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In past years, you may have heard all about the importance of visiting colleges in-person to gain a better understanding of the campus, culture, and overall fit. With the pandemic moving campus tours online, you may be discouraged at the thought of making a big decision based on a few virtual resources.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to use technology to your advantage, and gain a better understanding of the schools you are interested in attending. Many admissions offices have put forth extra effort in making their virtual resources even better than their on-campus tours. Read on to learn more!

Virtual Campus Events

Through the admissions office, you will encounter opportunities to attend virtual events at your schools of interest. The pandemic has compelled colleges and universities to think differently about the ways they engage students. Many of their virtual resources give a more intimate look at their school in comparison to their previous in-person tours.

Before, most on-campus tours showed you the campus, gave a glimpse into dorm living, and offered a little bit of history about the school. Now, you can expect offerings to include webinars, informational sessions, and  panels in which you can ask all your questions. You may also be able to schedule meetings with professors in your desired department or with student ambassadors who attend the school. Be sure to check your email regularly when you sign up for these events and meetings.

To access these events, it’s important you reach out to an admissions counselor at your schools of interest. Especially now, with everything going virtual, they will be very receptive to connecting with prospective students and answering your questions. Admissions counselors know all about their schools, so feel free to inquire about campus life, academic programs, online learning, and available student resources. You may even want to ask about their policies regarding COVID-19. 

Virtual Tour

More and more colleges are adjusting to the pandemic and providing virtual resources to prospective students. This includes virtual tours to highlight campus resources, facilities, housing, and more. You can find these virtual tours by visiting schools’ websites or searching on YouTube. You are bound to find a virtual tour of campus that you can “attend” from the comfort of your own bed that will highlight very similar things to the in-person tour. The perk of taking the virtual tour is that you can hit the pause button to take notes or jot down any questions that you have. 

Extra Research

The same way you might research a vacation destination, check out the surrounding area for cool spots, parks, restaurants, music venues, and so on. By learning the area, you will form a better picture of how your life will look at that school. You may also want to look up demographics of the student population, checking out the percentage of students receiving financial aid or the percentage of first-generation students. Another way to learn more about your potential peers: Read the student newspaper! That is a great way to learn about the various topics valued by current students.

Virtual College Fair

Be sure to connect with your high school counselor to find out if there are any virtual college fairs you can attend. If there are, you can find a list of the colleges that will be featured. Be sure to participate if your school(s) of interest will be presenting. This will give you the opportunity to connect with admissions representatives virtually, demonstrate your interest, and ask any questions that you have. 

Social Media

Don’t be afraid to lurk on the university’s Instagram pages to give you more insight into the things going on around campus. You may also want to find the pages of campus clubs you hope to explore. If you’ve always loved photography, search for that school’s club photography page, and imagine how you might fit into that crowd of students. You may also want to browse relevant hashtags related to the school or pictures tagged at the school’s location to see what people are posting about. 

Current Students

If you know any students who currently attend your school(s) of interest, don’t be afraid to reach out even if it’s a friend of a friend’s third cousin. If you can’t find anyone within your network, try social media. You may find student ambassadors on Twitter, or Facebook groups dedicated to connecting students. When reaching out to current students, be sure to ask them any questions you have. This includes the good and bad about their school. A good question to ask is: “What do you wish you had known before you enrolled?” Always keep in mind that everyone’s perspective and experience is different, but hopefully this will give you some more “real life” insight into the school. 

With the power of technology right at your fingertips, the world has become a much smaller, more connected place. As long as you have the courage to ask questions and be resourceful, you won’t need an in-person visit to make an informed college decision. Once you are in college, if the opportunity arises to connect with a student in a similar situation, be sure to pay it forward and provide them tons of insight into your experiences!