I recently went through a college search of my own. While my first college search (as a high school student) was over a decade ago, this past spring I was excited to research colleges to find my next professional adventure in the field of undergraduate admissions. So, high school juniors and seniors (and maybe even younger students), I get what you’re going through—and it can be overwhelming! It’s a big decision, after all, and so this is one of your most important research projects while you’re in high school. I’m here to share my tips for learning about different colleges.
1. Think about what you’re looking for—this is a big one!! Do you want a smaller community of ~2,000 undergraduates, or significantly more, like 40,000? Do you want access to seminar-styled classrooms, or large lecture halls? Do you want to live on campus all four years, or off-campus in an apartment/house? Do you want a more focused curriculum in your major, or a liberal arts education that encourages interdisciplinary learning? Big city access? Near or close to home? There are so many colleges and universities, so you can start to narrow that list by thinking about what’s important to you for your college experience.
2. Start with the basics—my first resource in researching universities is their websites, and specifically the ‘About’ section. This gives me a good sense of the macro details—size of student body, location, popular majors and academic options, housing, sports, and important admissions data. For Tufts, you’ll learn there are 5,500 undergrads (medium-sized!), it’s located just outside of Boston, MA, and is composed of the School of Arts & Sciences, School of Engineering, and the SMFA. It’s a selective institution, offering admission to ~15% of applicants.
3. Find student voice—dig deeper than the institution’s website, and try to find current student voice and perspectives. Reading about student experiences will help you understand what your day-to-day life might look like. Many universities publish student blogs (read Jumbo Talk HERE), and you can read student newspapers, or student magazines. Tufts publishes JUMBO Magazine 3 times a year that features students, classes, and professors…and much of the content is written by students!
4. Get on campus if possible—after I did a lot of research about Tufts and other schools online, it was time to get onto campus. Walking around the academic buildings, seeing students, and talking to community members was a great way to envision myself here. But if you can’t get to campus, you can still contact current students to ask questions, or take a virtual tour to see what it looks like.
5. Think about fit—sure, a school may check a lot of boxes for you: the right size, the right location, the right major. But the most important question is about fit—does this campus feel like it could become your home for four years? Does the vibe attract you and excite you? Do you feel that you can connect with other students and faculty members during your time? In the end, the name of the college is a lot less important than the experience you’ll have, so you want to make sure that you find the right fit.
College searching can be daunting. There are so many fantastic institutions around the country, with each one offering unique experiences. If you start by thinking about what you want, you can craft a thoughtful list of places that check important boxes, and go from there. Carve out some time to read blogs, websites, and student publications as if you were working on a school project. And ask questions. We, along with many of our colleagues across the field, are here to help.