How to gather information about colleges
Where to look
Now that you know what to find out about each college, how do you go about getting the information? This process has several steps.
Surf the web
If you have access to the Internet, a great place to start your college search is by surfing the web. Most colleges have websites and most are easy to find, since URLs are usually a variation of the college’s name followed by “.edu,” such as www.unt.edu. If an abbreviation for the college doesn’t work, try a variation or use a web search engine to find its home page. You can also visit a central site that lists websites for colleges and universities, such as www.utexas.edu/world/univ.
Most colleges’ websites will provide general information about the school, the majors offered, admission requirements and many other topics of interest to prospective students. Most will also have some photographs of the campus, a campus map and major websites such as the catalog and class schedules.
A few will have virtual campus tours or a video available online.
UNT's award-winning website has a wealth of information about the university's academic programs and departments, admissions requirements, residence halls and college life. You may also look at the college catalog and class schedules, correspond with faculty and staff members, or book a campus tour online.
Obtain college websites
You may have heard that you should call colleges and ask for their catalogs. That’s great if you’re an extremely serious student who wants to know exactly what courses you’ll take for your degree and what you’ll learn in each course. But college catalogs are dry documents full of information best digested much later in the process. Also, most colleges charge several dollars for their catalogs, so you may be spending money unnecessarily.
Tip: Many colleges have their catalogs and class schedules available online, so you can look at them free if you have Internet access.
It’s best to call or write colleges, tell them you’re thinking of enrolling and ask them to send you some printed information. This information is free. You’ll usually get a viewbook (a brochure or booklet with lots of photos and some descriptive information about the institution) and perhaps a letter or application for admission. Often, you’ll get a form to fill out if you want additional information. This form will give you a chance to ask for specific items such as brochures on your major interests, scholarship and financial aid information, and residence hall websites.
If your high school offers a College Night, be sure to attend. You can pick up many publications without having to wait for them to come in the mail.
When you get the information, read it carefully, looking for answers to the questions outlined earlier. If you don’t find the answers, call or visit the campus and ask.
Compare your choices
The best way to compare several colleges is to make a list of the things that are most important to you and see how each of the colleges you’re considering meets each criterion. This is a list that only you can make. What is vital to you? Location? Cost? Availability of a particular major? Leadership opportunities? Many activities? If it helps, you can divide your list into sections — extremely important, important, somewhat important — to help you assess each one’s value to you.
Make your list before you start seriously comparing colleges. Then it’s easy to turn your list into a chart, filling in College A, College B, College C, etc., to see how each meets your criteria.
Two important criteria are entrance requirements and cost. Are your grades and test scores high enough for you to be accepted at a selective institution? Be sure to have alternate choices in case you’re not accepted. Unless money is no problem, cost is another important factor to consider. No matter how much you may want to attend a certain institution, you must be able to pay for it. You can apply for scholarships and financial aid, but you should be realistic about your ability to pay the necessary tuition and fees, plus books and related costs such as room and board.
We provide sample comparison charts, but remember that it’s better to create your own after you decide what college attributes are most important to you. The more you personalize your college search process, the more likely it is that you’ll find the perfect place for you. When you’ve completed this process, you may be able to narrow your list of possible colleges — or at least rank them in order of your current preference.
Visit the campus
After you’ve narrowed your list to two or three colleges, the next step is to visit them. Visiting a college is the best way to find out what it’s really like. Most Texas high school seniors are allowed a certain number of days to visit college campuses. Take advantage of this opportunity.
You can research colleges for months, but there’s nothing like visiting a campus in person to really know what the place is all about. Strolling the grounds gives you the “feel” of the campus and its students, but the best way to conduct your visit is to arrange in advance a guided tour and a chat with faculty members in your major area of study. You may also check out the residence halls and talk to the admissions staff, financial aid representatives and other pertinent officials. Try to talk to some currently enrolled students, too, to get their insight.
Many students find it important to make these visits independently; others prefer to bring along a parent or other adult. This decision depends on your own personal situation; think about which is the right choice for you.
By the end of your campus visit, you’ll have a good idea of whether that particular institution is right for you.
UNT offers free, student-guided campus tours year-round (except holidays). To reserve a space in a group tour or to make an appointment to visit with admissions staff members, call 940-565-4104 or sign up for a tour online.
Attend events for prospective students
Many colleges have special events for prospective students several times a year. These events generally provide more information than you’ll get on a tour and give you a chance to meet other students who plan to attend the university. These events are often organized by the admissions staff or by student groups to answer typical questions about admissions, campus life, professors, academic programs, class scheduling, residence hall life, advising, scholarships, financial aid and registering for classes.
If you can, it’s a good idea to attend. You’ll meet key people at the college and learn how to navigate the admissions process and how to get set up for your first semester. Chances are, you’ll learn more about college in a few hours than you ever thought you could.