Researching Colleges: A Deep Dive

Why researching schools is vital

When it comes to researching colleges, let this be your guiding rule: the more research you put in, the better the outcome. Many students transfer to a different university after their first year, or even first semester, which can turn into a headache that requires starting the process over again. By putting in the extra effort now, you can start your college career in the right place!

Follow these college researching tips and discover your ideal college.

Narrow down your interests

One of the best first steps you can take when researching colleges is figuring out what you’re interested in studying. Whether it’s biology, economics, English, psychology or another field of study, having an idea of what you’d like to pursue academically, even if it’s just a broad subject, can help simplify your college search. If you’re not ready to settle on a major, you’re not alone; think about which subjects you enjoy most in school and use that as your starting point. Sure, it’s important to find a campus and city that has the right feel, but colleges’ academic departments also differentiate them in important ways.

Evaluate academic departments

While there are many great “all around” schools that have solid programs in many areas, it’s only natural that some colleges’ programs are stronger than others.

So how do you sift through all the information and hone in on the right college for you?

Visit the academic department websites of your schools of interest and read all you can. Some important details to look out for include:

  • The department’s mission statement
  • How the department describes its undergraduate programs
  • Professional opportunities and outcomes (internships, postgrad earning potential, etc.)
  • Student to teacher ratio
  • Student organization opportunities

Next, check social media to see if there are any department-specific groups or pages. These pages often provide real-time updates on events, enrollment, new courses and other announcements, giving you a peek into what it may be like to be part of the program.

Reach out to professors and students

Perhaps the best way to get an in-depth feel for daily life on campus and within specific departments is to reach out to professors and students. This may seem a bit daunting at first, but the admissions department at the college will be happy to connect you with someone who can answer your questions.

First, reach out to a professor and ask them a question about the department (e.g., “How much opportunity is there for undergraduate research?”). You can follow that conversation up by asking the admissions department to connect you with a student in the department. Once you get in touch with a current student you can ask questions about classes, internship opportunities, class sizes and anything else that paints a picture of campus life.

By doing your due diligence and envisioning exactly where you’d like to fit in on campus, you can save yourself time (and money) and begin a successful college journey right where you belong!

One unique way you can virtually visit campuses is during Wisconsin Private College Week. Click here to learn more and register: http://www.wisconsinsprivatecolleges.org/visit/register-private-college-week-visit

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