As you Organize Your College Data, you must consider your Data Mining Resources. Colleges’ Websites are one of the best sources of information, as long as you remember they are primarily marketing tools.
If you are interested in learning more about a college, go to their Admissions Page and you will find a wealth of information. Sometimes I find particular information difficult to find. When that happens, I type in the college name and the item I am looking for (say, deadlines) in an internet search engine, which then directs me to a section of the college’s website I was having difficulty finding.
A great way to get a detailed sense of the stats on students who enrolled in a particular college the year before you applied is to type <College Name> class of <year in which they will graduate from college> profile in your internet search engine. For example, if my daughter was applying to Yale, hoping to enroll beginning the fall of 2015, I might be curious about the prior year’s enrolled students. In that case, I would type Yale Class of 2018 (which would be students who enrolled in 2014 and will graduate in 2018) profile. This internet search should pull up a stats page on the college’s website that announces the stats for the incoming class for that particular year. If you are seriously interested in that college, pull up that information for multiple years. You may notice that they enrolled 10% more kids this year than last – did they open new dorms? Under enroll the prior year? Have students leave? What kinds of information can I learn? How about:
- number of students applied, broken down by Restrictive Early Action vs. Regular Decision
- number of students enrolled
- percentage of students who are the first generation in their family to attend college
- male/female ratio
- percentage of students who receive financial aid, and the average dollar amount of aid
- breakdown by region of where students lived before they enrolled
- breakdown by race
- ACT/SAT Ranges
- top intended majors
Some of the other items I would learn from their website:
- Common Data Set
- Application Requirements
- Application Types (Early Decision, Regular Decision, etc.) & Application Deadlines
- Scholarships, Scholarship Application Deadlines
- Contact Info for Your Region’s Admissions Officer
- Admission News/Updates & Advice
- Schedules and Sign-ups for Campus Tours & Information Sessions
- Information on Staying on Campus Overnight
- Academic Calendar (Is a Semester or Quarter system more appealing? Do you have finals before you go home for XMAS? Do they have a short middle semester to take advantage of Travel Abroad without missing classes?)
- Travel Abroad Programs (Where can you travel? Can you take classes in your major while abroad, or do you take General Ed and/or Language classes? You may find you don’t have time for Travel Abroad if that is the case.)
- Link to Campus Newspaper
- Course Catalog (Do the classes sound interesting? How are the Professors ranked on Rate My Professor?
- Internship & Research Opportunities
- Their Take on What Makes Them Unique (Helpful when writing your “Why do you want to attend our school?” essay.)
- The factoids you can also pull up on websites like US News & World Report – number of undergraduate/graduate students, retention rates, 4,5,6-year graduation rates, popular majors, percentage of students receiving financial and merit aid, male/female ratio, faculty-student ratio, average class size, etc.
- Detailed tuition/fees information
Using the Website to Prepare for an Interview
Not only should you want to look at this information, a meeting with an Admissions Officer will go much better if you are not asking questions that can be easily answered on the website – they won’t be thinking “Why are you wasting my time?”. That meeting will be more meaningful if you are asking specific questions about your experience on campus if you attend, based on the information you have already learned from the website. “I see that you can take classes in your major while traveling abroad, but I did not see any programs that incorporate Engineering. Can I study Engineering abroad?”. While there is a lot of information on the website, it’s not ALL there, sometimes it’s hard to find, and that information is rapidly changing.