Want to kick the tires before investing in a custom WordPress site? Use the free WordPress.com service before buying.
If WordPress.com is too limiting for you, ask your IT department if they can host a site on your campus servers or purchase a hosted server instance in the cloud. Here are the WordPress recommendations for hosted services.
Finding the Right Theme
There are many free WordPress themes you can use. Use the search field in Appearance/Themes or peruse the WordPress theme directory. In some cases, you may desire more flexibility and aesthetics that come with professional designs. PremiumWP.com does a good job vetting professionally designed themes by category. In either case, it is a good idea to go do a site map and wireframe before picking your theme.
The WordPress Plugin directory contains over 24,000 plugins that can add some nifty functionality to your site. You need to make sure the plugins you investigate are compatible with the version of WordPress you are running. You can filter by most popular and by category, and here is a nice review and infographic on 30 of the most popular plugins, posted earlier this year.
The WordPress community is big and mature, which means you can find answers to just about any problem using the community forum and documentation. WP101 is also a good tutorial service for those needing video based instruction. Some modules are free, others are not.