Colleges and universities today are an industry with teams of recruiters who make it their business to sell their product and create a first-year experience that is successful. They connect kids in various ways and rally support around friend-making. Still, most students choose a college based on a single visit to the campus.
How do you fall in love with your college in one day and make it last forever? It’s not easy but at least we aren’t talking about true love and marriage.
Some students may even choose a dorm where most of the students are from their hometown high school. They can pre-arrange a roommate who already is a good friend. So you can basically continue your high school experience into college. But who wants to do that? College is a time for expanding your experiences and finding your own way. Try to get out of the same loop of characters and friends from your early school days. This is your chance to figure out who you are and who you want to be.
Parent, you will be surprised at how much research your student has done before you set foot on a college campus. Each individual goes about that research in different ways, of course. Some are looking at majors and reputations. Others are looking for personal experiences and want to meet people with their same interests.
If you are lucky and a bit intuitive, you will know right away when the campus is right. It’s in the feel and people you meet on that first trip. It’s in the traditions of the school and how you feel about its history. It’s in the atmosphere and the way you are greeted and treated. In other words, you know it when you see it.
However, remember that summers are a time when it’s mostly visitors on campus. The kids on campus are hosted by the college and don’t go there . . . yet. So, if you think you’re getting a feel for the people who will be on campus with you, you are NOT. Best times to visit are fall and spring, during the week. High schools offer days off for these visits.
When you are physically on campus, walk around. Find the areas where your classes would be. Find the student union, library and other areas where students will congregate and socialize.
How important is the cafeteria food? Likely you will be on a meal plan at least your first year so you need to check it out. Do you have a consistent and healthy diet you follow? Freshman 15 (pounds) is not a joke or a rumor. It happens. You get to choose what you eat, when you eat it and it can quickly get out of control.
How important is the workout facilities to you? What machines and classes do they have? What are the hours? Is there a pool available? Locker rooms? Health conscious students today will want top notch facilities that make it easy to get a good workout.
Intramural sports are a good way to make like-minded friends and stay active. Softball and basketball can have active programs and sometimes are co-ed so that you can meet new friends, both male and female.
How about church or other altruistic or cause-driven activities. Maybe you want to volunteer to work with children, the environment or homeless in your new area.
You will want to check out your greater community outside of the campus. High population areas, like colleges, can attract more crime so you want to know where your parameters are so that you are safe. How is the nightlife if you’re interested? Shopping? Movies?
One of the advantages of college life is the music, theater and art experiences that can be of little or no cost to students. Even if those are not your fields, you may want to know how robust those programs are.
Big picture issues here are sports and Greek life.
Are you looking to get involved in a fraternity or a sorority? What are the other options for making friends? You will need to know how dominate Greek life is on your campus. If it’s a runaway majority then you may feel like you need to join.
How important is football or basketball to your college experience? This can be another big time college draw that you either welcome or that will make you feel left out.
The bottom line here may be shaky and unknown until you get there. Our goal at CareerUnleashed is to help make this decision the right one for you.