Parents and the college bound are ready to visit colleges but aren't sure what to ask when they get there. Attending a college information session and tour are part of good college prep, but these school introductions are designed to market the campus and show off its perks. Parents and students can maximize college visits opportunities by asking key questions that give the inside story.
There are 10 top questions to ask and they reflect parent and student chief concerns for academic/nonacademic best fit. Here, in Part 1 of this article are the top five questions parents should ask on college visits. Stay tuned for Part 2 for students.
While the student is having a college interview, sitting in on a class, chatting with current students in the Student Center and generally doing his college prep, parents can excuse themselves to search for their own answers.
1. Safety First: What does the college do to ensure the safety of its students?
Go to the Office of Campus Safety to find out. Look for the inside story beyond the typical security measures and issues. For example, how are security methods adapting to changes such as construction, new student hangouts, changes in pedestrian traffic, or altered traffic patterns on campus? What is the frequency of student calls for help and the corresponding response time? If card keys are necessary to gain entry to dorms, how often are locked doors propped open? How are students educated about campus safety? Even if the campus is a safe haven, the surrounding community may not be. Parents and students can check campus crime stats by using the Department of Education's Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.
2. Student transportation costs: Student transportation is included in a college's estimated total cost of attendance, but how accurate is it for your family?
The amount of tuition, room and board are set by the college, but the amount budgeted for transportation is an approximation that can vary greatly for local travel and trips home. Many students may drive, bike or walk to class, internships, events, clubs and activities. Perhaps the campus has a free school bus system, or students may get a reduced fare to use local public mass transit. Then there are the frequency, ease, method and cost of students coming home. To find out, ask an Admissions Counselor.
3. Parent transportation costs: Besides costs of attendance, are there any hidden costs?
One of the nastiest surprise expenses is the amount it costs for families to visit their student. Find out from the local Visitor's Center. In addition to lodging and food options, check out different methods of transportation to save time and money. Explore the amenities and attractions you may want to see to help plan a future "collegecation" (family vacation + college visit).
4. Health care: What happens if my child gets sick or injured?
Go to the Student Health Center to learn about the school's medical and mental health facilities. Find out what they can provide care for and what they can't. Ask about health care options in the surrounding area. How are prescriptions filled? How easy is it to see a specialist? Compare the cost and coverage of a school's health insurance policy with keeping the student on a parent's plan.
5. Keeping parents in the loop: Does the college communicate directly with parents and if so, under what circumstances?
Most student records are confidential but many schools will send informational and alert emails to parents who sign up. Ask an Admissions Counselor to find out. Then ask if the school has an active parent association and if so, get the contact information. Connect to get insider tips for move in/out procedures, local storage facilities, campus and community problems, special events, or just to make friends with a fellow parent of a college student.
Stay tuned for Part 2 containing the top 5 questions students should ask on college visits.
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