Well, the first thing you can do is explore the institution’s website in depth. Keep a notebook handy and write down your initial impressions.
What kind of feeling do you get when browsing through their website? What type of academic environment do they seem to be promoting? Rigorous and scholarly? Laid back and jovial? Sports-centered? Technologically superior?
What is the school’s mission statement and vision? Does the feel of the site align with this mission? Do their values line up with your own?
Explore the website further. Take a look at their academics section. Which disciplines is the school known for? Are the subjects you are interested in a major part of the academic offerings or are they focused on other areas? Take a look at the professors in those same subjects. Where are their degrees from and what is the highest degree held? Are they distinguished scholars or published researchers? Google some of them and find out projects they have worked on in the past.
Take a look at their athletic department. Is this a school with a lot of pride and spirit? Which sports do they excel in?
If sports are not your thing, take a look through the clubs and organizations. Do they have at least two activities you can see yourself getting involved in from the start of your freshman year?
What else is taking place on campus? Take a look at recent news posts or highlights. Look through their calendar and lists of events. Is there anything that you would be interested in participating in?
Let’s move away from their main page and see what else we can find on the Internet about them. Go ahead and Google them and flip through a few pages of images. What is your overall impression now?
Let’s take a look at YouTube. Browse through student submitted videos to get a feel for the types of students who are attending classes there. Now take a look to see if the school has an official YouTube page. Watch some interviews, speeches, and presentations. Listen to what the students and faculty have to say. Can you see yourself taking classes with these professors? Do they seem approachable? How about the students? Are they the types of people you could work on projects with in class, study with in the library, and/or hang out with on the weekends?
Next, let’s see if we can find a virtual campus tour to get a feeling of the overall layout of the campus. This week I had the chance to explore a number of websites that offer virtual tours. On FreeCollegeAdvice you will find a brief description of the websites that offer virtual tours and the pros and cons of each.
What exactly are we looking for from these virtual tours? We want to see if we can get a feel of the campus layout.
How are their facilities? Do they look like they invest money in the upkeep of the grounds and buildings? How about inside of the classrooms? Do they look like they are up to date with the most recent technology and laboratories?
What about the campus in general? Can you see yourself walking to class across the campus, hanging out in one of the parks, or chatting in a stairwell?
Be sure to keep notes during this process. You may even wish to create a chart with features you are looking for and assign a number based on how they fare.
If you are interested in learning more about what to look for in a college, tips for campus visits, or other ideas for comparing colleges, be sure to access FreeCollegeAdvice to find out more!
Remember, you are going to be spending four years of your life in this campus environment. The more research you do now, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to choosing which school environment is best for you when those acceptance letters start arriving!