Report: What Colleges Should Know About Teletherapy and How to Pick the Best Telehealth Vendor for Your Students
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By Joanna Nesbit and Jessica Hicks
For many students, going to college means trading high school friends and the routines of your childhood home and community for a brand-new group of people, social vibe, and culture. That’s a big adjustment.
You can make that adjustment a bit easier for yourself long before you get to campus. As you begin considering different colleges and universities, think about what aspects of your social life are most important to you.
Here are some factors to think about and questions you can ask yourself or others as you research schools to get a better idea of their social life.
Think about your values and what you’re looking to get out of your college experience. Some basic things to consider are:
You may have heard school counselors talk about a college’s culture. They may describe it as diverse, relaxed, intense, competitive, or any number of other adjectives. But that can feel a little abstract without knowing more details.
Try talking to current students to get a feel for a school’s vibe. This can be someone you know or a student you meet during a campus visit. Or an admissions officer could put you in touch with a current student.
Here are some key questions you can research online or ask an undergrad to get an idea about the student body and culture on campus:
On top of understanding the student body, it’s equally important to get familiar with the location of a school you’re considering. A school’s location might affect the activities you can get involved with and the overall culture. Consider the following:
Getting involved in extracurricular activities is a great way to meet new people and feel connected. To get a better sense of what’s available, you might ask:
Some campuses have a strong party culture that’s highly visible, while on others, the parties are side events that you might not even hear about. Some schools are dry, meaning that alcohol is completely banned; others allow alcohol in certain campus settings or circumstances for students who are of legal age.
Whether you like the idea of attending a “party school” or want to attend a college with a limited party scene, it’s worth researching the reputation of a school to get a better understanding of whether you would fit in and feel comfortable.
Greek systems (fraternities and sororities) are unique social forces on college campuses. Some students want to join a fraternity or sorority when they go to college to build friendships, connect with other students of a similar background, or have a ready-to-go social life. Other students might not see Greek life as a priority, or prefer that it’s not part of their college experience.
If you like the idea of joining a sorority or fraternity, look up a school’s recruitment policies (often listed on their website) and talk with current members at that school to get a first-person account of the experience. If you’re not into Greek life, explore how much it affects the culture on campus. If fraternities and sororities have a big impact on the school’s social scene, you might decide to apply to other universities.
Some schools offer affinity housing, which is housing based on shared interests, values, or overall lifestyles. For example, students who have a common interest in fitness, practice the same religion, or choose to be sober may have the opportunity to live together in a dorm, apartment building, or a different type of housing. Check out each school’s residential life information online to see whether affinity housing is an option and, if so, whether there is a good fit for you.
Safety can have a big influence on a school’s social atmosphere. Adequate security allows students to feel comfortable on campus, especially those who’ve experienced past trauma. If you want to get an idea of how a school is working to protect its student body, take a look at its public safety and campus police websites.
Thanks to the Clery Act, all schools have to disclose information about major crime on or near their campuses. Check out this online tool for easy access to all that data. You can also look at the College Choice list of the 50 safest large colleges and universities in the United States.
Campus safety is more than just low crime stats. It also includes how well a campus looks after its students’ wellness and how inclusive it is of all kinds of students. Students who feel a sense of belonging are more likely to have a positive college experience.
Explore campus supports and safe spaces for different populations, like first-generation, low-income (FGLI) students, LGBTQIA+ students, students of color, and students with disabilities. The level of support available tells you something about how welcome a particular group is. Talking to current students will also give you insight.
And finally, consider how the answers to all these questions fit with your personal, cultural, religious, emotional, and health needs and preferences. Finding a community that suits your needs and personality will help you thrive and feel comfortable on campus.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7.
You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.
If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.