Bailey couldn’t visit most of her colleges in person. But she figured out other ways to get a sense of what they were like. If you can’t visit all of your schools (and who can, really?), her tips might help you too.
I did not visit many schools before I applied for college, but I wish that I had. Both of my parents worked, I worked, I volunteered, I went to summer camps, and it felt like I had too much going on in my life for me to spare a couple days to visit more colleges during the summer between my junior and senior years. However, I do not always feel that I was completely disadvantaged by not physically visiting most of the schools to which I applied. Instead of visiting, I found other innovative ways to gauge what life was like at certain schools across America, and I believe these tips could help others who cannot visit colleges.
Most of us are lucky to have access to this beautiful thing called the Internet, and, in a lot of cases, it can be an imperative tool for high schoolers. There are thousands of college-related websites, from general college guidance sites (like the one you’re on!) to free test prep sites to the websites of colleges and universities themselves. Many provide important information for past, present, and future college students alike.
Since I neglected to visit colleges during my college application process, I used my colleges’ websites to help me make my college decisions. From course syllabi to the overview page for your major to the financial aid tips and processes, college websites have practically everything you need to know.
One of the best tools many college websites have is a virtual college tour. There are also several other free online college tour websites, independent of colleges and universities. Featuring campus pictures and often videos, virtual college tours take viewers through major buildings on campus, some classrooms, and even some dorm rooms—the same things you would see at an average college campus tour. To be honest the few college tours I went on in person were rushed, showing only the basics of campus over a short amount of time. With online tours, you can take your time and peruse campuses at your leisure.
You might also find campus tours on YouTube, not to mention lots of other videos from your potential colleges and their students. Spend some time watching college videos on YouTube, from fun viral videos to interviews with professors, to learn more about your colleges. Online videos are an amazing way to hear the real “voice” of a college or university, current students, and staff members.
If you’re particularly interested in a college, you can find many invaluable resources on that college’s website. You might research and apply for a college’s specific scholarships or register for scholarship auditions or try outs online. You can take a look at upcoming and past events to see what students do in their free time on campus. And many college websites will list contact information for professors, peer mentors, members of student government, counselors, or other staff members at their institution so students can contact different members of the campus community to address all of their questions or concerns. I always find it extremely helpful to be able to contact my admission counselor or department head because I feel connected with my college and everything that happens there.
The World Wide Web can also provide innovative ways for students to interact with several colleges at once. CollegeWeekLive.com hosts online college fairs for students who cannot travel to them, connecting students with representatives from various colleges and universities and allowing them to discuss college life. By attending an online college fair, students can learn the basics about several colleges at the same time, and they also have the opportunity to ask more in-depth questions about certain colleges and universities. If that’s not enough, CollegeWeekLive also enters students who attend their online college fairs in a drawing for scholarship money. It’s a win-win situation.
Here’s something I can almost guarantee you’re already using the Internet for: talking to other people. And when it comes to getting to know your colleges, social media sites, online forums, and other discussion platforms can be a great way to ask students and even staff your questions about the school. You can also learn from other students’ discussions if you’d rather just be a fly on the virtual wall. Even stalking a college or university’s Pinterest page can help you gain some insights!
Other websites such as CollegeXpress and CollegeBoard.org connect students across the world with schools, advice, and scholarship opportunities. (CollegeXpress even sends weekly e-mails that feature a list of scholarships with approaching deadlines along with an adorable gif to brighten your Saturday morning.) Using sites like these makes finding schools and scholarships convenient because students can conduct a search any time or place.
Don’t get me wrong: I love scouring the Internet for memes, quizzes, and gifs as much as the next person, but it has more constructive purposes too! From college websites to scholarship applications in your inbox, there are countless ways to get the college information you need online. Your future is bright—like the glowing screen in front of you.
If you can’t visit all of your colleges, what are you doing to learn more about them online (or off)? Leave a comment with your stories and advice for other students.