Ask the Expert: Visiting Colleges

How do I know what questions to ask?

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Question: This fall I am taking my daughter, who’s 17, to visit college campuses. We’re a moderately observant family, and I want to take her to visit the Hillels on campus, but I’m not sure what questions we should ask or what exactly we should be looking for when we visit. Can you give a sense of what it would be wise to ask, look for, and avoid?
–Paige, New Jersey

the expertAnswer: Visiting colleges with your child is a fun but often daunting task. It’s hard to know if you’re ever really getting the feel of a place, hard to know if you’re getting honest answers, and nearly impossible to anticipate what the challenges with a given school will be. When it comes to finding a university that’s a good fit for your daughter religiously, there are added challenges. To help figure out what’s the best way to tackle this problem, I got in touch with Rabbi Ben Berger, Senior Jewish Educator at the Ohio State University Hillel. Here’s some of what he had to say:

“Being able to ask frank questions of both Hillel professionals and Jewish students is key to knowing if this is the right campus for your daughter. Before you can ask those questions though you must ask yourself and your daughter some questions too. Do you want to be on a campus with a large Jewish population? How large? Does your daughter want to be a pioneer and be a builder of community, or join an already established Jewish community with many points of entry? Does your daughter want to stay on campus for High Holidays or be within proximity to come home? What types of religious options do you want? Vibrant Reform life? An Orthodox community? Is access to kosher food year-round and on Passover essential? What are your daughter’s interests (arts, learning, social action, sports, Greek life, travel, Israel, music, etc.)?

Many Jewish organizations on campus provide access to all of these options but others with smaller populations and fewer resources will have more limited options. So knowing in advance what your daughter is looking for in a Jewish community and what you hope for from your daughter’s college experience in relation to Jewish life is essential to determining the right campus for her.

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