Three Aspects of Campus Culture that You Need to Observe for Yourself

By Rebecca Hasegawa

            Usually when we see signs reading “The end is near” our guts fill with anxiety, apathy, or anger. But for you, soon-to-be-high-school-graduate, that sentence probably fills you with excitement. The end of high school is near, woohoo! But what comes next? If you are one of the 66.7% of students who are planning on going to college[1], maybe you are excited or terrified or frustrated or apathetic. Shopping for the right college is complicated. But I have good news! There is one great perk in shopping for colleges and that is visiting college campuses. (Read more about the fun of campus visits in the next post).

Campus visits should be more than just gathering facts about a college. You can do that online. The most important reason to visit a college campus is to gauge the culture of the campus for yourself, which is something you cannot discover by surfing the web. Sure, you can find interviews about what the campus is like, or you can find pictures of campus life, or you could watch a virtual tour of the campus, but none of these can replace how you feel when you are on the campus.

The most important reason to visit a college campus is to gauge the culture of the campus for yourself

When you visit a college or university campus, the top three aspects of campus culture that I suggest you look for:

Academic Life – Professors, Degree Programs, Homework, Resources, and Rigor

Things to observe: How do professors teach? How do the professors treat students? How many students, on average, are in a class? Do the professors and students have much of a relationship? How accessible are professors? How advanced are the degree programs? What study resources does the school offer? Is the campus environment conducive to education or distracting from education? What does the library and other study areas feel like? How serious do the current students seem to be about their education? How strenuous are the degree programs? What is the school’s graduation rates? Would the educational expectations of this school help you thrive?

Student Life – Events, Relationships, Night-Life, and Extra-Curricular Activities

Things to observe: How engaged is the student population with campus activities? What kinds of campus activities does the school offer? What kind of night-life do the majority of students participate in? What are the relational dynamics of the student body? What kind of extra-curricular activities does the school offer? How engaged are students in professional development? How hospitable is the campus? How friendly are the students and staff? Does the campus have fun and build a sense of comradery? Does the culture among students feel like one that would help you thrive?

Spiritual Life – Institutional Values, Leadership, School Spirit, and Priorities.

Things to observe in the spiritual life of a college or university: What is the mission of the school? What does the school value? How does the school bring its values to life on campus? What do the students think about the school’s mission, vision, and values? How engaged are the faculty and staff in the vision of the school? What is the school’s leadership like? What is the student leadership like? Do the students have pride in their school? How much school spirit is there? What does the campus culture prioritize? Do you see these priorities on display during your visit? Would these priorities help you thrive?

Common campus visit opportunities:
  • Guided campus tours – these are highly scripted tours that usually last twenty to sixty minutes and offer a surface level perspective of the school. Schools may offer to waive the application fee after taking a guided tour, or they may offer a small scholarship for visiting campus. Guided campus tours will mostly tell you about campus culture rather than actually show you campus culture. BBC offers guided campus tours for prospective students any time.
  • On-campus recruitment events – these events are meant to draw prospective students to a college campus. Most of the time these events offer a level of fun that may even be high-energy. Although these events do not give you a portrayal of what daily life is like on campus, they can give you a glimpse into the spiritual life of the campus. BBC offers Preview in April.
  • Open houses – these events might include a guided tour, but they also tend to give you a glimpse of what the classroom environment is like at the school. Typically, open houses are all-day events where you can sit in on classes, eat in the school cafeteria, and see how college students go about life on campus. There might even be a moment or two of free time where you could hang out and observe the culture of campus and collect your thoughts about the school. Open houses should show you a larger picture of the full campus culture. BBC offers the BBC Experiences for students to enjoy campus.

Make sure that the campus culture you choose is one where you can thrive, because your time in college will be the most transformational years of your life

As you plan campus visits, think about what aspects of the campus culture are important to you. Whether you plan to attend college for one year or four years, choosing a college that matches your goals, priorities, and personality is incredibly important. College will transform you, hopefully for good but sometimes for bad. Make sure that the campus culture you choose is one where you can thrive, because your time in college will be the most transformational years of your life. 

About the Author: Rebecca Hasegawa is a speaker, writer, and professor at Boise Bible College. She has been teaching freshmen writing courses and a few literature courses at BBC since 2014.

[1] In October 2017, 66.7 percent of 2017 high school graduates age 16 to 24 were enrolled in colleges or universities. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 26, 2018.

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