Where college research has been done for you

Collegelists.pbworks.com is a site
where college counselors post and edit lists of colleges based on specific
criteria.  Need to find a list of 3-2
architecture programs?  How about a list
of schools that have good dance programs for students who don’t want to major in
dance?  Or schools with a snowboarding
team?   Someone else has probably
found—and posted—it for you. 

It’s like Facebook for college searches

Unigo.com is a free website on which current students at the
colleges discuss their experiences at their respective schools.  The site is full of
links to blogs and online newspapers, campus pictures, and videos for each
college.  Students can also
create a small social network of people interested in the same schools.

The Wall Street Journal said, “This is a college-information
resource built for the age of YouTube and Facebook.”  We agree.

We like Unigo because it gives them a much more
subjective view of a school than they can get from most guidebooks or from the
school’s website.

The only drawback (as of this writing) to Unigo is that they’re
still in the process of adding colleges, so it’s possible that a school you or
your student wants to research won’t yet be on the site.  But they seem to be adding schools at a good
pace, and we’re guessing that Unigo is going to become one of the most popular
college search engines for high school kids. 

How to tour a college without actually visiting

If you can get past the strange spelling of the name, youniversitytv.com is a great website that
offers online tour guides who give personal tours through campuses all over the
country.  The tour guides interview
current students, admissions officers, faculty, and professors while
highlighting notable information about each college.

Like unigo.com, this site is new and still adding colleges,
so it’s not quite as robust as we’d like. 
But we’ll use and recommend just about any college resource that kids
will actually use as long as the information is good (which, in this case, it

Seniors, don’t forget to give thanks

Nobody gets into college alone.  There are always supportive people in your corner who help you get there.  So as you submit the last of your applications, take some time to thank the people who helped you. 

Here are some people who might deserve your thanks.

1. Your high school counselor. 

Even if you never actually met to discuss your applications, counselors do a lot of work for you behind-the-scenes that you might not be aware of.

2. Anyone who wrote your letters of recommendation.

3. The college rep who interviewed you.

4.  Your parents. 

From providing moral support to paying for the SAT tutor, your parents likely deserve a healthy dose of your gratitude. 

5. Your English teacher for reviewing your essays.

6. Anyone else who reviewed your essays as a favor to you (though I'm hoping you didn't shop them around to too many people).

7. The helpful admissions officer who answered your questions or called you to tell you something was missing from your file (don't blow this one off–say thank you!). 

8. Your older brother or sister who lent you some college wisdom.

9. The teacher or tutor who helped you improve your grades or your test scores.

10. Anyone else who helped you, gave you advice, encouraged you, provided emotional support, offered monetary support, or just generally took an interest in your college quest and your happiness. 

It's so easy to say thank you.  And you'd be surprised how often it comes back to you.

When plagiarism and stupidity collide

Last month, I published "30 Colleges, 30 Collegewise Guides to Getting In"
on this blog.  I gave away a lot of advice about how to approach the
application essays for each college, and I even included samples of
what a good response might sound like.

It should go without
saying that you shouldn't lift those responses and use them yourself. 
In fact, you shouldn't lift responses from anyone. 

But you really shouldn't plagiarize sample essays from the college's own website like this applicant did at the University of Virginia.  Wow. 

I know the pressures of college admissions.  I know how hard kids work and how badly you want to go to your chosen schools.  But please, don't be that kid they describe here.  Don't be the kid whose essay gets passed
around the office for a laugh and then gets called out on the school's

This applicant deserved what he got.  If you think you deserve better (I'm sure you do), make sure your essays are your own. You've worked too hard and it's just not worth the risk.

Another reason to love Wikipedia

Sure, you can't necessarily believe EVERYTHING you read on Wikipedia.  But everyone’s favorite research tool can also be used in the
college search.  Wikipedia has great
college write-ups that include information on everything from the make-up of
the student body to dorm life descriptions and listings of notable alumni.  And really, who wouldn't want to know that Ben
Affleck, Luke Wilson, and President Obama all went to Occidental College (although none of them went on to graduate from Oxy.)

Competitiveness Reconsidered

You don't have to spend a lot of time reading our blog or hanging around our offices before you hear our Collegewise mantra.  The bad news you hear about getting into college is only true for about 40-50 schools.  The vast majority of the over 2,000 colleges out there accept most of their applicants.  Relax.  You're going to college.

We'll be using a new study by an economist at Stanford University (one of those schools where the bad news is true) to give our mantra additional legs.  From the article Competitiveness Reconsidered in "Inside Higher Ed"

"A small number of colleges have become much more competitive over
recent decades, according to Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at
Stanford University. But her study — published by the National Bureau
of Economic Research — finds that as many as half of colleges have
become substantially less competitive over time."

Spread the word. 

(US News) Rankings Have No Place in College Football

Are you ready for some football?  USC is playing Notre Dame today, a
bitter rivalry with Trojans and leprechauns facing off.  It's homecoming
weekend at Penn State where the forecast is 30 degrees and snowing,
but I promise you the Nittany Lion fans will be out there in full force, as will their legendary coach, 83 year-old Joe "JoePa" Paterno. And the Red River Rivalry taking place between Oklahoma and Texas today has always among most bitter rivalries in college football.

Whether or not you're a sports fan, you can't argue with its rich history of college football, or with the energy and camaraderie
it generates for students.  Rain or shine, those students are out there
every Saturday decked out in their school colors, singing the fight
songs, and of course, hurling traditional insults at the other team ("We
don't give a damn for the whoooole state of Michigan, whoooole state of Michigan….we're from O-hi-oooo!").

students can tell you where their team is on the controversial college
football rankings, but most don't know or care if their school is
ranked on the arguably more controversial US News college rankings. 
They're enjoying their college experience too much to be concerned with
an arbitrary ranking of their school's quality.  And those students who get the same enjoyment
playing in the marching band on the field, or doing physics research
with a professor, or being an RA in the dorms, or playing intramural
basketball with their new friends would all likely tell you that their
college's ranking (or lack thereof) isn't influencing their college
experience at all.  

Colleges can be evaluated, but they can't
be measured.  There are no win-loss records to compare for college
quality.  So don't rely on an arbitrary ranking to pick your school. 
It's easier to decide for yourself what you want from your college
experience and to seek out those schools that meet or exceed  your rankings. 

Best of Our Blog Posts for Seniors

We spend a lot of time writing about how to apply and get in to college.  So if you’re a senior trying to figure out how write your essays, how to fill out your applications, or even now to have a great interview, chances are, we’ve already written something about it here.

To save you the trouble of searching our blog, here are ten of our best past blog entries for seniors.  Enjoy, and best of luck on your applications.

1. Five Things Seniors Should Never Do When Applying to College

2. Stay On Their Good Sides      

   Tips to help you make sure you don’t
unintentionally annoy admissions officers

3. Five Things Seniors Can Still Do To Help Them Get Into College

4. College Essay Dos and Don’ts

5. How to Ruin Your College Application

    Sharing some advice from Jay Mathews at the Washington Post

6. Why Parents and College Essays Don’t Mix

7. Five Things Every College Wants You to Be

    And even if you’re a senior, it’s not too late to be them.

8. Inside the Admissions Office

    A reminder that admissions officers are just regular people.

9. Attack of the Killer Cliches

Please oh please, think twice before you write that essay about that one time you worked on a blood drive.

10. The One Thing You Need to Know About

College interviews, essays, getting in to college today–we’ll break them down and share the most important thing you need to know about each topic.