This is the time of year when college-bound students make the big decision about where to enroll. May 1st is the standard deadline for students to confirm their plans by putting down an enrollment deposit. With this deadline fast approaching, I thought it might be helpful to share some answers to Frequently Asked Questions that come up when students are choosing a college.
I wrote this post as a general resource for college-bound students, but I’ve also included specific information for students who are considering enrolling here at Sterling College in Vermont (shout-out to my Sterling admits, y’all rock!)
Tips for the College-bound student
Is your college a good fit for my academic interests and future goals?
Great question! Hopefully you’ve already narrowed down your college list based on academic fit, but if you’re still trying to decide what area of study you want to pursue, now is a really important time to compare your interests with the academic programs and educational philosophy of the colleges to which you’ve been admitted.
Sterling College, for example, is completely focused on a mission of ecological thinking and action, and our academic program is designed to support this mission. Our majors are Ecology, Environmental Humanities, Outdoor Education, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainable Food Systems. Classes are highly experiential and quite small, and students are expected to play an active role in co-creating their course of study.
We’re a great fit for some students, but certainly not for everyone, so if you’re leaning away from focusing on ecological thinking and action and prefer lectures to fieldwork, you should probably look elsewhere.
Sterling could be a great fit for you if you are looking for a great depth of engagement with the multiplicity of ways humans relate to the natural world, if you thrive in small classes and close-knit communities, and if the work you seek to do in the world is ultimately interdisciplinary, hands-on, visionary ecological thinking and action.
Can you please help me understand my financial aid award?
This one is super important. Financial aid can be confusing, even for professionals. Make sure you understand the difference between grants and loans, and add up the amount of student loan debt that you’ll have when you graduate. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself, and feel free to communicate directly with the financial aid office to make sure you understand your award letter, and to make sure you’ve taken advantage of all possible funding sources.
Barb Stuart, the director of financial aid at Sterling College, is available for one-on-one consultations. You can reach her at email@example.com or by phone at ext. 103.
What student services and resources are available for students like me?
A lot of colleges, including Sterling, publish sweeping commitments to equity, inclusion, and access for all students, regardless of how they identify. These statements are a good way to get to know the institution, but it’s worth digging a bit to get a sense of exactly what student services and resources are available to support these important commitments. For example, if you identify as an LGBTQ person, ask about support structures for LGBTQ students, and don’t be afraid to press your admission counselor for specifics.
Sterling College offers an overall holistic and comprehensive Health and Wellness program that is available to all students. The community as a whole regularly participates in anti-oppression and multicultural sensitivity trainings, including a three-part workshop called Building Empathy and Addressing Racial Oppression, an anti-sexual harassment training, and a gender and sexuality 101 training.
Specific support for students of color includes a student affinity group called Roots, Chief Diversity Officer, Campus counselor, and the Sterling Racial Justice Taskforce. Specific support for LGBTQ students includes thoughtful and safe housing placements, student insurance coverage for trans/gender non-conforming healthcare, LGBTQ-friendly counseling, and a student affinity group called Alliance.
If you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to have an in-depth conversation with you about inclusion and student support at Sterling.
Will tuition and fees increase in the future, and will my financial aid change?
Some colleges engage in what I consider the highly unethical practice of starting first-year students out with a really enticing financial aid award only to jack up the tuition price and reduce scholarships in future years. It’s normal for tuition and fees to increase by about the same amount as inflation each year, but financial aid should keep up with tuition increases, and be eligible for renewal for every year of enrollment.
At Sterling, we only change a student’s financial aid from year to year in the case of significant changes in a family’s financial circumstances – for example, if a student’s parent won the lottery, their need-based grant would go down, and if they lost their job the grant would go up. Merit scholarships are eligible for renewal each year of enrollment as long as the student remains in good academic and community standing.
What sort of student housing is available?
I actually don’t think this is the most important question to ask, but it’s one that comes up a lot when I talk with students or parents, so I’m including it here.
The reason I don’t think housing is critical is that unlike the quality and fit of the academic program and the financial aid award, whether or not you slept in a bunk-bed or had a mini-fridge during your first year of college really won’t matter when you graduate. That said, the key questions to ask include how housing is determined, whether campus housing is guaranteed, what proportion of first-year students have one or more roommates, how close residence halls are to dining halls and classroom buildings, and whether residence halls have amenities like kitchens or common areas.
At Sterling, the answers to these questions are as follows:
- Housing is determined via a comprehensive housing preference form.
- Housing is guaranteed at Sterling.
- Most first-year students at Sterling have roommates but singles are available.
- Student residences at Sterling are anywhere from a 1 minute to a 10 minute walk away from the Dining Hall and most indoor classrooms. However, keep in mind that courses often travel off-campus for immersive hands-on experiences in the field, which means that our outdoor classrooms take a little longer to travel to!
- All Sterling College residence halls have common rooms, most have kitchenettes, and some have full kitchens. If you want kitchen access, you are welcome to put that on your housing form.
When will I register for classes? When will I choose my major?
Easy, tiger. All in good time.
Although it’s important to know that your college of choice has the academic program that matches your interests, you probably won’t have to choose a major until your sophomore year, and you’ll be sent instructions about how to register for classes after you submit your enrollment deposit.
Check out all of Sterling’s Majors, Minors, and our Self-Designed Major program to get a good sense of the options available.
May I have a car on campus?
Really? You haven’t even arrived on campus yet and you’re already thinking of leaving?
Seriously, though, if a college isn’t in an area with reliable public transportation, it can be nice to have a car. If first-year students are allowed to have cars on campus, be sure to ask how much the parking permit costs – this charge can be ridiculously exorbitant.
At Sterling College students are allowed to have a car on campus and the parking permit costs $25 per year.
I’m ready! Where do I sign?
Congratulations. Choosing a college is a joyful moment. I don’t know what the enrollment deposit process is like at every college, but here at Sterling you can submit your deposit in three ways:
- Fill out the Enrollment Confirmation form and pay online with a credit or debit card.
- Give us a call at (802) 586-7711 x 135 and pay the deposit with a credit or debit card over the phone.
- Send us a check in the mail (old school, we like the way you roll).
I hope this post has been helpful for you! If you’re one of the lucky folks who have been admitted to Sterling (hooray!), be sure to check out the Field Guide for Admitted Students, and be in touch if you have any questions.
Former Dean of Admission & Financial Aid