You know what they say: Seeing is believing.
So how can a prospective student properly evaluate a school and its campus if they can’t even step foot on it?
During the past few years, high school students and their families all learned to reinterpret the meaning of “seeing,” by using a blend of modern technology and old-fashioned conversations.
COVID-19 has challenged and continues to do so our ability to get out and see schools up close and personal, but aside from that, there are also students who cannot visit in person because of distance, schedules, or finances.
Whether you’ve got a high school senior who’s nearing a decision about where to attend school, or a sophomore or junior who’s looking ahead, here are some ideas to help them take a closer look at the schools they’re considering.
Campus Visits…From Your Home
Author-educator Michael Horn suggests that your son or daughter make good use of social media (such as LinkedIn and Twitter) to connect with people who’ve recently graduated from the colleges or universities they’re interested in attending.
They should feel free to ask them real-life questions about their college experiences. If they need help locating people beyond LinkedIn and Twitter, the college’s admissions office can usually provide a list of alumni who are happy to talk about their experiences with potential students.
Your child can also reach out to students who’ve recently graduated from their own high school—and who are currently enrolled in those colleges or universities. And if they’re unable to find people on their own, their high school can usually help facilitate this.
Who better to tell them how a school has handled things during the crisis?
This is especially helpful if your son or daughter decides to go to school away from home, and then learns classes will remain online.
And of course, much like buying a house these days, you can get virtual tours of college campuses not only on the schools’ websites, but on private sites as well.
Take a Private Virtual Tour of a College Campus
These sites all offer virtual tours:
Go See Campus: https://goseecampus.com/
You Visit: https://www.youvisit.com/collegesearch/
Campus Tours: https://campustours.com/
Some sites even use virtual reality (you’ll need your own goggles!).
In addition to the tours, there are often maps that help the user scroll around campus. This means you can put distances to and from common areas in clearer context.
A student can see how far it is from dorm rooms to classrooms, classrooms to dining halls, dorms to sports stadiums, and more.
On a number of sites, students on campus actually guide or narrate the tours. It’s especially helpful to view both a school’s version of their campus, and the versions on the private sites listed above.
Using Social Media as a College Visit Guide
In addition to the tours, look for schools on social media, then follow them.
Include searches on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Tumblr. And even though it may seem as if only parents are on Facebook these days, it’s not so–students are, too.
Your child can do a search for Facebook groups related to the school, including sororities and fraternities; those groups related to a major, like communications, the sciences, etc.; as well as extracurricular activities such as book groups, theater groups, church groups, and more.
This will help your child be a part of real-life, real-time updates–all made from the student’s perspective, rather than the school’s public relations team.
A big plus of Facebook: it will likely include photos taken from when school was in session, and provide a peek into interior spaces like dorm rooms, bathrooms, and dining halls.
Again, these will be student photos as opposed to school-sanctioned pics, and give a better idea of how things look when nobody is doing the cleaning but the kids (which probably means nobody is doing the cleaning).
Researching Schools? Call Them
Though this generation of kids isn’t big on phone calls, there’s an opportunity now more than ever, to reach a school counselor this way.
That’s because without students on campus, they’ve got time on their hands, and more than anything, they want your child to get excited about their school.
Before making that call, or sending correspondence, it’ll be helpful for your child to do some research about the school first.
What details do they want to know?
What things can they not visualize about how things work?
The goal is to imagine what a typical day might be like, or what the start of school will be like, logistically and otherwise.
Areas to consider:
- dorm room and roommate assignments
- class scheduling
- professors and how they interact with and grade you
- the classroom equipment available to students
- meal-plans versus what a student ends up using/liking
- Greek life
- social opportunities beyond Greek life
- balancing school and work
- finding supplies on campus
- receiving packages and mail
- transportation options
- safety concerns
- getting off campus
- what the health center is like
- what the career service center is like
To get an even greater sense of the “voice” of the school, your child can read their student publications, both past and present. The essay or opinion sections offer great insight about goings-on at school, student views of the world at large, and more.
All of these tools, when used together, can help your child form a vivid and more complete picture of not just the exterior of the campus, but of the all-important interior–the classrooms, rules, people . . . and the vibe.
Your kid is going to spend a lot of time there, and it’s important they feel comfortable.
So keep encouraging them to ask questions by phone or online, and remind them that everyone in college or who has recently graduated has been at this crossroads–even before COVID-19.
They all understand the position your child is in, and more than likely want to help.
By accepting that help, and taking advantage of online resources, they can come as close as possible to campus without leaving home.
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