How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

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Our counselors answered:

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

Randi Heathman
Independent Educational Consultant The Equestrian College Advisor LLC

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

The short answer on this one (unfortunately) is, "It depends." There are a lot of great colleges out there that don't have great web sites. They aren't intuitive or navigable, they lack a lot of interactivity for you as a user, and/or they don't give a very warm, open feel to the entire school. (Alternatively, they're just bare and boring.) This is where the importance of the campus visit comes in - and I can't stress that enough! Actually GOING to a campus, actually walking around and meeting people and experiencing those activities that you will participate in every day as a college student if you decide to attend that institution are going to be FAR more valuable than dry facts and figures (and even tons of great photos!) on a web site. That said, however, if you aren't able to get to campus for one reason or another (maybe you're a California student with a strong interest in the University of Michigan but it's just too far to fly there and the cost is prohibitive), a good web site is the only thing that will help you gain that sense of what a college is truly all about. Most colleges are VERY mindful of this, but others seem to have missed the boat. It's up to you as the prospective student to do your homework and get to know the school using a variety of methods - and the web site is only one component of that. The bottom line is that you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover - even if it's the only thing you have to go by.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

The official website carries the "official" tag, which means it has been reviewed by those who communicate the message that the school wants to convey. Do you notice the sports teams or the chemistry lab featured on the homepage? Do the students have an access portal in an easy to find location? All of these things can tell you something about the school. Look to the official website to help ascertain what the school places at the forefront of the school and it just may provide with some insight that you can find helpful.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

The official website is a font of valuable information. It is also a marketing tool. An applicant's research would be much more difficult without college websites.

Lora Lewis
Educational Consultant Lora Lewis Consulting

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

The official website is very useful for statistics and for learning about a school's academic programs, professors, facilities and processes for things like applications. If you're looking for facts, this is the easiest and most reliable place to turn for information. Facts and figures can get muddled out in cyberspace, so don't rely on second or third party sources which may be out of date or simply inaccurate. Go straight to the school itself. But a website can only do so much to convey a sense of a college's culture and atmosphere. To really learn what it's like to attend a school, there's no substitute for campus visits and overnight stays if at all possible. There are many incredible colleges out there that have humdrum websites, so use them for fact gathering, but don't judge a school by it's webpage.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

The college website can be a very valuable source of information. Sometimes looking at the information for current students is more informative than what is included under the prospective student section. Is the site easy to navigate, do you like the tone it sets, can you find answers to your questions? If you are frustrated on line, will that mean life on campus will be challenging? Maybe or maybe not. That is why it is critical to take advantage of campus visits, talking to current students, meeting faculty. Your gut will let you know if the fit is right.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

It can certainly say something about their graphics department, not to mention their Advancement Office, but no website can truly offer anything of substance about the educational experience. Ultimately the website is the front door of the school, the first step in their marketing efforts. What it offers can give you some insight into what the school values and seeks to promote, but in the end, education is a deeply human process and websites are not people, and what they offer cannot begin to gve you a true feel for the experience you will have. .

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

Obviously it's biased, but you already knew that. It's very important. Study it thoroughly, as you might find that the school is perfect or that you wouldn't be caught dead there. Call them to clarify or answer questions, but make sure you know exactly who you're talking to. A student working in the financial aid office only has limited knowledge & could easily give out misleading info. In my opinion, the first thing in choosing a college is ELIMINATING schools from your list & concentrating on those that are left!

Kathleen Harrington
Owner New Jersey College Consulting

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

One word...IMPORTANT. You should navigate through all components of both the undergrad and graduate admission material. Not only could you wind up attending there after high school but, you could also potentially want to remain at that chosen school for your graduate work. There is so much information available on each college website that it can be a little overwhelming...here are some MUSTS that you should view... 1. Admission Criteria 2. Financial Aid-Net Price Calculator 3. Housing Options 4. Majors and Minors offered and their required courses 5. Clubs, Sports, Greek Life 6. A link to the school newspaper

Evan Forster
Founder Forster-Thomas, Inc

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

I'll answer this one like my Jewish aunt used to love to answer questions...with another question!: If you're trying to figure out whether or not to date someone, how important is their Facebook profile? Chances are it's not that important, because people carefully control what comes through on their FB page. They're not going to list out all their flaws and bad habits, only the stuff they want you to know about them. Ditto for college websites. They're only going to showcase their positive attributes, and try to hide everything else. That doesn't mean you should ignore college websites altogether--you should definitely poke around and see what they have to say for themselves. And you can learn a lot about a school by seeing what THEY think are their best attributes (which might be very different from what YOU consider to be important attributes). For example, if you're an artsy-fartsy type (like I am) and the college website keeps touting its amazing sports teams and 32 intermural sports clubs and new soccer field while saying virtually nothing about its arts facilities, well then the college might be an amazing school...just not for you. So while you should definitely check out the college's official website, you should also consult outside sources, from school rankings guides to alumni to current students to knowledgable educational consultants. Combined with a campus tour, they'll be your best guides.

Scott Herrmann-Keeling
College Counselor

How important is the official website in evaluating a college?

Official websites are important because they give you a sense of what a particular school says about itself. What opportunities are they emphasizing? What do they care about? What is their mission statement? Does that resonate with you as you read it? Look carefully at what it says (and doesn't say) about its admissions process. What types of students do they say they value? What numbers do they report and how do you stack up against those? What a college thinks of itself can be different than what former or even current students think of it. But it's important to know. If there is a disconnect but you really are attracted to what the college says about itself, you might be catching it at the leading edge of a change in its focus, which could open up some tremendous opportunities for you.