Researching Colleges Online

How to start researching colleges and what to look for

20+ years ago when I applied to college, the Internet didn’t exist. We had to research schools at the library using books or send away for brochures. We even had to go to college fairs. Times have changed. You can visit any school in the country without leaving your house and you now have access to almost every particular piece of information you could possibly require on a school. Although you cannot find out what the school is really like socially online, you can get detailed info on housing options, academic programs, enrollment, test scores, social events, clubs, the surrounding area of schools and much more. While it is not a substitute for visiting a school in person, it is a start in the right direction.

What can you find out about a college in 5 minutes? Let’s see…

How many students attend the college? We can’t tell you what size of school to go to. Some students go to small high schools and want to go to a college with 40,000 kids so they can tailgate on Saturdays! Others want to go to a small college where you can walk to every building and get to know many people. Do not dismiss any college because of size before you have had an opportunity to understand how that college operates.

What is the religion of the school? Some people are very religious, others aren’t. The religion of a school can affect the classes you take as many Jesuit schools require students to take more religion classes.

How many students apply, are accepted and enroll each year? You need to get a sense of how competitive a college is because that is ultimately going to determine if you can gain acceptance there. When a college receives 20,000 applications and can only accept 4,000 because 2,000 will enroll, there’s going to be 16,000 students who thought they would be accepted but lost to a numbers game.

Where is the college located? Some colleges are in the middle of nowhere and you need to entertain yourself at the school. Others are plunked down right in the middle of big cities and you have opportunities to get out into the world. You also need to factor in things like safety as well as how you are physically going to get to and home from school each semester.

What majors do they offer? You should go to school to learn something. If you have no idea what you want to do, look at liberal arts schools that teach a wide variety of subjects. If you have your heart set on being an accountant, go to a college that has a strong business and accounting program!

What majors or programs is the school well-known for? Some colleges are well-known for certain majors. Fairfield University has a pretty well-known business program. Bentley University is well-known for their computer science majors. Drexel University is known for their nursing program. Georgetown has a pretty good English program.

What are the living situations? You are going to be living in a dorm for at least 2 or 3 years. Explore what different living options exist and who has access to those. Some schools put freshman in one or two dorms, others spread all the students out.

What are the eating options. Food has improved greatly at college. Some schools have outsourced a lot of their dining services to different chains and most schools are making an effort to have more dining options available for students.

How big (or small) is the campus? Freshman year of college I traveled to Rutgers with my roommate to visit one of his friends for the weekend. We had to take a bus from his dorm to another part of the campus. It wasn’t my thing! I wasn’t a big school guy! I wanted to be able to walk from dorms, to classes to dining halls at my own discretion rather than wait for a bus. To each is own.

What recreational opportunities are there? Colleges have built vast recreational opportunities the last 10+ years in order to attract students. We are talking amazing gyms and rec centers, indoor climbing walls, golf simulators, movie theaters and so on. Since you will be so busy as a college athlete, you won’t have any time for those. Just kidding. Check out what you can do on your down-time at different colleges, especially those where it is going to snow or be cold in the winter.

While this is basic information, it is useful information and gives me a general understanding of what the school offers. Again, this was done with little effort and had I actually been a potential student, hopefully I would have explored the school further by looking at different housing options, majors, social activities and so forth.

The same techniques can and should be used to research different athletic programs by checking out coaches bio’s and backgrounds, team schedules, and most important, the roster. A roster can tell you a great deal about a team. A roster usually reveals two very important elements of a college athletic program. (1) Where the majority of the players are from tells you where the most recruiting is done. (2) A roster also reveals the ages of the players and what the team needs will be for the next few years. If you find a roster with 10 seniors, that will be 10 new spots opening up next year. If you find a roster with 10 freshman and 10 sophomores, that may be a team that will be harder to find playing time in the future. Again, its up to you to find out the details of each team and in most cases this will require you to have a detailed conversation with coaches and simply asking them what their team needs will be next year and in the future. Don’t ever make decisions based solely on a roster you found online. It could be old or outdated, some of the players may have been injured or transferred, or some of them could have quit. Use the roster as a general guide and get the info you need from other players and coaches.