College is a life changing experience, and you want to make sure it is a positive experience by choosing the college that is right for you. There are many guides and books ranking schools using various indicators, and we encourage you to look beyond the typical "US News and World Report" rankings.
Of course, the best method for choosing a school is actually visiting the school. Arranging a visit, spending the night in the dorm, and eating at the cafeteria will probably be more useful than any guide.
Here are some of the resources we think should help you in your search:
- Read each brochure and viewbook with a grain of salt; remember, schools are trying to sell themselves to you.
- Use the schools website to your advantage. Preview the campus, check out organization websites, check out the cafeteria menu for the week, and find the student forum and see what students talk about (Although beware of anonymous forums! They can get vicious.).
- Read over the college's course catalog, either online or on paper. Look for interesting classes and build yourself a potential first semester schedule.
- How does that schedule match with your expectations?
- If you have particular interests or talent in an art, sport, or anything else, contact the specific department to find out more information.
- Also, be sure to speak with students from the schools you are interested in. With the Telementoring Program, mentors can refer you to contacts they have at a variety of schools.
- Some advice we give you about visiting the campus is to always visit the campus before you make your final decision to accept the school. You definitely do not want to commit yourself to a school without visiting only to transfer a year later.
- Spend the night in the freshman dorms to get a feel for what your first year would be like.
- Definitely check out the cafeteria and have dinner or lunch. Some schools have mediocre food, others are known for fine college cuisine.
- Come prepared with a list of questions to ask. We know you'll have plenty, a list of your most important ones will make sure you won't forget to ask them.
- If you're not from the area, visit the nearby community by going to eat at a restaurant or going for a walk. Obviously there will be a difference between a large city and a small college town.
- Make sure you have in mind what you want, and determine if the college fits YOUR needs.
Like we said earlier, there is a variety of resources out there, make sure to check out some different guides like:
- The Fisk Guide to Colleges - Edward B. Fisk
- Looking Beyond the Ivy League - Loren Pope
- Colleges that Change Lives - Loren Pope
- Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges - Frederick E. Rugg
Another more "in-depth" guide is:
- The Insider's Guide to the Colleges - The Yale Daily News- This guide is written by students for students and "May not be suitable reading for thoughtful parents not fully attuned to the widest spectrum of student behavior in the early 21st century."
These are some useful articles and links that look at different aspects of the college search process. They might be an eye opener!
- "The Washington Monthly College Guide" - Offers a look at how colleges rank in terms of community and public service.
- "Is a dream college worth waiting for?" - This article looks at accepting a spring admission decision.