How to Focus Your College Research

Now that colleges have cancelled information sessions and tours, what students learn about colleges virtually has become more important than in the past.

Each person will have his or her individual list of preferences and areas of importance, whether it includes climate, community service or work/study and research opportunities or the emphasis is on size, geography and physical layout of the campus; academics; and/or social life. 

No matter who you are, the following are some points to consider for each school you research:

  1. First things first: What are your “must haves” on a college campus? Does this college offer them? 
  2. Identify academic path(s) of interest to you. Does the college offer the specific area or areas of focus/concentration of interest to you? 
  3. If you are undecided, what about the curriculum appeals to you? (see no 3 below)
  4. Whether you are undecided or not, what are the required kinds of classes that you have to take? Is there a core curriculum? Are there foundation or distribution or general classes? Which ones are of interest? Will you have to take classes in subjects that you are less interested in to fulfill education requirements? 
  5. What is the college’s approach to academics – purely liberal arts? pre-professional? hybrid? Does it depend on the area of study?
  6. What are the political leanings of the campus/student body? Do they match your personal beliefs and level of activism? 
  7. Are there professors with whom you would like to study and specific coursework within the majors(s) you are considering, or, if you are undecided, are there classes and professors that interest you in general?
  8. Where do students live? What are the residential options? On-campus or off? Do students move off campus after a year or two?
  9. What does the college do to integrate freshmen into campus life: orientation programs, learning and living communities, etc.? 
  10. What are the clubs/extracurricular activities in which you would like to participate? 
  11. What do current students like/dislike about campus?
  12. What do students do on the weekends?
  13. What is the role of Greek life on campus? How do you feel about it? 
  14. What are the internships/career options and advising through your major or in general? Do you expect to take advantage of these resources? 
  15. Overall, what makes this college distinctive to you? 
  16. Why will you apply/not apply to this college (be specific)?