01/11/2012 01:15 pm ET

College Decision Process: The 5 Surprising People Who Can Help You

It’s easy to think that the only people you can talk to about where to go to college are your parents and your college counselor. But there are so many other resources at your disposal! No opinion is worthless -- collect all the information you can. Here are five people you might not have thought to ask about your decision, but who probably have a lot to offer:

Alumni from your high school

This is a great pool of people to tap into. If you’re deciding between Georgetown and Boston College, why not ask former students from your high school who now attend those schools? See what they’ve thought of their experiences. What are the pros and cons of each school? Do they wish they had thought more seriously about another school?

How to reach out: If you know people personally, a phone call or informal coffee meeting is great. If you don’t? “I asked a mutual friend to put me in touch via Facebook with a student at my dream school,” says Maddie, a freshman at Cornell. It’s acceptable to make use of any and all connections, and if you don’t have any, you can always send a Facebook message. The worst that will happen is that the person won’t respond, and you’re right where you started! But alums are generally willing to help out someone from their high school.

Current college students you meet on your visits

These are often the people most willing to talk to you. If you meet a current student on your visit, grill them for all the information they have! Don’t be shy -- they probably won’t remember you or what you asked if you do end up matriculating. Current students will usually be very honest about their experiences, so go ahead and ask whatever’s on your mind!

How to reach out: If you’re going on a designated “visit day,” students will be right there to answer your questions. Your first target should be your tour guide, who will probably leave time at the end of the tour for Q&A. If you are visiting on a random day, stop by the local hangout, coffee shop, or student center to find students to talk to. You don’t want to approach someone who is rushing to class!

Professors you meet on your visits

Professors can tell you specific information about academic departments that general recruiters can’t. They are who you will be getting your education from, and meeting them is important! “I sat in on a class at two of my top schools I was deciding between. I know one class doesn’t tell the whole story, but it really helped me see which students were excited about learning and which professors were exciting,” says Maggie, a junior at Duquesne University.

How to reach out: Stay after class and introduce yourself. Even the busiest professor will be happy to chat with you for a minute or two.

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