Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Smart Ways to “Visit” Colleges Without Leaving Home

Visiting campuses is a great way to learn about colleges and get a real sense of whether they are a fit for your goals and needs. But sometimes, costs, time constraints, or unexpected obstacles (like a global pandemic) can make going to colleges in person impractical or even impossible. Luckily, there are still lots of ways you can check out colleges without even leaving your couch. 

College Websites

This seems super obvious, but people often overlook the wealth of information that can be found on a college's website. If you take the time to delve beyond the landing page, you can learn about their history, educational approach, the majors they offer, the clubs and other activities that are popular on campus, and even the layouts of the various dorms. There are lots of pictures, and often virtual tours, not just of the campus itself, but possibly even academic departments. Colleges often put a lot of time and money into their websites because they are the public face of their school and offer visitors a one-stop shop for comprehensive information. Give them a look.

Social Media

It's no surprise that colleges take advantage of young people's preferred mode of communication. Most colleges have at least one YouTube channel full of videos, and you may also find channels for specific departments, activities and interests. Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tumblr, you can get all sorts of insights (the UC Berkeley bathroom graffiti tumblr is a must see!) that really bring a college to life.

Virtual Tours

They're not a perfect substitute for actually strolling around a campus, but you can still get a good sense of the surroundings and vibe of a campus through a virtual tour, especially if it's one that's hosted by a tour guide and has been filmed when classes are in session.

Campus Reel

I think this company is so valuable that it deserves its own spot on the list. CampusReel offers student-generated videos from over 300 colleges. They're designed to be "authentic and honest," provide a "lens into campus life," and enable you to "explore different perspectives." Plus, the site is free and easy to navigate and the videos are casual and fun -- they're like having an actual student who has no agenda show you around campus. Imagine having a friend at every college you're considering reach out to give you an enthusiastic personal tour; that's CampusReel.

These alternatives may not have the glamour of hopping on a plane or taking a college tour road trip, but they're still valuable ways to learn about possible colleges without investing a lot of time and money. And with so many campuses currently closed, these might be our only "visiting" options for some time to come. Make the most of them, and have fun exploring!

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