We all know the name of the game when it comes to college marketing: While a school may not deliberately hide its flaws, it’s certainly common to emphasize the more attractive features. Take a look behind the scenes at these six factors that, while immensely important, are often left out of the promo literature.
1. The (real) weather scene
Oh, sure. The glossy pic on the cover features students in t-shirts frolicking on a sun-drenched knoll. But seriously? If the school is anywhere east of Nevada, the weather is bound to get nasty on occasion. Read up on year-round climates for your prospective locale… and then pack accordingly.
2. The party scene
An abundance of wild keggers isn’t exactly something schools want to highlight in their recruitment booklets, but party schools do abound. While you shouldn’t disregard a good school based solely on its crazy nightlife—after all, you’re free to indulge or abstain at your own discretion—it is important to decide just how much peripheral partying you’re OK with. (Say, from a neighboring dorm room at 2 a.m.)
3. The off-campus scene
Colleges can and should tout their fantastic on-campus events and opportunities, but even the most involved student needs a break from the four walls of campus every now and then. Cruise community websites, chambers of commerce, and local arts and entertainment newspapers to get a sense of what’s happening near the schools you’re considering.
4. The job scene
It’s true to a certain extent that the jobs outlook is only as good as the local economy, but how a school adjusts its career services to match the economic climate says a lot about its commitment to students. Find out where recent graduates found themselves after college. Did they get work nearby? Move back home? Go abroad? It might not seem very pressing right now, but you’ll thank yourself for putting in the research when the time comes for making career moves.
5. You and the scene
Colleges like to think they’ve got “something for everyone”—and many do have the diversity to back it up—but let’s face it: A student with deep religious beliefs is not likely to feel very comfortable attending a school where liberal politics and/or the aforementioned party-animal mentality reign. Be honest about your comfort zone as you research schools, and when possible, reach out to current students who might share your interests and beliefs.
6. The value-for-dollars scene
Unfortunately, shopping for college isn’t like those insurance commercials where they give you the lowdown on their top five competitors. But a little research can help yield the best deals, so start investigating prospective schools beyond their price tag. Look at factors such as the quality of their labs and facilities, percentage of instructors who earned the highest degree possible, graduation rates, and career success of recent graduates (which schools tend to make available as an added “selling point”).