College Search: Netting A Bigger Picture
What The Web Brings To College Decisions
Glossy brochures, thick reference books and chats with recruiters were once the staples of a college search. Then, the schools controlled the message.
Now, modems and hard drives are the stuff of college searches, and students can dig up information behind the party line.
Start by narrowing your search. If you're not satisfied with traditional references books, try CollegeNet or Peterson's Guides Online.
Once you've cut down your list to a half-dozen schools, use the Net to find the news behind the brochure.
- Dig up unofficial information.
A keyword search in AltaVista may turn up more matches than you're willing to sift through. But it also might uncover unofficial information that's otherwise hard to find, such as the Penn State alumni bulletin board.
Narrow your search as much as possible, and look for what interests you. Student and faculty home pages -- often available through the main site -- may be of interest. You also can search through newspapers in cities with colleges that interest you.
- E-mail alumni, faculty and fellow students.
Many college and university Web sites have e-mail directories. If not, try different departments' home pages, and ask professors to help you find more information. Be honest: Ask the questions that interest you. You'll be surprised at how helpful and candid both faculty and students will be.
- Read campus newspapers.
Check out the current edition of the campus newspaper -- many of them are now online. If you want to know more about Asian Studies or campus crime, try the search engine. Many colleges also have editorial sections -- check them out.
For more perspective on the news, consider e-mailing the staff writers. Ask them what students complain about, and what students like about the college.
- Correspond with an online counselor.
Online counselors are gaining popularity. Can't find the course you're looking for online? Want to know how to maximize your financial-aid potential? Just ask.
If the school you're considering doesn't have an admissions counselor available via e-mail, find someone who is. Chances are, they'll be happy to help.
- Take a virtual tour.
Check out maps, live cams and still shots from your top ten schools. Is the campus easy to navigate? Is it appealing? Does it look like a place you'd want to live for several years? (Browse Our Net Cams)
- Apply online.
While online applications haven't yet hit the mainstream, they are an option at a growing number of colleges and universities.
Potential students can now download applications from university Web sites, or request applications on computer disks. They can send them in electronically, or make printouts and mail them.
- Finding the money.
A good starting point for information about college scholarships, grants and financial aid is the site run by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. This site offers advice on scholarship searches, financial need calculators, loan programs, and pages of links to other money-related sites.
The NASFAA site also offers financial aid advice from administrators and other financial aid professionals.
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