You’re at a college fair, waiting to talk to a certain college rep. You’ve been in line for what feels like ages, and you’re finally at the front of the pack. The college rep looks at you, smiles, and waits for you to say your piece. But wait—what is it you wanted to ask???
Here are five key questions that, should you draw a blank, will always help you learn what you want to know about a school (which is, of course, 1. Will I be happy there? and 2. Will they accept me?)
1. What do students like most about your school? The answer to this question can be very insightful. For instance, if the college rep cites academic well-roundedness, but you’re looking for an in-depth biomedical engineering program, this school might not be quite the right fit. Also, a fantastic follow-up question to “what do student like most” is: What is the biggest complaint from current students?
2. What kinds of students are happiest at your school? Here, you’re looking to find out whether you’ll fit in. Obviously you can’t ask the college rep whether you will be happy at their school, but if the description they provide sounds a lot like you, that’s a good sign that you, too, will be happy attending this college.
3. Do admissions officers make decisions based on numbers, or do other activities really matter? This might sound like a fairly blunt question, but for any school that might be a reach, it’s worth asking to avoid wasting your time (and money) applying if they’ll never look past an SAT score or GPA that doesn’t meet their standard.
4. How does your career planning department compare to other colleges/universities? This question accomplishes two goals. First, it shows the college rep that you are already thinking about life after college—which is good for them, because it means you’re there to be successful and prepare for a career! But second, their answer will tell you what level of priority that school places on placing students in jobs after they graduate. The more resources they cite, the better your chances of getting assistance and guidance when you begin the process of making your post-college plans.
5. Can you give me the names of a few students whom I could talk to about their experience at your school? This question is a little tricky, because college reps can’t give you the names and contact details of just anyone at the school. However, there are often student ambassadors who volunteer to talk to prospective students (and sometimes host them for an overnight visit!), or alumni who are happy to tell you about their experience. If the rep is unwilling to connect you with anyone, that’s probably a bad sign . . . so don’t take no for an answer!