Ten Questions to Ask Before
Choosing a University
(Continued from 1)
4. What is the average length of time it takes a
student to graduate? You must be specific. Some
universities have programs that graduate students in
three years, and other programs take five years to complete.
Be specific and ask about your intended area of study.
Many universities charge students fees on a semester-by-semester
basis. This means you pay the same fee whether you are
a full-time or part-time student and whether you use
the services the fees
are intended to pay for. The longer it takes to graduate,
the more of these fees you will pay.
5. What is the average age of the student body and
gender breakdown? This question will not necessarily
reveal a good or bad answer,
but it will help determine whether a particular school
fits your personality. The older the average age, the
more likely you will be in classes with other returning
adults. Some returning students, especially women, prefer
to be in classes with other women in similar situations.
It might be intimidating to be the only 40-something
in a room full of 18- to 22-year-olds, especially if
most of the class is of the opposite gender.
6. Will I get course credit for work experience?
If youve worked in a field and now are finishing
a degree in that field this is a particularly important
question to ask. Some universities are happy to extend
credit if you can present them with copies of your work
and a list of references. You may want to have the particular
courses for which you will be given credit verified
by someone with the authority to have it posted to your
transcript and keep a hard copy for yourself. If a university
wont give you credit outright for your work, ask
about testing for credit. You might be eligible to pay
a fee ($25 to $100 typically) to take an exam to get
credit for a class.
7. How much course credit will transfer from my
previous university? If youve already received
some college credit, have those transcripts evaluated
for credit. You may find out the math or English class
you took 15 years ago will not transfer even though
adding, subtracting, and the English language have not
changed one bit. Sometimes simply explaining to an official
in the records office or someone on the transfer student
advisory board (these titles differ by university) what
was entailed in the class can get you credit for a course
they might otherwise have made you retake.
8. How much experience do professors in my intended
department have? Some universities have prepared
brief biographies of professors. Ask to see them and
meet with a few professors if possible. It is always
a bonus if a professor knows your face before the first
day of class, and meeting him or her in person can give
you a feel for the way classes will be structured. Are
the professors people you like immediately, or do they
seem too casual or too formal? Are they easy to talk
to? Are their offices organized or messy? How do they
dress? These are all clues you can notice to determine
if a university is a fit for you.
9. What are my payment options? Going to college
is expensive, especially if you are paying for it yourself.
Some schools require full payment by the first day of
classes. Others may let you pay your bill in installments.
10. May I sit in on a few classes? Before you
finally decide which university you will attend, ask
to sit in on a few classes you will be required to take.
Do this anonymously if possible. You will get a feel
for the teaching method of the professors and the attitudes
of other students. You will have the opportunity to
double check the facts the admissions office gave you.
If theyve touted the use of multimedia in the
classroom, check to see if its there. Are the
professors using it, or does it sit on the sidelines
because no one has been taught how it works?
The main idea here is to think through your decision
to return to school, and choose a school that is right
for you. You will be spending many hours on campus and
in classrooms and working on projects, so the more you
know about a university before you decide to attend,
the more likely it is to be a positive experience for
Misty Mills began college in East Texas at Stephen
F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. She took
several years and worked as a massage therapist and
grant writer before deciding to return to college at
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach,
Florida. She is a communications major and will graduate
in April 2003.