In the digital age, it is easy to compare colleges online. There are websites ranking schools, for example, by major, by size, even by partying! The rubrics for these comparisons vary and may or may not help much in making the right decision. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

shutterstock_57550168-resized-165One way of moving forward is to accumulate a wealth of information about various schools even before applying, and eliminate those that are not aligned with your goals. This can help you establish an efficient use of time and energy, as well as keep the cost of application fees down because you are doing your research before sending applications out, as opposed to applying manically during the process.

Here are five more tips to to help you sort your list of your most desirable colleges:

1. Determine a Broad Sense of Your Goals While you may start out feeling sure of a single major, perspectives commonly change during your course of study. Even though art and design may be your passions, keep an eye on the school's reputation for business courses, as well. An open mind is essential to  preventing the need to change schools partway through your journey, in case new or additional interests come into play.

2. Get Past the Front Desk Staff Front desk staff members can be very helpful when it comes to the basics, such as student housing and financial aid, but to really get a sense of what the school offers, you should talk to a faculty member in the department(s) in which you are interested. Whether it be via emails, a phone conversation, or even a face-to-face meeting, faculty members are a great resource in understanding the heart of an institution's offerings and offer invaluable advice and information about the department.

3. Keep Detailed Records To avoid embarrassing yourself with redundant questions or getting off on the wrong foot with one of your professors, it is a good idea to keep meticulous records while you research your schools. Having information handy about your back-up plans will prevent unnecessary stress, too, like having to wait a semester before enrolling in classes, should you discover something that causes a last-minute change in your plans.

4. Talk to Students Like getting past the front desk, talking to students is crucial to getting to know the student experience at any college. If possible, find a current student through a mutual acquaintance, or even try reaching out respectfully through social media. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the people who are already studying where you want to go. They've been in your shoes!

5. Don't Forget About Location and Quality of Life It is absolutely crucial to research the basic statistics of any school, e.g., the percentage of people employed in your field after graduation vs. tuition cost, but remember that college is as much about living one's life as it is preparing for the future. If the idea of living in a particular city is exciting, factor that in, too! Just like you, a college is more than what it appears on paper.

Do you have a tip for students visiting colleges? Let us know in the comments below!

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