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Articles / Applying to College / What are the best sources of college information?

Feb. 11, 2002

What are the best sources of college information?

Question: What are the best sources of college information?

There is a ton of college information out there. The best source of information about a college does not always come from the college itself.

The problem with information that comes from a college is obvious. It tends to have a natural positive bias toward the institution. That makes sense, doesn't it? If a school has a problem with its housing facilities, you won't find any mention of the problem in literature that comes from the school. You may find a statement that mentions the fact of a new dorm in the works, but you'll never see a college or university come right out and say their housing (or whatever) is a problem.

Undoubtedly, the ultimate source of information about a particular school is the student body of that school. I have always recommended that high schoolers visit the campuses of the schools to which they are applying. Perhaps the most important point of that visit, next to the subjective gut-level feeling that always presents itself, is the opportunity to ask questions of students on campus.

Most college students will respect your need for knowledge about their school. They won't pull any punches. Be certain, though, to ask a sufficient number of students for their opinions so that your sampling rate is not too low and, therefore, skewed.

The next-best source of college information comes from the so-called guidebooks. These are the ones published by The Princeton Review (America's Best 331 Colleges), the Yale Daily News, (The Insider's Guide to the Colleges), and other authors like Robert Fiske (The Fiske Guide). These are good because they compile student survey data. The next-best way to get a student's opinion is to read what they wrote, instead of asking them in person.

And there's always the Internet. You can find news groups on the World-Wide Web that deal with college life. This might be almost as good as talking to students. The only disadvantage is that you won't be on campus to see the physical sights yourself.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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