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5 questions to ask any college you're considering attending

The great diversity of colleges in the U.S. and beyond means there’s definitely a school that is right for you. However, this diversity can also cause some confusion, because trying to compare schools can feel like comparing apples to engines.

The great diversity of colleges in the U.S. and beyond means there’s definitely a school that is right for you. However, this diversity can also cause some confusion, because trying to compare schools can feel like comparing apples to engines.

Before choosing any college, make sure that all of your questions have been answered. Use this article to get you started on questions to ask any college that you’re considering.

1. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE CLASS SIZE FOR GENERAL COURSES?

Student-to-faculty ratios can be one of the most misleading statistics that colleges offer. It’s not like every faculty member is teaching an equal number of students, and large research universities typically have a certain number of faculty members who have minimal teaching schedules. While nobody expects a college algebra class to be as intimate as a graduate course in stochastic calculus, know the reality that you’re going to face in your basic courses. Will you be one of 60 students? 200? 600? Are the names of the professors listed merely a formality and the classes are really taught by teaching assistants? There’s nothing wrong with large classes, and TAs can be amazing instructors. However, talk to other students at the school to get an understanding of what your first couple of semesters will really be like at the school.

2. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR…?

Although the ending of this question might be slightly different for each student, it’s a question that each student should ask. What research opportunities are available? What about volunteer organizations on campus? What programs are available for internships? How many openings are available versus applicants? What about an honors program or honors society in your intended major? Ask the school about things that are important to you outside of academics.

3. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE AMOUNT OF STUDENT DEBT FOR GRADUATES?

This can be a very uncomfortable question for students to ask, but it’s an equally important one. Knowing the average student debt can give you a more realistic understanding of the true cost of the college. If a school tries to sidestep responding to the question by focusing on meeting financial need or the number of scholarships available, be insistent on finding out the answer to this specific question. It’s something that you need to know before you make your final decision about applying to the school.

4. WHAT IS WEEKEND LIFE LIKE ON CAMPUS?

If you’re going to live on campus and you’ll be far away from home, ask what life is like on the weekends at the school. Does it basically become a ghost town? Do the best dining halls close? What about the gym or other recreational facilities? Will the buses run? If not, is there a metropolitan bus system that can help you get around if you don’t have a car? Over the course of a semester, a full month of days will be on weekends, so it’s important to know what your life will be like during that time.

5. WHERE CAN I TEST OUT, USE AP/IB COURSE CREDIT OR TAKE CLASSES ON A PASS/FAIL BASIS?

Most colleges allow students to earn a certain number of credits toward their degrees in ways besides the traditional method of taking classes and earning a grade. Ask the school if they will give you college credit for your AP classes or IB program. If not, you might consider testing out of relevant courses like freshman English, biology or history. Also, there will likely be core courses that will be required for your degree but are not part of your chosen major. For example, you might have a language or even a physical education requirement that you could take on a Pass/Fail basis. This can be a great strategy for semesters when you have an intense course load for your major so that you can focus on the classes that will be important when it’s time to apply to graduate school or the workforce.

college.usatoday.com