College websites can be frustrating. Many are designed by professional web and marketing firms using unusual fonts or straw-like shapes that morph into a picture about the latest theatre arts production. Such flash might prove more a distraction than an aid when seeking necessary information.
Most applicants want to get past the marketing elements — the big pictures that take dozens of seconds to load, the columns of facilities listed but scantly explained — and get right to the crux of what’s needed to best understand the school. Most want to find information to more convincingly make their match in the essays. Others want to gain an understanding of the school and their potential major to sound convincing in an interview. Still others might just want to know the essays, the deadlines, and a sense of what the school is looking for in a capable candidate.
No matter what applicants might desire, should they get lost among the gloss and glamour of a website, the one thing to remember is to look for the prospective student section. That is where to find the essentials. Yet, getting lost — and I have been on NYU’s Steinhardt site searching for its animation program for over an hour — is part of the game. There is, sometimes, a side benefit when one runs into features of the school or a program otherwise unknown and completely neglected.
While some of the following list can be found in the Common Application site, should the school be a member, all should still be answered on even the most basic of websites:
1. What are all the steps for applying?
2. What are the deadlines for each of the school’s admissions processes?
3. What are the potential majors, minors, and interdepartmental programs offered?
4. What are the required classes for each major and who is teaching these classes. If there is a full four-year sample schedule, that’s all the better.
The following are some websites that effectively deliver the key features cited above.
#1. USC’s admission website for ‘prospective students’ does a solid job of explaining the USC application components, supplies an application checklist, addresses additional major requirements for such majors as cinematic arts. All can easily be found at https://admission.usc.edu/firstyear/prospective/
#2. Drexel, which offers early action, early decision, regular decision clearly and plainly, gives all the dates for financial aid and application deadlines: nothing fancy, just what an applicant needs to know quickly. http://drexel.edu/undergrad/apply/deadlines/
#3. The University of Chicago lists all is majors, minors, interdisciplinary courses across its colleges concisely and accessibly: https://www.uchicago.edu/academics/programs_of_study/. As a side note, should you visit the website, check out ‘Signature Courses,’ exciting courses in the social sciences and humanities meant to stimulate new inquiry: https://college.uchicago.edu/academics/college-signature-courses.
#4. The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan is jaw dropping exemplary. I recommend that all students preparing to apply for their top selection schools prepare a four-year plan. By quarter or semester, it should contain all the classes they will be taking with as much detail as they can obtain. If it’s Stamps, they can use a web tool called the Curriculum Designer to do this very thing. Full course descriptions are accompanied by instructors, whom you may click on for their current resumes. http://curriculum-designer.com/tag-list.
If, while searching through the websites when writing up Why Northwestern, Chicago or Boston University, you do decide to linger and take a beauty and spirit tour of Notre Dame (http://tour.nd.edu/locations/) or one of Yale’s most popular courses, Introduction to Ancient Greek History with Donald Kagan, http://oyc.yale.edu/courses, indulge. With the world of college websites at your fingertips, it’s just a question of knowing where to look.
Ralph Becker, founder of Ivy College Prep, LLC (www.ivycollegeprep.net) and a resident of Long Beach, has been counseling students for the last 12 years. A former Yale Alumni interviewer, he holds a certificate in college counseling from UCLA Extension, and has published SAT* Vocab 80.