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Questions to ask when touring unversities


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I know I asked this question a couple of weeks ago, but I've decided to start a new thread and summarize all the questions I have gathered so far, as see if you guys can help me flesh them out.  DS is meeting with admissions, department heads in maths, professors, students, and academic advisers at 5 different universities (not all at each one, but close). These are elite private universities and state flagships. I feel like I need to come up with some open ended questions to kind of get people talking.  This is what I have so far:


Things to evaluate just by walking around:

Do you prefer a big or small school?

Do you prefer city vs suburban ?

What are the dining facilities like?

What are the athletic facilities like?

What are the dorms like?

How is the access to transport?

How is the access to services from campus like pharmacy, stores, groceries etc?

How is the student health care?

What is the culture of the different USA regions? and does my ds feel easier in some than others.


Questions for current students:

What is the atmosphere in the department?

Are there societies of math students?

What is the quality of instruction?

What is the availability fo classes?

What do you plan to do after you graduate?

How are the internship opportunities?

What do you do for fun?

Do the faculty get along or are there feuding factions?

Do the professors take a genuine interest in the students?

How often do you go home?

How do you like your major?


Questions for college representatives (these are great open ended questions, but what is a college representative? who can answer these questions?)

What questions do you wish students would ask?

What facets of your college do you think are underrepresentated?

What program at your school should student be sure to investigate?

What do you not like about your college?

What kind of students are you looking for?

Are there groups of students that get special opportunities with academics and advising?  how do you apply?


Questions for academic advisers in math department:

Can UG customize their education?

Can ds take grad courses as an undergrad?

Is there a waitlist for course you need? how likely are you to get into courses?

Can ds get credit for the courses he has taken at a local university?

How do you determine ds's placement?

Is it possible to do honors math and double major or is it too tight?

Class size?

Are courses taught by faculty? 

What percentage of courses are in seat vs online?

Where do grads go after graduation?


Research opportunities for UG - who do we ask about this?

Are grads the focus and UG working for grad students?

Are the opportunities killer competitive?

How many UG are involved in research?

Is there a dedicated career councilor?

Where are possible internships?

What are the UG opportunities?

Is there personal mentoring happening in the department?


Questions for Professors?

I have no idea!


Questions for Admissions officers?

We have one very important meeting with a high level admissions officer who knows about ds through a well-regarded recommender. I'm guessing it will act like an informal interview for my ds.  I have no idea what we should be asking.

Edited by lewelma
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I like your questions and would be flexible about asking any of the questions to anyone you talk to.


I'd add some of my favorite questions to ask students now are what has your favorite class been and what has been your favorite class outside your major. These questions have led to some very interesting conversations and give you a feel for the school and atmosphere of learning.

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I would also make sure that at least some of the questions are based on research you've done about that particular school.  i.e. for the professor or academic advisor ask  something like: "After looking at your catalog, I believe I would pass out of Math XXX and YYY, and my freshman year, I'd like to take ZZZ and BBB, does that sound right to you?  I've sketched out a possible four year plan in my major, how does this look to you with these classes?".

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I think you have a solid list.  I want to add (and I think you are already thinking about this, but just in case), hang around after and get far away from the tour type groups and activities and just really take in the student life.  Are they happy?  Find a random student sitting at a table or walking along and ask them if they are happy?  They are more likely to be honest if they aren't in a group.  Whatever their response, ask why?  What makes you happy or unhappy here?  What are your favorite things and least favorite things about it here?  You are then getting beyond the image that admissions is portraying and instead you are talking to the students that are living life in that college situation day in and day out.  It helped us tremendously.  

Edited by Attolia
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Good idea to study up on each college first.  We are likely to run out of time, but should be able to do at least some of this work in the car/ at airport etc. 


Unfortunately, we are going when school is not in session, so we can't get a feel for student life.  But we have found students at every school that have made time to talk to us. 



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the director of admissions or an admissions counselor should be able to address the majority of the questions you have on your list. In addition, you should ask about the admissions process - what to submit and when. If you aren't offered an application fee waiver, be sure to ask for one. 


You didn't mention financial aid - I work in an admissions office and almost everyone I meet with wants to go over cost and the financial aid process. At some institutions, someone in the financial aid office has to answer those questions for you. My school is small and everyone in Admissions can answer basic financial aid questions. 


A professor should be able to give you the highlights of his/her academic program and describe how it is different/better from other institutions. They can describe what the course of study a student in this or that major looks like. They should be able to tell you what types of careers their program prepares students for. They can talk about research opportunities and should have examples of what their students have done after graduation - either career or grad school. 

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Thanks so much MilknHoney for your insight. So a couple of questions for you and anyone else:


Financial office: I'm feeling very clueless.  Don't you just fill in the form and they give you money or not?  What else can they tell me?  Being internationals, our forms are not straight forward at all, so I would think that they wouldn't be able to just glance at a form in a meeting and tell me a number. 


Admissions officer: There is one admissions officer that I'm particularly interested in planning for and preparing ds to talk to.  I feel like this will be kind of an informal interview.  It is for an elite university.  If my hunch is right, I feel like we should be asking questions that we can't get off the website.  But I just don't know what those questions are.  I think ds needs to be engaged so he needs to have something to talk about.  Does he talk about himself?


Professors: We have been very lucky to get in with some profs at elite universities because some have point blank said that they don't talk to perspective students because the admission rate is so low that it is really a waste of their time (and I can understand that). But I'm feeling like for those that will talk to us, I don't want to waste their time, and I don't actually know if they want to be having a discussion with ds.  They have agreed, but then why would they want to?  Do they want to talk math?


Finally, is it appropriate to have ds, mum, and dad walking in to meet these people?  I doubt that ds would be very keen to be on his own, but should one of the parents do something else, so it is just ds and one parent?   

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Financial Aid: Are you a US citizen? Are you applying to US Universities? The answer varies depending on your citizenship status. If you are a US citizen, you file the FAFSA, which goes to the Department of Education, which goes to the colleges you've listed on the FAFSA. The college uses that information to determine your eligibility for federal aid as well as institutional need-based aid. If you are not a US citizen, then you aren't eligible to file the FAFSA. Then you are relying on institutional aid, and the college will have to tell you what they will do for international students. If you aren't even talking about schools in the US, then I'm outta my league here and you should disregard everything I say! If finances are an issue for you, then just ask, "what can you tell me about financial aid for international students?" and they can take it from there. Colleges are used to talking to people who are clueless of the process and don't even know where to start. In addition to aid the institution can offer, they should also be able to walk you through what other options you have - parent loans, private student loans, external scholarships, monthly payment plans.


Admissions: My university does not require an interview for admissions, so when we meet with a campus visitor, the purpose isn't for us to asses the student, but for them to ask us their questions. We're still in recruitment mode, so we are using the interview to try to sell the school to the student. It sounds like the dynamic might be a little different at the schools you'll be visiting. It seems to me that if your student is actually going to be interviewed, that the school would let you know that. I suggest contacting the admissions office at each school and asking them what you should expect or how you should be prepared. Oh boy, every now and then we have students show up for their campus visit in a suit and tie because they think they are going to get interviewed. I feel so sorry for them!! Everyone else is in shorts and T-shirts!! 


Professors: Again, sounds like the dynamic at the schools you are looking at is different than in my university. We're in recruitment mode, so again, when professors agree to meet with visitors, they're helping us to recruit students into their programs. Plus, most of them are pretty enthusiastic about their programs and are happy to talk about it to interested prospectives. In addition, most of the time the admissions office sets up the appointments for them, and we know who the "good" professors are and who NOT to set up meetings with :). 


99% of the time, parents are with their students for all of the meetings. Often, the parents are the ones with all the questions (especially the money questions). But if you find out that your student will be in more of an interview situation, then just ask if you should come or stay when the time comes.

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So glad all my years working in Admissions might be able to help out a fellow homeschooler!


Bottom line is that in a college visit, the college should be trying just as hard, if not harder, to impress you as you are them. You are the consumer and they are the salespeople. 


They also have lots of experience working with families sending their first child off to college. They know what you need to know and they will tell you. Ask the questions that you are really needing answers to, but don't stress out trying to come up with questions just for the sake of asking. Probably questions will come to you on the spot in the course of conversation.

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