- Campus Experience
- College Prep
Sometimes we just can’t get on a plane and fly across the country to visit that college or university that we are interested in. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to spend the time and money to travel to 40 different schools when you know that you will probably only apply to 10 or so. Sometimes there are more serious reasons why we can’t visit campuses. So what can you do to really learn about that school?
- Take a Virtual Tour.
Many colleges and universities have a virtual tour of campus on their website. These tours will often give you a sense of what the campus looks like. They highlight important buildings, living and learning spaces, dining options, and community spaces. Virtual tours are often led by student tour guides who can give you insight into the important features of their campus. It may help you consider if you can “see” yourself on their campus. Unlike an in person tour, you can skip around to the places that are most important to you!
- Follow the College or University on social media.
Colleges and universities have different presences across different social media platforms. Want to see what the mascot is up to? They probably have an Instagram or Twitter account. Interested in faculty research and publications? Try LinkedIn. Do you want to see what types of events are upcoming? Their Facebook page will get you all the details, (then check out Insta or Twitter for photos from the event!).
Student clubs and organizations, as well as academic departments, will also post about what they are planning and doing, so check out the ones that might interest you. Many will also have blogs that provide a further glimpse into the campus experience from the perspective of current students, faculty, and sometimes alumni. With different social media accounts, you can observe from a distance, or connect/follow and ask questions or engage with those accounts.
Follow PerkCollegeCounseling on Instagram. We will continue to share posts about Featured College Friday with information on a different college each week.
- Set up a virtual meeting with an admission representative.
Do you have questions that you just can’t get answered from the information online? Do you want to learn more about their specific admission process? Many schools will offer opportunities to talk to admission representatives either online or over the phone. These conversations can range from very informal to a more formal interview, so be clear as to what you are signing up for. Interviews can be great in the fall of your senior year when you are getting ready to apply, while a more informal conversation can be helpful at any point in your college search where you are still researching schools.
Many colleges will also host live or group chats throughout the year. You can log in and ask questions, or listen to the questions that are presented by other students who are interested in learning more. These chats often feature a mix of current students and admissions representatives to help give you a full perspective. While the college admission process is often painted as a mystery in movies and books, in reality, admissions officers want to help you and are willing to share lots of valuable information that can help you understand if a school is a good fit or offer insider knowledge to what they are looking for in an application.
- Talk to current students and/or faculty members.
Whether through social media, video chat, or via email, you can ask to speak to someone who has first-hand experience in the activities or academic programs that interest you. Current students will be able to give you a snapshot of what their daily routine and life is like at that school. They can give you tips and strategies for how they have found success in different programs, and help you understand what it is like to balance challenging classes with the extracurricular activities that round out the college experience.
If there is one thing that faculty love to talk about, it is their area of expertise. They have dedicated their lives to studying these topics and have committed to teaching the next generation of scholars. They are passionate about their academic areas, and so they can provide insight into what it means to study that subject, what types of research or internships their students have done, as well as what types of jobs or careers might come from studying in their department. If a professor teaches an online course, they may be willing to let you observe a lecture or have videos that they can share.
Search the web.
Every college and university has a website with lots of detailed information on it. Admissions websites will highlight important programs as well as explain the application process. Their website is a great place to start, so that you can find their virtual tour and other online experiences. Academic department pages will showcase their faculty, students’ opportunities, and required coursework. Student and Residential Life pages will detail the information about what it’s like outside of the classroom. These are all great places to start, but there is a lot of information on the web beyond the school’s website.
There are many different websites that collect information on colleges and allow you to search with detailed terms. College Board’s Big Future allows you to search on many different variables and then allows you to compare colleges. Cappex.com offers a very thorough search engine, but requires you to create a free account. CollegeData.com provides very detailed statistics and quantifiable information on each school. College Confidential allows you to see personal reflections and anecdotal information about different schools. Just be aware, with many of these sites, the information may be out of date, or skewed by outsider perspectives.
Even if you can’t make it to a campus, there are still plenty of ways for you to learn and have your questions answered. If you aren’t sure where to begin, reach out to your college counselor and they can help you get started!
By David Antoniewicz, Director of College Counseling, Perkiomen School
David is the Immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling (PACAC). A graduate of Susquehanna University, Antoniewicz began his career in higher education in 2006, and made the transition to independent schools in 2016. At Perkiomen, Antoniewicz is also head boys’ lacrosse coach and leads a team of two full-time dedicated college counselors.
Our goal is to help guide students to the right-fit college after Perkiomen. Our success as college counselors is knowing that our students are going to the colleges and universities that will ensure that they continue to risk becoming their best.David Antoniewicz