By Sam Coren
Since starting at StudentAdvisor 6 months ago I've read through hundreds of college reviews written by students, alumni, faculty and parents. At this point I feel like I know more about other people's schools than my own alma mater! Now that I've logged quite a bit of review reviewing experience I feel that I've got a good grip on what makes for a helpful review and what doesn't:
What's Helpful in College Reviews
Stating your major or department. This is even more important for reviews of larger colleges where there are a ton of different majors and departments to choose from. Some academic departments receive more funding and resources than others. Because of this, more often than not, two students in different majors can have radically different experiences at the same school.
Describing the condition of the facilities. Did your college just open a multi-million dollar science lab? Or is your library about to fall apart? Having an idea of what state a college's campus is in can give prospective students an idea of what to expect on a potential visit. Bonus points if you can mention what the best and worst dorms are on campus. This University of Green Bay-Wisconsin student review went as far to indicate that the school has an underground tunnel system to keep you out of the cold during the winter.
Indicating popular student activities or traditions. Whether they're officially though the college or not - letting future students know their options for spending their free time is incredibly valuable. This is even more useful for students considering schools in rural locations. Does your school have a lot of concerts? Is theater big? Is football a religion? What clubs are the most popular? Do greeks dominate the scene?
Explaining why you chose to go there. What was the major factor in choosing your college? Was it cost? Research or internship opportunities? Location? Reputation? In this University of Vermont review the student claims that the academics and atmosphere are what brought her there. Everyone chooses to attend colleges for different reasons, but when you indicate your's in your review it gives the reader a lot more insight into your opinion.
What's Not Helpful in College Reviews
Letting your personal baggage shine through. We've all had the roommate who we didn't get along with, the professor who treated us unfairly, and the bad day when we forgot our umbrella and took our frustrations out on the rest of the world. Don't let one crummy incident taint your review or your entire opinion of your college.
Writing "nothing" in "the bad" section. In every StudentAdvisor college review we always ask 3 open-ended questions: What's good, what's bad, and would you go there again. Every school has ways in which it can improve even if it's something minor like wishing there was a better dessert selection in the cafeteria. So be honest and don't be shy to tell future students what's missing from your college.
Speaking ill of other colleges. There are some situations when comparing colleges to one another can be helpful, but as far as personal reviews goes you should only try focusing on one school per review. Maybe you were a transfer student who wasn't a fan of your old school - bashing them in a review of your new school is probably not a good idea. Remember, different colleges can be a better match for different students.