Questions about College
-- Studying There
Some fields of study are found at many colleges, others at
only a few. Even when colleges offer the same academic programs, they
present that education differently. Course requirements,
class offerings, and academic support services can vary from
college to college. Students have to figure out which
academic program and which college works best for them.
The topics here apply to students who attend community
colleges or four-year colleges.
- Community colleges offer many of the same academic
services as four-year colleges.
- Community college students who plan to transfer to a
four-year college should start thinking about where they
want to go and what they want to study. Transfer
requirements depend on the college and the major (that is,
the academic program at the four-year college).
- Some transfer-oriented associate degree programs prepare
students for specific majors.
Does this college have all the courses and programs that
interest your son or daughter?
- Look at the college web site and catalog. The
catalog lists all the courses that might be taught, but
actual course offerings vary from year to year. Look
for a course directory and review current offerings.
- Incoming students to a college should research course
and academic program requirements. It would help to
make a list of possible courses to take and have some
back-up plans. Classes fill up, and not all courses
are offered every semester or even every year. Ask
what accommodations are available to new students if classes
fill before they can register. (Current students
pre-register in the spring for fall classes.)
Will my son or daughter be able to gain admission to the
major s/he wants?
- Students apply for entry into a major during or just
after the second year of college. To be admitted,
students are required to have already passed certain courses
- Some majors have more prerequisites than others or
require more courses. If a major has many
requirements, there may not be much room for a student to
take electives (that is, courses in other fields).
Waiting too long to decide on a major or changing majors may
mean staying in college longer to meet requirements.
Does the college have the right stuff?
- Check out what the science laboratories are like--what
equipment is in them? How big is the library
collection? Can students easily access journals and
books? Is there a large studio area for art students?
Are there practice rooms for music students?
What are the classes like?
- Some colleges require more introductory courses than
- Depending on the college and the course, there could be
12 people in a classroom or 400 in a lecture hall. Big
lecture courses may require smaller class meetings called
"sections" (10-30 people) that supplement the lecture.
Upper-level courses are usually smaller.
- Classes may be faculty lectures or students may have to
speak regularly in class.
- Do many classes have waiting lists? Which ones?
- How large are most courses for first-year students?
- Some colleges do a better job than others of making sure
that capable students graduate. Compare graduation
rates. Colleges also track retention rates (the
percentage of students who stay at that college). If
the retention rate is low, try to find out why students
- If a student plans to earn an associate degree in two
years or a bachelor's degree in four years, then s/he will
have to earn a certain number of credits each semester.
Students should find out how many course credits are
required to graduate on schedule.
Student Academic Services
- Colleges use academic support services to help with
retention. What services are available on campus?
Is free tutoring available? In what subjects?
- Do all first-year students have access to study skills
or workshops? How about exam preparation workshops?
- How are academic advisors selected for students?
What if the advisor does not seem helpful--can a student
change advisors easily and quickly?
- Does the college have an office that manages internships
and externships? Does the office have the names of
companies that have hired its students?
- Does the career services office sponsor on-campus job
fairs? What companies and organizations attend?
Where were recent graduates hired? What were their
- Many students have never used a college or research
library before they arrive in college--but some have.
Ask if the library offers mini-classes in how to use the
library to do research. All research cannot be done
on the Internet!
- Assignments may have to be turned in electronically.
Is there a computer lab on campus for students to use to do
assignments? What are the hours of operation? Is
- Is there an office for students to call if they have
problems with their computers?
- Is there a place on campus where students can receive
free lessons to increase their computer skills? (software
program training, e-mail use, Internet use)
Tips for Living at school