While we often recommend checking out a college campus during the school year to get a real feel for the vibe on campus while enrollment is at its peak, there are advantages to visiting over the summer. Chances are the weather will be nice for your visit, your family will likely have time to engross yourself in a campus without the distraction of school and work, and—perhaps most significantly—college representatives will have more time to devote to you. In the fall and spring, colleges, their employees, and their students are busy. They may not have the time and bandwidth to sit down and converse thoughtfully with you and the thousands of other prospective students and families visiting their campus. In the summer, however, campuses tend to be a more laid back environment, and you will likely get more facetime with college representatives to ask your most pressing questions, many of which may relate to the financial commitment involved with attending this particular institution. Here are some financial questions to ask while visiting colleges this summer, along with the appropriate party to ask them to. Remember, your campus tour guide is not necessarily the expert on college financial matters, so make sure to address your questions to the real experts.
Questions to ask the Financial Aid Office (who usually awards need-based aid):
- Is my financial aid package likely to change in future years?
- What if my need increases in subsequent years (due to a job loss or sibling going to college)—will my aid package increase or stay the same?
- How much has tuition increased in recent years?
- Can I expect my grant to increase annually as tuition increases?
- What happens to my financial aid if I take longer than four years to graduate?
- Can I borrow student loans to cover the cost of travel or a laptop?
- Do you have suggestions of where to look for a student loan?
Questions to ask the Admissions Office (who usually awards merit scholarships):
- What’s the academic profile (GPA/test scores/etc.) of a typical scholarship recipient?
- What are the renewal requirements for your scholarships?
- Do you offer application fee waivers for low income students?
Questions to ask the Residential Life Office:
- Is housing guaranteed to freshmen, or is access dependent upon time of deposit?
- If you have to make an early housing deposit, is that deposit refundable if you end up not enrolling?
- Is housing guaranteed to upperclassmen, or do most students move off campus?
- How do off-campus housing costs compare to the dorms?
Questions to ask the Student Employment Office:
- What types of jobs on campus are available to first-year students?
- Are on-campus jobs available to students who do not qualify for the need-based Federal Work Study program?
- How and when can I apply for a job for freshman year?
Questions to ask the Career Services Office:
- What companies recruit on your campus?
- What career planning resources do you provide students and alumni?
- Are your efforts focused on graduating seniors, or will you provide assistance through all four years of college?
Questions to ask your Major Department:
- Do you have any departmental scholarships available to students in this major?
- What internship opportunities are available in this field?
- Do students in this major often study abroad, and, if so, where?
Questions to ask Students:
- Do many students work on campus?
- How easy is it to find a job?
- How do you get around town? Do you need a car, or is there public transportation?
- What do you do for fun?
- How big is Greek life on campus, and what are the costs of joining a fraternity or sorority?
- Do most students travel for spring break?
- How much do season tickets, yoga classes, concerts, or whatever-your-favorite-activity cost around here?
A good rule of thumb for college visits—particularly summer visits—is to not be shy. College administrators, faculty, and students tend to have more time on their hands over the summer, so don’t hesitate to pop into various offices on campus to get your questions answered by the real experts (though it is often a good idea to call first—the summer campus vibe can be so laid back that some offices may have limited drop-in hours). Remember that college is a huge financial commitment. Getting the answers to the above questions can help you pinpoint how large that commitment may be and whether or not this particular college is likely to be the right financial fit for you and your family.