As you prepare for one of the most important choices of your life, there are many ways you can make a well-prepared decision. Selecting the right college involves many nights of pros and cons lists, overseeing tuition costs and trying on school colors to see which ones you like best.
According to some, one of the best ways to reach this decision is by visiting the campus of the school you might attend during the fall. Sadly, sometimes you are unable to visit the three or four (or even more) schools you applied to. There are various reasons why you’re unable to go visit that dream campus: maybe your parents do not seem keen on the idea of driving two or more hours or they’re probably worried you’ll miss school, the money you saved up from babysitting still can’t buy you plane tickets or you just can’t take time away from school to make that trip.
Don’t fret—there are numerous ways you can explore your prospective college without actually stepping a foot on campus.
1. Browse the school’s website
This one sounds very cliché but it is the first step you should take to see if you would like the campus or not. The photos taken for your desired school’s website are top-notch and will show all the splendid things your campus offers. Explore the tab for prospective students, search for sports event photos and even visit any Twitter or Facebook page the university may have. When you’re looking through their website, notice any links to student blogs about the campus or extracurricular clubs that might also have Social Networks. That way, you can read up about what’s going on at campus from their perspectives.
Did you know that Instagram is also your best friend? Most campuses have their own hashtags that students use to upload photos. Another way to get to know that campus is through the eyes of someone who’s actually going there and Insta is the best place to do that! Write #ThatSchoolsAcronym and I’m pretty sure you’ll be blown away with the photography and/or videos you’ll find.
2. Reach out to alumni
An amazing thing that most websites have is an Alumni tab, and if you get really lucky, you might even find testimonials. Before choosing the right university, you should always know what past students think about their campus, the academics and the student life at that school. It’s important to contact those that have been in the same place as you just a couple years ago.
“Before actually going to campus, I found a girl on Twitter that majored in what I wanted to and I started talking to her on there. She was extremely nice and even offered some advice on how to get classes and such!” says Madelyn, a student at the University of Puerto Rico.
There are a lot of ways to get in touch with an alumni. Just remember to be calm, cool, collected and a professional. That is why, the top recommendations are always LinkedIn or writing them an e-mail. As long as you treat them with respect, any of them will be happy to help!
3. Find out from the inside
Sometimes, school websites and alumni are going to talk amazingly about campus. Want to know the inside scoop? There’s an amazing way to do so! School blogs and newspapers are quite truthful about the issues going on around campus. Most universities have newspapers and student council pages that are constantly sharing what scholars are involved in. If that campus has a Her Campus chapter, even better! Magazines such as Her Campus or newspapers such as The Daily Free Press, The Daily Collegian or The Michigan Daily will give you a perspective on what goes on at the dorms, academically and other events (such as sports, lifestyle and/or social) on campus. What better way to learn than to read it from the own students?
4. Take advantage of Google Maps
Did you know that this is your best friend? If not, get acquainted! Google Maps will not only show you how to get to campus (from the airport, your house, grandma’s house or any other place) but it can actually show you places nearby. It’s important to know where the nearest Target or Walmart is, if your favorite restaurant is walking distance, if there is a mall nearby, etc.
By using Street View you can get to know how things will look if you decide to go to that campus. Knowing these things and being able to peruse the neighborhood you are considering is extremely important to help come to your decision. Why? Since you’re going to live there for at least four years you have to know whether your neighborhood or college town is safe or not. That’s an important thing to acknowledge, especially to keep your family and friends at ease.
Before planning a trip to visit a college campus, save your time (and money) by maximizing your computer use. Sit down one day and do all the research you feel you might need to reach your decision. There’s no rush, but you might want to get a head start before admissions come rolling by. Good luck!