Expanding and Personalizing Your College Experience

Trying to determine your best-fit colleges requires knowledge about a variety of characteristics, including curriculum and the learning environment each college offers. Understanding class size, teacher-student ratio, and how courses are taught will provide insight into the range of learning environments colleges offer.

For example, find out if lower and upper-division courses are:

• Lecture and small lab format

• Socratic method

• Learn-by-doing format

• Cooperative programs

• Independent capstone programs

Understanding how courses are offered will help clarify what makes each school unique, and which schools will support your learning style. Weighing the pros, cons, and trade-offs between large public universities, small liberal arts schools, polytechnic institutions, or art design schools is a natural part of determining the college that is best for you. You may see yourself at a particular type of college, and the thought of looking at large public universities or small private colleges may not be the direction you thought your college search would take. As you begin your college search, consider ways that you can expand your college experience and, at the same time, personalize it. One way to expand your college opportunities is to look for schools that are members of consortiums that allow for cross-enrollment between colleges.

If you want to take advantage of the depth, breadth, and resources in a larger research university, seek out schools that offer Honors Programs or have Learning-Living Communities.

Build a set of questions to help you discover:

• How easy it is to cross-enroll with other local colleges or participate in shared programs? That may include understanding how much enrollment lead time, transportation needs and other requirements.

• Are programs/courses offered only during the traditional school year i.e. fall, winter, and spring or during summer as well?

• Are there additional costs or is cross-enrollment already included in your tuition?

• Are Learning/Living communities specific to particular majors or interests? How long are you required to live in that community? Can you switch communities?

By being your own best college detective, it is possible to find that right mix of "big-small" - "small-big" educational environment for the college experience you want to have.

Have more questions or just getting started with your college journey? Email me at

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