We have the ability to research anything within seconds. Sometimes it can get overwhelming and the starting point unclear. We hear about how many colleges are out there and how many options we have, but how do you find them? And how do you research a college in a state you have never been to before? How do you know a college is a good “fit” when they all start to sound the same? For my rising seniors looking for colleges to apply to, or for any student wanting to explore college options, take a look at some of my favorite online college exploration resources.
Unigo – Think of this as a “yelp” for college. Just like Yelp, colleges are reviewed on a first-hand experience from the students who have attended or are attending the institution. So while all colleges may seem to sound the same (i.e. clubs, Greek life, access to professors, sports teams, research and study abroad opportunities, etc.) Unigo lets students explore the “vibe” of a campus, the stereotypes, food and dorm ratings, campus facilities, ratings for nearby shops, extracurricular activities, off-campus housing and more. Dive a little deeper and hear from students. As with Yelp I caution students to read multiple reviews to get a bigger picture.
College Express – I found College Express through a fellow colleague’s resource page. I’ll tag him here because he is also a WEALTH of information and I encourage you to check out his website here: College Essay Guy. The reason why College Express is such a wonderful college exploration tool is because of their lists. You may be familiar with U.S. News & World Report’s College Rankings. Rankings can be misleading, cause anxiety and overwhelmingly make it seem like there are only a few “good” schools available. This just is not true. College Express has lists broken up by interest, learning styles, academic and social experience and so much more. Here are a few examples of some of the lists you could explore: Colleges for students needing a second change. 10 colleges that get Greek life right. Colleges for the artist who doesn’t want to go to art school. 10 cool colleges for entrepreneurs.
Google Maps – This one might seem out of place, but I promise it’s a powerful tool. It can be hard to have faith that a college is a good “fit” for you when have never visited the campus. Google maps has the amazing ability to help create a vision of not just the campus, but its surroundings. Put the university in the search engine and zoom out a little. What do you see? Museums? Mountains? Access to a metro station that takes you into town? Where is the closest airport? What is the population of the town around campus? What does the closest town have? Google maps can help paint a bigger picture, use it and explore.
CollegeView – This is a simple search site, but I love it because there are so many categories. Any student can get really specific by putting in more criteria. Search by location, major, Greek life (or schools with no Greek life), GLBT-friendly, college town, school size, school type, access to urban environments and more. The higher percentage a school has, the more criteria it meets.
YouVisit – Not every college is on You Visit but quite a large amount are and it is a wonderful resource. YouVisit allows you the opportunity to take a virtual tour of campus and here from a recorded tour guide. Take a tour of the science facilities, learn more specific facts about a brand new gym and just explore a little more. It can be tough to decide where to take a college tour and you may not get to travel all over, but this is a free accessible resource as your fingertips.
Western Undergraduate Exchange – The Western Undergraduate Exchange is an amazing resource to search for affordable out-of-state options. A lot of my families will automatically take an out-of-state school off the table purely because of cost. The initial “sticker price” of tuition can be shocking, especially out of state. Western Undergraduate Exchange offers a list of colleges in various Western states who offer a reduced tuition rate to qualifying neighboring states. All my California students, that means you. Here’s an example: Source: wue.wiche.edu Take a look at qualifying institutions and any additional requirements needed to qualify.
University of Hawaii, Manoa: Out of state student pays $28,632. WUE students pay $14,760.
After you research, see if you can visit a college campus. If you can’t get away to a different state look within a few hours of your home. Odds are you can find a few different campuses to explore (private, public, large, small, religious, institute, etc.) Even if you plan on going out of state, the value of touring a college and looking closer at programs is immeasurable. This is the fun part, so have fun throughout the search process!