Your decisions regarding colleges and career fields are more important than many high school graduates realize. They set the stage for how your adult life will play out. Will you always struggle to make ends meet, or will your salary be enough to pay your bills with a little left over? Will you head off every morning to a job you hate or are you destined to work with friendly people in an exciting environment? You have more power over these scenarios than you realize, and it all begins with your choice of college and career field.
A college admissions counselor can help you find the answers you need to make a wise decision—as long as you know the right questions to ask admissions counselors.
At Post University, we’ve put together a list of the top six best questions to ask college representatives. The conversation you start with these inquiries will do more than simply help determine whether the college you’re considering is the right one for you. It will also help guide you down the best path to job success by matching your goals to individual programs of study. Here’s what you need to ask to secure a bright and successful future.
Six Best Questions to Ask College Admissions Counselors
1. Do You Offer Degrees in my Chosen Field?
This is an important question because not every college offers degrees in the fields you find interesting. Asking this question first will save both you and the admissions counselor time if the answer is no. Some colleges are more specialized, while others offer a great range of opportunities. Penn State, for instance, offers more than 275 college majors. Harvard offers 88.
Questions to ask about college admissions include requesting the most current catalog so you can see for yourself which options are available. If your intended field of study is available, check out the degree options. Can you go all the way here? Or will you need to transfer to a second facility? If the course work sounds like it fits what you have in mind, you should feel free to continue the conversation.
2. Which Degree Will Help Me Reach My Individual Goal?
Once you’ve chosen a tentative field of study and a potential college, it’s time to find out more about what’s needed to succeed. This is one of the best questions to ask college representatives. Will you need a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or something more? Can you begin your career with just an associate degree? Explain to your admissions representative exactly what you hope to do with your degree so they can best advise you.
For instance, if you plan to counsel people who are having marriage problems, you’ll likely need a master’s degree. But if you have your sights set on becoming an IT manager, a bachelor’s degree could get you in the door to a distinguished career. Explore your options well before cementing your decision. Do this by talking with your admissions counselor, your family, and anyone you know who performs the job you desire. Take a long, detailed look at the college catalog so you understand which courses you must take, how many credits you’ll need, and whether there are prerequisites involved.
3. Is Your Institution Accredited?
Accreditation is vital if you want your degree to have merit. Credits and degrees earned from unaccredited institutions may not be transferable. Employers, too, may consider them to be worth less than those earned at an accredited university.
Accreditation means that your college has received a stamp of approval from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Organizations like New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)—the accrediting organization for Post University—do site visits and evaluations to ensure the coursework for individual universities meet rigorous standards for learning.
Questions to ask admissions counselors should always include accreditation status. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer, you can look up your school’s status at CHEA site or DOE’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
If you find that the school you’re considering lacks or has recently lost accreditation, move on. Your degree and your future are too important. Don’t gamble on the chance that your dream employer will accept a degree from an unaccredited school.
4. What Are the Costs? Is Financial Aid Available?
Cost matters. Tuition and fees—these are significant questions to ask college admissions counselors. Both may be determining factors in whether you’ll be able to attend, even if accepted. Tuition involves the actual costs of taking each course. If each credit costs $300, and you’re taking a 4-credit course, the cost of tuition for that course is $1,200. An average course load per term is roughly 15 credits. This is the cost of tuition at your chosen university, but you should keep in mind that you’ll likely have other expenses, as well, including:
- Application fees
- Lab fees
- Books and materials costs
- Dorm fees
- Cafeteria fees
- Miscellaneous fees
Ask your admissions counselor about the cost of tuition and fees and then gather information regarding the types of financial aid available. Generally, options include federal student loans, grants, and scholarships. These opportunities can save you thousands of dollars each year. Or, with a federal student loan, they can delay your expenses until you’ve graduated and found a steady job.
5. Will You Help Me Find a Job After Graduation?
Does your college offer career services upon graduation? Many institutions do. These are special programs that offer students real-life experience within the boundaries of their chosen careers. Some colleges offer monetary stipends to qualified students during their final year that allow them to take on unpaid internships. Others require students to take part in programs that teach leadership and stress management skills.
Having these little ‘extras’ on your resume could mean the difference between nailing down the job of your dreams with a company you admire or having to settle for something less. According to U.S. News & World Report, more and more employers are placing less emphasis on college majors and more emphasis on proven skills such as managing people, catering to customers, and having the ability to adapt quickly to change. Career readiness questions are great questions to ask admissions counselors. Find out if the university offers that little something extra to students before graduation.
6. What Have Graduates of This Program Done With Their Degrees?
This may be one of the best questions to ask about college admissions. This is the one that determines whether you’ll learn real-life skills that truly help you not only land the job of your dreams but be successful in it as well.
And when it comes to expectation, know what you want. Have definite skills in mind that you want to learn. Go in with your goals pinned to your vest and display them proudly. Being up front with everything you expect from your education will help your counselor better understand whether the program you’re asking about is a suitable fit for you. A college degree could be one of the most expensive investment you’ll make in life, it’s your responsibility to ask questions and explore all your options. Doing so now will make life much easier for you four years down the road when it’s time to put your degree to the test.
Do these things now, before you invest time and money into an education that will not give you what you want and need. Find out everything you can about what’s expected of you and what you should expect from your school before making that commitment. This is how you’ll find the right fit when it comes time to enroll in college.