You and your high school student have been touring school after school. After a while, all those admissions officers and tour guides start to blend together. You’ve heard enough of those ‘Our college is awesome’ spiels to last a lifetime. I get it.
But there’s probably people you haven’t talked to at colleges. People that aren’t part of the official tour. And no, I’m not talking about students. Sure, students can offer great advice about what the school is like. But what about your peace of mind? How can you be sure that a college will take care of your child?
Go to the dining hall. Yes, really. I want you to stop and talk to the workers in the dining hall. Say hello. Mention that your kid is considering this school. Ask them questions. You’ll be surprised what you find out.
See, these are the people that will be feeding your child every day. They are the familiar faces that make students feel at home. I will never forget the greeter in my dining hall – a sweet old woman named Barb who called everyone “honey” and always asked how your day was going. She could make a bad day better. I can’t stress how nice it was to have a kind, familiar face at the end of a rough day or when I was feeling really homesick. We all loved Barb, because it felt like she really cared about each and every one of us.
My dad says he knew that I picked the right school when he talked to one of the men who worked in the dining hall. He reassured my dad that they would take care of me and the other freshmen. No, they might not be there to help with things like roommate drama or a bad grade. That’s for RAs and professors. But they would be there to offer a little bit of moral support in the form of a smile and a kind word or two. And on a bad day, that can go a whole heck of a long way.
These are the people who show the school’s commitment to the type of people they have on staff. Meeting people who love their jobs and like interacting with students are a much better sign than grumpy people who hate their jobs. As my dad says, “That’s who your children are going to interact with as much as their instructors.” And that’s true – especially freshman year, when large lectures are much more common than small classes.
And it’s not just the people who work in the dining hall. Talk to maintenance workers. After all, they’re the ones that will be solving problems like a broken faucet for your child. And believe me, when you’re already stressed about grades and being away from home, something like a broken faucet can tip you over the edge. Knowing that there will be someone caring to fix the problem is a relief. College is one step, but giving up Dad’s ability to fix everything is another one that they might not be ready for yet!
So on your next college tour, keep a lookout for people you can talk to who aren’t a part of the official tour. Get their opinions, ask them a few questions. They’ll tell you what you really need to know.