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Researching Colleges? Go to the Source!

Counselors are always telling students to “research colleges” – but how exactly, does one go about doing that? What things should one look for – and where?

During a recent webinar, various college admissions experts weighed in on what they thought students should look for as they research colleges. Here is their advice:

GO TO COLLEGES’ WEBSITES: While understanding that college websites are going to present a positive view of their institution and photos of beautiful campuses with happy looking students, the colleges’ websites are still the first place you should look when researching a college. But where on that website?

ABOUT: First, go to “About” (or similar) where you will find history, and fast facts: how many undergraduate and graduate students; when the school was founded; how many majors and minors are offered.

COURSE CATALOGUE: As you focus on academics, look at the Course Catalogue. It will tell you what classes are required for any major. It will tell you what “general education” courses are required (also known as “gen eds” or “breadth requirements” or “core classes”). It is important to know what is required even before you embark on earning a degree in your major.

STUDENT LIFE: Look at the tab called “Student Life” or similar. It will tell you about the campus culture outside of the classroom. How many clubs and intramural sports and what they all are. What are campus traditions?

HOUSING: Check out housing options. What is available? Can all students live on campus or will you have to find an apartment after one year? Are you guaranteed housing in a dorm for even your freshman year? If not, that’s a deal breaker in my opinion. You don’t want to go to another city as a 17-or-18-year-old and need to find an apartment by yourself. You want to live on campus for at least your freshman year, and possibly beyond, so see how many years of housing are guaranteed. And what type of housing? Co-ed, where you will share a bathroom with members of the opposite sex? Can sound horrifying at first, but within the first week, you have a whole new group of siblings. Are there living/learning communities where faculty live in the dorms and offer lectures? Are dorms grouped by interest or major or honors status? Research these things.

CAREER SERVICES: Another tab to explore is Career Services. See what this school offers in the way of internships and assistance with job placement for their graduates. A four-year college is not vocational school necessarily, but you should be employable when you graduate, and the Career Services on campus should help you draft your resume, secure internships, provide advice through job fairs and on-campus interviews.

NEWS: Finally, look at the “News” or “In the News” tab. It will show you recent press releases of things happening on campus. Has a world-renowned expert recently been to campus to lecture on Middle East hot-spots? Has there been recently announced research grants or ground-breaking innovation in a particular department? Has a poet laureate been to campus to lead a poetry slam? Has this campus won accolades, or have professors recently been dismissed for harassment? You want to know what is going on at your potential school, so check the News.

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