As you are visiting colleges and talking to different school representatives, remember to take everything they tell you with a grain of salt. Representatives are paid to promote their schools. Even that sweet little sophomore tour guide who couldn’t say enough about how much she loves the school is a paid representative. They all have jobs focused on selling your student on attending their school.
My daughter is coming to the end of her freshman year of college and I can tell you that we definitely got caught up in the college sales pitch. The defining factor that made her choose her school over the second choice has become the most disappointing part of her experience so far. The superior learning opportunity and comprehensive advising that was promised has not yet materialized. Am I saying that she wouldn’t pick the same school if she had it to do all over? Not necessarily. The outcome may have been the same. I just know that I was holding out for everything my daughter was promised in the college sales pitch and we both ended up disappointed!
Here are my tips to help you get the best “non sales pitch” information about a college:
- Talk to students on campus – Look beyond the tour guides and other student employees. Find ordinary students hanging out around campus and find out if they would be willing to answer a few questions. The student union, dining hall and outdoor spaces are great places to look. It’s even better if your college-bound student does the talking.
- Take a look at student reviews on Niche/College Prowler – These are mostly reliable reviews from current college students. There are always a few extremes to weed out, so look through several pages and see what common themes emerge for a school.
- Have your student do an overnight campus visit – Although your student may still get some element of sales pitch in an overnight visit, there will be many opportunities to talk to current students, experience campus activities and attend a class or two. These will provide a much more “real life” campus scenario than you can get during a campus tour. For many students, the overnight visit is the deciding factor in the college search.
There’s really no way to avoid a certain amount of sales pitch in your college search. Just be sure you are able to balance it with a good dose of fairly unbiased information from people who aren’t trying to sell you on their school.