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How To Research Colleges Quickly and Effectively

By Ani Rostomyan

Edited by Eman Hamed

You may be intimidated or unwilling to research colleges, or think that it's going to be really boring. It's possible you think it's too early to start thinking about college seriously. This article will explain why you should care, discuss research methods, and give time-saving tips for those on a tight schedule.

Why You Should Care

There are many reasons why you should start your college search now, but only a few are mentioned in this article. Since you’re likely a teen, you should already have some sense of what major you want to have. If not, that’s completely fine. However, it's good to know your options. If you're interested in a few majors, you can research each major and what it encompasses, what jobs are available through that major, and even take some classes in several areas to explore what you like the best.

One surprise from starting your college search is the extensive information that you can find. In fact, one of the colleges/universities that you discover may even be your dream college! There are also lots of programs and free courses that many of them offer, and through excellent research, you can find many programs that fit your needs. Just imagine it: hundreds of programs and opportunities just waiting to be found. Another reason you shouldn’t wait is that the search takes longer than you would think. Even after a few months, you'll find yourself still having so much left to research. The longer you search, the more information you find, which leads you to more info., and so on. There’s always something new to discover. If you start in, let’s say, senior year, that’s not nearly enough time to research effectively and get the most out of your college experience.

The final reason is if you wait until later to start figuring out which college to go to or your major, you may decide that it’s not right for you. At that point, you will already be close to graduating, and turning around that late is a waste of time and money. Let’s say, for example, you start researching in senior year, looking at colleges for the major of accounting. That year, you take an accounting class to start to get credits, but decide you don’t want to do advanced math for the rest of your life. Time was wasted because you spend all of that time in your last year of high school (when you’re supposed to be getting ready to graduate) researching colleges for a major you didn’t even like. Money was wasted because you paid hundreds of dollars for that class you didn’t even need. Fortunately, all of this can be avoided by being proactive.

Those are just a few reasons why you should care about this now, and not when it’s too late. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s move on to better things. Next up, how to begin.

How To Begin

First, get a notebook. If you already have one, you can use it, just make sure it’s empty. This notebook is for all the information you find out in your search, so you don’t forget it. Write everything you need to in there, because even if you don’t think you’ll need it, you will.

Some important factors to research are location, internship opportunities, tuition, graduation rates, small or big college, public or private, Greek life, food plans, etc. Often, one will have a certain college crossed out, but not write why, thinking that it won't be needed. Later, when going back to check, it costs extra time to go back and check why it was crossed it out in the first place. This can be very frustrating, so make sure to always write down everything, just in case. Also try to keep your notebook organized and neat, because the whole purpose of the notebook is for you to come back to it later.

Notebooks are a great resource for documenting your findings!

Now We Begin

After you get your notebook set up, it’s time to actually start the search! There are many ways to start, like the online, library, or even by asking family and friends. I’ll give you some ideas below.

Let’s start with the easiest one: online. You can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, but any research is good research. Some good informational websites are,,,, and Niche is a detailed college search website that includes college report cards, rankings, and much more. Princeton Review also has a college search, but also has much more, such as rankings, test prep help, online courses, etc. IvyWise is very, very helpful as a college guide resource. They offer admission help, tutoring, and a knowledge base of helpful information to prepare you for college. Unigo also has information about colleges, scholarships, and articles, but is known for being the website where you can get the inside scoop on what each college is actually like. Of course, a couple of reviews don’t describe the whole college, so try not to take them too seriously. College Majors 101 has a lot of information and resources for each major.

Going to the library is very helpful. There are tons of books that can help with your college search. Also, the librarian most likely went to college themselves, so you can ask them any questions about the college search, their experience, which universities they recommend, and whatever other questions you have.

Lastly, asking family and friends is a good source for college info. These people actually went to college, and they’re your family/friends, so you can trust that they’re going to be honest. You can also ask them any questions you would feel uncomfortable asking anyone else.

Overall, the college search is a fun process, so don’t get worried about the logistics. The sooner you start, the less the stress, and you can take your time. There are lots of resources that are right around you that are waiting to be used. Your doctor, teachers, neighbor, and anyone else that went to college can be a resource!

Time-Saving Tips

For you busy people, here are some time-saving tips. The fastest way to get some research time is online. Bookmarking your favorite websites can help you can find them easier. Also, make a list of what you want in a college, as specific as possible, so you can spend less time figuring out which ones work out for you. Deciding between small and large colleges, co-ed or same-sex, and extracurricular opportunities are just some ways you can quickly narrow down colleges down the road. Remember, have fun and start as soon as you can to eliminate stress.

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