Researching Colleges, Part One
If a university is highly rated, then earning any degree from that school should guarantee you a terrific career, right?
Actually, no. Individual departments within a university can vary greatly in the quality of education and training they provide. Your school of choice might be known for its high-tech science curriculum, but offer less-than-stellar training in business or marketing, for example. Regional employers are often acutely aware of which schools produce the most valuable graduates, ideally suited for work in their fields. Likewise, they also pick up on which schools consistently produce weaker candidates.
When visiting the website of a prospective university, you will naturally want to learn as much about the school as possible. You might find yourself drawn to the Student Life sections of the website, as you investigate dormitories, extracurricular clubs, special events or intramural sports. Many students even get a kick out of investigating their food options on campus.
However, the most important part of your research will center on the academic department that interests you. This department is where you will receive the degree you will use for the rest of your life; therefore, it is imperative that you base most of your college choice upon the quality of this department. As you read the department’s website, look for the following information:
- Vision or mission statement
- Information on undergraduate advising
- The department’s description of its education
- Statistics on graduate outcomes
- Number of professors in the department,and information on their backgrounds
- Faculty awards
- Number of undergraduates
- Opportunities for undergrad research
- Internship opportunities
- Undergraduate awards such as Goldwater, Rhodes, and Fulbrights
- Departmental newsletter
- Student organizations devoted to this course of study
After narrowing your college choices through online research, schedule visits to each of your top-choice schools. Arrange to visit your chosen academic department, sit down and talk with a professor, and even interview a few current students about their experience. An in-depth visit to each university can help you determine which schools are a good fit for you, and will help you build a successful career in your chosen field.