You’re preparing for a college visit and planning what to see and do on your visit. Check out the residence halls. Eat in the dining hall. Go to the fitness center. All of these are important and should be on your “to do” list.
In addition to determining whether the creature comforts at colleges meet your needs, plan time during your campus visit to talk to faculty members at each college. Yes, I’m talking about scheduling time to go to their offices and ask questions.
As someone who has taught and advised students for a long time and who has a daughter who will begin the college search process in a few years, I know you can learn a great deal about how comfortable you’ll be at a college if you ask five basic questions of each professor you meet.
Before we get to the questions, let me calm your fears. Professors are real people, not scary creatures that should be avoided at all costs. They love what they do and what they teach, but they have interests outside of their college teaching—just like you have interests outside of school. I, for example, like sports, action films (bad ones), and traveling.
Enough about me. Here are the five questions you should ask:
Just like in high school, college professors use a lot of teaching methods—discussion, lecture, simulations, etc. You know how you like to learn, so ask those folks who may teach you in college about how they typically teach.
Most college professors teach a range of courses—some for first-year students and some for more advanced students. Make sure some of the professors you talk to like teaching introductory classes. Your first year in college will set the tone for your college experience and it is great if you have professors in those classes who are excited to be there.
Some of the most important learning you will do in college will be outside of class time and your professors should be able to point you to possible internships, community-based learning experiences, and other opportunities.
Most college faculty members conduct research in their fields to make sure they are teaching “cutting edge” stuff. If you are taking a science course or a history course, you want to make sure the person teaching is up-to-date in her or his field. You never know, a professor who is doing research on something you find interesting may ask you to join a research project!
As I said, college professors are real people. By asking this question, you might learn that you and the professor share an interest. Maybe you have both traveled to the same country or have an interest in the same sport.
The college search process is very important and you should thoroughly check out each college you visit. Just remember, the people teaching you for four years are just as important as where you live or what you’ll eat!