Navigating the University Search Process
I can still remember the moment I stepped foot onto James Madison University’s campus – happy students socializing and studying in picturesque settings, the bluestone buildings along the quad, the sun shining against the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. I knew in that moment that James Madison University was where I wanted to spend the next four years. That was more than ten years ago, and I still can’t get enough of the Blue Ridge skyline.
While the campus visit is a vital part of the university search process, many students today, particularly international students, are not able to simply hop in the car for a weekend visit. With strong academic programs across the globe the campus visit has shifted from campus to our computer. Online search engines and guidebooks are bursting with information, but oftentimes these outlets can be overwhelming. University rankings are exciting, but do not always share the full story of everything a school has to offer. If you are suffering from cyberspace overload here are some tips to avoid crashing.
Beyond the Basics:
Kick off your search with standard sites like the university homepage that links to information for prospective students and admissions requirements. These are central starting points that often include quick facts, online tours and links to academic programs. But don’t stop there. Consider a few outlets beyond these basics to get an insider’s guide on what to expect on campus. Browsing the digital copy of a student newspaper, clicking through the calendar of events, and navigating to an area visitor’s guide website will paint a better picture of life on and off campus. Use the search box typically found at the top of each homepage as a helpful tool for finding specific information.
Save Your Search:
There is so much information available it is easy to get lost clicking away from one link to the next. You may find yourself questioning where you found a virtual tour, a layout of a residence hall, the university that had the exact academic program you had been seeking, etc. Keep these links as you find them in one easy to access document with a short description of each link and the name of the university so that you can refer to it later. Social bookmarking websites like www.diigo.com and www.delicious.com are helpful resources for saving your searches. You’ll save your time and your sanity from re-searching for this information.
Pictures, videos, and virtual tours are essential to helping you get a better feel for campus. In addition to popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, here are a few other websites to keep on your radar.
If access to these or similar sites is limited in your country use the information request form or e-mail address provided by the university to request printed materials. Some universities may be able to connect you with a student or professor in your academic area of interest to share their perspective.
Universities abroad are eager and excited to recruit international students. They want to hear from you and share information about the university. As you find universities that interest you fill out their online information request form. Set up a separate e-mail account to use for university communication so that you know you will receive this information in one spot and will not be overloading your personal e-mail account. A separate account is a great way to share this information with your parents or guardians so that they can access important university updates sent via e-mail.
These are just a few things to keep in mind when starting your online search. Start early, take your time, and enjoy the process. The more effort you put into making an informed decision, the more likely you will be academically and personally successful in your new environment.