fbpx

How to Use a College Website

Table of Contents

Share This Post

College websites are notoriously difficult to navigate. We live in a digital age, and all sorts of information may be found online; this is true of colleges as well. However, the challenge of finding the information you actually want persists. How can you easily and quickly access information about a school when researching it online?

Of course, we have created University Fact Sheets to help you in this endeavor, but there are colleges we have not yet created these for. In this article, then, we’ll explore how best to use college websites, and how you can find all the information you need to know online. Let’s get started!

Before You Begin

We recommend taking a moment to plan before you begin just Googling the names of universities. Blindly browsing a school’s website isn’t likely to net you any useful information, while a targeted search often bears fruitful results. Prior to starting your research, compile a specific list of what information you are looking for from the school.

Every student has different research priorities, but these are some of the most common pieces of information our students want to know:

  • When are applications due?
  • What are the application requirements?
  • What is social life on campus like?
  • What is housing on campus like?
  • Can I keep doing the activities I participated in in high school at this college?
  • What financial aid does this college offer?
  • How much does this school cost to attend?
  • What are the options for your desired major?
  • Does the college have honors programs?

You should determine what information you want to know about a school and write it down. Then, you can take notes as you go. We often include links to the pages where information is in our notes so we can reference the pages later if need be; this makes coming back to recheck information much easier. Once this is sorted, you can begin finding information. 

Now, we’ll go through the various categories of information, and where you can find each on a college’s website.

Admissions Information

This can be found on the school’s admissions page. Searching for “School name admissions” will usually result in this being the top search result. The design of these pages varies greatly from school to school, but look for a link that says “freshman admissions,” this will be the subpage with the information specific to you (unless you are a transfer student, in which case look for “transfer admissions”). 

This page will tell you when admissions deadlines are, and what you will need when applying, including any supplemental essay questions you may need to answer. Some schools provide statistics on the incoming class as well, including total number of applicants and admitted students, average grades and standardized test scores, and demographic information. Not all schools provide this on their site, however. 

The Common Data Set

To find this information for all schools, we recommend using the Common Data Set. The goal of this is to provide a uniform set of information about colleges freely to anyone interested, with the express purpose of allowing high school students to be well informed about admissions. 

To find information about a specific school, search for “School name common data set.” Not all schools provide all information to the set, but it is one of the most complete pictures of admissions statistics for a given school you can find. If you want to understand your chances of admission, we recommend comparing your profile to that of an average admitted student in the data. 

Social Information

This includes information on student activities, housing, and the social life on campus generally. Housing information is the easiest to find on a school’s site, through the school’s housing office. This can be found by searching “School name housing” or “School name residential life.” 

These pages will explain the housing and dining options on and off campus, and whether or not students are required to live on campus (and for how long). All top 20 schools require students to live on campus for at least a year, and most top 50 schools do as well. 

Registered student organizations (RSOs) occasionally have a separate web presence. Most schools, however, maintain a list of student organizations. These may be found by searching “School name students organizations.” There is usually a link to a full list of organizations.

These lists are generally alphabetized, and can contain hundreds of entries. We recommend searching for a specific activity if you want to see how it is represented at a university. Not every school has a club for every interest, but at larger colleges especially, there are usually enough students to support a thriving collection of organizations. 

Social life is sometimes discussed on a school’s website, but we have found the best place to learn about this is on more unofficial pages, where current students can discuss these topics more freely. A university’s associated Reddit page (known as a subreddit), is a great place to find answers to these questions, though they are often less polished than official sources. 

Financial Information

Information about tuition costs and financial aid options at a college is usually found through the bursar’s office or the financial aid office. The easiest way to find this is by searching for “School name financial aid” or “school name tuition.” Most schools have this information easily accessible online. 

For the cost of tuition, many schools have a total price calculator, where you can enter limited financial information and receive an estimate of how much you will be charged, and what financial aid you will be offered. These are not promises of financial aid, but can serve as a good approximation of what it will cost you to attend that particular college. 

Financial aid pages will discuss the scholarships a school offers. Most top schools have need-based aid alone, but other schools have multiple smaller scholarships, or different aid options you need to apply for separately. Honors colleges especially are a good source for additional merit-based scholarships

Academic Information

Academic information is more dispersed, as it depends on what specifically you wish to study, and how the school itself is organized. Colleges within a university, and departments within colleges, have their own pages. These are good sources of information about the majors these programs offer, graduation requirements of these programs, and special opportunities these programs offer (such as honors programs). 

These pages will also tell you about professors in these departments, and any research they are undertaking. If professors have their own research labs or initiatives, these will be linked here. If you are interested in pursuing research during your time in undergrad, these pages give you an overview of what options are available. 

In order to find pages for a major, you should begin by searching for “college name majors,” as not every university offers every major. We recommend reading the full list of majors offered by a school, to see which ones most appeal to you. Even if you already know what you are interested in academically, this can still reveal options you had not considered previously, such as subfields within business or biology. 

Lists of courses, and current course offerings, are found through the registrar’s site. You can find this by searching for “college name courses,” or “college name course catalog.” This will take you to the university’s current course catalog. While these are regularly updated, it will give you an idea of what options are available to you at that particular school. 

For information on the academic rigor of a school or program, or how much homework you might expect, we again recommend a school’s page on Reddit. These are inhabited by current and former students, and frequently answer questions from curious applicants. Reddit’s own search function is poor, but if you search on Google for “school name workload,” Reddit posts are often in the top results. 

Take all answers you read with a grain of salt. These are not vetted representatives of a school, but instead anonymous internet accounts. While they can provide useful information, they should not be seen as infallible.

Other Information

Some students have specific concerns, regarding dietary needs, health services, accessibility, or safety. Colleges have specific pages dedicated to all of these things, but navigating to them on the college’s site itself is often difficult. We recommend beginning in an external search engine, and searching for the name of the college and the specific concern or service you are interested in. 

Final Thoughts

College websites contain a lot of useful information for potential students, if you can access it. While the websites are notoriously difficult to navigate, we hope that this article has provided an atlas with which you can explore them. Learning about colleges is the first step to determining which should go on your college list, and where you will eventually apply to and attend. 
If you want help building a college list, or want to hear how we can help you with every stage of the notoriously difficult application process, schedule a free consultation today. We have a depth of experience helping students get into top colleges, and are always happy to hear from you.

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "Guide to Everything," a 90-page PDF that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process.

More To Explore

College Applications

Is Liberal Arts Dead

Many think pieces have forecast the end of liberal arts as an educational system, or predicted that liberal arts colleges specifically may fall into decline.

College Applications

America’s Top Jesuit Colleges

The Jesuit religious order has long been associated with education, running many schools dedicated to primary, secondary, and collegiate studies. The universities they run in

5/5
Wendy Y.
Parent
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
5/5
Arda E.
Student
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
5/5
Samson S.
Parent
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!