Lately I have been working closely with my clients who are juniors to narrow down the list of schools that they will apply to. Picking the final list can be a daunting task. One way to narrow things down a bit is to really look into the academic departments at the schools you are interested in. Since academics is one of the most important aspects of attending college, it is important that students feel connected to the curriculum and the major that they could potentially be studying.
Look at the Curriculum
There are several different types of college curriculums floating around these days. You will here words like integrated, hands-on, innovative and inter-disciplinary. But what does it all mean? Finding a school that matches your learning style is important, so do your research on how the curriculum is developed and taught.
For example, Brown University has what they call “Liberal Learning”. Students are encouraged to create their own core curriculum and have a great amount of freedom in determining what they will study.
Babson College takes the integrated approach. Not only do they teach how management and other business related competencies fit together, but they also incorporate the arts and sciences.
Go Beyond What Majors Are Offered
When researching certain academic departments, look deeper into what the department is teaching by reading the course descriptions. First pick a few majors that interest you and then see if you can find what courses are required to complete that major. Then, start hunting for the actual course descriptions.
The Agriculture Economics Department at Purdue University goes beyond offering course descriptions. They provide links to actual course syllabi. This is a great way to learn what topics will be covered in a specific class and what the expectations are.
Get To Know The Faculty
Looking at the bios of your potential professors is a great way to research the academic side of a college. Look at what the professors are teaching and what they are researching outside of the classroom.
The Music Department at Amherst College not only provides bios of some of their professors, but they also provide links to the course descriptions of the courses that the faculty are currently teaching.
Special Programs and Events
The Political Science Department at the University of Puget Sound has a great blog that provides information on news and events that are happening within the department. Academic departments are also creating accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to communicate with their students. Following these departments is great way to get inside information on what types of events the department is hosting and other special programs (internships, scholarships, etc.).
Doing research on the academic side of a college may also help you narrow down potential majors. Reading course requirements and descriptions, may help you realize that your “dream major” may not be what you thought it was.