How-To: Research colleges

Betty Desta, Opinion Editor

When you first start junior year, everyone tells you it’s the ‘hardest year’ and to prepare yourself from the staggering differences of junior year compared to when you’re a sophomore, but my hot take is that senior year is by far the hardest. Juggling assignments, jobs, senioritis (which will plague you horribly and you won’t be able to evade it like you think you can) and college applications, however you could take off the stress of applying to college by starting some parts of the work early, like researching and gathering a college list.

barnard college
Women’s college, Barnard College, in New York city is a prestigious school of Columbia University. Historically womens’ schools allow more opportunities for women than standard co-ed schools. (Betty Desta)

While ivy league institutions, like Harvard and Yale, are amazing, you want to look for colleges that you would genuinely love to attend and are a good fit for what you want to do and for you as a person. Besides academics, some things to consider are: 

Undergraduate enrollment size

High school classes are fairly big, however when it comes to universities the average class size can be between 150-300 students. Some people might thrive in this large environment, but some might find it hard to get help or feel noticed by their professors. This is something crucial to consider, especially if you are someone who likes to seek out guidance and help frequently, because if you realize being in such a large class makes you feel not noticed, it can set back yourself and your goals.


This is an obvious aspect to consider when it comes to university research, however, there are many subfactors of location to consider like weather, how far from home you’ll specifically be, what are the average flight costs from that city back to your hometown, is public transportation decent if you don’t have a car, do you have family or friends in a vicinity, etc. The university you’ll be going to is where you will live for the next four years, and location can impact how you enjoy it.

Cost & Scholarships

Cost is a huge factor for most, while you should look at how much tuition, dorms, dining, etc should cost, you should also look if you could be eligible for any merit scholarships if the cost of college is a discouraging component from applying. Even if you know you have a source to pay for tuition and all that, scholarships can allow you to pay for other costs of college like textbooks.

Campus life

Does the school have active clubs and students who try to get involved? Are there chances for you to get to know people as well as learn new things? Having an interactive campus/social life can allow you to open doors for opportunities, but most importantly can help you stimulate relationships that could be long-lasting, and make your college experience more bearable when assignments, projects and exams begin to overwhelm you. Sources like Reddit can actually be your best friend to find out more about this, and be able to talk to students from your top school or colleges you just want to apply to.

Greek life

Schools Like SDSU and University of Alabama, are extremely well-known schools for the huge and active Greek life presence on campus. Greek life can be something that creates lifelong bonds, however, it is notorious for being behind many college horror stories. Additionally, some schools’ entire social scene revolves around the Greek scene, which could make getting out there difficult if you can’t afford to rush or if you’re wary of the lifestyle. 

Gathering a list can be simple and easy, but only if you know what you want in a college, and while you think you may know, there are aspects that easily could go over your head like they did mine when I was compiling a list. Create a list of safeties, targets and reaches, and if you have a top school that has a small acceptance rate, try to look for similar schools with the same vibe and similar opportunities, but with a higher acceptance rate. College application season is very scary especially as schools grow competitive every year, however starting research early can give you more time for the important parts like essays and your extracurriculars, which can boost your chances, so take advantage of your summer.