Through the Looking Glass: Navigating College Websites

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College websites are labyrinths, whether they are carefully laid out or seemingly dashed together, you will not be able to find the information you want to find where you think you should be able to find it: it is a grim truth. As someone who is rather far from deserving the title “tech savvy”, it took me a while to develop a sense of where colleges stash the important information on their webpages, so, to save you from a few hours of trying to find the “fees and financial aid” page (which will always be the hardest to find) here are some tips on where to look for certain things and how to find bits that slip through the wide gaps in college web layouts.

The vast majority of university or college websites will feature a navigation bar at the top of the page including several categories such as “academics” and “admission”. Below are two examples of this format. With that set up in mind, here is a quick guide to help you work your way through the labyrinth.

image by www.valpo.edu

image by www.valpo.edu

image by www.wm.edu

image by www.wm.edu

The Basics:
Where is the school? What is its teaching philosophy? How big is the student body? Most of the answers to these questions will be found in the “About” section of the site. This will generally be the easiest page to find, as it will be prominently labelled. Once you get to the “About” page, you will probably see sub-categories such as “mission and values”, “campus”, “history”, and “visiting campus”.

What Can I Study Here? What will I have to study here?
If you are, as I was, looking for a specific major or area of study, this is often a good item to locate next. A list of offered majors, departments, and the academic roadmap you could expect at that school should be under the “Academics” tab. To find a description of the general requirements all undergraduate students must meet, you will probably need to click on “Undergraduate Studies” or the name of whichever school you intend to study in (such as “College of Arts and Sciences” or “College of Engineering”). Spend some time exploring the academic pages; they offer loads of information that can be incredibly useful in assessing the school!

How much is tuition?!
As I said before, this is the most elusive smidgen of information on most college websites. The best place to start is the “Admissions” or “Admissions and Aid” tab. If you are lucky, this will take you right to a main page with a “Fees and Financial Aid” category. Otherwise, try tabs and categories such as “Financial Aid” and “Scholarships”; sometimes you can only get to the negative numbers by navigating through the positive ones. If there is still no sign of a clear tuition and fees page, search for it in the website’s search bar.

How do I apply?
This is another piece of information that is often placed prominently on the front page. If the site has an “Apply” tab, it may take you to a page with links to their application. It is usually better to go to the “Admissions” page. There, you should be able to find a list of needed application materials, a description of the application process, profiles of previous admitted classes, and application deadlines (they are important!).

Where Would I Live, and What is Life Like on Campus?
This is also an easy area to find. Information about residential services, dining services, student organizations, and campus events will be under the “Campus/Student Life” tab.

What about Athletics?
Well, if you are into that sort of thing, you can generally find information about athletic programs under the “Athletics” tab or within “Campus/Student Life”.

The best way to find answers to the questions you have about college is by browsing college websites! I hope this list helps clear up a bit of the initial web searching confusion. If there is anything I didn’t include that you just can’t seem to find on any college websites, let me know in the comments!

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