It’s midway junior year. Your college counselor gives you a preliminary list of colleges. Reading through the list, you see schools that are very familiar to you and others that you know little or nothing about. What’s next? Gravitate towards the schools you know? That’s certainly human nature and maybe a good place to start. But, don’t stop there and dismiss the schools that are new to you. Your next step should be to research the schools you don’t know.
Many students shy away from researching colleges because they don’t know where to start or find it tedious. Knowing how to research a college and having a plan in place can help make the process easier. Here’s how to get started.
- The college website is a great place to begin. Seek out general information: application requirements, academics, and student life. (You can delve deeper later.) Keep in mind that a college’s website is the school’s number one marketing tool. So, don’t be swayed by a glitzy website or fancy videos alone.
- Check out independent quantitative websites for facts and figures. If your school uses Naviance, that’s a great place to start. Naviance will help you collect basic facts: enrollment numbers, tuition costs acceptance rates, average GPA’s and test scores of accepted students, and much more. It’s also a good place to learn about crossover schools.
- Qualitative reviews can be helpful in understanding the culture and social climate of the college. A widely accepted and respected qualitative resource is the Fiske Guide to Colleges. It has been around for more than 30 years and gives an “insider’s” look at more than 300 colleges and universities. When reading any qualitative resources, please keep in mind that the content may reflect the opinion of the writer/editor.
- The campus visit is by far the most telling and rewarding research tool. After familiarizing yourself with a college or university, plan a campus visit. Start with two or three schools close to home or visit a school that is further away on a family road trip. Be sure to attend the information session and take the official college tour. Then, explore the campus and the surrounding area on your own.
Spend time early in your college search researching a variety of schools. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to draft a realistic, thoughtful college list. It may seem unlikely now, but often the school a student knows little about early in his/her college search ends up being the right college fit. So, PLEASE don’t skip the research!
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