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Learn about colleges while never visiting the campus
Question: How can I learn about colleges if I don’t have time to visit?
Answer: You describe a situation that I see all the time. Few families have the time to see all the schools they might be interested in, especially if they try to limit their visits to school vacations when college is still in session. For that reason, it is important that you explore other options that are readily available to you. I usually tell families to use search engines such as those found on College Board or College Navigator, which will allow you to do a rudimentary search for colleges based on preset parameters. Once you have narrowed your search, you want to ensure that you fit the profile of accepted students. You can usually go onto the school Web site and search for admitted student profile to understand the range of student scores and grades from the previous year’s class.
Once you have some idea of schools you might want to consider, you can go to each school’s admission page and click on the link where students can get additional information mailed from the school. You will most likely be sent a view book as well as additional information you might have requested, such as financial aid and information about clubs, sports or majors you might be interested in. I also like to spend time on the Web pages of the college, specifically targeting academics, as I think it is useful to understand the majors offered at the college, the range of classes in this major and the other opportunities that might be available within that major such as internships, senior capstone projects, student research or study abroad options. Now that most colleges have gone to online catalogs, everything about academics is readily available.
I like to watch videos of the campus and take a tour online, which is becoming more readily common on the school admission page along with pictures and Facebook blogs. I find that students prefer to learn about colleges through a student perspective. Some of my favorite Web sites include Unigo.com, College Prowler.com and collegeconfidential.com, where students can get firsthand accounts from current students on everything from the quality of the food to their opinions on social life and academics on campus. Lastly, many regional admission reps reside in our area and are happy to set up a meeting to discuss the school with you. I will often advise students to figure out who is the local rep for the Northwest or Washington state and set up some type of contact with him or her, as they may be the one to read your application. It never hurts to put a face to an application. I always remind students that picking a college is not unlike wooing a potential date — it’s all a matter of showing the love.