A Pre-Collegiette's Guide To Decoding College Websites

By Brianna Susnak

For high school seniors in the midst of the college application process (and juniors just beginning), navigating through the countless pages of college websites can become a cumbersome task. With so many statistics, lists, facts and figures available in just one click, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information available – especially when you’re looking at multiple schools’ sites. After a while, many of the websites begin to look the same, and determining what’s relevant and what’s not can seem nearly impossible—until now!

After consulting with college experts and collegiettes alike, we’ve created a list of the five essential elements of every college website and how to get the most of them.

1. The campus life section

Between deciding on a major and obsessing over your latest SAT scores, it can be easy to forget that college life is more than just academics. After all, it’s your home for the next four years!

“When I was looking at college websites, I always looked at the campus life section,” says Sarah Dilick, a freshman at New York University. “Even at the best academic school in the world, you could have a terrible time if the lifestyle doesn’t fit you.”

When considering campus life, remember the multiple aspects that comprise a campus’s culture beyond its geography. While deciding whether you want to live on an urban or rural campus is important, consider what you want to do when you’re not sitting in class. Are there a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities relevant to your interests? How prominent is Greek life? Is there a balance of athletic and arts-related events? Many college websites will provide photos and/or videos of clubs and traditional events so you can get a feel for the environment before you even step on campus!

2. The list of majors and minors

Whether you’ve known what you’ve wanted to do since you were a little kid or you’re going into your freshman year undecided, a school’s list of majors and minors is a great starting place for exploring academic information efficiently.

“Going into college, I knew that I wanted to study journalism,” says Danielle Hensley, a freshman at Indiana University Bloomington. “By reading about the journalism majors on several different school’s websites, I was able to figure out which program was best for me.”

While some lists of majors are organized alphabetically, others are organized by the specific school they’re in. Most medium and large universities are comprised of many smaller, individual “schools,” such as a school of business, a school of arts and sciences or a school of education.

“I always direct students to look [at the list of majors and minors],” says Michelle Podbelsek, a college counselor with College Counseling Associates. “Click on the department website where they show the requirements for that degree, and then on most websites you can go into actual course descriptions. Also, on most department websites, they will show college societies and co-curricular clubs and opportunities related to the major. For high school students, these facts seem to help a lot in … imagining their college life.”

When you click on a major or minor that interests you, the website will often redirect you to the specific school or program where that major is offered. From there, you can explore any additional requirements for admission or similar majors offered in that school.

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