You’ll find similar features at colleges and universities across the country. Most schools work off of one another for inspiration. Many also track and mimic successful trends.
When you’re looking at schools, you’ll find common elements at virtually every school on your list. But what about the schools that stand out and are innovative? What elements indicate that a school goes above and beyond the expected; that it allows its students to reach beyond established norms on both sides of the classroom door?
And more importantly, when you encounter such schools, why should you care?
Here’s a list of innovative school features and what they’ll also bring to your college experience.
Supplemental application materials
Pay attention to opportunities in the application process to reach beyond the Common App and other traditional materials. Perhaps the school has additional questions that explore beyond your scholastic endeavors. Maybe they offer the use of ZeeMee, SchoolsApp, or other social media-based online application tools that demonstrate multiple facets of your personality. The school may even offer opportunities to apply with a video, regardless of your field of study.
Seek out opportunities to showcase your whole self. Alternative and additional application materials indicate that the school cares about you. You’ll be selected not only based on your academic prowess and experience, but also your personality. You’ll be selected because you suit the school’s vision and mission in every capacity—and that ensures you’ll be attending along with students who also share your drive and your passion.
Watch for classrooms with adjustable chairs and tables; ample whiteboard space; integrated projectors and screens; accessible 3-prong and USB outlets; and space for close idea-sharing. Small classrooms and large windows are also valuable assets.
Modern classrooms indicate a thirst for innovative and new methods of learning. As a student, you will be active and involved in your learning process at these schools. Smaller classrooms indicate an environment where professors are accessible and willing to answer your questions—where your success as an individual matters to them. Schools that see each student as an active participant rather than a stagnant listener will also be dedicated to constant improvement on behalf of their students.
Look for areas dedicated to group work and idea-sharing, both in the classroom and on campus in general. Besides the opportunities facilitated by interactive classrooms, notice common areas with spacious tables, private library rooms, or rental facilities and equipment for larger group meetings.
Schools that encourage group inquiry and learning prepare you for the real world. They understand that your career after graduation will involve a lot of communal brainstorming and broad delegation tasks—not just independent study and individual testing. Schools that equip you for collaboration place value on your long-term success.
Consider the school’s brand presence. Does its logo suggest deep ties to historical roots, a tendency to go along with the crowd, dedication to academics, creativity, prestige? Is the school’s web presence consistent in its language use? Do print materials from the school appear visually unified and appealing?
Strong branding indicates a value for outside perceptions of the school. Colleges that curate their outward image are dedicated to their good name and also how well received you will be as a degree holder from their institution. When brand messaging is consistent and relevant, the school’s image is strong; thus, your degree has a higher market value.
Open use technology
Ask what resources are available outside the classroom on campus. Aside from the basics—campus-wide WiFi, computer labs, and outlets in common areas—look for specialized computer labs outfitted with programs specific to your field of study; an audio-visual equipment library or rental service; recording studios; technologically advanced research facilities; cloud computing and storage services; and email and software perks for students.
Your success is in part dependent on the quality of the tools you use to learn in your field. Schools that offer top-notch technology will give you a professional advantage in your post-graduation career search. And schools that demonstrate investment in cutting-edge technology are also more likely to invest in your future in other ways as well.
Apply to schools that stand apart from the crowd in innovative ways. Schools dedicated to the latest ideas in recruitment, teaching, learning, and technology are likely to be dedicated to the quality of your education. College is an investment, so put your investment to good use at an institution that proves it will also invest in you.