Figuring out where you want to go to college takes a lot of research. Before you can start comparing undergrad schools, you need to dig out some details about different colleges. Here are some resources to help you gather information for the next step in your education:
- College Web sites: On a college Web site, you can view the campus, look at dorm rooms, examine the curriculum of academic programs, look at scholarships, costs, and financial aid information, and see what clubs and activities are offered. You can also check into core requirements or general education requirements you have to take once you enroll in college. A great search tool to use on a college's Web site is its "Common Data Set," which gives you access to a wide range of information, including what factors they use in admissions, what majors students apply to, how many students are offered waitlist positions, and much other useful data. To obtain the information contained in this important tool, search for "Common Data Set" in the college's search field. A more streamlined place to access important admissions information is the "Freshman Profile" or "Entering Class Profile." Here you find the average GPA for accepted students, the middle 50 percent of SAT/ACT scores, the number of students who were admitted, and other useful information.
- Campus visits: Taking a tour of campus is one of the best ways to determine which college is right for you. If at all possible, visit campuses before you apply.
- College fairs: College fairs are a fun and easy way to explore many different colleges at one time. You can talk to college representatives, put your name on a mailing list, and obtain phone numbers and e-mails from college representatives to ask further questions. Bring preprinted mailing labels with your name, address, and e-mail address, so you don't have to fill out individual requests for more information.
- College guides: Some guides are written by the College Board, Princeton Review, Peterson's, Kaplan, and other companies, and some are distributed by independent counselors and professional writers. The information in these books is based on input from surveys of college admissions directors or college students, or from objective or subjective research.
- College rankings: College rankings can be helpful, but they can also be misleading. Parents are generally impressed and rely heavily on these rankings, whereas guidance counselors are usually not so impressed because some of the indicators used to determine the rankings can be manipulated. Many colleges like to see their ranking position move up each year, so they spend a lot of time and money to ensure that their college is highly ranked. Other colleges have decided not to participate in the survey which is used to determine the rankings, because some of the indicators used to compose the rankings are based on how much money alumni give, SAT/ACT scores, and other factors which can be manipulated.
- College mailings: If you answered "yes" on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT registration forms or answer sheets to receive mailings, prepare for a downpour of college literature. If you haven't yet filled out the registration forms or boxes, and don't want to be inundated with mail, simply check "no."