How to Research A College Online

Lots of students and parents are bemused by the beautiful and complex websites that colleges and universities offer. Many college websites are plagued by information and image overload, perhaps as a specific marketing strategy aimed at capturing a viewer’s attention immediately. American colleges spend beaucoup dollars researching the behavior of website visitors and focus much of their marketing muscle on creating an image of prestige and abundance with pictures of impressive facilities, student success stories, and faculty achievements.  However, all of this information and imagery does not tell one about what actually happens to real students at this particular college or university.  Fortunately, your friends at NACAC,  the National Association for College Admission Counseling, have shared some insights about how to get to the most relevant and unofficial information about student and alumni experiences.



  • Look at the home pages of individual faculty members in majors that interest you, some post detailed syllabuses of their classes, descriptions of their research interests, and email addresses. If you have a specific question or two about a major, try sending a faculty member a short, polite email introducing yourself and asking your questions (don’t ask anything you can find out in the college catalog, though).
  • Read the pages for prospective students thoroughly. They will give you basic information about the college, as well as some sense of the mission and priorities of the college.
  • Visit the home pages of student organizations, you can check out the schedule for the drama club or see what resolutions the student senate passed.
  • Look for the home pages put up by current students at the college. If students list their email addresses, send short email messages to a few of them, asking questions about their college experiences. But don’t take a few complaints on one student’s home page as gospel; try to look at a good sampling of student pages.
  • Find the alumni association pages, what are alumni of the college doing now? What is the college doing for its alumni?


These excellent tips will help you cut through the sophisticated and polished marketing message and allow you to get right to the heart of the most important information about a prospective school. One more important tip: check out the major plans and course offerings for your prospective majors.  This will give you important details about your academic experience at this prospective college. Remember that majors vary from school to school in their emphasis and their required coursework.   Happy Researching!


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