Researching Colleges: Don't forget to Find out What Goes on in the Classroom

One of the mistakes we see students make in the college admissions process is failing to find out enough about the academic life of a school -- what actually goes on in the classrooms.  In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education piece, What We Don't Talk About on the Admissions Tour, James M. Lang, associate professor of English, director of the college honors program at Assumption College and parent to a member of the class of 2017, states the case for finding out as much about the teaching and learning as the food service on a college campus.

Like any parent of a prospective student at a residential college, we are preparing for our child to live on her own for the first time. What shape will that new life take? I want to be able to envision my daughter in her new room, and gain a sense of what her peers will be like, and know that she will have access to food and facilities that will allow her to lead a healthy lifestyle.

But I also know that students spend many hours each week sitting in classrooms like my own, or doing work that arises from those classrooms, and that most of us see the primary function of colleges and universities as offering the best possible educational experience. Shouldn't we give prospective students a clear picture of that feature of their future lives, and see if we can use that picture to entice them to join us because they are as excited about their learning as they are about their dorm rooms?

Colleges are first and foremost learning communities. As juniors and rising seniors research colleges and make their campus visits, ask as many questions as you can about what happens in the classroom -- the place where you will spend so much time.

You can read Lang's entire piece here.

And for lists of questions to ask as you research and visit colleges, check out Chapter 8, "Creating an Initial List of Colleges," and Chapter 9, "College Visits," in College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

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