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How to Conduct a Virtual College Tour During COVID-19 Closures

Are you stuck at home because of Coronavirus fears? Or concerned about the high travel cost of college tours? Whatever the reason, more and more students and families are turning to virtual college tours and college research to learn about different universities from the comfort of their own homes.

But how can you get a feel for a school without being able to walk around the campus and interact with the people there?

Here at Insight, we believe that by doing your research correctly, taking extensive notes, and approaching your college research with the same amount of thoughtfulness you would for any other big decision, you’ll certainly be able to make an educated choice about which college you should attend!

Read on below for our tips on how to learn all about a college — without ever visiting.

Insight Tip #1: Go to The School Website

Where can you learn all about a particular college? On the college’s website, of course!

Be sure to learn about the different majors and classes offered. This will help you to distinguish between the offerings of each college. You can also find helpful resources tailored to your exact needs at Student Support Centers, which might include:

  • Career Services
  • Disability Services
  • Cultural Affinity Services
  • Women’s or LGBTQIA+ Services
  • Student Wellness Centers – for both physical and mental health support
  • Student Success Centers – for free tutoring and academic support

You’ll be surprised to learn what support centers are available and what services they offer.

So whether you’re hoping to pursue study abroad, internships, academic research with a professor, join a club or looking for other unique opportunities, be sure to do the research about all the exciting opportunities available at your college.

Insight Tip #2: Visit Their Social Media — and Interact with Actual Students

Another great way to learn all about a college is by visiting their social media sites.

You can learn almost everything about a particular school by researching their InstagramYouTubeLinkedInTwitter, and Facebook pages. Here you can also get a better sense for the college’s brand and what really makes them unique.

However, an even better way to learn all about a college is by talking with current and former students!

That’s why I love interactive forums like Facebook groups for university students or specific university clubs, forums like Reddit or Quora, and even LinkedIn, to connect with current students and alumni. Connecting with groups is generally easier when you share something in common with them like a hobby, major interest, or even a shared hometown.

Challenge yourself to ask at least five questions, and don’t be shy to post a question or to even reach out to a particular student or student group!

These forums are all especially helpful to understand the student experience at a school. However, if you’re unable to connect with any students, watching YouTube videos of current students or alumni talking about their experience at a particular school can also be a great way to learn more.

Insight Tip #3: Go to The College Review Sites — But Read Them Critically!

Another great resource is online college review forms like NicheUnigo, or even sites like RateMyProfessor.

These review forms are great places to find both amazing qualities of a particular college — and also learn about areas for concern! Every college has its positive and negative qualities. That’s why informed students are aware of all these before they make their college decision, and before they show up for their first day.

Think of college websites like a glossy brochure. They’re touting all the positives of a school, but it’s on the review sites where you can find the real, nitty-gritty truth and both the positive and negative qualities of a college.

That said, these websites can also be forums for students to air their complaints (whether real or imagined!) and so you should be sure to read them critically.

From college review sites, you’ll find areas of concern, such as discovering that a college might have less-than-responsive professors or impacted, hard to get classes.

That’s why by doing research ahead of time, smart students can recognize these challenges, how they compare across their schools, and then take proactive action. If professors are hard to get in touch with, they’ll take actions like being persistent and visiting office hours. Or if classes are impacted, they’ll plan ahead and take a class over the summer to get ahead.

By doing college research, you can know before you go to college.

Insight Tip #4: Get in Contact with School Officials

Whenever possible, get in touch with college officials by emailing or calling the Admissions Department, the department of the major you’re most interested in, or even career services.

That’s because there is no better way to understand the specific benefits of a college than by talking to those who work there. Prospective students can even reach out to ask school officials to be connected with current students or alumni to learn about their experiences.

So if you are having trouble deciding whether to become a business major at ABC College or XYZ University, one of the best ways to understand the differences between these two schools is by talking to those with first-hand experience.

Most college officials are happy to respond to your questions via email or phone. So if you want to understand what services you can get at the career center or the most popular classes for your major, directly contact the people in the Admissions Office, Career Center, Disability Services, or Student Success Services to gain great insights into your universities.

Insight Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Research the College Town Too!

It’s easy to forget to research the environment around the university. However, where your school is, what resources are available there, and other local cultural factors will greatly impact your college experience — and should not be overlooked!

So be sure to research the town that you are considering moving to, particularly if it is a place quite different than what you’re familiar with.

Do this by looking up the town on Yelp and TripAdvisor to see what the local attractions are and get a sense of the community. Additionally, consider that where you attend college could impact your internship opportunities. So don’t forget to research opportunities ahead of time by going to job-search sites like LinkedIn and Indeed to see what jobs and internships would be available to you in this town and region of the country.

Even if you’re not able to visit a college in person, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an informed college decision.

If you do your research, take detailed notes, (and don’t forget to connect with students, administrators, and alumni!) you’ll be certain to find which college is best for you. And always remember, your Insight counselor is available to answer your questions about colleges.

By Amy Brennen, College Admissions Counselor, Insight Education

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