A Dozen Questions You Need to Answer Before Stepping onto a College Campus
At the beginning, it really is all about you! Think about these questions, answer them thoroughly (checking in with family, friends, teachers and counselors) and you will be on your way to creating a match between you and the colleges that meet your needs, and goals!
- How would you describe yourself? Make the time to create a clear and concise description of yourself and what makes you unique: what are your interests, what is important to you, and how do you spend you time?
- Do you have a clear understanding of your academic record, its impact on your choices, and consequently which colleges are “likelies”, “possibles” and “reaches”? Review your transcript to assess the nature of your academic program in high school: What types of classes have you taken-have you challenged yourself throughout your four years? What is your grade point average, and your standardized test scores?
- How do you “see” yourself at college? What do you want in a college experience and what types of settings will fulfill those goals? Think through what is important to you: college or university, liberal arts or specialized programming, study abroad opportunities, size of student body; class size, facilities, region of the country and urban, suburban or rural setting, diversity of student body; social atmosphere, and extracurricular activities. (You may also want to consider what you don’t want in a college.
Sometimes it’s easier to begin naming what you dislike, whether it’s distance from home (too near or too far), size of rooms in residence halls, requirements for living on campus.)
- How will you learn about each college/university? What sources can you access to help you decide which colleges to visit? What college materials does the college advisor/guidance counselor have that you can review? Have you taken a virtual tour of the campuses? Have students from your school attended any of the colleges of interest to you-and can you get in touch with them to get their perspectives?
Do you know about the alternative guides to colleges, that give you more of the “inside story”?
- What do you want to discover when you visit a campus? What information do you want to know about every college, so that you can begin to compare settings? How will you get a sense of the students, programs and campus life? What specific questions do you have about the different colleges?
- What do you want the interviewer to learn about you? Whether an interview is informational or evaluative, you are creating an impression. What are your academic and interpersonal strengths and challenges? What are your extracurricular interests and activities-where have you put your talents and energy-what meaning do they have for you? What are your goals and values? What is important to you: who and what experiences have shaped your development over the years? Are there any special circumstances the interviewer should understand? Have you experienced any academic difficulties or interpersonal issues that have affected your performance or grades?
- Can you paint a picture of your school, town and daily life? Practice what you will say in response to these basic requests: tell me about your high school, your schedule, your academic record, and extracurricular activities. What are your special interests/passions?
- How will you answer the questions, “Why are you interested in this college/university?” Create a profile of each college/university to be able to answer the questions: “What is of particular interest to you here?” (Is it the size of the school, requirements/core curriculum, diversity, area of the country, special programming, etc.) “How are you a ‘fit’ for this environment and what will you bring to it?”
- What will you ask the interviewer? Develop five or six questions that you want to ask the interviewer-questions that demonstrate that you have “done your homework” about the college/university and all it has to offer.
- How will your family/you handle the financial challenge of college tuition, room and board? What is the range of costs that are affordable? Have you explored scholarship and loan opportunities? What questions will you ask about scholarships, loans, and work/study opportunities during your campus visits?
- What remaining question do you have? Who can you turn to for support in this process? Different people in your family, circle of friends, school personnel and a college coach can provide you with support-this is a big decision, so take advantage of their experience and expertise (whether it’s just a sympathetic ear or guidance/advice).
- How will you have fun during this channeling process? Will you visit campuses with friends, develop milestones to celebrate your hard work, and/or make time for yourself every week to keep it all in perspective?
As soon as you make the time to answer these questions you have taken the first step on the path to the college search and selection process, knowing yourself-and you are more in charge of that process. Students who understand themselves better-their strengths, needs, and challenges-will make better decisions about the colleges that will be a match for who they are and what they want. The answers you have developed will provide critical information for your own analyses of where you should apply, in addition to forming the foundation for interviews and the essays you will be called upon to write during the application process.
Jill Greenbaum, Ed.D. is a coach for juniors and seniors beginning the college search and selection process. Her program, Choosing the College that’s Right for You!, helps students build the foundation they will need to choose the college that’s right for them. Learn more at www.MajorInYou.com/Blog, or call Jill at 1.877.375.7412.