Researching Colleges RemotelyMar 13, 2020
How do I research colleges if I can’t visit them?
COVID-19 has caused many campuses to cancel all tours and admitted students. A few colleges are even canceling classes, and that number is likely to increase in the next few days and weeks if the number of cases in the US continues to increase. There is no substitute for visiting a campus while it’s in session, attending a class, and talking to current students. However, there are a lot of online resources available to learn as much as you can in the meantime. You can find a list of sites and ways to research colleges below.
What about demonstrated interest?
Many (but not all) schools use demonstrated interest as part of their decision making process. Demonstrated interest is how a student signals they are interested in the college such as visiting the school, opening emails, clicking the links in an email, spending time on the website, and crafting well-written school supplemental essays. Since college visits are not an option for many right now, the other measures are likely to become more important. Rest assured, however, that everyone is in the same situation.
What you can do now:
- Sign up for college newsletters and updates
- Open every email from the colleges you are interested in
- Click on the links
- Spend time on the school’s website (cookies can track how long you spend on each page)
- Reach out to your admissions officers to establish contact and get any questions you have answered
Online resources for your college search process
- The College Website: The college itself is a great place to start, and spending time on the website helps with demonstrated interest. You can learn about programs, majors, and extracurricular activities. Many will have videos of current students. Keep in mind that this a curated view of the college, and you are unlikely to get a complete picture of the negatives associated with each school. Here are a few sites I have found useful:
- Admissions Blogs. These can provide a wealth of information. Some have posts from students about their experiences. Others post about how to approach admissions essays or what the college values in an applicant.
- Read about Dartmouth’s D-plan: https://admissions.dartmouth.edu/follow/blog/shuyi-jin/d-plan-international-perspective
- Or Winter Carnival: https://admissions.dartmouth.edu/follow/blog/isabel-burgess/pond-party-cutest-winter-event
- UPenn’s Pan Asian American Cultural House: https://admissions.upenn.edu/blog/how-i-got-involved-pan-asian-american-cultural-house
- UPenn’s dean of admissions has his own blog, separate from the general admissions department. Here’s his advice to college bound students and their parents: http://www.page217.org/an-open-letter-to-college-bound-students-and-their-parents/
- School newspapers. Written by students, these publications can offer a more balanced view of day to day events on campus.
- The Chicago Maroon (UChicago) is a favorite of mine. Read about how Booth is now offering MBA classes to undergraduates: https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2020/3/5/booth-announces-accelerated-b-option-undergrads/
- Or the difficulties integrating into the campus for transfer students: https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2019/2/1/plight-transfer-students/
- YouTube: There is an abundance of information both official and unofficial posted on the web. All you have to do is search “Your favorite college + you tube” or “Your favorite college + your favorite topic.” Colleges and students post about everything on YouTube. If you want to know about the food in the dining halls or what the dorms look like, you can find it online. You can get unofficial campus tours, rants about what students like and do not like, info about specific classes, and much more. Many schools also have official YouTube pages with official tours, lectures, and news.
- Northwestern’s official page: https://www.youtube.com/user/NorthwesternU
- Watch the rock in real time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdQPn86BfCE
- I get excited just watching Northwestern’s promo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOUvOTmLScA
- Here’s an engineering major taking us through a week at Northwestern: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTWAJLBKWpE
- The Fiske Guide: https://www.collegecountdown.com/promotions/fiske-interactive-online.html
- Very well respected guide that gives some data and about a two page overview of many colleges. It includes information on the learning and social environment and what the student body is like. It’s a great place to start before diving deeper. It’s offered online and in print format.
- Campus Reel: https://www.campusreel.org/
- Videos created by students. Not quite as many videos as you can find on YouTube, but they are better organized.
- College Data: https://www.collegedata.com/
- Statistics on admissions, cost, majors, housing. This is a great free resource for easy to access data.
- Unigo: https://www.unigo.com/
- Reviews by students on a range of topics.
- College Express: https://www.collegexpress.com
- Provides lists of schools based on many factors. You can search by college or by school characteristic. For example: colleges for the outdoorsy student, colleges worth every penny, most vegetarian-friendly colleges. The site also has lots of general statistics on each school.
- Cappex: https://www.cappex.com/
- Provides scattergrams of past admits and denials based on GPA and ACT/SAT scores. This is a nice visual for where your stats fall in relation to past applicants. This is similar to the scatterplot in Naviance (if your school uses it).
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