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College Experience | College Reviews | July 2012

College Reviews: How to Write a Great College Review

By Taylor Cotter | Staff

At StudentAdvisor, we receive hundreds of questions from prospective college students. These students are often trying to decide between two similar schools, trying to figure out what a particular college is really like, or looking for some insight on a major or degree program. We often direct these students to read a college review of their chosen school.

So, a college review that simply says that a certain college is “good” or “bad” doesn't necessarily provide the insight these students are looking for on StudentAdvisor. Though we’re grateful for every college review, consider what you would have asked while you were applying to college. When writing a college review, take it as a second-chance opportunity to answer the questions that weren’t ever answered for you!

Last summer, StudentAdvisor published a list of what is most helpful for prospective students when reading a college review. We’ve updated the list for 2012:

What’s Helpful:

Stating your major, department, or activities with which you were closely associated.

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Did you love your classes and professors? Great, but this is only helpful if we know what classes and professors you took! This is even more important for reviews of larger colleges where there are a ton of different majors and departments from which to choose. 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. Did you love college because you were on the dance team or in a Greek organization? Let us know! Student life is a huge part of college, and if you had a great time on a certain team or in a club, give students a heads-up that it’s a great way to be involved.


Describing the condition of the facilities – in detail.


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. 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.

Bonus points if you can mention what the best and worst dorms are on campus. This is one of the most popular questions that prospective students ask and can be a huge part of where a student decides to go to school. Additionally, discussing the food options on campus (not just if the food is “great” or “terrible”) is so helpful, especially since more and more college students are living on restricted diets.

Indicating popular student activities or traditions.

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? Does every student have a fake ID? Do students spend their Fridays and Saturdays sneaking alcohol into dorms? Or, are weekends at your school reserved for extra studying? As far as academics go, most schools are relatively comparable – every biology major is taking Biology 101 – but it’s the free time that makes schools stand out from one another. Be honest and forthcoming – it will make a difference!

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 reasons in your review it gives the reader a lot more insight into your opinion.

What's Not Helpful:


Letting your personal baggage shine through.


Write a College Review, Not Helpful

We've all had a roommate with whom we didn't get along, 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. This isn’t to say that your negative experiences aren’t valuable tools for incoming students – they are. Before writing about them, remember to frame them in a way that’s helpful or insightful for a student who might be going to that school.


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. Wishing there was a better dessert selection in the cafeteria? Had a boring class? So be honest and don't be shy to tell future students what's missing from your college. There are always ways to frame criticisms so that they’re helpful for future students, even if you loved your school!



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. If you went to two schools, submit two reviews!