Most college websites are chock full of useful information if you know what to look for. Whether you are a junior just beginning your research or a senior with several acceptances in hand, these tips might help you get some answers.
1. News You Can Use – Look at the news on the home page to see if the college seems like a lively, active place. It’s a positive sign if faculty, alumni and student work and research are highlighted and if interesting guests are visiting campus. Suffolk University does this effectively on their home page.
2. Videos: The Next Best Thing to Being There – Most colleges and universities are taking full advantage of YouTube and usually have a link to videos from the home page (or you can find them using the site search box). If you have yet to visit and are looking for an overview of the college or a preview of campus aesthetics, look for a general admissions video. The University of Rochester has a few very good admissions videos: enrollment.rochester.edu.
3. Home Page Navigation – Take a look at the home page menu. You will typically see headings such as Academics, Student Life, Admissions, Research, and About Us. Peruse these tabs, noticing that there will be information for prospective students and current students. The prospective tab will tell you about admissions and what to expect if you come to the college; however, you are more likely to find detailed information on the current student tab so visit both. The “About” page is ideal for getting fast facts such as enrollment, gender distribution and other demographic information and also learning about the college’s values and ethics.
4. Colleges and Majors – Notice that a university is made up of a series of colleges such as the College of Arts and Sciences, the (big donor name) Business College, Engineering, Nursing and so on. If you are unsure of your major, it might be useful to look through the various colleges and see what they have to offer. Likewise, look at the majors and be sure there are a wide range that are in line with your interests. Explore further by clicking into the academic department web page to get more detail about that major, required courses and associated opportunities such as undergraduate research (it’s not just for science) and internships.
5. What’s Happening? – In addition to the news on the home page, take a look at the calendar to see what events are taking place during the semester. Are there a wide variety of events to appeal to a range of student interests? Colleges offer everything from musical performances and comedians, to famous guest lecturers and social events such as dance parties or athletic contests. Here is the daily events calendar at Dartmouth: https://home.dartmouth.edu/events
6. What Will You Join? – Research shows that the college students who make the smoothest transition during first semester are those who join a club or organization. Take a look at the list of clubs and organizations and identify at least three that you might want to explore. Check out the offerings at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.
7. Academic Extras That Really Matter! – A first-year seminar that helps students get ready for college-level writing is one of the most important courses most college students will take. Check out the options either in the online course catalog or the English department webpage. Here are some offered by Vanderbilt: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/cas/docs/FYWS.pdf. Investigate if the college has overall requirements (usually under the “Academics” tab) that you must take (sometimes these are called general requirements or distribution requirements). Be sure there are many options in line with your interests and learning style. Check out the academic support offerings — are writing centers and tutoring services provided? Most colleges will offer a range of services such as these at the University of Massachusetts. If you have a learning disability or attention or related issue, contact disability services to be sure they can meet your needs.
8. Everything You Need to Know: Admissions – The undergraduate admissions page is where you will get answers to all your questions about how to apply and how to arrange a campus visit. This section will sometimes tell you the name of the admissions counselor that reads applications for students from your state or region in case you have a specific question.
9. Advising, Counseling and Career – A strong advising program from freshman year is essential to getting the most out of college—you can find out more under the “Academics” or “Campus Life” tabs. Find out if the career center is open to you from freshman year. Peruse the health and counseling services pages to be sure the offerings meet your needs. If you are particular about dorm life, visit the housing page under student life to learn more about the options.
10. Get More Information – If you like what you learned about the college from your tour of the site, add yourself to the mailing list. This is typically found on the admissions page and might be on a button that says “Request Information.” This will ensure you will be invited to events if the college visits your area. It also lets the college know you are interested, which can help them take your application more seriously.