How to Ask Questions

Posted on August 15th, 2020 to Uncategorized by

A friend of mine is getting ready to embark on the college admission journey with his daughter, and he has been perusing the blog as part of his preparation. After reading campus visits during COVID-19 he texted me a handful of questions about the campus visit experience. One in particular jumped out at me: “…but Evan we’re just not sure what questions to ask.” So I thought I would take that conversation and put it into a blog post for anyone else wondering the same thing.

The reality is that the questions you ask admission representatives, students and professionals, is really up to you. Everyone’s situation is different, so the information you need to know will also be different. For instance, if financial aid is going to be a big part of your decision, then you should ask about it. If, however, you are able to pay the full cost to attend a school you may not be as focused scholarships. If you are concerned about safety on a college campus, then you will want to be sure you learn about on-campus law enforcement and other programs in place meant to protect students. So, here is a break down of how to go about asking questions.

Identify your topics

This is when you need to rely on your definition of fit. If you have yet to define fit for yourself, then you need to spend some time coming up with that definition. There are 7 categories that comprise any one student’s definition of fit: academic, extracurricular, location, school profile, size, diversity, cost, and co-curricular/career.  You can use these same categories to identify specific topics that you want to ask about.

Form your questions

How you form your question is almost as important as knowing what to ask. My recommendation is to always put the respondent at the center of your questions. So instead of asking “is campus safe?”–or some variation–ask “do you feel safe on campus?” See if you ask the former, you will get the pre-written canned answer. By asking if the school representative feels safe, you will get everything they are trained to say PLUS an anecdote about that person’s experience on campus. It will bring the answer to life for you. Perhaps they share an anecdote of when they used one of the resources listed. You are going to get a fuller answer. Here are some other examples:

  • Instead of: “Are Professors accessible?”, ask: “Do you meet with your professors? How often? Why? What was is it like?”
  • Instead of: “What’s there to do on campus?”, ask: “What do you do for fun?”
  • Instead of: “Who gets admitted?”, ask: “Are there specific characteristics you are looking for in an application? What are they?”

Ask and record

Once you have your topic areas identified and your questions composed, then it’s just a matter of asking and taking note of the response. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts (like this one and this one) it is important to keep notes on the schools you are researching and visiting. There will come a point when the schools start to blend together. Using a notebook, word doc, notes app, etc. are great ways to keep track of your reflections. Electronic files are especially helpful because they allow the insertion of photos and videos!


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