Since most schools aren’t offering official tours and on-campus information sessions, it’s no surprise rising seniors (and juniors!) are nervous about how they’ll narrow down their college lists. While no amount of research can truly replace the college visit, here’s what we recommend:
- Use more than one resource. College websites, you’ll soon learn, vary significantly in terms of both quality and quantity of information. While it’s important to find out how the school describes itself, college websites are most useful when it comes to campus pictures, basic facts, and explaining curriculum structure. Secondary sources can paint a more complete picture. We recommend the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which releases an updated version every year and centers its descriptions on interviews with current students.
- Take notes. We recommend making a spreadsheet of all the criteria important to you. Columns can include everything from average class size to prevalence of Greek life, relevant majors, gender ratios, climate, housing options, campus traditions, general impressions, pros, and cons.
- Consider visiting a few of your favorite schools—especially those you’re contemplating for Early Decision. It won’t be the same as an official tour, but you can still walk around campus, explore the facilities, and even speak with a rogue student or faculty member (from a safe distance).
- Contact the school directly. You’ll be able to find contact information for your regional representative on the school website. Write them an email introducing yourself and ask whether they can connect you with a current student.
- Reach out to friends and acquaintances who attend the colleges you’re interested in. It’s possible, too, that your high school’s college office can provide you with contact information for alumni who attend schools on your list.
- Take a virtual tour. Most schools are offering virtual information sessions, but they vary in quality and usefulness. It probably makes sense to register for a handful, but prioritize your own research and direct contact with the admission office, current students, and alumni. If a college offers one-on-one or small group Q&A sessions, opt for those over general info sessions.
Most importantly, remember: colleges are just as stressed about recruiting prospective students during the pandemic as you are about choosing where to apply. They want to help, so don’t be afraid to ask. And, as always, let us know how we can help, too. You can contact us at any time.