College is more than what the classroom has to offer.
There is much more to a college education than just attending classes.
By now you should be close to making your final choice of the college or university you'll attend; but first, you need to shift your thinking to outside the classroom.
It's important to decide which activities are important you.
If participating in music, student government, publications and/or athletics are vital to you and your life, then spend some time talking with students, faculty and staff, sponsors and coaches -- anyone who can give the information you need to decide if that college will provide the extracurricular opportunities you believe are fun, entertaining, challenging and rewarding.
For many students the level of participation is also important. You may want to become involved in vocal music, but a major touring ensemble might be too much. The institution may have smaller groups that meet your needs. Or, if you are interested in sports but know that you can't compete on the intercollegiate level, you should examine the intramural program.
You also need to look at the institution's support system for students. In many colleges one of the main reasons students don't graduate is because there is no safety net to catch a student when problems arise, either personal or academic. Find out how personal and career counseling is handled, and ask questions about academic advising, such as who handles advising and how many students they work with.
You can also tell a lot about the support you'll get by examining student retention. If a college tells you its retention rate for first-year students is 40 percent, then there are a lot of students who don't belong at that college or are "slipping between the cracks."
Now that you're close to deciding on the college or university to attend next fall, it's important to look outside the classroom at other aspects to determine if that institution is right for you, and will lead to a well-rounded college education.
-- Ken Sieg is director of admissions at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.