College viewbooks are beautiful and show you all the great things colleges have to offer. Viewbooks share a lot of valuable information for perspective students, such as available majors, student activities, and admissions information. However, there are many things that are not included. In addition, sometimes things portrayed in viewbooks can be deceiving. While viewbooks have great information for your initial college research, students should dig deeper to get more information about the college. Here are eight things you won’t always learn from college viewbooks:
- Diversity. Have you ever noticed that many of the pictures in viewbooks show diverse groups of students? This is usually done on purpose to show you the campus has diversity. However, many of the photos used in viewbooks do not accurately portray the diversity of the college. Sometimes viewbooks will share diversity statistics (race, gender, etc), but if they do not, this information can usually be found on the college website.
- Crime information. No matter how great of an area or neighborhood you live in, there may be some crime. For a college that is trying to sell you on attending, the thought of sharing any crime information is not always attractive. Colleges that do not see much crime might boast about their safe communities, but other colleges might not mention crime information at all in their viewbooks. However, crime information is required by law to be made available to anyone thanks to the Clery Act. You should be able to find crime statistic information on the institution’s website. In addition, don’t forget to research the crime information for the surrounding area because you will leave campus occasionally.
- Class information. All college classes are small, fun, and engaging, right? At least that is the way they look in many college viewbooks. College viewbooks may share their average class size and student-to-faculty ratio, but those numbers do not mean every class will be that small. Many colleges, no matter how small they are, will have large lecture classes as well. Professors will also have different teaching styles that are not always shown in viewbooks. There will be a variety of classes at all of the colleges you are considering and could vary from college to college, and even from subject to subject.
- Surrounding community information. Have you ever noticed that all colleges are located close to something cool? At least that is the way it seems when reviewing college viewbooks. However, many of the colleges that say they are close to the beach are not that close. Sure, it’s within a drive, but it could take you an hour to get there. Research the surrounding community to see what it is like because you’ll become a resident of the town during your time at the college as well. Explore the local area to see if it has everything you need and want (stores, healthcare, restaurants, entertainment).
- Cost of attendance. Viewbooks are dated almost as soon as they are printed. If you pick up a viewbook, the cost of attendance may not be the same when you plan to attend. Many colleges increase their tuition and other fees every year. In addition, viewbooks do not always share all of the fees students will need to pay when they are students. Check the institution website to get the most up-to-date figures and it might be worth it to see if they know the cost for when you will be attending.
- Why students leave. Unfortunately some students leave a college before they graduate. Sometimes it is for personal reasons, but other times it is related to something associated with the institution. Find out the retention and graduate rates of the college, and if the percentages are low, ask why students are leaving. The reasons the students are leaving could be a reason you may not want to consider the college.
- How much financial aid you will receive. “90% of students receive financial aid.” It is common for viewbooks to quote statistics about the number of students who receive financial aid, or the average financial aid package. But, that does not tell you how much you will receive if you become a student at the college. Financial aid is based on a lot of different things and if cost is going to play a major role in your decision, it is important to get an idea of how much financial aid you will receive. Check with the financial aid office to learn about the scholarships and grants they have available for incoming students, as well as the possibility of renewing those scholarships if you receive them. You can also fill out the net price calculator to get an estimate about the amount of financial aid you may receive if you attend.
- How you will feel on campus. Viewbooks are marketing materials. The whole point of the viewbook is to sell you on the institution. Most colleges will look amazing in the viewbook and will make you want to attend. But, they all won’t be for you. To find out how you will feel on campus, you will need to do further research about the college and visit the colleges you are interested in as you narrow down your list.
College viewbooks share valuable information that prospective students will want to know. They are great research material for your initial college search. However, as you are narrowing down your college list, it will be important to do further research because college viewbook don’t tell you everything about the institution.