When students are looking for what they want in college, they think about academic opportunities, location, school spirit, and so many more factors.
But what about what students need? In many cases, a top priority need is support systems. For learning differences. For mental health. For academic assistance.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify what the needs are. Students and parents should reflect on what they will need so they can better try to seek out the appropriate resources, such as evaluating what they are getting from their current environment.
Unfortunately, evaluating each college’s support systems can be difficult. It is one thing to find a page on a college’s website that summarizes support systems, but how effective are they? How does one measure a college’s support systems?
While there is no definitive way to answer these questions, they present a unique opportunity as each family navigates the college search and selection process.
Ask questions about support systems
Whether a student is emailing their regional admissions officer or attending a college fair or information session, students often wonder what questions they should ask to engage in a conversation. Support systems are a perfect topic to ask about!
Beyond the specific details of the programs and systems that the college offers, gauge the response and follow-up from the admissions officer. Listen to their tone. Their enthusiasm. Do they share stories? Do they speak in broad strokes or specific details? While every college offers some kinds of support systems—from individual support to specific centers and resources—evaluating them can be as qualitative as it is quantitative.
Go the extra length during college tours
While general consensus is that students should sign up for information sessions and campus tours when visiting colleges, families can take the initiative to make their own meetings. If there is a support center on campus or if there are mental health resources, email the people associated with those resources to hopefully schedule a time to meet with them to learn more and ask questions—from how services are approved to what services are offered.
Connecting with current college students who may need the same support systems can also be invaluable. If there are opportunities to have conversations with students, through formal means or even just in passing during a campus visit, take advantage to gain further insights.
If the point of a campus visit is to help picture a future at a college, it’s important to think about how these people, centers, and resources may be a fundamental part of that future. Are these people you feel safe and comfortable with? Do these centers feel like nurturing, supportive spaces? Do they have all the resources and support that you need?