’s always good to know where you can go to escape for the time being so exploring the community you’re going to be living in is just as important.
After all, attending college is a major deal for anybody. You need to make sure you’ll be happy in your new academic environment while you’re away from home.