5 Things to See Before Picking a College

By Arkansas Next staff on Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Learn the essentials about your new home, from billing to amenities.

1. The Bill

This is going to vary from student to student depending on course load, financial aid, meal plans, etc., but there are prices for your review. Can you afford a four-year degree at this school? Is living on campus in your budget? What does it cost to go Greek? These are the first and most important things to figure out.

While you’re scoping out the bill, be sure to nail down where you’ll need to go to pay it.

Pro tip: Electronic payments and digital forms have made paying for and enrolling in classes each semester much easier – bookmark these web pages on your laptop!

2. Your New Daily

Locate the places you will use every single day. You need to actually feel comfortable there, as you’ll spend a lot of time in these facilities over the next two, four or more years. Look at the classrooms and resources in department buildings for whatever major you’re considering – the library, the student union, dining halls and computer labs. What do you think of these key spots?

3. The Dorms

Get ready for a reality check. Dorm rooms are tiny. During the obligatory residence hall tour and model dorm sneak peek, take note of the items that utilize the space best or that you think you’ll need. Most schools have premium accommodations and suite-style dorms available too (although your housing options are often restricted freshman year). Ask for info on all the options, including Greek housing.

Pro tip: Take a Sneak Peek at Your Future Dorm Room for photos of real dorms at Arkansas colleges!

4. The Amenities

Part of what makes college special are the many free amenities schools provide students. Ask to see the health center (where you can generally go for free if you’re sick), the gym, the career services center, the intramural fields, any arts venues, etc. Your tour guide is likely a current student, so ask them about the amenities they love and use most.

5. The Town

Remember that you won’t just be living at the college you choose; you’ll be living in the city in which the college resides. So check out the town! Whether you’re looking for a big-city feel, proximity to nature or something in between, there’s a place for everyone in Arkansas.

Pro tip: Consider an overnight trip instead of just driving up for a tour. This gives you time to experience the surrounding community.

When should I start touring colleges?

Arrange visits in the spring of your junior year. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to scout out multiple options and sit on your decision before you apply in the fall.

10 Questions to Have Ready for Your Campus Guide

1. What percentage of students live on campus?

2. What did you do to find your place/make friends on campus?

3. What percentage of the student body belongs to a sorority or fraternity?

4. How do I get involved in campus organizations?

5. What’s there to do on the weekends?

6. What percentage of graduates find a job quickly?

7. Do I have to have a car to get around? How does parking work?

8. What technology is available to students?

9. What type of career services do you have? Internship connections?

10. Why did you choose to attend this college?


Locate the Essentials

Shun Ingram, a student tour guide at the University of Central Arkansas, says to also scout out the admissions, financial aid and housing offices — all places you’ll be seeing a lot. Check out the student life or campus activities office, too, for pointers on how to get involved on campus, make friends and find learning opportunities outside the classroom.

And trying the on-campus dining options is a must.

“Good day or bad, rain or shine, one thing is constant: You will have to eat!” says Hendrix graduate Sean Alexander.

Find out what’s open when, how much it costs and what options are available if you have special dietary needs.

Go Social

From Greek organizations to groups and clubs, you’ll be missing out if you don’t find out about the on-campus social (and resume-building) opportunities.

You may not think of yourself as the fraternity or sorority type, but rush week can change all the perceptions you have about Greek life. If you have an interest in rushing, make sure to look at some of the houses on campus.

Don’t speak Greek? College campuses are home to loads of advocacy groups, student government associations and professional organizations within your field of study. Take a look around at what’s available. Trust us, in four years you’ll wish you had gotten more involved!

Also see: Going Greek: The Truth About Fraternities & Sororities