Long gone are the days when colleges depended only on the brochures and view books they could fit inside your mailbox. They now devote large chunks of their websites to grabbing your attention. But there’s much more to a college website than the Web pages of the admissions office. By surfing as though you’re already a student, you can start to picture life on campus. Here are some tips that take you far beyond the Home page.
1. Browse the school newspaper online.
More and more colleges are putting their student-run newspapers online. Although it may take some digging to find them, they’re well worth looking for. In everything from hard news to editorial cartoons, you’ll get a feel for campus life, student concerns, and the caliber of student thinking and writing. (i.e. Grinnell Colleges’ Scarlet and Black: http://www.thesandb.com/ (not to be confused with their satirical magazine, the B&S http://www.thebands.biz/)
2. Lurk in the halls of student government.
These legislative bodies can be key players on campus, controlling multimillion dollar budgets that support a wide range of student services. Online, you can get an idea of just how seriously they take their responsibilities. You may even be able to read the minutes of a recent meeting. (i.e. Earlham’s Unique Student Government Model: http://legacy.earlham.edu/studentcenter/esg/
and Ithaca College’s awesome Student Government page: http://www.ithaca.edu/orgs/sga/)
3. Go clubbing
. Are you an activist? A bird watcher? A demon at the chess board? A future marketing exec? A South Asian woman? Often funded by student government, clubs come in all shapes and sizes. Look for links like Student Life
to find out if there are campus clubs you’d want to join. (i.e. The University of Minnesota’s ‘Campus People Watchers Club http://sua.umn.edu/groups/directory/show.php?id=2122)
4. Patronize the arts.
The campus is often home to cultural events that draw locals, as well as students. Click on Events, Museums, Arts
, or a similar link to learn about the school’s film screenings, plays, lectures, art shows, poetry readings, concerts, and other cultural events. (i.e. Wheaton College (MA) and their great Arts programming page: http://wheatoncollege.edu/arts/)
5. Enlist academic support.
You’ll find that colleges take great pains to keep you on campus once you get there. They offer a wide range of support services, which can include everything from drop-in writing assistance and peer tutoring in statistics to time management mini-courses. You might find a description of these services in a section called Student Services or simply Students
, but it’s just as likely that you’ll have to refer to the site map. (i.e. SUNY Brockport’s Academic Services page: http://www.brockport.edu/academics/support.html
and the uber-selective Colorado School of Mines http://academicservices.mines.edu/
6. Check out the library
. If the school offers online library resources, you’ll probably find a Libraries link on the home page
. Click to learn how large the book collection is, to try out their online catalog, and to find out to which electronic databases the library subscribes. You can also learn how the library teaches new students about its services. (i.e. Check out Wesleyan University’s Library http://www.wesleyan.edu/libr/
7. Check into housing.
You might be surprised at the many varieties of on-campus housing. Although your choices as a freshman might be more limited, you’ll find language, Greek, and honors houses; dorm rooms that are more like apartments (with kitchens and bathrooms); and even lower-cost co-ops where students work together to prepare meals and perform other housework. To find out what will be available to you during your first year, your best bet is to look for a Housing link under Admissions or Prospective Students
. But to learn about the more distant future, try looking under Student Services or Current Students. (i.e. Learn about Barnard College’s res life right in NYC: http://www.barnard.edu/reslife)
8. Check up on student health services.
You’ll be charged a student health fee when you register for classes, so why not find out what you’re paying for? Look for a link on the Home page
that will take you to the student health services section. You’ll learn which medical and counseling services are included and which are not. (Check out St. Olaf Colleges’s counseling services: http://www.stolaf.edu/stulife/basics/echug.html)
9. Log on to computing services.
Are dorm rooms wired? Can you buy a discounted computer through the college? What technology support services does the college offer? Will you be able to register for classes online or will you have to stand in line? Do professors use the Internet to enhance class? For answers, look for an Information Technology
link on the Home page. (Check out Northwestern great IT site: http://www.it.northwestern.edu/)
10. Grab a tray
. While some campuses offer only school-run cafeterias, others rent space to private businesses selling everything from pizza to garden burgers. Look for a link to Dining Services
and get a taste of what’s available. You might even find this week’s menu online. (Rutgers has tons of Dining options: http://food.rutgers.edu/)
11. Root for the home team.
Care for a set of tennis? A yoga class? Or maybe you’re more at home cheering in the stands. Click on Athletics
to look into intramural and recreational sports (in which any student can take part), fitness equipment and classes, and varsity season calendars. (Did you know that CUNY Hunter has great athletics? Check it out! http://www.huntercollegeathletics.com/)