If you are a high school senior or the parent of a high school senior looking into a great school to either attend, or to send your kids to, there are a few things to look out for on college tours. The first thing to look out for is the location of the school in the proximity of the nearest town. Not every college offers everything that a student needs on campus. The colleges that do may offer a few of the basic necessities for life in a college dorm at a premium.
When I attended Wilberforce University in the early ’90s, I had long forgotten about the initial tour of the college back in the late eighties. The school is located in the town of Wilberforce, OH, a small town of 1,500, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The closest city is Xenia, OH, which is a bit larger, about 25,000 people, and a city that has everything that a student would need. However, no one will tell you that the distance between Wilberforce and Xenia is five miles.
That is not a long distance when there is public transportation involved, but Wilberforce does not public transportation and neither does Xenia. The last time there was public transportation in Xenia was back in the ’40s, when a railroad linked the town with Dayton, Ohio. If your kids are attending Wilberforce, Ohio, it is only natural that they will end up hanging out in Xenia and Dayton. Now, there is a lot of “campus life” between Wilberforce University, and Central State University, but to see how everyone else is living, you need transportation. The school now publishes a schedule detailing daily trips back and forth to Columbus and Dayton but that was not an option back then.
Wilberforce did have a post office, which made it easier to send and receive mail, and I did pay for a post office box. I also had a bank account in Xenia. The second thing I would look out for is the condition of the dormitories at the school in question. I did not pay a lot of attention to the dorms at Wilberforce at the time of my tour, in fact, I do not even remember going into the dormitories at all. Granted, new dormitories were built, and there were a lot of infrastructural changes that happened at Wilberforce University while I was there but when I first arrived on campus I was welcomed into a cluster of mid-rise dorms that were an eye sore. Then I went into the dorms and realized that they were really small, and just as depressing inside as they were on the outside.
Take a good look around those dormitories. How clean are they, what is the distance between the dormitories and the student union? How big is the student union, where do the students eat, are there restaurants on campus? The third thing to consider is the size of the school and how friendly are people on campus. For me Wilberforce was a transition because I was moving from a large mid-size city to a small campus of 1,000 students. The overwhelming majority of students lived on campus, but that may not necessarily be the case for the school you or your student is attending. Larger campuses may have better facilities, but is the student just another number or will the student have a chance to meet a large number of people and familiarize themselves with the campus within a short period of time? I knew everything that I wanted to know about Wilberforce’s campus within a matter of months. I was also able to learn a few things about the campus of Central State University in the process.
How diverse is the student campus? I am not just talking about Black or White, or Men or Women, but is everyone on campus the same or is everyone doing their own thing? How do the students dress, can you or your child walk away with the idea that one can fit into college life there? Can you hear different accents spoken, different dialects used? Wilberforce University, while it was a predominately Black college, had students from all over the nation attending there. I did not get a chance to see that on my tour, because I wasn’t there long and I honestly was not paying attention, but I quickly realized this during my first few weeks.
The final thing I would look at is not even on campus. I would familiarize myself with the closest metropolitan area if I were to do it all over again. The reason for this is because there is a very good chance that I will end up in that metropolitan area after I graduate. Students end up working at businesses within nearby metropolitan areas, and often call those areas home and raise their families there. A student attending a large school in a large city, such as Ohio State, should familiarize themselves with Columbus, Ohio, for the reasons I mentioned. They never know if they will end up dropping out of school and working in Columbus or if they will spend a lot of time in the city, because the campus is in the middle of the city. Some college campuses are woven into the fabric of the city, and some college campuses are an entirely different world from the city they’re in. With Wilberforce, Ohio, the campus was the city. So the balance between the two worlds is not necessarily the first relationship a student will have to take into consideration, but it will definitely become one of the more important and memorable aspects of their college experience.