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5 Questions To Answer Before You Put Down Your College Deposit

LRAP In The News April 11, 2016

T.S. Eliot overstated the matter with “April is the cruelest month;” however, hundreds of thousands of teenagers right now have the challenge of deciding where to start college, because enrollment deposits are due May 1. Here are some thoughts on how to make this decision well:

  1. What is the campus like when the adults aren’t around?

Most students get their first exposure to a college through some form of infomercial. No matter how genuine the adults involved in creating the message, they don’t live in dorms.  Seniors contemplating moving into a 24/7 residential community need a deeper sense of what life is like when it’s cinema verite, not Madison Avenue.  The best way to assess this reality is to stay overnight with a student, eat the food, go to class, and “chill” with the young people who already live there.  Seniors may want to spend a weekend night to assess the party scene, but colleges are loathe to allow such visits.  Five “school nights” a week mean that a better test is a night before your host will attend classes.  Sleep in the dorm, share the bathroom, get to some classes, ideally both a seminar and a lecture, navigate the dining commons or food court, and get a feel for the place when the packaging has been removed.  If it feels like a fit, you may have your new home.

  1. What’s nearby when I want to leave campus?

While a student’s first concern is life on the campus, it is worth a little time to assess what is within walking distance.  It’s nice to have some dining, shopping and amenities close at hand.  My all-time pet peeve question on college tours is, “Can freshmen have cars?” because I want to know where on earth they need to go after spending so much time, money and soul-searching to find just the right college.  That said, it’s nice to be able to stroll to other places to eat, grab coffee, enjoy ice cream, get a haircut, do your banking, go to the drugstore, buy holiday gifts, and access mass transit for trips to culture for fun and home for the holidays.  Some campuses are in great college towns or major cities; others are not.  It’s worth the extra effort to walk to what’s close at hand before you move in—not just to a dorm on campus, but to a neighborhood.

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