College—the opportunity to immerse yourself in specialized classes and determine your passions. As a freshman, I recognize how difficult it is to decide where to spend the next few years of your life, especially in this era of social distancing and virtual classes. Fortunately, many resources exist for you to make an informed decision even if you can’t visit a campus in person. Whether you are doing initial research and creating your list of potential colleges or you are a senior getting ready to apply, this guide will help you find useful resources to aid you in your college application and decision process.
1. Virtual Information Sessions
Information sessions are an opportunity for students to learn more about prospective colleges from admissions representatives and ask pressing questions. Many college admissions offices have moved their information sessions for prospective students online. This means you can hear the same presentation as if you had attended in-person so you won’t miss out on anything! It can also be less difficult to get answers to your questions through this virtual format. It may feel more intimidating to raise your hand during an in-person event than it is to type your question into the chat. You may be able to reach an admissions representative directly via email or Zoom afterward if your questions aren’t answered immediately. Be sure to register for these events early as they can reach capacity quickly.
2. Department and Major Specific Curricula
Researching a specific department at a university can provide insight into your potential experience on campus. You can see what your department excels at and what opportunities you may have access to as a student. Most schools also publish a recommended course pathway for each major they offer. If you have an idea of what major you would like to study, then look at your potential pathway to see what your course load may look like. By doing this, you can determine whether you’ll have the time to branch out and take extra classes that interest you. You can also see what credits you can transfer from AP exams, IB exams or community college classes you have already taken. Remember that not all schools allow you to transfer credits.
3. Student Perspectives
Social media can provide you with a more authentic lens into what happens on campus and how current students feel about the university. A school’s social media accounts can show you more about what the campus has to offer and the daily environment. Explore accounts and groups for various segments of the student body to see how active different communities are. Be sure to check out profiles that relate to your specific interests such as intramurals, majors, specialties and extracurricular activities. There are also many platforms, such as YouTube, CampusReel, YouVisit and CampusTours, that allow applicants to virtually tour dorm rooms and campus halls. Using these sources—in addition to walkthroughs that schools publish—you can get a much better idea of how it will feel to be a student at that schoo.
4. Surrounding Community
When deciding on a college, it is also important to look at what is available off-campus in the surrounding community. Read about the city or town your university is located in to see what you’ll be able to do when you’re not studying. Google Maps will provide you with a great bird’s eye view of restaurants and attractions around campus. You can also switch to Street View to “drive” around the campus and find directions between certain locations to see how long it will take you to travel from place to place.
5. Keep Specific Notes
While scrolling through the various videos and webpages, you may find yourself overwhelmed by all of the information. Your college research process is ongoing, and you are not expected to decide where you will end up in just one day. I recommend using a spreadsheet to organize all of the pros and cons of each school you are considering. Organizing your findings will also help later on when you begin to write your college essays. You will be able to easily pick out examples of what interests you about each school and convey that interest through your application. As your college acceptances begin to roll in later in the year, you can compare the specific pros and cons you have listed between to make sure your final decision is one that suits you best.
Hopefully, the above tips will help you with your virtual college search. I wish you the best of luck in your search for the perfect school and the college application process!