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Where to Search for Information on Colleges: A Guide to Getting Started

If you’re searching for information on colleges, hopefully this article will give you a good start.

You’ve given thought to the size, region, cost, acceptance standards, and academic offerings of the college you would like to attend. Where do you go for more information?

STEP ONE: Examine US News and World Report’s College Rankings and Compare schools

Before exploring information on individual colleges, you need to know how they stack up against one another. Rankings count in colleges and in life. Acquire a copy of the most widely cited source of college rankings, US News and World Report’s annual “Best Colleges” issue. Focus on school acceptance standards, undergraduate academic reputation, class size, and student retention rates. Identify at least a dozen schools worth pursuing additional information from in your college search.

STEP TWO: Head to the School’s Official Website

Clarify the academic offerings of the schools and learn about student life. Note that most college websites are simply starting points. They often have information that is less informative about student opinions and perspectives, but you can research programs of interest and other objective information.

STEP THREE: Use Your Social Network, Friends and Alumni to gather information on their experiences

Ask relatives, family friends, your parent’s co-workers, school and private counselors about their academic and non-academic impressions of the schools you are considering. You may decide to narrow your list of prospective schools further.

STEP FOUR: Contact the Admissions Office and specific departments of interest

In your communications with individual departments, ask about class size and placement of majors in jobs and graduate programs. This should be of assistance in identifying schools where your application would be competitive and schools you have a high probability of getting into each respective college.

STEP FIVE: Go on a College Visit

Make an effort to visit schools where you can set up interviews and learn about campus life. Talk to students and request appointments with professors in your major.


An active approach to collecting college information contributes to wise application decisions and maximizes your chances of getting into your preferred schools. It’s never too early to get moving!

David Dickson is on the college admissions counseling team at Top Test Prep, and is a frequent guest on college admissions articles for Top Test Prep’s expert admissions blog. For more information on Top Test Prep, call (800) 501-Prep.

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