College hunting: The Excel File
College hunting is serious business. State of the art gyms and dining commons have allure, but do the academic challenges rise above? Use one Excel file to keep yourself in line and organize deal breakers and shiny attractions of the Universities at the top of your list. Then, navigate overwhelming University websites with ease and focus. These tips will leave you calm, cool, and collected in the midst of accumulating brochures and looming decisions.
The Excel File: Include the following categories in your file; University name, address, distance from home, application deadline, SAT/ACT score, GPA average, number of letters of recommendation required, scholarship opportunities, major/minor of interest at University, extracurriculars, practicum/internship opportunities, rate of placement after graduation, additional bonuses, and any connections you have to the University.
As you peruse University websites, do not get sideswiped by peripheral information. Narrow in on what matters, then expand your search. Enter in information as you find it on the website. Add whimsy to your Excel file by using school colors to differentiate between universities.
The Website Tour: University websites showcase their biggest achievements first and foremost. These bragging rights are well earned, but should be the dessert of your university research experience.
First direct your attention to your son or daughter’s area of interest. Read up on the specific department thoroughly. Look through teacher profiles, if provided. Most importantly, find academic requirements and classes offered through the department. If course descriptions do not interest your son or daughter now, they will not interest him or her at the University. Make note of any internships required before graduation and identify the department’s role in securing these internships. This department research should be both the appetizer and entre of your research experience. If the department research fails to impress, set aside the search and explore other options. The academics should be the first draw. Everything else is the cake.
Next, locate the Undergraduate Admissions section of the website. This section should include details about GPA requirements, acceptance rates and dates, and SAT/ACT average scores. It should also walk you through the application process and any frequently asked questions by other parents and applicants. Slow down your research and enter in the numbers into your Excel file.
After recording your chances of admission, examine the financial aid section. This section usually neighbors the Admissions section. Sit down with a cup of coffee before breaking down the financial aspect of University shopping. Tension may rise, but take heart. Scholarships are just around the corner. Familiarize yourself with any and all scholarships offered. Mark them down on your Excel file. Sometimes the final decision comes down to monetary details and the file will do all the comparing work for you.
Dessert has finally arrived. Check out the Student Life section of the website last. Browse pictures of dorm rooms, campus events, various clubs, annual festivities, and University traditions with your son or daughter. Record any appealing bonuses from first class stadiums to air conditioned dorm rooms. These little details amount to a lot for your son or daughter, but keep it all in perspective.
The Excel file may seem like a beast and website navigation is a time commitment. But you will enjoy the way your son or daughter’s face lights up at the thought of joining the lacrosse team, or finally meeting like-minded intellectuals through the debate squad. Embark on these idyllic fantasies together and make it a pleasant experience. After all, it does include dessert!