Why are some schools so much more expensive than others? Does the amount of tuition reflect the quality of education?
You're probably talking about the difference between public and private colleges and universities. You may have seen last week’s column in which I quoted the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2006, listing tuition and fees at 4-year public institutions averaging $5,836 and $22,218 at 4-year private institutions. Quite a difference, huh? Public means they are funded by the state (from taxes), and private means they are privately funded – through monies raised from alumni, private foundations, etc. or by a particular religious denomination. In my state, Oklahoma, the tuition and fees paid by college students only covers less than one third of the total cost of their education (http://www.okhighered.org/studies-reports/report-card/KIA2006/kia2006.pdf). The taxpayers of the state pay the other (over) two thirds. In private schools, the tuition charged more closely reflects the total cost of the students’ education. As you can see, a college education is expensive, no matter how you look at it.
As for the cost of tuition reflecting the quality of education, I’m not sure you can make that assumption. Many highly respected public universities charge much lower tuition rates than some less highly respected (or maybe not as well known) private institutions. Some of the most respected colleges and universities are, however private. Often, the quality of the education you receive from a school has more to do with you, how you make use of the opportunities available to you, the quality of the particular academic program you major in, and the “fit” with your particular goals, than it does with the name of the school or the amount of tuition you pay.
FRESHMAN ORIENTATION CLASS IS OFFERED AT MY SCHOOL, BUT IT ISN’T REQUIRED. SINCE IT MAY NOT COUNT TOWARD MY DEGREE, SHOULD I STILL TAKE IT?
Yes you should take it. It is widely agreed by professionals who work with college students that freshman orientation courses help students be more successful in college. For that reason alone, you should take it. You will most likely do some or all of the following in an orientation class; learn how your new campus ‘does things’, find out about important resources on campus and where they are available, discuss time and stress management, interact regularly with a college employee who can be a resource to you throughout college, and meet other students (maybe in your major).
Based on the research of a couple of men named Vincent Tinto and Alexander Astin (among others), colleges do what’s called “frontloading” resources for new students (making them available to you when you first get to school and during the first year). In my opinion, freshman orientation class is one of the best means of delivering those resources. Take the class, and have them contact me if someone doesn’t think you should.
I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO JOIN THE HONORS COLLEGE/PROGRAM AT MY SCHOOL. IS THAT LIKELY TO JUST BE HARDER AND MORE WORK, LIKE IT WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL?
Honors is likely to be the best academic experience available at that school. It will probably be taught by top faculty, have smaller classes, may be more discussion oriented than non-Honors classes, and there are likely to be other perks. While the material you study may be more complex or you might go into more depth with the material, I think having the best faculty and smaller classes puts you in the best possible position to learn. I also think those who plan to attend graduate or professional school, are in highly competitive majors, or for some other reason want/need to distinguish themselves above their peers should seriously consider Honors.
My friend and I are going to the same college, and she wants to room together. But I’ve heard rooming with a friend is a sure way to ruin your friendship, and I don’t want that to happen. What do you think?
Whether you are already friends with your roommate or not isn’t as big an issue, in my opinion, as how flexible you both are, and how respectful you are of one another. In my experience, most roommate problems occur when one roommate either isn’t aware of or doesn’t care that something they’re doing is problematic for their roommate. So I’d look at how self-aware, flexible and considerate the other person is when deciding if I wanted to room with one of my friends. Regardless who you room with, you need to plan to communicate and be willing to compromise so you’re not the roommate in someone else’s horror story!
What do those letters and numbers associated with college classes mean?
(I get asked this all the time!) These names may be slightly different at some schools, but basically, they’re called a course prefix and a course number. The course prefix may be two to five letters (usually three or four), is usually in all caps, and tells you what kind of class it is. It’s usually an abbreviation of either the subject or the name of the department offering the course. Is it a math class – MA or MAT or MATH, a biology class – BIO or BIOL, an English class – ENG or ENGL, etc.
Course numbers are usually three or four digits (occasionally, they’ll have a letter or two attached), and tell you a number of useful things. Some numbering systems seem to have no rhyme or reason, but usually they tell you what level a course is (freshman, sophomore, etc.), how many hours the course is (credit hours, quarter hours, etc.), and may give some hint as to course sequencing within a department. Usually, the first number gives an indication of the course’s level (1 = freshman, 2 = sophomore, 3 = junior, 4 = senior), and usually, the last number either gives an indication of how many credit/quarter hours the class is or a course’s sequence in a series – e.g. ACCT 3443 is a three hour, junior level accounting course, ENGL 102 is the second (taken after ENGL 101) freshman English course.
Is a suite the same thing as a dorm room (my parents keep saying “dorm”, but the school calls them suites)?
Well, they’re kind of the same thing…and the preferred term is residence hall room, not dorm. In the same way a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Viper are both vehicles, they are both places you might live on campus. They both get you there, but the Caravan is more basic and functional, where the Viper has all the bells and whistles, and you’d probably rather have one of those… The relative cost is likely similar – i.e. residence hall room = Caravan, suite = Viper (although maybe not as pronounced).
A residence hall room is a room you would share with one other person, usually in a tall building or along a long hallway (or both) filled with other similar rooms, with a community bathroom. It was the norm when your parents were your age, and many schools still have them. A suite is a newer form of campus housing where two or more “suitemates” have separate sleeping rooms, but a common living area, and there might be a kitchenette. Suites house 2, 3, 4 or more individuals, usually but not always the same gender, and have either one bathroom for the suite or one with each sleeping room. The buildings suites are housed in may look like a dormitory or even like an apartment building, but are likely to have college employees, hall government, intramural sports, and tons of other activities and programs – much the same as a residence hall. You may also have the opportunity to choose to live in a campus apartment. The difference there would be the presence of a full kitchen, maybe larger bedrooms, and a setup just like any apartment. Apartments might be set aside for older students, those with families, or those hoping to be removed from the activity and associated noise that is common in housing for underclassmen or new students.
WHAT’S A COGNITIVE ASSESSMENT?
I ask this question both as a joke and as an illustration. When I was in college, a professor I had told the class that in the next class period we would have a cognitive assessment. I remember looking around the room, and everyone else seemed to have the same question as me – “what’s that”? None of us asked, knowing we’d find out next class period.
What happened next class period, you ask? A QUIZ! Looking back it seems obvious that we should have known, or at least asked what he meant. It was a speech class, about communication! Only later did we study that there is sometimes a difference between what the message sender means and what it means to the recipient. But the lesson for YOU is to always clarify any ambiguities with your professors. If a professor says you’re doing fine in their class, make sure you know what “fine” means – your definition of “fine” and hers may not be the same. And if your professor tells you you’re having a cognitive assessment next class period, ask exactly what that means.
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