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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

College Research: Learn a Lot & Stay Sane

As a mere high school junior, I cannot pretend to be an expert in the field of the college application process. What is, however, my claim to fame is college research. Below I have compiled my top 5 tips for finding and organizing information on potential schools.

1. All Hail the Spreadsheet

There's a good chance you'll accumulate a lot of information on your search. Keep it all clear and organized on a spreadsheet. Make your first row every college you are considering. Don't be selective, it's just a baseline for research! Then, create a variety of columns. Of course, the obvious categories are Academics, Campus Quality, Location, but don't be afraid to create some columns that are specific to you. For example, I'd like to continue journalism in college, so I made a column for notes of the school's journalism program. This one is weird, but Whole Foods reminds me of home, so I made a column called "Whole Foods Proximity" (I actually used Google Maps to find the distance between each campus and the closest Whole Foods). Obviously, no school would be blacklisted because there's not a Whole Foods within walking distance, but it's still fun to note! Some of my other categories include Social Scene (I'm not interested in Greek Life, so it was important that I noted schools with a dominantly Greek scene), Proximity to Family and Study Abroad. Then, as you find information about each school, you can choose to give it a grade or a point value like I did. For example, George Washington University received an A+ in Whole Foods Proximity because there's one ON CAMPUS!

2. Use Good Sources

I've written about Niche and Fiske in a previous post, but here's an excerpt for those who missed it:
If you’re looking for some tried-and-true resources for college research, I’ve compiled my two favorites below:
"Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015- This book is the best. It offers clear, concise, and information-rich profiles of over 300 colleges and universities. It’s seriously so fun to read. Fifteen dollars well spent. (The Mountain View Public Library has 2013 edition available for checkout and the 2016 edition on order!)
Niche- It’s like College Confidential, but more streamlined. Niche creates a school profile by giving grades to different aspects of the school. Everything from Academics to Diversity to Health & Safety are more is given a letter grade. Beware, if you start using Nice, you won’t be able to stop! Looking at the various grades and reviews is addicting."
A few other great sources The Choice, a blog from the New York Times that aims to demystify the college process. Though you'll find less information about specific schools, but it gives good advice and offers a fresh perspective on the process. Also, I've found that using the university's own website is a good way to find out about possible majors, see pictures of the campus and more.

3. College Emails Can Be a Good Thing!
This must be how college people feel when they send out their email blasts. 
I would bet that the inboxes of most other high school juniors are also filled with dozens of college emails per day. While most of the time they are just plain irritating (though the subject lines are often hilarious. i.e. "[insert student name here], I have a special something for you!), signing up for some lists is actually a good move. I love University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, so I signed up for their email list. This way I'll be notified if an admission counselor comes to the Bay Area for an information session. This way I won't miss out on learning more about the university!

Post by Allie C., Homework Assistant

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