Researching Colleges

With the vast resources of the Internet and the increasing availability of college fairs, open houses, school visits, and the like, students and parents are more likely to suffer from an overload of data rather than from a lack of it.  Here is a process that will help you make sense of it all:

1. Have a family discussion about the college characteristics that are most important to you and your family.  Size and location are very important to many students, but availability of major, selectivity, reputation, availability of financial aid, and personal fit are critical factors as well.  Narrow down your college possibilities according to the one or two criteria that are essential to you.  If you can’t settle on the characteristics you’re looking for, try visiting a couple of local colleges, and ask yourself afterward what you liked and what you didn’t.  This may help you define those college characteristics that are most significant to you.

2. Use a search engine such as Collegeboard.org or Princetonreview.com (see “Helpful College Websites”).  By typing in one or two preferences, these websites will provide a list of colleges that meet your major criteria.  Put these colleges on your “search list” and concentrate your research on these, but be open to other possibilities as you refine your search.

3. Begin researching the colleges on your search list.  Along with the actual process of applying, this will consume most of your time.  The good news is that there are many resources available to help you with this.  Here are a few:

  • Printed material. There is wealth of such material in the Guidance Office, and a lot will also come in the mail.  This category includes view books, catalogs, and brochures, either about the colleges generally or about specific programs or majors in which you might be interested.
  • College websites.  Visit the websites of the colleges you’re interested in.  Although you’ll get a lot of information about the school on the admissions link, you’ll find out even more by accessing web pages on student life, academics, and financial aid.  Browse and take notes!
  • College Fairs and Open Houses.  These resources give you access to campuses and to college representatives, both of which are sources of information that you can’t access in any other way.  When you visit, be prepared with questions.  Information about college fairs is often disseminated by email to Catholic High students or posted on Edline and Naviance. Colleges post open house dates on their websites. Find that information by going to the admissions link for the college(s) in which you are interested.
  • Your guidance counselor.   He or she has been helping students get into college and learning about what is important to them.  Your counselor talks to school reps and visits colleges, and so is knowledgeable about their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t let all of that knowledge go to waste!
  • Guidebooks such as those from Peterson, Barrons, or Princeton Review. You can obtain these in almost any book store, in the guidance office, or at the school library.

Visits from College Representatives. Admissions counselors from various colleges and universities visit Catholic High throughout the fall and winter. They are knowledgeable about their schools and can answer most of your questions.  Listen for announcements and check the Naviance website to see which colleges are visiting when.