With my teen headed off to college this year, the two of us have spent a lot of time touring college campuses in the Western US. Campus visits are a great way to learn what a college has to offer and how well it fits with the personality of our teenagers. As parents, college campus tours also give us the opportunity to watch out for those “red flags” that can influence our decision. Here are the five red flags that I watch for during our campus tours.
Lack of freshmen services or programs for new students
Aside from summer camp, college will be the first time that our teenagers will be living on their own away from their families. One of my red flags is the quality of freshmen services that are available to my teen to help her adjust to campus life. A college that has little to offer in the way of freshmen services usually has a higher drop out rate than schools who do.
Evasive residential advisors or dorm monitors
The resident advisors (RAs) aren’t there just to advise new students how to do laundry and where to find the cafeteria. Their jobs also include monitoring order and safety within the dorms. When touring the dorms with the RA, I ask about the drinking and drug policy. A RA who dodges the questions, makes a joke of it, or can’t look me in the eye while answering is a red flag that could mean trouble.
A disorganized admissions/financial aid office
This red flag is on the top of everyone’s list because it’s a sure indicator of how smoothly a college campus operates. From our own experience, a poorly run admissions office and financial aid department will cost a student unnecessary fees and missed opportunities for scholarships.
Grossly inadequate parking
So why would parking be a red flag? It’s been my experience that a campus that can’t provide enough parking for its commuter and/or resident students and relies on public street parking instead, is one that is overcrowded. Overcrowding means that classes will be tougher to get into, the lines for student services will be longer, and faculty advisors will be stretched thinner than they already are.
Adjacent businesses that are not family friendly.
Driving around the outside of the campus perimeter should also be part of a college campus visit. If the campus is surrounded by numerous bars, “breast-erants,” vaping shops, and tattoo parlors, this is a red flag that the college is probably a party school. Colleges that take academics seriously will only have only a few of these types of businesses as neighbors.
Are these red flags deal breakers? One or two, probably not. But for schools that are sending up these red flags and more, it’s best to cross them off the list and find one that is better suited for your needs.
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