A Brief Wondrous Guide to Researching Colleges
We’ve given you a list of schools that we think you might like. Now what? It’s time to do some research, but exactly what to do next can seem nebulous. Here are some guidelines.
It all starts with your research points, the rubric you developed with Paul. What are you looking for? What don’t you want? What can’t you live without? When you research with these lenses in mind, you’ll find that the fog will lift and the process will seem less daunting. Some of these priorities might change, but they are your jumping off point. With your research points established, begin your exploration.
1) In Custom College Plan, click on a specific school on your list and follow the link to the college profile, which is replete with basic facts and figures. On the left side of the page you will find the “Research Launch Pad.” Tools there include the Fiske Guide (essentially the college search bible), a site that takes you on virtual tours of campuses, and many others. Please keep in mind that these are subjective views of varying quality.
2) School websites are a little heavy on the photos of diverse, smiling students and other PR hyperbole, but they are the best and most obvious way to find out about everything from academic programs and policies to specific classes to clubs and admissions deadlines.
3) There are, of course, tons of college guidebooks out there. In addition to the Fiske Guide, which you have access to from our website, we recommend The Insider's Guide to the Colleges because it offers student perspectives and is a nice complement to Fiske.
4) Representatives from colleges will be visiting your high school. See who's coming and when, and find out how to sign up, at your counseling office. To get the most out of these visits, research the school beforehand to see if you have questions you want to ask, take a business card from the rep, and write an email or, even better, a handwritten note to him/her with a thank you and a follow-up question. Stay in contact with reps!
5) If your high school does not bring in a lot of reps, you may wish to attend a college fair, such as this one held annually at St. Mary's College.