Deadlines are looming. If they haven't passed, they'll be coming up right after the beginning of January. (Maybe instead of dropping cash on some material goods, pay for some college applications... those puppies are getting mightly expensive!... digression)
My friend and writing mentor, Kerry Madden, wrote a great piece in today's L.A. Times about preparing your high school senior for college applications and deadlines.
And having worked at several campuses, I know how much we want your high school senior's attendance.
But, as a consumer, I'd suggest you ask some good questions... and not only the ones about costs, though money is very important to get straight before you sign on with a school. Many studies have shown money and social environment are leading causes of students leaving college, and not their ability to master their coursework. So it's all about finding the right match.
Questions you might ask:
1) How does the campus value differences and diversity? Ask for a specific example of a recent incident related to race, class, gender, sexual orientation bias... and how the campus dealt with the issue. Also ask how does the campus feel about the way the incident was handled.
2) Are students and parents happy with the Financial Aid department? If you're in a financial bind, will the school help you out or cut you some slack now and then?
3) What is it like to be a _________ student on the campus or in the town the college is located? Fill in the blank with whatever categories you belong to. You also might ask the whole "where to get hair done" questions too.
4) Is it easy to get in touch with faculty and administrators? Do they have open-door policies? How do students perceive campus administration? Are there faculty, staff, or administrators who are known to be student friendly? Get specific names and departments if possible. If I'm struggling academically or personally, who can I reach out to... or who will reach out to me?
5) What do students do for fun? Is the campus strict or not strict on issues such as alcohol, drugs, hazing, racism, sexism, heterosexism?
6) What are ways I can get involved and contribute to campus life? (Because school is more than going to class and going home... students who get involved on campus are more likely to stay and graduate).Those are some I can think of now... if you have others, based on your experience, please add them to the comments.
For the record, I loved all my alma maters: University of Missouri (Missouri School of Journalism) for undergrad and Loyola University Chicago for grad. Even enjoyed my few post-masters classes at University of San Francisco (also my first professional job location).
If anything I would have done differently, I would have done private school for undergrad and public for grad school. I think I would have benefitted from the smaller classes, personalized attention, and the social justice values in undergrad and right out of high school. But it's ancient history now... and my life turned out well.
But it's totally up to you as students, parents, and consumers. What other advice would you offer to high school seniors? Or how do you feel about the colleges and universities you've attended?