How To Research Colleges: Advice from HECA Members
Where should you start your college search, and how can you sort out the differences between colleges and universities? Here are some tips from members of the Higher Education Consultants Association:
Use all of the resources available to you in researching (college rep, college visit and information session, books, internet sites, talking with friends), BUT be sure to carefully evaluate each bit of information from your own experience and perspective. Some information may even be conflicting and you may have to dig deeper or ask more questions to discern the truth and relevance.
Many of the college guidebooks don’t have the most recent admissions statistics. Often, a student will consult one of these guides and get a false sense of security about their chances because they’re looking at data that is a year or more out of date. To ascertain the most up-to-date details on average GPA, class rank, median SAT/ACT scores and other pertinent details, go to the college’s website and find the Freshman Class Profile for the college’s most recent incoming class. These are the students sitting in the college’s classrooms right now that have been accepted and matriculated most recently. These are also the real students at the college that the prospective student needs to compare himself or herself to. Doing so will help them be more realistic about their chances, and help them build a better-targeted college list.
Insiders Network to College
Summit, New Jersey
One of the most powerful ways to determine a college is a match is to step onto campus. If you are like many students, however, your tendency during your visit will be to ask vague questions for which you will receive the standard answers. If you want the truth about a college, get specific. Instead of, “Are students around on weekends?” ask, “When was the last time you went home?” Repeat the question whenever you meet a new student. Instead of, “Have you enjoyed your professors?,” ask, “Who is your favorite professor and why?” Finally, if you feel your tour guide is not representing the college well, peel away from the tour. Don’t allow the power of your decision to rest with one student.
Listen to your gut when you visit colleges. Pay attention to how you feel on each campus. I know that sounds a little unconventional, but I do believe that being attuned to how you feel and how you react to an environment is important. Look around you: Are these people you’d like to get to know? Are students and others making eye-contact with you?
Judith P. Mackenzie
Mackenzie College Consulting
There are lots of great colleges out there and tons of information to help you find the perfect ones for your list. But, sometimes all of the glossy brochures, cool Web sites, guidebooks, and campus tours can become a blur. To help remember what you liked and didn’t like, make a list of 3 pros and 3 cons for each school directly after researching or visiting it. (Warning: Don’t put this off until later!) Your “like/don’t like” list will also come in handy after your college choice list is complete and it’s time to write those “Why Our College?” essays.
Mathews College Consulting
Bedford, New Hampshire
About the Higher Education Consultant Association (HECA) HECA is a member-run professional organization for independent educational consultants. HECA members are familiar with a wide range of colleges and are experts at helping students with their college searches.
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Photo Credit: Carolee Gravina, Used with permission.