There are a lot of ways to figure out if a school is a good fit for you. Do they have the programs you’re interested in? Do they offer the financial assistance you need? Can you deal with the weather?
But a really huge part of deciding if a college is the right fit for you comes from its social side—the clubs, the events, and the student life as a whole. You might call this the college’s “personality.”
Many students put a lot of weight on whether or not a college’s personality jives with their own when making their decision, and for a good reason: you want to go somewhere that fits you.
So if you’re the kind of person who’s looking for a party school—look for one! If you’re looking for someplace more “serious” when it comes to academics—look for it! This is your journey, and only you can decide what feels right.
To help you figure out if a school’s personality meshes with your own, we’ve come up with a list of questions to ask current students about campus life. As always, this is just to get you started—think about what matters to you, and you’ll probably come up with some of your own.
1. How big is the school? (Your classes? Your dorm?)
Do you crave a small environment similar to your high school? Or would you rather have the endless possibilities that come with a 30K+ student population? When it comes to the social side of things, your experience is going to be a lot different at a small private college compared to a massive state school.
2. What are the on-campus housing options like? Do you have a roommate? Is there suite-style housing?
Getting to know the different housing options available at different schools can help you figure out what makes sense for you. Are you the kind of person that needs personal space? Would having one or more roommates drive you crazy?
3. Do most students live on campus or do they commute from home?
If you’re planning on living at home, you might feel less “left out” if commuting is common at your school. Or, vice versa—if you want to live on campus, you might want to find out if it turns into a ghost town on weekends if lots of students commute.
4. How big is Greek life?
Whether you’re considering Greek life or not, it’s good to know how popular it is on campus. A common complaint of students is that they are not interested in Greek life, but it’s so influential on campus that they feel like it’s the only way to have a social life.
5. How big are athletics? What are the most popular teams?
Are you looking for a face-painting tailgating scene? Or could you not care any less about athletics?
6. What do you like to do on weekends? What is there to do on campus? What about off campus?
Find out what the campus is like when classes aren’t in session, and ask about cool things to do out in the community when you have some down time.
7. What are the biggest events on campus?
For some schools, it’s Homecoming. For others, it’s Rush Week. Maybe your school has a really unique event that draws a big crowd from around the world.
8. Do you have a club for insert-your-interest-here?
Whether you want to meet other like-minded people or try something totally new, it’s a good idea to learn about the different clubs and student organizations on campus that you can be a part of.
At the end of the day, the absolute best way to get a feel for campus and its personality is to visit yourself and strike up conversations with current students. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, plan a visit and see for yourself is your personalities mesh—or clash.
Planning a campus visit? Don’t forget the College Visit Checklist
If you’re starting to schedule college visits, make sure to download the College Visit Checklist. It’s packed with questions to ask and things to do besides the “official” campus tour (like ask to see student housing not shown to you on the tour).