By Sarah Wright
Compare and Contrast
It's always a good idea to collect as much information as you can before making a decision about which school you'll attend. This should apply to student testimonials as well. Look for common threads, since that's likely to be more accurate than a one-off opinion.
Also, you should be wary of anything that seems too over-the-top positive or negative. Unless you ignore a lot of stuff, your college experience isn't going to be 100% perfect, and anything that paints a school as a flaw-free utopia is probably not accurate. At the same time, though, any student testimonial that is 100% negative should also be taken with a grain of salt. Some schools aren't right for certain people, but that doesn't mean it won't be right for you.
Talk to Students One-on-One
Reading student testimonials might leave you with a specific impression of a school that, while evidence-based, isn't exactly accurate. One of the best ways to get your impressions of a school confirmed or refuted is to talk to current students of that school yourself. Of course, campus visits are a great way to accomplish this, because you know that you'll get an uncensored, candid conversation when you approach someone on the spot.
If that's not an option, ask the school's admissions office if you can speak with a current student. Most schools have some sort of system in place for this, be it e-mailing or talking on the phone at a set time. Make sure you know what you want to ask before talking to a student, though, because they're ultimately doing you a favor by discussing the school with you, and you don't want to waste their time.
Think About Other Things, Too
It's great if students are, on the whole, happy with their decision to attend a certain school. But that doesn't mean it's right for you. Student testimonials can be a great way to get firsthand information about what it's like to attend a specific school, but you shouldn't base your choice on that one factor.
You'll probably know when you've found the right school, but it's still a good idea to check yourself and make sure you're not choosing a college for the wrong reasons.