With the recent pandemic of COVID-19 and colleges canceling visit days and tours, many high schoolers have been left without the best way to visit a school – the campus visit. Students now have to get creative with how they research schools, and we are here to give you some tips on ways to research a school without stepping foot on campus.
When visiting a college campus, one of the most important parts of the visit is engaging the students to learn about daily life. High schoolers can substitute this by using Induck College Impressions, an online database of interviews with students of diverse backgrounds from different schools. Students can read these interviews to see answers to questions that they may have asked their tour guide or students they met in the cafeteria during lunch.
Reddit is also a useful tool for reading about student opinions and anonymously asking questions about academic departments, student life, or whatever else is important to you. But, as with all anonymous social platforms, take everything users say with a grain of salt and don’t make major decisions based on this information.
To learn about issues and happenings on campus, go on the websites for the school’s newspaper and other publications and search for words like, “protest,” “meal plan,” “housing” and other terms that may be important to you, such as your major or affinity group, to learn about topics that are relevant to you. Make sure to do Google searches for articles because the town’s local news sources will sometimes cover happenings at the school. Also, most schools, especially larger schools, will have multiple publications that are easier to find through Google than the school’s website. For example, Vanderbilt has student-run newspapers and magazines, such as the Vanderbilt Hustler, Vanderbilt Political Review, the Vanderbilt Review, but they are not listed under its school-sponsored publications because they are student-run.
Unfortunately, technology cannot completely replace the feeling of seeing the campus with your own eyes, but YouVisit and CampusReel are two tools that simulate the college visit experience. YouVisit uses virtual reality and 360-degree video to take you on a tour through the campus that is similar to the campus tour you would go on as a prospective student. CampusReel uses crowd-sourced videos from students to give an insider’s view of daily life on campus through the eyes of the student host. If those tools aren’t enough, many college campuses have Google Maps Street View available for their campuses, so you can give yourself a tour around the campus using that tool.
YouTube is another great resource for seeing what the campus looks like at different times of the year. Visit the school-sponsored YouTube page and also look for daily life vlogs from students to see if you can picture yourself being a part of campus.
When you visit a school you also visit the surrounding town and area of the campus, which can heavily influence daily life, weekends, and internship opportunities for students at the school. We recommend using DataUsa to research the town the school is in to understand the demographics. If the town is a college town, Google search online phrases the combine the school and town name, such as “Bates College Students and Lewiston, Maine residents,” to learn about the dynamics between the school and town.
For activities around the town, use TripAdvisor or other tourism websites, such as Conde Nast Traveler to see what museums, restaurants, and other activities are available. If there isn’t much to do in the town or the school is in a suburb of a city, research what there is to do in the nearby towns, but make sure to use Google Maps to see how far the school is from the city and how you would get there as a student.
For additional information about colleges, student blogs are useful resources. These can range from the school-sponsored admissions blog to less “official” resources, such as HerCampus and Spoon University.
Although none of these options are the exact same as visiting the campus in person, we believe that a combination of these resources will provide more than enough information for helping you pick the college that fits you best.