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Higher Education in Maryland

Questions about College --  Studying There

studying studentSome 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 ("prerequisites").
  • 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 others.
  • 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 leave.
  • 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?

Career Services

  • 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 majors?


  • 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!

Information Technology

  • 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 it crowded?
  • 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)

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