Tips and Advice Blog

How to Take Your College Search to Expert Level

Way to go for jumping into your college search early!

Amy Tiberio, Dean of Admission

At this point you've likely done a lot of research, spoken with friends, family, and your school counselor about different colleges, and perhaps even visited some campuses. You probably have a good idea of the kinds of programs and settings you're looking for. So, let's take it up a notch to expert level!

Selection of your major is not the final step. If you've identified the major(s) you're looking for, have you asked the following questions?

  • Do students apply specifically into the major or school, or rather to the college in general?
  • If you apply specifically into the major or school, are the admission criteria different?
  • If the admission criteria are different, are you prepared? For example, applying into an engineering program will focus more heavily on your math performance, so are you setting yourself up for success with courses you're taking now? In this example, you will want to take the most appropriate and substantial math classes available to you.
  • Are there any special credentials required to apply to certain programs? For example, students who apply for our architecture program are asked to submit a design portfolio, and students who apply for our dance program are asked to audition. Don't let these extra admission requirements sneak up on you a few days before the application deadline in your senior year! Research them now and get a leg up.

Go deeper than the campus tour. Once you've taken a campus tour and determined that you'll likely apply to a particular college, you can take it one step farther by attending an open house or a shadow visit. Open houses typically allow you to interact with professors and more students than just your one tour guide. If you've already toured, these visits are an opportunity to ask more specific questions about the student experience. Shadow visits typically allow you to sit in on classes and enjoy a meal on campus. This is a chance to live a day in the life of a current student and fully immerse yourself. Check out our various visit options for a sense of these opportunities.

Really understand the stats. You've probably asked and researched the traditional questions: faculty-to-student ratio, average class size, number of student organizations. These are good to know, but there's more to the story.

  • Faculty-to-student ratio gives you a sense of how many faculty there are compared with the size of the student body, which is related to average class size. The lower the ratio, typically the smaller the classes. However, have you asked about the quality of the faculty? Whether classes are taught by teaching assistants or graduate assistants? (at RWU this is not the case) What percentage of the faculty hold terminal degrees (i.e. PhD)? What kinds of student-led research have they done? For example, at Roger Williams students have tons of opportunities to participate in research projects with professors, and much of the time these students end up presenting at professional conferences or being published!
  • Average class size is a good starter question. But, what you may actually want to know is just how many of your classes will be small and how many will be large lecture halls? For example, at Roger Williams we are able to explain that 90% of our classes have 30 or fewer students. And, the biggest class size we ever teach is 60. For us, small classes allow for a more interactive and hands-on learning experience.
  • The number of student organizations gives you a sense of the breadth of opportunities. But, what about depth? Many college graduates report that some of their best experiences came from leadership opportunities. If deeper involvement and contribution to an organization is appealing to you, find out about leadership opportunities on campus. And, remember, to maximize your high school experience and best prepare for the college involvement, think about the quality and depth of involvement in your activities versus the number of activities in which you are involved.

This process is all about learning – understanding the environment and programs that are right for you, and understanding the offerings and strengths of various colleges. The best way to do this is to ask probing questions like these. Continue to dig deeper!

If you found this advice helpful, continue to check back here for more advice and tips to come. And remember that our admission counselors are always happy to answer questions for you! Come visit us any time!

Tips and Advice Blog