How to Research a College

Like looking into a microscope and finding what you need, research colleges will help you decide if the school is right for you

Flickr user Airman Magazine

During your search for the right college for you, you will absolutely want to look more into each school before you apply. What should you be looking for? Here’s how you should research a college.

Check out the basics when you research a college

Once a college has made your college list, double check those basics. Does it fit everything you need and want in a school? How does it stack up to the others on your list? Review your major, location, size of the college, and cost. Does it seem like a good fit for you? You may want to weed out the ones you simply wrote down because they looked “okay.”

Look closely at the acceptance rate

Each school has an acceptance rate. Some schools may be more difficult to get into than others, so be very honest with yourself about your acceptance chances. Review what they’re looking for in a student, including the most important factors: SAT and ACT scores, high school GPAs, and extracurricular activities. How good are your chances of being accepted?

Now, that’s not to say just because you don’t perfectly fit what the college is looking for, that you shouldn’t compromise and apply. You may be pleasantly surprised and get into your dream school even if you don’t 100% meet the requirements. Your SAT score may not have been that great, but your GPA may make up for that. Consider all angles before you absolutely dismiss a school from your list and your chances of being accepted.

What does your major look like?

Each college and university on your list should have your intended major. However, each program may be slightly different. Visit the school’s website and look at the course requirements for your intended major as well as general education classes.

While some schools have your desired major, the courses may not actually be in line with what career you have in mind.

Look at life on campus

While a school may look good on paper, it may not be the best choice for your personality. Talking to alumni or current students, or reading what they have to say online, can give you a great window into what living and learning at the college is like. Consider college fit factors like housing, extracurricular activities, clubs, the town, and more.

Look at the numbers

Another aspect of a college you will want to research is the numbers after you’re accepted. Comparing colleges with their first year retention rate, graduation rates, career rates (how many students entered into their desired career field after graduation), diversity, and student to faculty ratio can tell you a lot about the school. Do students seem happy after their first year and stay at the school? How does the college stack up to other schools and as a stepping stone to your career?

These are only some of the things you should be looking for when you research a school. Your own technique may vary slightly, but you definitely want to keep a look out on all these things. Visiting the school’s website can be a great tool, but remember to branch out.

College Raptor’s school pages each have detailed information on cost, admissions, rankings, and more, and can give you a more personalized look at your college matches. Use your free account to view your acceptance odds at any college, to estimate the amount in scholarships you could receive from a school, and get matched to colleges you might not have considered!

Once you think you’ve got a good fit, it’s time to schedule a visit!


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