The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an institutional accreditor of close to 1,000 institutions in the United States. Our role is to provide quality assurance at colleges and universities within our membership. Through that experience, HLC and external experts have recognized what you should ask before, during and after college. The intent of this guide is to give students and other stakeholders a roadmap to the choices available within higher education. The guide provides questions you need to ask along your journey, as well as sources to help inform you.
Before you begin the exploration into colleges, it will be useful to ask yourself some critical questions. You can do this with high school counselors, college advisors, parents, friends, and insightful individuals at the places you work. First, however, it is very useful to have a reflective conversation with yourself. Spend some time thinking about these questions and write them down for further exploration.
Why do you want to go to college?
This question is about your intent.
- Who are the individuals that might influence your choices?
- Do you have an interest in a specific course of study (major or focus) you want to pursue?
- Are there geographic locations where you might want to attend?
Some people favor a proximity to certain regions of the country, weather factors, including perhaps those where family, friends or co-workers might be nearby, etc. Others want to try a different location or attend online.
- Do you have geographic limitations due to family, work, or other reasons?
This helps you narrow down the “where” you might attend.
- Will you be attending full-time or part-time?
- Have you attended college before, and if so, what is the driving factor to return?
In this situation, consider if you will return to the same college, enroll in another and the ability to transfer previous course credits.
- What extra-curricular activities and services that are available at a college will influence your final decision?
These would include clubs, sports, daycare and other activities or services.
- Are you interested in a residential campus where you can live or a commuter situation?
These options will greatly influence your choice.
- What questions do you want to ask of the college staff and representatives when you are weighing your choices?
Once you have done some reflection on the above issues, you are in a better place to use this guide. In the following sections you will find several questions and points of information that will be very helpful to you in making good choices. Having choices is exactly the purpose of this guide – informed choices. We encourage you to think of the college experience as a journey, before, during and after. What do you need to know in your selection of a college, what should you know when you are attending, and what career or lifelong learning do you need to pursue after college? Attending college is one of the biggest decisions of your life. We want you to go through that journey armed with the best information to guide you.
We call this “Student Agency,” the importance of being your own best advocate. You have a right to ask questions, a lot of them. All colleges have every obligation to respond through transparent and clear responses.
Attending a college is a life changer. Doing your homework in advance is the greatest assurance that you will be making the best choice. While attending college and even after, there are many questions you will need to ask throughout your journey. “Student Agency” means that you are the most important advocate for your educational future. Higher education is a lifelong learning experience. Whether you are seeking a degree, certificate or other credential, the Higher Learning Commission encourages you to gather all the data points and information for decision-making. Congratulations on taking this path. You will reap the returns for a lifetime if you make the effort and the right choices.