Timothy Peck 5 min read 12th Grade, Applying to College

What Should You Do if You Can’t Visit a College?

For many high schoolers, visiting colleges is a vital part of deciding which institutions they will apply to. College visits allow prospective students to get a feel for the college and the surrounding area, interact with faculty and students, and picture themselves on campus—these visits can also useful for demonstrating interest to potential schools.

 

That said, college visits are also time consuming and expensive, so they’re not an option for every student. Luckily, there are numerous ways for a student to get to know a college without having to actually go anywhere. Keep reading to learn what you should do if you aren’t able to visit a college.

 

Schedule a Talk

 

One of the major benefits of visiting a school is the opportunity to meet with current students and faculty in person, and ask them questions about the institution. For those who can’t visit a college, connecting with people is fortunately easier than ever, either through a traditional phone call or email, or using apps like FaceTime and Skype. Many schools will happily connect prospective students with current students or alumni who are willing to talk about the school and their experiences. Some schools have gone so far to host regular live chats with current students.

 

It’s highly probable that the people colleges make available to prospective students will be strong advocates for the school, which means they might paint an overly favorable picture of the institution. To get a less biased perspective, students are also encouraged to mine their own networks of peers to find students or alumni from a particular school. For example, think an older student from the same high school, or the sibling of a friend. If that doesn’t provide the connection needed, guidance counselors make outstanding resources, as they send hundreds of kids of to college and could potentially provide you with an introduction.

 

Meet a College Representative Locally

 

In addition to seeking out local students and alumni, prospective students should also meet with local college representatives. Many colleges have reps based in or traveling through different geographic regions who visit high schools, attend college fairs, or schedule individual interviews. For students who can’t visit a college, this is an ideal opportunity to get facetime with a person from the institution of interest and get their most pressing questions answered.

 

Take a Virtual Tour

 

The majority of colleges now offer virtual tours—ranging from slideshows to videos—showing prospective students what life on campus looks like from the comfort and convenience of their computer screen. Differing from school to school, many virtual tours highlight the dorms, classrooms, dining hall, sports complexes, and other facilities. Some schools even offer insight into what life is like off campus and the opportunities afforded by the town/city/region surrounding the school.

 

Discover Blogger and Vloggers

 

In the same vein as virtual tours, many colleges also have current students blogging about day-to-day life on campus; for example, here is Harvard University’s Student Blog. Occasionally, student blogs can feel overly upbeat, as if they’re simply an ad for the school. However, the most informative blogs are the ones that offer a real, uncensored perspective on college, like this post, Is MIT Too Hard?, from the MIT Admissions blog.

 

Similar to student blogs are vlogs (video blogs)—a quick search of YouTube reveals a vast number of self-produced vlogs offering a look at a day in the life of students at colleges across the nation. Because these vlogs are produced outside the scope of the college itself, they offer a real-life look at what life is like on campus. Many universities also maintain their own YouTube pages, which are a fantastic supplement to their virtual tours.

 

Follow on Social Media

 

Following schools of interest on social media is another great strategy for discovering life on campus without visiting it in person. The majority of colleges maintain Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, which they use to share events and activities on campus, along with providing insight into the values of an institution, as many colleges are using social media to highlight what makes them unique.

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Read the Student Newspaper

 

The majority of college newspapers can be read for free online. Similar to social media, they’re an excellent medium for better understanding the school’s culture—covering everything from school politics to sports to campus events like concerts. College newspapers are also likely to cover more controversial topics that a student will not encounter in a school’s promotional material, nor by speaking with admissions officers.

 

Sign Up for a School’s Email List and Promotional Material

 

Registering for a school’s email list and requesting promotional material is an easy way for prospective students to learn more about an institution. Although these materials are functionally an advertisement for the school and designed to paint it in the best light possible, carefully combing through these materials can reveal what a school prioritizes and provide another viewpoint for students to build a mental picture of the place. For students applying to schools that consider demonstrated interest, being on the mailing list and opening the emails can also be a bonus for their application.

 

Get a Grant to Visit

 

If a student is unable to visit a college because of financial constraints, many schools now offer “fly-in” programs that allow students to spend time on campus, attend classes, and meet with faculty and students. A few examples of fly-in programs are Amherst College’s Diversity Open Houses (DIVOH), Johns Hopkins University’s Hopkins Overnight Multicultural Experience, MIT’s Weekend Immersion in Science & Engineering, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Early Exploration Program (PEEP), all of which cover the cost of a college visit for underrepresented students with financial need.

 

The specifics of fly-in programs differ between schools, but these programs are generally designed for underrepresented, low-income, and first-generation college students. They often cover expenses such as travel, accommodations, and meals. Learn more about college fly-in programs in our blog College Fly-In and Diversity Programs: A Complete List.

 

Wrapping it Up

 

For students interested in learning more about evaluating a college that they can’t visit, CollegeVine has an abundance of resources. For further reading, our blogs Can’t Do A College Visit? Here’s How to Review Colleges Online, How Can I Figure Out a School’s Culture Without Visiting the Campus?, and Your Step-by-Step Guide to Researching Colleges offer additional insight into learning about a college remotely.

 

Our College Applications Program is another resource for students unable to make college visits. Our School List Generator uses over 100,000 data points to create a personalized list of schools while our Preference Matcher helps college-bound students discover institutions that align with their interests and values. Having assisted more than 10,000 students over the past five years, our admissions consultants are adept at helping students find the right school for them and building a profile that those schools will notice.

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.