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March 6, 2013

How to ask a question on a college visit.

Last week I was talking to a parent of junior in high school. The conversation did not take place at Clark or about Clark, but it’s a universal skill to be able to ask questions that will provide you with valuable information. Her and her husband had different views on how to ask questions at a college visit…here’s what I told them.

Don’t say:

Do you like the school?

You can go around and ask a bunch of people at the school this question (who don’t work for Admissions) and no matter what school you are visiting, you will get some people who say yes and some who say no. Probably more yeses because they are still there, but either way the answer has no value. A simple yes or no tells you nothing.

Let’s see how asking an open-ended question gets you the information that you are actually looking for.

What you should say:

What’s your favorite thing about this school?

What’s your least favorite?

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

See how these questions are more likely to lead to a conversation that will actually be productive.


This was the next question that they wanted to ask:

I heard this is a party school. Is that true?

Let’s just clarify right now. This is something she has heard about a school that she was going to visit. There are two obvious things wrong with this.

First, don’t ask leading questions. It makes people uncomfortable and they may get defensive or not give you the quality answers you are looking for.


Instead say:

What’s the weekend life like/What do people do here on the weekends/ How would you describe the social atmosphere/What’s the substance policy on campus?

What’s wrong with the original question: You are also asking for a yes/no answer. Just like the first example, a yes/no answer will not provide the information you are looking for. And to clarify about party schools, some schools may have a reputation for certain behaviors, but when it comes down to it, there are people at “party schools” who don’t party and people at “non-recognized party schools” who do. It’s all about what you make it.


The same thing goes for many of the other questions that parents and students ask about internships, jobs, activities, good professor-student relations…it varies by person. If you are a person who initiates conversations and to make things happen, then it won’t matter where you end up, most likely you will make those things happen. At the same time you can go to a school with the best career services and if you stay in your room and play video games all day and never use the resources available, then you picked your path, as well. Either way, just like many things in life, college is what you make of it. Every person is going to have a different experience in college. All you can do at college visits is find out a little bit more about other peoples’ experiences, get a feel for the place, see the students interact, and stand on a campus where you could potentially spend the next four years of your life.


Good luck with decisions!

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