Team culture is incredibly important for all things. Not just athletic teams, but in all team settings. So when choosing a college, thinking about the culture is extremely important.
School culture might be strange to think about because the students come from different places with different goals. But schools can and do set very good cultures that can turn out to be more important than the education itself.
Specifically, you’re looking for how strong the alumni network is. Are students coming back to the college to find new employees?
A strong alumni network is a good indicator of a strong school culture AND quality education. It shows that the graduates not only enjoyed their experience, but also trust the students coming out of the school.
A student could have the time of his life in college. But let’s say he graduates and starts a company. When thinking of people to hire, will he think about the fun he had or the quality of the education? (probably both because if he had a terrible time he wouldn’t want to help the college, but he’d probably think more about the education)
Another indicator of strong school culture is the amount and quality of clubs on campus. If there are no clubs it shows that the students aren’t engaged in their career paths. A college should nurture the curious mind and help students figure out what they want to do with their lives early in their time there.
Once students figures out what they want to do with their lives, it becomes FUN to get better at that skill. As a result, clubs are created and grow. No club = no interest. I’ll go deeper into clubs later.
Teacher student relationships
Strong teacher student relationships are a good indicator for the culture among professors. You have to think about the fact that professors can have their own agendas the same way anybody else can. They might just be there to get to a bigger, better school. Usually, if a college treats their professors well, the professors will care more about their students.
For comparison, think of a good professor as one who’s willing to have lunch with a particular student to help figure out their life goals. Or help with their resumes even if that isn’t in the job description. Or even find them an internship or job!
Professors like this are more easily found at small schools for a couple reasons. The first being they have fewer students to deal with. And for two, at smaller schools individual student success is more important. At big schools, as long as you produce a good crop, that CAN BE all that matters. The bottom third of the class can be disregarded because if the top 50-80% do well enough they can make up for the stragglers.
Culture at St. Mary’s College of California
At St. Mary’s (where I go), the culture is good and improving. The business program is great. It’s full of professors who’ve worked in the field before teaching and are career driven. They ALL offer office hours and all of them complain that they don’t get enough students.
I feel confident that if I went to any of these professors repeatedly and created a solid relationship almost each and every one of them would be willing to help me find a job or internship (now that I actually write that down I realize I should do that).
Clubs can be the lifeline for your future
When I first got to St Mary’s, the one place they could have improved on was the minimal presence of clubs. I didn’t see this as a problem when I got there, and the emergence of clubs is what’s made me realize their importance.
This past semester a finance club was created and I joined it. By having the club, it separated students who know what they want to do from those who don’t. You’re able to make friends and connections with people with the same goals as you through these clubs instead of making random friends with random goals.
Everyone knows you make lifelong friends in college. I believe it’s just as important to make lifelong connections for your career life. People you know you can contact if you have a business idea or if, God forbid, you get laid off and need a job.
The people you go to school with are the ones who will be there to help you get back on your feet. If you have those connections with people in your industry you’ll be able to contact the right people in a time of need and know they will do their best to help you back on your feet.