02/26/2012 06:22 pm ET Updated Apr 27, 2012

How Strong Is Your College Knowledge?

Last Friday's blog invited you to test your college knowledge. The eight questions may seem to be pretty obscure, but the answers -- and the ideas behind the answers -- give high school students something to consider as they build their college lists, and think about the purpose of college in the first place...

... and here are the first four:

1. What one skill must every graduate of the University of Chicago possess?
Like many colleges, Chicago requires all students to pass a swim test. Reader Gregory Edward Mantel said this requirement makes sure alumni are more likely to give money to their alma mater than drown; others incorrectly assume this mandate is based on a gift given by the parents of a deceased student who drowned while pledging to a sorority. Chicago says it's just a long standing requirement for graduation.

What you should consider Some colleges have graduation requirements, including specific core academic courses all students must take, while others have no core requirements at all. Make sure you know the expectations of every college on your list, and think about how much flexibility you want or need in your college experience -- and remember, less structure isn't always a good thing for everyone.

2. Colorado College and Cornell College offer something few other colleges can. What is this special quality?

As reader Chad Walker points out, students at these two colleges take only one class at a time. Each class lasts a little over three weeks; after a day or two to rest and reflect on what that class offered, them students begin a new class the next Monday.

What you should consider This "one at a time" approach can be a huge help to students who want to focus their energies on one subject, and it certainly keeps homework plans organized. This is one reason why some colleges offer a "4-1-4" calendar, where you can focus on one class in an intense January term, while taking 15-week classes in the fall and spring.

On the other hand, some students need more time to let ideas sink in; if that's you, you'll probably want to look at colleges that have a traditional 15 or 16-week calendar, rather than an intense study period, or perhaps even a 10-week quarter system. Give this some thought as you build your college options.

3. Berea College and Cooper Union are attractive to students for the same reason. What is it?

Reader LinKevin knows what few others know -- both colleges are tuition free. While there are other costs to consider (room and board, which may be covered for students showing financial need), the idea of Berea and Cooper Union being tuition free for all students makes everyone stop and think twice about what they might be able to afford.

What you should consider Be careful not to let the sticker price be the deal breaker for any college. Private colleges often have additional sources of income that can make them as affordable as public colleges, and since every college now has a net price calculator, it's easier than ever to get some idea how much a college will really cost you. Additional information can be found at College Navigator, and by calling the financial aid office of any college. Like everything else in education, the only bad question is the one that goes unasked -- if you don't know, make the call.

4. The One O'clock Lab Band is one of the most prestigious college jazz bands in the nation. Where is it located?

Hepcats on either coast will be amazed to know The University of North Texas hosts this elite musical group, which has been nominated for six Grammys. This is just one of a number of jazz bands at UNT, which has a music program most people look right past, since it's not a conservatory or housed at a large university.

What you should consider Make sure you ask around about college options. I've been a college counselor for 26 years, but I found out about UNT from the owner of a local music store. There can be a wealth of college information from artists, musicians, teachers, business professionals and more -- again, all you have to do is ask, or check on the web sites of various professional associations. Your counselor can help you make sure you aren't just getting the personal advice of an alumna/ae who is crazy about their college, but it's still better to find out and learn how to sort out strong advice from weak.

If these four answers got you thinking out of the box, that's the whole idea. Come back Wednesday, and we'll cover the last four questions on the quiz.