Modern technology has made searching for colleges easier than ever. The Internet is a tremendous resource featuring college search engines, admissions blogs, and college and university web sites, along with a variety of destinations focused on relevant topics such as: admissions, school rankings, college planning, scholarships and financial aid. Together with traditional resources such as guidebooks, brochures, rankings, college fairs, campus visits and personal recommendations, you can have the tools you need to find colleges and universities that are right for you. Let’s explore some of the Internet and off-line sources:
Personal advice and recommendations are great ways to learn about colleges. Talk to people you know and trust such as teachers, counselors, friends, siblings and parents. Some of these people will recommend other people to speak with and you’ll expand your network further. Listening to people’s advice (you don’t need to follow it!) is an excellent way to get started. And asking specific questions of “people in the know” is a wonderful opportunity to make informed decisions about where to apply and attend. Remember to do your own research as well and confirm what you hear from others!
Focus on Academic Goals
Academic goals are a prime focus for most college bound students, so finding colleges that offer the education you desire should be at the top of your list. As you think about schools, it’s important to consider what you really want in your higher education. Are you seeking a general liberal arts education, a pre-professional course of study or training in a specific field? Once you have a focus, use the web to search for colleges of potential interest. Then narrow your search with other criteria such as location, school size & type, sports programs etc. Check out the rankings and learn how various colleges are rated in areas such as in the major you want to study. If you don’t have a specific interest yet, your search can be more general and you can check out various fields you are considering.
The Internet is an amazing way to research colleges. A detailed search can be fast, easy and efficient. Some of the popular web resources with college search engine tools are: College Board Web Site, College Answer (Sallie Mae), College 411, College Navigator, (U.S. Dept. of Education) , College View, Peterson’s Educational Planner , Google University Search and College Prowler. For links to these and other college search sites and more information, check out the InLikeMe commentary: Searching for Colleges on the Internet – Tips and Techniques and the InlikeMe Web Links pages “College Search Engines” and “College Search and Selection”
Rankings & Ratings
College Rankings and Ratings are a great tool but should not be your only criteria for applying to college. Use ratings and rankings as a guide but definitely do your own qualitative research as well. Learn about the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings and others in the InLikeMe commentary: Making Sense of the College Guides, Lists, and Rankings.
Internet Blogs & Forums
The Web 2.0 generation has given rise to many online forums such as College Confidential in which college-bound students share advice and stories. Some colleges and universities (such as MIT, Johns Hopkins and UVA) are attempting to increase transparency about the admissions process by publishing public blogs with “behind-the-scenes” information for interested students and parents. To find out what schools are blogging and get links to the blogs, check out the InLikeMe commentary: College Admissions Blogs: Behind the Scenes Advice & Information.
Guidebooks are another excellent resource. Check out the InLikeMe College Guidebook Recommendations for some suggestions.
One InLikeMe favorite is The College Finder: Choose the School That’s Right for You! a unique resource for finding out about college majors, costs, athletics, religion, quality, and much more. The College Finder is book of hundreds of lists, which can help identify colleges where students will get in and fit in. List topics include: best schools in specific fields such as pre-med and business, hidden gems, great food, low-cost colleges with excellent education and study abroad opportunities.
Two other InLikeMe favorites are:
College Fairs are another great opportunity to learn and talk to real people from the school. Many colleges and universities participate in college fairs sponsored by the National Association for College Admission Counseling and other groups. These events are generally held at a local school, hotel or conference center. There are also some virtual fairs. College Fairs are a quick and low cost way (often free) way to check out a number of schools and meet admissions representatives without traveling far from home. When you go to a college fair, push yourself to ask questions. To learn how to maximize the value of college fair opportunities, check out the InLikeMe commentary: Making the Most of the College Fair.
During the fall, college admissions representatives often travel to participate in college fairs and make presentations to groups of prospective students. Like college fairs, these events are generally held at a local high school or hotel. Check with your guidance office (often there are posters) and web sites of colleges that interest you for details and schedules.