After sifting through brochure after brochure, you start to notice that every school promises you a “life-changing education” on a “beautiful campus.” So how do actually learn about the real character of the institution? Here are some tips:
1. Check out the school’s newspaper. Student publications can really give you insight as to what is important to the school and how current students feel about the atmosphere.
2. Talk to a current student who you know (someone who graduated from your high school recently, or a family friend). They will probably be more honest than your tour guide.
3. Go on their website. This may seem obvious, but many students do all their research through the college board search or U.S. news. While these are both great resources, going directly to the source can shed a lot of light on a particular school.
4. Read reviews online from current students on sites such as College Prowler. That being said, just because you see some bad reviews doesn’t mean the school is bad. People tend to err on the dramatic side, so don’t take it too seriously.
5. Schedule an interview for the college. Whether its on-campus or off, with an admissions officer, student interviewer, or alumni, it will allow you to ask meaningful questions. Tours and info sessions are great, but it can be hard to ask one-on-one questions when the person has at least 10 other people to deal with. Read about how to have the best interview possible here.
6. Visit. The easiest way to learn about a school, academically and socially, is to visit. If you have the opportunity, visit. A school you thought you would love may suddenly be completely wrong for you the moment you physically step on the campus. Visiting may be impossible if you live in another country or just very far away, and that’s okay, but if you are able to visit, please do.
7. Virtual tours. If visiting is impossible, many schools have created virtual tours online. They allow you to pretend you’re at the campus, and at least give you some insight into the size and style of the campus.
8. Sit in on a class at the school. You’ll get to see the student body and the learning environment. After all, the reason you’re going to college is for academics.
9. If you can’t sit in on a class, pick up the course catalog. That way you can explore the classes offered in subjects you’re interested in, and find out different requirements for majors and minors.
10. Talk to a student randomly while on campus. Their attitude and answer can tell a lot about a specific school. If you do talk to one cranky person though, don’t be totally discouraged. They are not representative of the whole school, and you should seek someone else out.