Six Questions to Ask a State University

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Despite all the hype about Ivy League schools and other elite private colleges, most teenagers end up attending public universities in their own states.

Too many teenagers, however, pick state schools on a whim. I rarely find teens who ask meaningful questions and instead they select schools for these sorts of lame reasons:

  • I love the football team.
  • It’s my mom or dad’s alma mater.
  • My best friend is going there.
  • Its got a great reputation.

The best way to find a wonderful academic fit is to ask intelligent questions. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Does the university offer a learning community?

An increasing number of public universities are establishing learning communities, which aim to help freshmen make a successful transition to college. Bowling Green State University serves as a clearinghouse on learning communities.

2. Are part-time instructors teaching intro courses?

Studies show that freshmen face a greater risk of dropping out of college if their instructors are part-timers. These teachers are less likely to be available for students requiring help after class.

3. Is there an honors college?

Lots of  state universities have rolled out honors colleges for smart kids to keep them from going to private colleges.

4. Do you offer a writing center?

Here’s a big shock:  Lots of teenagers don’t know how to write an essay or research paper. It’s a lot easier if your child can visit a campus center that can help edit a paper and provide writing tips.

5. What are average class sizes?

Plenty of schools cook their student-teacher ratio numbers. Some institutions, for instance, include profs that never teach undergrads in their calculations. Instead ask schools about average sizes of their introductory university courses and the advanced courses in a particular major.

6. How good is the university’s advising program?

One reason why most college students don’t graduate in four years is because they receive lousy academic advice. Find out if students are assigned an advisor in their intended majors or if they are stuck relying on whoever is free at an impersonal advising center.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and also the college blogger at

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