After completing your initial college search as instructed previously, search the individual websites of each of your selected 10 or 12 colleges and universities for details. Look for factors you would like to see at the college you will attend.
To get the most out of searching a college’s website, search for:
- “official” general information (college majors, student activities, etc.)
- “unofficial” cultural information (hot topics on campus, student complaints, etc.).
Reviewing both sets of information will give you the best possible look into what a college and university is really like.
The best matches of student and college are made when students and parents search beyond the “official” information and look beneath the surface of a college or university.
Search for “Official” Information
To best way to evaluate college and university “official” information is to go to each college’s website and:
- Click on “Prospective Students” and check out the various links. Read the Prospective Student information carefully; get a sense of the priorities and overall mission of the college.
- Take the online “virtual campus tour”. Every college and university provides a virtual tour of their campus, using either panoramic photos or videos.
- Look at the academic departments. Do they offer your major?
- Look at “Student Life”. Do the colleges appeal to you socially? Are there the right kinds of campus activities?
- Look at the incoming freshman statistics or “Freshmen Profile” to see how you compare to last year’s entering class. What were last year’s freshman class average GPA, SAT/ACT Test scores, percentage of applicants accepted, etc.? How do your GPA and Test scores compare? What are your chances of getting accepted?
- What is the total cost to attend each college? How much financial aid is given to students on average? How much financial aid is free money (scholarships and grants)?
- How much financial aid is given as loans? Remember, financial aid includes loans and on-campus jobs, not just free money that you don’t have to repay. Keep in mind that LOANS ARE FINANCIAL AID YOU MUST REPAY!
Search for “Unofficial” Information
The best way to evaluate college and university “unofficial” cultural information, go to their website and:
- Look at the campus newspaper online. What are the issues and complaints students have? (Bad cafeteria food? On-campus crime?) What are students’ interests?
- See if students have their own web pages and the information posted on them. You may want to e-mail students and ask questions about the school.
- Go to the home pages of faculty who teach classes in your major. Look at any posted class syllabuses, do the classes they teach look interesting? Read faculty biographies and résumés to see who will be teaching you next fall. What are their research interests? If you have questions, send a faculty member a polite, short e-mail introducing yourself as a prospective student and ask a brief question.
- Review the various on-campus student organizations to see what they are about and their planned activities.
- Look at the alumni association pages to see what the college is doing for their alumni.
Compare College Factors
Compare and contrast factors about your colleges and universities (such as the success rate of students at each school, the college setting (urban, suburban, rural), average scholarships awards, percentage of students living on-campus, etc.) to prioritize your preference of schools to which you will apply.
In addition, compare your personal qualifications (GPA and Test scores) to each school’s student body. See how difficult (or easy) it will be to get accepted for admission (what grade point average and SAT or ACT test scores are needed to be a competitive applicant for admission).
These comparisons can best be done by completing the table provided: My Colleges and Universities – Factors to Consider and Compare. This table will help organize and prioritize your preference of schools to apply to.
Completing the Table of College Factors
To complete the table of college factors, gather information described at the top of each column by searching:
- Each college’s website
1. To search CollegeBoard, type in the name of your college or university in the “Search by college name” box on the page left side. Click “Search” button. Information will be displayed in 10 different categories at the page top under the name of the school. To see the information, click on each category shown on page. These categories include:
- At a Glance
- Cost & Financial Aid
- Academics & Support
- SAT®, AP®, CLEP®
- Housing & Campus Life
- International Students
2. Search each college’s website as per the instructions in the sections “Search for college and university “official” information” and “Search for college and university “unofficial” information.”
On the table, Factors to Consider and Compare, arrange your colleges and universities in order of your preference with your favorite school at the top. The top 10 schools are the ones you should apply to.
Do not hesitate to ask the opinion of your parents, high school counselor, or any student you know who is currently attending one of these colleges or universities.
As you continue researching your top schools and visiting campuses, your school preferences may change. Rearrange your preferences on the table accordingly to be prepared when you begin the college application process.