Looking for a way to streamline your college search? Internet to the rescue! Using your computer, you can access a lot of cheap (or free!) resources that will help you choose the perfect school for you.
1. Search College Rankings Online
College rankings are published in books every year. Don’t want to buy a book? Library too far away? Why not look online? Though complete rankings aren’t always available on the websites of print publications like U.S. News and World Report that do rankings, you can usually get a pretty good idea of where the schools you like the stand.
2. Find a Virtual Campus Tour
Most college websites have beautiful pictures of the campus in idyllic scenes that some students might not even recognize. In-person visits are the best way to get a realistic picture of what life at a certain school is like, but if that’s not in the cards, lots of schools have virtual tours. These tours might be well-designed or relatively bare-bones, but it’s better than your options in the pre-Internet days.
3. Check out Professor and Class Ranking Sites
Get a feel for what the faculty is like at a given school with ranking sites like Rate My Professors. It’s wise to take these rankings with a grain of salt, of course, but they can give you an understanding of what classes might be like – and how seriously the students take them.
4. Connect With Current Students
This may be something for the more socially adventurous, but since a lot of college students define their Facebook ‘networks’ by the school, you might be able to get in touch with a current student at the school you want to attend. If that’s a little too much for you, contact the admissions department and see if they have student volunteers who are willing to trade emails or chat with prospective students.
5. Use Twitter
If talking online to a student isn’t your goal, try asking questions on Twitter. Including the school’s name in a hashtag or tweeting at a school’s official account might draw responses from faculty, staff, students or alumni.
6. Attend a Virtual College Fair
Virtual college fairs are growing in popularity, and they give students an opportunity to find out about multiple schools without having to travel to an event.
7. Search for Your Interests
Performing a site-restricted search on Google will help you sift through the massive amounts of search results you’ll get when searching for something like ‘psychology bachelor’s degree.’ To perform a site-restricted search, type site:.edu into the search bar before typing your query. For example, you could type site:.edu agricultural management bachelor’s degree, and the only results you’ll be given will be for sites that have a .edu address, increasing the likelihood that you’ll get relevant results.
8. Scope Out Extracurricular Opportunities
If you’re wondering whether a school is going to be right for you, think about what non-academic activities you find interesting. If you have your heart set on being part of a specific sports team or club, search your chosen school’s website to see if you can get information about what’s available.
9. Look at Dorm Layouts Online
Those who are planning to live on-campus might want to find out what they’re getting themselves into before signing up for a yearlong stint living in a ‘dorm room’ that’s really a converted janitor’s closet. Many colleges and universities post floorplans and other layout information for their dorms, making it easier to tell what your home life will be like at school.
10. Why Not Video Interview?
College visits can be expensive, particularly if airfare, car rental, and hotel accommodations will be necessary. If you’re already stretched thin after paying application fees, and your school of choice wants to interview you before granting formal admission, ask if you can conduct the interview through an online video conferencing service, like Skype or Google Chat.