Campus culture is an important aspect of finding the right college. You want to be happy and comfortable at the college you choose. Four years is a long time to be unhappy and uncomfortable. The question, then, is what is campus culture and how do I identify it?
Colleges have unique personalities, just as do you and I. And, like us, colleges have general characteristics that make them similar. For example, human beings have similar, physical attributes. We can pick out a human being standing in a herd of cows. Colleges are plainly distinct from other educational institutions. You know when you are on a college campus, as contrasted with a public secondary school. It is not the obvious attributes we need to consider.
Less obvious, and actually more important, are those characteristics of colleges that make them different from each other. That is the campus culture you want to identify and evaluate. Campus visits, during the school year, if at all possible, are the primary method of evaluation.
Do you like what you see? Walk around the quad as classes change. Visit the student union and the cafeteria. Can you see yourself hanging out with those young adults?
Be brave and talk with some students. Ask them what they like, and don't like about the college. Ask them what surprised them their first year. One absolutely wonderful quality about college students is their willingness to talk, and their candor. When you identify yourself as a high school student, I expect you will find those young people to be very friendly and open.
Look around at posters, as well as notices of meetings and events. What is happening on campus? What is being pushed to the front of students' attention? If you are on a tour with a student ambassador, ask that person about things that the college frowns upon. Ask what gets students in trouble with the administration. Ask what the predominant, weekend activities are throughout the year.
Talk with an admissions counselor. Ask them about official conduct codes, dress codes, social codes. Ask about campus safety. Ask about students' rights, and if there is a published statement of student rights. Of course, those may be uncomfortable conversations, but you will be glad to find out before you enroll and pay thousands of dollars to attend.
Here's an example of why you want to have the conversations recommended in this blog. Matt Damon, famous actor, is in the news for doing something that would get many college students in big trouble; maybe even dismissed from school. Here's the story: Matt Damon Gets Schooled. What if you used that same slur at college? What would happen to you? Nothing happened to Matt, really. How about a college kid using that same, admitted, insult?
Campus culture matters from what is obvious to everyone to what is hidden from most, until it is too late. Figure it out before you enroll, and even before you apply.