Scoping Out College Living Arrangements
While the importance of getting a feel for a school can never be underestimated, the most important question you need answered has nothing to do with a school's cuisine, its students, faculty or even its academic programs. You need to find out if that university is a place where you could see yourself living for the next four years of your life.
Are you looking for a sprawling urban campus with an exciting nightlife, or are you seeking a close-knit rural college with plenty of space for meditative study? Do you want to attend a large university and be one of tens of thousands of students, or would you rather know everyone in your graduating class by name? These are important questions that will have a huge impact on your overall education and life for the next several years, so try visiting universities of different sizes and locations before settling on a school.
Even if you think you know what you want, be sure to check out all your options. The city life may sound great, for example, but you might change your mind if you sit in on a class and struggle to hear the professor over the sounds of a nearby construction project or frequent police and ambulance sirens.
Be sure to pay close attention to the dorms. Note their size and amenities. With how many students will you be living and sharing a bathroom? Are the rooms clean? Are they well-maintained, or are they falling apart? You can even ask some of the students you meet how they like living there. Living arrangements can vary greatly from school to school (or even building to building), so be sure you choose a campus where you can feel comfortable when you aren't in class.
If you like a school but hate its dorms, try checking out some nearby apartments. After all, living in a dorm isn't a requirement at most schools, and apartment complexes near universities are often filled with college students and can have a very dormlike atmosphere. Many of these complexes also have competitive rates that may even end up being cheaper than a dorm once you add a few roommates. Plus, you can bring your pet cat or dog (a no-no in virtually all dorms), and you're pretty much guaranteed to have more personal space than a university's standard rooms can provide.
In addition to the campus and living quarters, you should also familiarize yourself with the school's surrounding area. What is there to do outside of class? Remember that you're not going to be happy if your free time is limited by your location, so make sure the area has whatever it is you need. If you're planning to party, drive by some of the local bars and package stores. If you're a regular Sunday school attendee, make sure there's a church of your religious denomination nearby. The local area can even have an impact on your studies. If you're majoring in film, for example, and the nearest movie theater is 50 miles away, you may want to pursue your degree elsewhere.