When applying to colleges and universities, it’s important to know as much as you can about the school before deciding where to attend. A huge part of your decision will be whether or not you can picture yourself fitting in with the student body and campus culture.
With all the time and money you’ve spent researching colleges, it’s easy to overlook this aspect of it. You can read everything there is to know about a college’s academic, social, and athletic offerings, but if you don’t find their student body appealing, it doesn’t matter how much fun the campus looks—you won’t enjoy going there. So, how do you learn more about a college’s culture? The following tips should help you get started.
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Request some college literature.
Before you even visit a college campus, skim through their college brochure. You’ll get a better idea of what life is like at that school and will have some key questions for students when you do go for your campus visit. For example, what does Greek life mean at that school? Is there an on-campus job program? Are there many community service opportunities available? Is there typically a long wait list for dorms, or is that something you can request once you’ve been accepted into the school? This sort of information will help give you a sense of if you want to attend the college and how serious they are about recruiting students from different backgrounds.
Schedule an appointment with a counselor.
Sure, you can talk to your regular high school guidance counselor, but they’re not likely going to have much experience with colleges outside of your area. Instead, talk to counselors for college admission. These folks are specifically trained on helping prospective students choose which colleges might be right for them. They might not always be able to give you specific information about an individual school (unless they’re specifically contracted out by that institution). However, they should be able to tell you what their admissions office looks for in applicants and how students who are similar in situations and circumstances fare after applying.
Visit your colleges of interest.
A simple campus tour is always good, as the first impression can have a great impact on your decision. It’s also important to make sure you like how students interact with each other in school and around town, but don’t forget to ask for specifics. Do they study in groups or alone? Do people eat lunch together every day or go out on their own? The answers will help you determine if it will be easy for you to meet new people right away and make friends quickly or if it might take some time to feel comfortable in your new environment. Finding out details like these can help alleviate stress later in your college experience.
Determine if the culture is a good fit for you.
Hopefully, during your visit, you are able to get contact information from a few students in the welcoming committee. This is a good way to find out some things about the college culture you might have overlooked. Ask them for some honest feedback. Also, ask your friends and family who have visited your prospective college how they liked it and what their biggest surprises were during their time there.
If you don’t know anyone with firsthand experience, ask everyone in your social circle who might be willing to give you feedback on a message board or over Facebook. The key is to find people who are actually familiar with that school’s culture. It’s also a good idea to ask these people who know you well if they think you’d fit in there and like the environment. It never hurts to get feedback and advice, even if you end up not using it.