Choosing a college isn't easy. There are so many opportunities here in North America with such a wide array of programs to choose from, extracurriculars available and job prospects, among other things; the list is endless. Touring a campus is an essential part of choosing a school to study at – after all, while the campus itself usually doesn't make or break your decision on whether to attend a school, it should still play some kind of role in your decision.
So, you tour the campus and your tour guide is covering lots of good information, such as where certain buildings are, different resources on campus, the meal plan, etc. However, there's some information they'll likely miss, or you'll have questions about something they haven't covered.
Getting your questions answered is an absolute MUST – after all, this school may be providing you with your highest level of education and a place to live for the next few years. It's always a good idea to brainstorm questions before visiting a campus, but if you're stuck or don't know where to start, here are 20 questions you should ask on a college visit.
1. What options are there for food or a meal plan?
For those of you who intend to live on campus, it's a good idea to know what your choices are for food. Make sure to ask about the cost, the different plans available (some plans are smaller than others) and check if they can accommodate certain dietary restrictions that you may have. While you'd hope for the best, not all schools can accommodate dietary restrictions, so make sure you know what each school can offer you in terms of food.
2. What's available in terms of on-campus housing?
Make sure you're aware of what's available for on-campus living accommodations. Two types of residences I've seen commonly are dorm style and apartment style. Dorm style typically involves living in a room (whether it be by yourself or with roommates), whereas an apartment-style residence involves living with a few other people in an apartment unit. Also, make sure to think about how each of these styles will affect the way you get to know your floormates in the upcoming year. For example, in a dorm-style building, you only have one door separating you from your floormates. In an apartment style, you have roommates but there are two doors separating you from your floormates. Consider this as you make your choices.
3. Where can I find opportunities to get involved on campus?
In high school, if you had school clubs or extracurriculars outside of school. There are chances that you won't have the opportunity to participate in those same clubs with the same people once you graduate from high school. Learning where you can find extracurricular activities is crucial, because chances are that your college will provide most of these activities. If you don't think you'll have time for other activities, think again – it's important to do things outside of school for your mental health and overall satisfaction with life.
4. I'm an off-campus student. How can I get involved?
You'll find that many activities are done through residence halls, or maybe you foresee difficulties with joining on-campus clubs because of commitment issues. Regardless, still ask this question! Many of the opportunities will be the same for off-campus students, and if some aren't, the school might make up for it! For example, off-campus students don't have the experience of living in a residence hall and having floormates. To combat this, Wilfrid Laurier University puts them into theoretical floors (groups of off-campus students) so you can get to know people! They also get to participate in residence events, under the residence name LOCUS (Laurier Off-Campus University Students).
5. What study spaces are available on campus?
Many people prefer to study outside of their rooms simply because of the change in environment. Make sure to ask where you can study on campus so you can get an idea of where you'd like to study, or if there are any spaces at all that you wouldn't mind. Common examples are the library, a concourse, coffee shops, academic buildings, etc.
6. Is there a gym on campus? How do I get access to it?
Most colleges do have athletic complexes on campus. Typically speaking, they commonly obtain a gym with workout equipment, multi-purpose rooms, a pool and a gymnasium. Some schools include the gym membership in your tuition, whereas others may require a separate payment. If working out isn't your thing, don't fret! Schools may offer group exercise classes, intramurals and even classes for specific types of activities (i.e. dance). Explore your options and see what works best for you. Remember that if you don't find anything you like in the athletic complex, there are also clubs you can join with other students that involve physical activity!
7. What clubs and extracurriculars are available on campus?
This is similar to asking where you can find these opportunities, but it's still important to know what's actually out there. Chances are your tour guide won't know everything, but they can likely direct you to a service desk that will let you know the different kinds of clubs you can join.
8. Are there student associations?
Generally speaking, as a student of a college you'll automatically belong to a student association that covers everyone. You may also be a part of a faculty-specific association too. For example, as a student at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, I am also a part of the Lazaridis Students' Society as well as Laurier's Students' Union. This might not sound important, but some associations give you perks, such as access to different resources on campus, and possibly even discounts and partnerships with certain companies. See what you're eligible for!
9. Are there major-specific buildings?
If you're a science student, you may be interested in where the science building is because you'll probably have a lot of classes there. Same goes for other programs and facilities – they typically have buildings for different areas of study, so make sure you know what they are and where they are. In some schools, certain study areas are meant only for students in certain programs, so if this applies to you, make sure to take advantage of it!
10. What can I bring into residence?
Some schools have restrictions on items you can bring into residence halls, such as furniture, certain types of light bulbs, etc. These restrictions are typically based on fire safety and state regulations, so it's important to be aware of what you will and won't be allowed to take to school.
11. How can I apply for residence?
If you don't know how to apply to live on campus, you better figure it out, because the last thing you need is to miss the deadline and begin hunting for a house or apartment near school. It's usually found online and your offer of acceptance to a school may outline important dates that include this. However, if you still don't know after sifting through all your resources, just ask.
12. Who can I speak to about health issues and disabilities?
If this concerns you, make sure you know who you can talk to on campus for support. You may be able to get accommodations for certain things if you provide required documentation. There are also various support mechanisms in place to help students struggling with ongoing health issues or disabilities. See if you're eligible for them, and if you are, make sure you have access to them when you need them.
13. What health services are there on campus?
Schools should have a clinic where you can see doctors for health issues, whether it be regarding physical or mental health. Check if there's a walk-in clinic available, ability to renew prescriptions, book doctors appointments and book counselling appointments. You may be at school, but health should always be your number one priority.
14. Do you have accessible learning services?
You don't have to ask the question in front of your group – simply pull your tour guide aside and ask them. Accessible Learning is put in place to help students who face obstacles within their academic career. For example, note-taking for a student with a broken arm, getting specific exam rooms, tutoring, using assistive technology, etc. Students usually have to apply in order to see if they qualify for these services, so learn how the application process works to see if you're eligible for these services.
15. What services are available for student success?
Student success services come in a wide array of activities and workshops. You'll commonly find things such as time management workshops, resume writing, Microsoft Office workshops, essay editing, note-taking, writing exams, math assistance, etc. These services are usually available to all students, so see what workshops interest you and attend them!
16. How is it navigating campus?
This may seem odd to ask, but when you're in freshman year running around to your classes with almost no idea where to go, you'll thank yourself for asking this question. It's important to get an idea of how long it takes to walk around campus, where main buildings are and shortcuts to get from place to place. You may feel weird, but it's also good to grab a campus map so you can familiarize yourself with your future school a bit more.
17. What kind of campus security exists?
Some schools may have their own constables service, whereas others may not. Check the phone numbers you should be calling if you ever find yourself in an emergency and need help. Also, take note of safety measures on campus – some schools have emergency poles where you can hit a button that immediately calls for an emergency response. It's important to feel safe at school and to be aware of all the ways to keep yourself safe.
18. What about public transit?
Not everyone has the luxury of a car, so we must rely on public transit. See what transit company is operating in your town, the services they offer and how much it costs. Some schools (such as Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph) include transit costs in their fees, giving students year-round access to bussing services. You may not think it's necessary, but it's something important to keep in the back of your mind should you ever need to get somewhere that's too far for walking.
19. What do my tuition fees include?
I wouldn't necessarily ask this on a college visit, because you can find a summary of it on your tuition statement. However, on the note of asking questions about college, this is important because you should know what your money is going towards. Aside from school, you'll be surprised by how much you're paying for other things, such as student activity fees and campus services. You should also check for fees that you can opt out of, such as optional health and dental plans.
20. Are there any local discounts I can get as a student?
If there's one thing I love about living in Waterloo, it's that we have three post-secondary schools here. That equates to a city full of students, and henceforth, student discounts. See if there are any partnerships between local businesses and your school to get discounts on things you'll need to purchase throughout the year, such as food, clothes, books and even luxury goods! If there are student discounts, figure out how to access them and use them effectively. Money is tight when you're in school, so use all the help you can get when it comes to paying for goods and services.
Please keep all these things in mind when choosing a college – whether you live on campus or not, your school will become the place you call home for the next four years! Choosing schools can be stressful, but remember to have fun with it too! So think carefully, choose wisely and embrace every step along the way.
Lead Image Credit: rainesUMD via Pixabay