5 Tough Questions to Ask Prospective Colleges

What to ask at fairs, interviews, and info sessions
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Caught up in the throes of the college search process, many teens are far more worried about what prospective colleges might ask them in an admissions interview than what they, as prospective students, should be asking the school’s representatives. We encourage students to flip this mindset 180 degrees and shine the interrogation light squarely in the eyes of the admissions representative. 

Share this column with your college-bound child. What follows are examples of the types of tough questions we recommend he or she pose to representatives at college fairs, information sessions, during formal admissions interviews or via email.


1. How does your college help students secure employment?

Essentially, you are asking for real data regarding career services. Ask the college representatives to provide information on job fairs, networking events and corporate recruiting efforts on campus. Which and how many companies attend the school’s job fairs? Do they track the number of on-campus interviews per year, and what percentage of students find employment directly through the efforts of the career services staff? Does the college have any formal corporate partners? What percentage of students are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation? 

2. What percentage of students obtain internships? How do they find them? What kind of opportunities are available? 

When it’s all said and done, many college graduates cite their internship experiences as the most impactful part of their undergraduate education. While procuring an internship is ultimately the responsibility of the students themselves, some universities do a much better job than others at facilitating the process and connecting undergrads to meaningful opportunities for experiential learning. Certain schools (not only the most selective ones) regularly place interns at top technology, financial, engineering and consulting companies, while other colleges generate very few opportunities for their students. Finding out which category your prospective school falls into is of the utmost value. 

3. What undergraduate research opportunities are available?

Working alongside faculty as they conduct research and/or participate in a faculty-supervised independent research project can be the highlight of many students’ undergraduate educations. Yet, at some schools, such opportunities are primarily reserved for graduate students or hardly exist at all. Ask an admissions representative for data on undergraduate research at his or her school, as it varies greatly from institution to institution.  

4. Where do graduates continue their education?

For those students who are aiming to eventually attend law or medical school, ask how successful the schools’ graduates have been at gaining admission to such programs. Many schools track data such as: the average LSAT and MCAT scores obtained by their graduates, the overall law and medical school admissions rates for their institution’s graduates versus the national average, and the number of recent alumni who have been accepted to the top law/medical schools in the country. Comparable information should also be available for those pursuing other graduate degrees, such as doctorates. How does a school of interest fare at getting students into doctoral programs in various disciplines? Across all graduate/professional programs, which schools take the largest number of recent graduates? Have recent graduates had success gaining acceptance into elite programs in their field? 

5. How does your college differ from other comparable colleges?

This is a more general question than some of the previous ones on our list, but still one worth asking. If you are looking at Southern universities, you’ll want to know why Elon University, for example, might be a better fit for you than James Madison University, Furman University or High Point University. Tell the admissions representative about your unique interests, passions and talents to find out how this school might be a fit for your academic and outside-of-class pursuits. 


In addition to uncovering key pieces of information about prospective colleges, asking incisive questions will likely impress the admissions representative, demonstrating not only your attention to detail, but the depth of your interest in his or her institution.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.


Categories: College Planning, College Transitions, Solutions