When it comes to getting first, or later impressions of a college there’s nothing like campus visits. But during these times there are other online tools, outside of my profiles and insights, that can help.
If you have received acceptance letters, but have not decided on a college, check out accepted student Facebook groups and college managed portals where you may interact with potential classmates. Continue due diligence. Contact your admissions representative, the financial aid office, and those who manage services that will be important to your child’s success in college. Ask them any outstanding questions. Their answers will be important in helping your family to make an informed decision.
Want to know how alumni are doing with their degrees? It’s becoming more common for high school students to have their own LinkedIn.com profiles. Use LinkedIn, type the name of the school in the search bar, and you can find alumni demographics for colleges of interest. You can also find a directory of alumni of that school, as well as people who are employed there. Some might be open to interaction with prospective students and parents, but be respectful of their time. College alumni offices might also help by referring you to local alumni clubs or young alumni groups. The career development center might have directories of employers who participated in the recent job fairs or interviewed students on campus.
Check their online editions for the latest campus news and events. Some of these news vehicles, like the Rutgers Daily Targum also offer an option to receive campus news by e-mail. The papers at the larger schools will sometimes have summer editions. That might prove helpful if campus visits resume during the summer.
Colleges that have larger online marketing budgets and more to show on campus will also have virtual tours that you can take in place of campus visits. If you take virtual tours, take them at ground level, as you’re walking through the campus and community. Pay closest attention to the buildings and places students frequent most often as if you actually on campus. I also recommend using YouTube to watch student-guided tours and visits to residence halls. Choose the more recent clips featuring students who might still be students, should you choose that school. You want to see the school as you’re most likely to see it during the summer or fall.
If the college doesn’t have one on their site, google ‘(name of school) aerial tour’ or ‘(name of school) aerial view’. This will give you a good perspective of how large, or how small, a campus will be. You can also see if the campus and community are bicycle and pedestrian friendly, or if you will need to rely on a car or buses to help you get around.
Check out real estate sites as well as the directory for the off campus housing office. One thing that I like about some real estate sites like apartments.com : they map the locations of the rentals and show you how close/far they are from campus. From my experience, the “luxury apartment” complexes closest to campus will be the most expensive housing option. But sometimes students and their families want to know if off-campus housing costs may fall, and be less expensive than living on campus.
I use pinterest.com to post pictures of the colleges that I visit. I used to take all of the pictures for my pages when I took campus visits. But now I look for pictures taken by others. I want to show parents and students what a college and community look like when I’m not there, especially during a different season, or major campus events. If you’re from a Western or Southern state, for example, and not used to snow, you might want to see how an Eastern campus looks and feels in snow. You can search by college for many photos, especially those taken at schools that have a higher media profile.
Daytripper University is a great “go-to” site to get impressions of the communities at many colleges. Not only have its co-owners taken journeys to colleges from the perspective of parents; the site also features student campus correspondents. The site also has its own College Touring Facebook group If you’re interested in business, Poets and Quants for Undergrads also features student correspondents from many college business programs.
It’s difficult to know. But I know one thing: the colleges where you might have registered for campus visits will be sending follow up e-mails. I recently cancelled a trip to visit several Boston area colleges, but have received an e-mail from every single one of them. If you have expressed interest in taking a visit, admissions offices are likely to keep in contact. They might be able to reschedule events, or invite you to something virtual in place of them.
I know that I have not touched on every online tool that you can use in place of campus visits for the short term. But I am proud to be a part of a professional community of independent advisors and school counselors that will do all that it can to help you make the best informed decision for the journey to college. And, if you have a suggestion for a “go-to” site that I have not mentioned here, please comment and share with others on the journey.
Need advice on how to work the Web for information about colleges of interest? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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