Why is it that in deciding which colleges to apply for no one ever mentions the amount of time spent trawling through prospective universities’ websites? Hidden amongst those sunny afternoon snaps and spectacled students there is a wealth of information just waiting to be found. But how can you sort the wheat from the chaff?
There are a few key topics to consider when researching your higher education choices. This guide will help you get the most out of your online efforts so that you can focus on the most relevant aspects of your research.
It should come as no surprise that the first click you should make on any college website is the ‘About Us’ tab. Here you will find all the facts and figures they are most proud of such as their college ranking and alumni statistics. These pages are designed to hook you up so in some ways they set the tone for the university itself. Maybe there a tongue in cheek anecdote about their mascot or a thoughtful commentary on their medical research achievements? If you read carefully, you should start to get a sense of the personality that lies behind the accolades.
If you are going to have to study something for four years (or even longer) it’s important to choose something that you are actually interested in. The next point of call on any college website should be the academic programmes offered. Find out what they are known for and see if it corresponds to your personal passions. For example, if you are passionate about zoology find out if they are associated with any zoos or research facilities. No matter how prestigious the college is, it is not worth your time if they can’t teach you what you want to learn.
But before you start researching flights, have a quick peek at the University’s accreditation. This is an independent review of their programme of study. It will ensure that your degree will accepted by other institutions and professional bodies. It is usually found in the ‘About Us’ or ‘Academics’ section but can also be answered by a quick email to the Admissions Department.
As tedious as it may seem, the first question your parents or financial aid advisor is going to ask you is, ‘how much is the tuition?’. It is time to bite the bullet and click on that dreaded link. Most colleges present their tuition fees by semester and some even break down the distribution of funds so you can see where your money is going.
Before you get daunted by the big numbers, take a look at the financial aid and scholarships page. Here you will find out what percentage of students receive aid and if you are eligible for any scholarships or grants. Some websites even have a handy calculator to help you estimate your aid. This way you’ll have all the facts and figures at your fingertips.
Are you a die hard cosmopolitan or a country bumpkin at heart? Choosing a university is not choosing a place to learn for the next four years, it’s choosing a home. All the same factors are involved so make sure to check out the campus life section before making any big decisions.
From a practical perspective you should find out about the health facilities, support services and campus safety statistics. On a more fun note you should see what kind of clubs and societies as they have (maybe you fancy scuba diving?) as well recreational sports. As important as studying is, you are actually supposed to enjoy yourself at college.
Admissions & Essays
You’ve fallen in love with X college and have already started daydreaming about your life there… At this point it’s time to take a look at those admissions requirements. There are application deadlines and entry requirements to consider, some of which vary depending on which course you are applying to. No one said it was going to be easy.
However (and this is a big however), there are things to help make the admissions process run more smoothly. Take essay topics as an example. Many college websites have a page where you can view the current year’s essay topics and even previous year’s essay topics. Similar to the ‘About Us’ page, essay topics reveals the types of students a university is seeking, therefore it’s advisable to get guidelines on how to write an admission essay. You can usually choose one or two from a selection of questions so have a read and then let your ideas percolate for a few days and see which ones rise to the top.
As with any great undertaking, the key to finding the perfect college for you lies in the preparation. By working your way through the pertinent sections of a college’s website from the general information to the courses offered and a portrait of college life you will be able to make a truly informed decision. Following these tips will not only save you time, they will help you to avoid a repetitive strain injury to your mouse hand from endless scrolling. It’s a win win.