Every year, students come to me, confused about how to build the ideal college list.  While there are many great resources for students to turn toward in researching “great-fit” colleges, they are getting utterly inundated by an abundance of marketing materials from colleges eager to increase application numbers and climb in the rankings.

So, read the marketing materials and check out the websites to get an idea of what the college thinks is important you know, but go a step beyond to read unbiased third-party research like that offered by The Complete Candidate college admissions system.  But, the best way to find out about a school is: GO, SEE, And DO.  GO to campus, SEE how students interact with each other and with faculty and staff, DO your homework.  You can start visiting colleges as early as middle school.  At most schools, tours and information sessions are free and easy to schedule online.  So, start at home.  I’m amazed how many students have never visited campuses in their own hometown?!

Spend two hours on a Saturday morning touring your local college, even if you have no intention of applying.  The more college campuses you visit, the more you will get an idea of the things you like and, as importantly, the things you don’t.  And, don’t think of this as work or research; many tours offer entertaining historical facts, stories and traditions.  So, when you are on a family holiday, make it a priority to briefly veer from your itinerary and make a short stop at a college campus or two.  If someone offers you tickets to a college athletic event this fall – go!  What a wonderful opportunity to observe a college campus, experience the school spirit and get a firsthand glimpse of what that school looks like from the inside. The same advice goes for theater productions, museum exhibits, academic programs – GO, SEE, DO!