Your first choice college may seem like a dream on paper, but remember, there’s a lot more to the college experience than academics. For the next four years, your life will center around college, from the friends you make to the activities you can participate in to the professional network you will form. Understanding these aspects of the college experience are just as important as the academic and professional opportunities a school can offer you.
One of the best ways to get a sense of what life at a certain college will be like beyond the classroom is to ask current students or alumni. First, you’ll want to know how to get in touch with these students. Then, you’ll want to have an idea of what you want to ask them or to talk to them about.
Reaching out to current students at your dream college is easier than ever. Whether you are still applying to college, have been accepted to a school, or are simply considering a certain school, colleges want to help you get in touch with their current students. Be sure to ask a college’s admissions office how you can do this.
Keep in mind though that colleges will often introduce you to students designated to talk to prospective students. While many of them will offer honest assessments of the college, be sure to look beyond these students, too. To find current students to talk to on your own, go on a college visit and talk to the students. You can also look up online communities for current students, or ask your current circle of friends if they know anyone who attends a certain college. Many college students are happy to talk to incoming students. After all, they remember all of the questions they had just a few short years before when they were applicants.
What to ask
Asking current students at your dream college, “How do you like it here?” is a decent question, but it’s a bit too vague. Everyone has a different experience of college, and they may come from a different walk of life than you do. In order to ensure a helpful discussion with a current student, be sure to have a clear picture of what you want to ask them.
Consider first what is really important to you in life. If you have extracurriculars you really enjoy, such as playing a sport or a musical instrument, ask about the opportunities you might have to continue to pursue your interest. Some colleges don’t have athletic opportunities for students who are not serious athletes. Other college may have ample opportunities.
Be sure to ask about the campus’ social life and what the student body is like at large. If your high school consists of a certain religious or racial demographic, for example, it may be a bit of a culture shock to find that your dream college has a very different student demographic than what you’re used to. That’s not to say that it should stop you from attending, but it’s worth knowing all the same.
You also might want to ask a number of current students what made them choose this college over other colleges. Furthermore, find out if their reasons for choosing this college came to fruition. For example, if they wanted a school with a small class size or certain academic opportunities, it’s helpful to know if these align with your reasons for loving the school. Then, you’ll want to know whether the class sizes are, in fact, small, or if these students got the academic opportunities they were looking for.
If you have any additional questions to ask current students at your dream college, don’t be afraid to ask. Everyone in college is looking to learn and grow, and education can be so communal, other students are often eager to help each other and newcomers out. If, for any reason, you find that current students are not interested in helping you out or do not want to answer your questions, this can give you information about life at that college as well.
More often than not, current students can give you valuable insight into your dream college, and their insight could either guide you in a different direction, or make the college even more of a dream than it already was.