by Howard Freedman
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Moving beyond a two-year program poses some new challenges and opportunities that may not have existed in recent years.
- Although the value of a college education is a lifetime investment, transfer students should take a hard and honest look back at their first 2 years and decide whether it still is the best path to pursue. This can be accomplished by taking a personal inventory of your academic performance. Evaluate the courses that you liked best. Talk to professors, department heads and fellow students to learn from each other. Look at resources describing college majors and government reports on projected job growth to target a more rewarding profession when you graduate.
- That brings you to the second challenge- finding the college that offers you the best fit. For starters, I encourage you to define your requirements and the colleges that will accept your credits. This is known as your “due diligence” or the shopping around phase. You are narrowing your field but may not have a clue as to whether the college will write to you. Since only you can answer that question, observe the many things that most students may overlook.
- Your first step is to walk around. Observe the overall conditions of the buildings and grounds, the proximity of one building to the next. Check out campus security, lighting and whether the buildings are connected or stand alone. Do the students seem happy or harried? Is there graffiti on the walls? Is the campus wired with state of the art technology or just catching up with the rest of the world? Ask for directions and see how long it takes to get help.
- Then take an organized campus tour realizing that you will only see the university in an ideal light. Note the areas that you would like to visit after the tour to delve deeper into how things operate. For example, many colleges have built state of art health centers. Yet you are not likely to get your degree there. It would better to try out the library, learn about collection sizes, ease of use, hours of operation and the customer service of the librarians and support staff. Is the environment quiet and conducive to study time or social gathering spot causing ongoing distractions?
- Visit the career center and placement office to view, which companies will be recruiting, on campus. Find out if there are placement statistics for recent graduates. Which companies are hiring and for what positions? Check out the staff listing and their qualifications. What kind of resume and training help do they provide before and after graduation? How much support do they provide for those who have worked and been laid off? Which majors and jobs have been in the greatest demand and how much do they pay?. These are all of the questions most prospective students never ask.
- The final and most comprehensive activity is to immerse yourself into the student population. This is when you meet more people and decide if you fit in.
- Start off at the dining facility to check out the food choices but moreover, who is eating together and the types of discussion. See if someone invites you to join them or if everybody just ignores you. Are there many people your age or do you feel like the odd man or woman out?. You need to discover if you belong.
- Visit the campus center to check out the social activities, clubs and community service activities to see if anything interests you. Converse with students regarding campus activities and where you can meet other people. Observe the types of people that visit the center. Ask them specific questions about your interests and what they like best about the college. Try to get their names for future contacts and follow up visits.
- The final stops are in the dorms and living facilities. This will require that you either know someone or are escorted around. Check out the rooms in terms of living and studying space, noise level, cleanliness and the overall condition of the building. As a transfer student, you may want to also check off-campus housing and how it compares to the dorm rooms.
- Now that you have a better sense of the direction, the most important thing is deciding and the value of your degree in relation to your major and job prospects on or off campus. If you are not quite ready to make a full-timer plunge consider part-time enrollment where campus life may not be as important. If you are still unsure, evaluate other options such as the military, specific job training or whatever makes you comfortable.
- Whatever you do, find something that is both personally and financially rewarding.
- Everything will work out in your favor once you make the rational decision.