11 Questions to Ask Colleges

The Most Important Questions to Ask Colleges

By: Reyna Gobel MBA, MJ

Asking the right questions before college starts can set your student up for not just a successful year, but a less stressful one.

Start with these 11 questions:

1. What is your school refund policy?

School refund policies vary quite a bit, and the reasons your student may need it as well. For instance, I may register for too many classes. After finding out workloads during the first week, I realize I should drop a class. I’ll need to know the last day I can drop a class and still get a 100 percent refund. At a later date, the refund may be 75 percent or 50 percent. At some point, the refund policy will drop to zero.

Dropping a class due to workload can be avoided by contacting professors beforehand to ask about hours per week you’ll dedicate to school. If it’s a medical emergency, read carefully why a student can drop courses and the process. Tuition insurance can help to cover tuition in the cause of a medical situation requiring class withdrawal.

2.  Do you have a tuition payment plan?

Tuition Payment Plans are a helpful tool for spreading out tuition payment throughout the semester or year. Payments may be monthly or quarterly. Contact the bursar or student accounting office for details.

3. When are financial aid refund checks disbursed?

Financial aid may have been granted for more than the amount of tuition and other expenses paid directly to school. The difference is sent to the student in the form of refund check. Knowing the date is important if the money will be used for textbooks or housing. The bursar, student accounting, or financial aid offices should be able to tell you this date.

4. Are there any rules for scholarship maintenance?

If a student receives an offer for a scholarship for four years or even one year, they may have to maintain a specific GPA, course load, and or / or sport or activity to keep it. Knowing these rules can keep a student from losing their scholarship later.

5. What mental health services are offered?

Students should know where to go on campus if they need mental health support. They need to gather phone numbers. We suggest all the answers to these questions is stored on a one-page sheet.

6. What options does my student have for career services?

The number one reason to go to school is to get a job. Thus, students need to be aware of all the help they can get with finding their next internship or part-time, career-related job. They should also be able to find resume and interview assistance. Generally, the applicable offices are career services, work co-op, and their academic major.

7. What fitness options are available?

Gaining 15 pounds the first year of College is a real phenomenon. It’s also real to skip gym memberships when finances are tight. Your student should know where the fitness center is located, facilities such as a pool for swimming laps, and what classes are available. They should also check with student affairs about the recreation center including equipment rental and intramural sports. 

8. Can I see sample menus from the dining hall?

The dining hall is one of the most important aspects of a campus. The nutrition your student gets can determine both their health and how they perform in school.  Thus, you should look at the menus and go over ways of balancing their nutrition. The menu’s also good to look at if your student has food allergies or sensitivities. The manager of the dining hall should be available to talk to if you need detailed answers.

You should also look at nearby fast food and other restaurant menus with your student. After all, no one survives of cafeteria food alone.

9. Where does my student go for money management help?

There are many aspects of life your student may be dealing with for the first time. Complete money management is one of them. To minimize calls to you for extra money, they’ll need people on campus they can go to for money management advice. A few good places are student affairs, student money management, and the financial aid office.

10. What options are available for tutoring?

Most colleges have centers for tutoring for math and writing skills. Your student should know where those are, as well as where to get tutoring for other courses. For instance, there are courses in grad school I wouldn’t have gotten through without extra help. The graduate assistants were able to help as well as professor office hours. The office for their major is a good place to start when asking questions.

11. What are the public safety policies?

We can never emphasize enough the importance of public safety information on campus. Your student should know where emergency buttons are to get help, who to call if they feel endangered, and the most lit pathways to walk. So many public safety incidents could be prevented or decreased in severity by having this information ahead of time.