50 questions to ask before applying to college

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(MoneyWatch) Which college to attend is a monumental decision, but all too often teenagers and their parents don't devote nearly enough attention to researching their options.

Failing to adequately research colleges is certainly one reason why one out of three college students end up transferring to a different institution.

You are more likely to find schools that are the right fit academically and financially if you ask a lot of questions. Here are 50 questions to get you started:

Graduation rates

1. What is the four-year graduation rate for students at your school?
2. What is the five-year graduation rate?
3. What is the six-year grad rate?
4. What are the main reasons why students don't graduate on time?
5. How many students transfer out of your school?
6. What are the major reasons why students leave?
7. If you are exploring transferring in ask: what percentage of transfer credits does the college take annually?

Professors and academics

8. What is the percentage of professors who are tenured or on the tenure track?
9. What percentage of the faculty is full-time?
10. What is the average class sizes for the major you are interested in pursuing?
11. What is the average class size for lower-level classes?
12. What is the average size for upper-level classes?
13. Do you have a learning community or other freshman experience?
14. What percentage of students study abroad?
15. How much interaction, if any, will the typical undergrad have with tenured professors? Will it largely be confined to lecture halls?
16. How widely are teaching assistants used?
17. How many undergrads get to conduct research?
18. What departments offer undergraduate research?
19. Are there restrictions on any major.
20. Are the admission standards higher for certain majors?
21. Is it possible to double-major at your institution?
22. How much reading and writing is typically assigned in class?
23. Does the school have an honor college?
24. What are the requirements to get into the honor college?
25. Do seniors complete a capstone experience or project?

Jobs and graduate school

26. What is the job placement rate?
27. How is that job placement rate calculated? Are the figures self-reported?
28. What percentage of students go on to graduate school or professional schools?
29. What are your school's feeder institutions for graduate and professional degrees?
30. What can I expect from your school's career services office?

College costs and financial aid

31. At what annual rate has the tuition been rising at your institution in recent years?
32. What percentage of financial aid need does your school typically meet?
33. What is the typical breakdown of loans versus grants in your aid packages?
34. Does your institution dispense merit awards, and what about talent scholarships?
35. What are the requirements to receive these awards?
36. What are the requirements to keep these scholarships?
37. Does the percentage of aid that you meet typically shrink after freshman year?
38. Does your net price calculator provide an accurate estimate of what your school will cost me?
39. What is the average student loan debt that graduates leave with?
40. Does your institution give out athletic scholarships?
41. What is the student loan default rate at your school?
42. What is the average amount of debt that students graduate with?

Campus life

43. What percentage of students are in the Greek system?
44. What health and counseling services are available?

Questions to ask current students

Here are five more questions to ask students during a campus visit or via phone or email:

45. Why did you decide to attend this school?
46. If you could change anything about the school, what would it be?
47. What do you like best about your school?
48. What do you like least?
49. What kind of students succeed at your school?
50. What students end up not fitting in?

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