After reading many articles with a title identical to that of this post, I realized that these articles often suggested questions helpful to a broad audience, even though each college applicant is different and thus has different priorities and needs. So I did some soul-searching about what I really wanted. Personally, what I came to appreciate about a school was not its quantitative merits (rankings, number of majors, student:faculty ratio, etc), but its community culture – a school’s various intangible, collective values from which many tangible features are derived. After all, regardless of your major or extracurricular activities, campus culture is deeply embedded and will impact your daily college experience.
And it is this desire to find a commuuty I fit well in that drove all of my interviews and campus visits. While the articles I scoured the internet for offered interesting questions, I realized that I didn’t just want my questions to be answered, but that I wanted my questions to reflect something about me and my values. And soon, instead of relying on overused questions that lead to answers that were not particularly insightful, I started formulating questions important to ME, questions that point to aspects of my college experience that I really care about. And those are the questions that proved useful in an interview, because not only did the interviewer know that I did my research, but he or she could also provide answers that helped me get the most out of my visit/interview.
Here are some questions that, in my experience, were returned with responses that revealed aspects of the different campus culture I wanted to grasp and ultimately base my decision on:
1. What is an aspect of student life that is distinctly important to your experience of the school, but is difficult to convey on paper? (Or, another way to ask this is: What’s an aspect of this school that is essential to the culture of the school but is difficult to convey on paper?)
2. If you had a million dollars to devote to altering anything about your school, how would you spend that money, and why?
3. What are the most common reasons students chose ______ over any other school?
4. What is a tradition that unites the entire school?
5. Were you ever jealous of your friends at other schools when their school seemed to offer something yours didn’t?
6. What kind of student would not be happy at ______?
7. What’s the best way to prepare for being a learner at ______, in every sense of the word?
8. What was the most influential in helping you figure out what you wanted to study?
9. How do you think attending ______ has equipped you in a way that no other school could?
If you have good experiences using these questions, great! And if not, I hope they encouraged you to ask more personalized questions to really get at what you value in a school (and don’t worry if you don’t have that figured out yet; I came up with this list after many college interviews and campus tours)!
*Disclaimer: after reading this article, you probably realize that the title is ironic and quite misleading, and purposefully so, because it’s not about what questions everyone should ask, but questions to hopefully encourage you to think about why you ask the questions that you do, and examples of questions I think prospective students should ask if they’re also curious about the community culture of their future college!
What are YOUR 9 questions? Comment them below!