In the past few months I have been driving around dozens of college campuses, in search of a school where I will be happy at studying as an undergraduate. The process has been very lengthy thus far, and certain resources have made finding the right information a lot easier. Essentially the admissions office at any school is the sales team for their institution, and almost all of the schools today start sending out information e-mails and brochures years before fall of senior year. A lot of the brochures are helpful to understand some of the statistical information at each school, but I’ve found that nothing replaces the individual conversations with students on campus or student review sites. The most insightful information that I have come across is through little tips on college tours while school is in session. Seeing and hearing students interacting on campus is the best way to understand if the students at the school are the people you would enjoy being friends with for the next few years.
For the times when you need more in depth information about either the questions many people are afraid to ask, or just want a second opinion on a certain issue, the web has become an excellent resource.
My favorite site that provides up to date and straightforward information is Unigo.com. Pronounced “uni-go”, the site launched a couple years ago with a mission to bypass the misinformation told in college information guides and offer valuable student reviews. Each school has a general overview written by one of the Unigo editors, then visitors can navigate to the individual opinions from current and former students. They have recently partnered with The Wall Street Journal to provide various video segments on a wide array of topics in the college admissions process. Similar informational sites based around student reviews include StuVu.com and CollegeProwler.com.
One interesting resource that a I stumbled upon a few months ago is the service named WiseChoice. The service works similar to a dating site profile, where you answer several thorough questionnaires about your likes and dislikes. Personally, I haven’t used the site extensively but they claim to match you with the best school for your needs.
Many students know about these sites today, and ask why colleges would bother sending informational brochures in the mail and email invites to open houses when that surely costs the institution a great deal of money. In reality the schools are actually very capable of affording these promotions. Go figure: School X sends out information book, total cost $1. Student applies to school, school generates $50 for application fee. The ROI is pretty substantial, especially if the student chooses to enroll.