It is important for students and their families to visit college campuses whenever possible. Many times, this is not possible. What is the student or family to do? There are many options available today that allows visits while still in the comfort of your home or community. Here is some advice from experts who answered readers questions for U.S. News College Compass Best Colleges 2011.
Take advantage of “virtual” and local opportunities.
Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University
Get on the mailing list (or today’s equivalent) so you’ll be notified of nearby alumni and admission office-sponsored events in your area. Visit websites of the schools you are most interested in often. Look for announcements of online chats or other opportunities to connect with students and faculty. Find out who in your community attends schools that might be a good fit and meet with them when they are home on breaks.
Think globally; act locally.
James Montoya, vice president of higher education, The College Board
Visiting a few local colleges, even if they are not on the top of your list, will provide you with a better understanding of what’s important to you, as well as what questions to ask. Such insight will serve you well as you investigate colleges located further away from home by visiting college websites, meeting with college alumni representatives and/or current students home on break, or reading college guidebooks. Save up your money for a few spring visits once you have your acceptance letters in hand.
Use the web, join the conversation, and connect on Facebook.
Daniel Parish, director of recruitment and communication, Dartmouth College
Visiting a campus in person is one way to experience how a community operates. Some colleges and universities offer funding to help students visit campus, either before you apply or after you are admitted. You might want to contact colleges to see if you’ll qualify for one of these programs. However, visiting is not the only way to connect with a campus; social media can help you “visit” a campus without actually traveling there. Webinars, video chats, Facebook groups, and YouTube channels can all help you experience the community and start a conversation with people on campus.
If you can’t visit campus, it’s not the end of the world.
Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
Many colleges have virtual tours on their websites, and there are also sites like YOUniversityTV where you can “tour” other college campuses. Additionally, CollegeWeek Live allows you to connect with college students and hear from admissions officers and even professors about life at a particular college. Of course, for the student perspective, there is no better site than Unigo.
Remember: applying does not mean going. After you are accepted to a college, you still have time to visit the campus (and you should) in order to make a final decision, and colleges may be able to provide some financial assistance to make that happen. Little-known fact: Amtrak offers discounted rates for college visits!
Visit the Unigo Expert Network for virtual campus visit advice from 30 more experts, and to have your own questions answered.
Another resource is a new service at CollegeSolved (www.collegesolved.com/students). They have a network of college students who will do a phone call with you to answer your questions. This can help you figure out what campus is like and tell you more about the student body without ever leaving your house.