Finding a College - Life at College

college students with headsets and laptops

College is filled with new and diverse experiences. This section will help you to consider daily life at college, such as how to balance academics and social life. It will also provide you with information on important aspects of campus life. Using these resources will assist you in gaining the most out of your life at college.

Before You Go

Whether you plan to live on campus or commute to campus, you need to consider what your daily life will be like. College is very different than high school in many ways. The first year of college will be filled with new and diverse experiences. While this can be a time of anticipation and anxiety, it is also a time of learning and exploration.

One of the first things you will notice about college life, especially if you live on campus, is that you have more freedom. Enjoy your new experience, but also keep in mind that you need to be responsible. Even though your parents may not be around, you still need to take care of yourself and get your work done.

Here are some things to consider and questions to ask related to life at college:

  • If you live on campus you need to have bed linens and easily portable toiletries. Check out living arrangements and room and bed size before shopping.
  • Watch for and take advantage of tax-free sales days – sometimes you can save a bundle on school supplies.
  • Who will your roommate or roommates be? The college will usually provide you this information before you arrive on campus. You should contact each other before school begins to get acquainted.
  • Orientation will be offered, probably during the summer or just before classes start. This is a great opportunity to meet other students and get valuable advice from college staff and other students. You might also register for classes during orientation.

Living There

    Essentials

    Ensuring beforehand that your essential needs are covered will help you to focus. When deciding if a college is right for you, below are some questions you should seek answers to:

    Food

    • What kinds of dining facilities and meal plans are available?
    • How are special diets accommodated? (for example, food allergies or diabetes)
    • How close is the nearest grocery store?

    Housing

    • What percentage of undergraduate students live off campus?
    • Is there a service that helps commuters find housing?
    • What is the average cost of off campus housing?
    • Are students guaranteed housing on campus the first year? Is housing also guaranteed after the first year?
    • What is the average size of a first-year students’ residence hall room?
    • What is the maximum number of students who might share a first-year dorm room?
    • How many people share a bathroom in the typical first-year residence hall?
    • How much storage space is in a first-year room? Is there a desk in the room?
    • Do student rooms have Internet access? Telephones?
    • Are there accommodations for students with special needs?

    Well Being

    College life can be great, but with it comes many responsibilities, such as considering your well-being. Before deciding on a college, get answers to the following questions about life there:

    Transportation

    • Is there a college bus service for students? Is bus service provided on campus as well as off campus? What are the hours of operation? Is bus service free?
    • Are students allowed to have cars on campus? Is there a parking lot for student vehicles? (Some four-year colleges do not allow first-year students to have cars.)
    • Are there places outside the classroom to lock bicycles?
    • How much does a parking permit cost?

    Safety

    • How safe is the campus? Get statistics from the public safety office on campus and check with the local police.
    • Are the first-year residence halls (“dorms”) locked at all times? Who has access to them?
    • Is there a student escort service to accompany students’ home from the library or other locations at night? What are the hours of operation?

    Employment

    • Are there many jobs for students on campus?
    • How much do campus jobs usually pay?
    • What kinds of jobs are locally available for students?
    • Does the college help students find paid internships or externships?

    Balance

    It's very important to maintain balance in your life. As you explore whether a college is right for you, consider the following:

    Health and Fitness

    • Colleges have staff dedicated to the physical and mental health of students. The types of services available will depend on the college. Staying healthy is a first step to college success!
    • Many colleges offer free classes in sports or other exercise, in study skills and test-taking, and in managing stress.
    • Is there a gym? Is there a pool students can use even if they are not on the swim team?
    • What intramural spots are offered? Can students always participate for free?
    • Is health insurance available to purchase?

    Social Life

    • What clubs, volunteer groups, and other extracurricular activities are available?
    • Where do students socialize on campus? Off campus?
    • What are weekends like on campus?

    Religion

    • If you practice a religion, there may be a place on or near campus where people of your faith gather for services/meeting. If not, you can choose to organize a group and find a meeting place.
    • A student may attend a college that is affiliated with a religion even if he or she does not share the beliefs. Depending on the campus and on the student, this may or may not be comfortable.

Studying There

Some programs of study are found at many colleges, others at only a few. Even when colleges offer the same academic programs, they present that education differently. Course requirements, class offerings, coursework, and academic support services can vary from college to college. You will have to determine which academic program and which college will work best for you.

    Answers to Questions

    What are classes like?

    • Some colleges require more introductory courses than others.
    • Depending on the college and the course, there could be 12 people in a classroom or 400 in a lecture hall. Big lecture courses may require smaller class meetings called “sections” (10-30 people) that supplement the lecture. Upper-level courses are usually smaller.
    • Larger class sizes are more common for freshman and sophomore lecture courses. Ask how large classes are for first year students.
    • Classes may be faculty lectures or students may have to speak regularly in class. Be prepared to speak in your classes, both to your professor and to the entire class.
    • Classes may have waiting lists. Find out which ones do.

    How much work will I have to do?

    • Colleges require more reading, writing, and studying than high school; and you may also have to complete assignments in a shorter period of time. While the work load may be heavier, hang in there, you can do it!

    How should I prepare for the work I will have to do?

    • Even if attendance is not taken, go to class. If you have to miss class, let the professor know and make arrangements to get the class notes or assignments.
    • There is no such thing as a stupid question. If you don’t understand something, ask questions in class or visit the professor during office hours.
    • Take good notes in class, but do not attempt to write down everything the professor says.
    • Put together a schedule for studying and completing your work. For review sessions, use the opportunity to studying with others taking the course. Keep in mind it is also important to study alone. Pay attention to which style of studying and study locations work best for you. Continue to do what works best.
    • Do not procrastinate. It is not a good idea to wait the night before to study for a test or write a term paper. Allow yourself enough time to get your assignments done. It may be easier to break your work up into mini assignments.

    How long will it take me to graduate?

    • If you plan to earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years, then you will have to earn a certain number of credits each semester. You should find out how many course credits are required to graduate on schedule. Each program has different course requirements. See your Academic Advising Center or your academic advisor each semester to assure you register for the correct courses.

    Questions to Ask

    Below are some questions you should get answers to about studying on campus and the facilities available to students.

    Student Academic Services

    • Colleges use academic support services to help with retention. What services are available? In what subjects?
    • Do all first-year students have access to study skills classes or workshops? How about exam preparation workshops?
    • How are academic advisors selected? What steps can you take if your advisor does not seem helpful – can you change easily and quickly?

    Libraries

    • Many students have never used a college or research library before they arrive to college. Ask if the library offers mini-classes on how to use the library to do research. All research cannot be done on the Internet!
    • How big is the library collection? Can students easily access journals and books?

    Science Laboratories

    • Visit the science laboratories to find out if they are well equipped. Is the equipment new or outdated?
    • Are there enough labs and equipment to accommodate students?

    Information Technology

    • Assignments may have to be submitted electronically. Is there a computer lab on campus for you to use to do assignments? What are the hours of operation? Is it crowded? What are the busiest periods?
    • Is there an office to call if there are problems with the computers?
    • Is there a place on campus where students can receive free lessons to increase their computer skills? (software program training, e-mail use, Internet use)

    Other Facilities

    • Are there plenty of areas to study?
    • Is there a large studio area for art students?
    • Are there practice rooms for music students?