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Misty MillsTen Questions to Ask Before Choosing a University

by Misty Mills

When I decided to return to college, I went about the process like most students. I filled out an application and made an appointment with an admissions counselor. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, and it was. Looking back, I realize there were a host of other resources at my fingertips of which I was not aware.

Non-traditional college students have needs that traditional students coming straight from high school do not have. Unfortunately, many universities are not adept at answering adults’ questions and addressing their special circumstances. This is a list of ten things to
do and questions to ask which might help a returning adult student decide which college will provide the best fit with his or her lifestyle.

1. How often are classes offered at night or on the weekends? This is particularly important if you will continue working while you are a student. Do not take the admissions officer’s word on this one. Ask to see a list of degree requirements and course schedules for the past several semesters. Cross-reference these two items to see if the classes you will need for your degree are offered on days and times that are convenient. At some smaller universities, required courses might not even be offered each semester due to a lack of professors or class space or a minimum number of required students.

2. Does the university offer married housing or on-site daycare? Even if you are single and do not have children, these services typify a university culture that is accepting of non-traditional students. If you are married or do have children, these services can make attending classes easier.

3. Can I see some back issues of the student newspaper? This is a great way to find out what is the student body’s current complaint. If you will be living at home and most of the editorials concern the low quality of food on campus, you might not be worried. If you are a commuting student and most complaints focus on inadequate parking or lighting in commuter parking lots, this might be a red flag.

Are students perturbed about the university’s budget? Are the computer labs and software out of date? Do the officials quoted in the student newspaper seem to be upfront and honest? The student newspaper is a wonderful place for students to voice their concerns about the university, and most of the time, the officials in the admissions and recruitment offices are slow to tell prospective students about the university’s weaknesses.

4. Where are commuting students required to park? At Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, commuting students are given parking at the center of campus and residential students must park on the perimeter. TWU is known for its ease of use for non-traditional students.

Knowing the answer to this question can also help you determine whether the culture of a particular university is accepting of returning students. Don’t just look at the parking lot on a map. Go there. Make the walk to the buildings where your classes would most likely be held. Imagine making this walk after a day at the office. Also, ask yourself what the walk would be like during the worst possible weather. Do you have to cross a busy intersection? What will traffic on nearby roads be at the time you will be on campus?

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