Researching Colleges Without Travelling

By Huntington Learning Center

In a normal year, high school juniors are quite busy during the spring, taking the SAT or ACT, sitting for Advanced Placement exams, and planning ahead to do some serious college research over their final summer of high school.

But summer 2021 is still uncertain, and for various reasons, your family might not be comfortable or able to travel yet for college visits – not to mention, many colleges still might not allow prospective students to visit campuses this summer. How can you and your student research colleges when it isn’t feasible to hop on a plane or in the car to visit? Here are a few tips:

Do as much as possible online.

For now, have your student research their top-choice schools on their list by visiting each college’s website. The admissions section will offer useful information about applying, but your student should also make sure to look over other important sections such as:

  • The About section
  • The Campus/Student Life section
  • Any club/activities pages that interest your student
  • Department- or school-specific pages

Find out what “virtual tour” alternatives colleges suggest for those who want to visit.

Universities and colleges have adapted in today’s environment, and it’s likely that they have a number of ways to explore their institutions without physically going there. Many colleges have created virtual tours of the campus for students, and some even offer live Zoom tours from current students and staff for something more interactive.

Check out other virtual events and activities.

In addition to virtual tours, most colleges and universities have a number of opportunities for students to navigate the college search process while social distancing. Make sure your student explores offerings that help students get to know schools such as:

  • Online information sessions
  • Live webinars about everything from different fields of study to campus life
  • Q&As with current students
  • Video chats with admissions counselors and academic representatives
  • Get-to-know-you videos about parts of college life and the admission process

Talk to current students or alumni.

Older siblings, older siblings of friends, or even students from your student’s high school who are in college now are great resources for an “on-the-ground” review of what a college is actually like. Certainly, the 2020-2021 school year has been anything but typical for college freshmen, but your student would be wise to talk to students at the colleges they are considering. Guidance counselors and admission officers at each college might be able to help arrange those conversations if there’s nobody in your circle of family and friends for your student to connect with easily.

As the coronavirus vaccine becomes more widely distributed throughout the year, your student will probably have the chance to visit schools in-person, but for now, there are options. Encourage your student to take advantage of the virtual tours and other content that colleges are offering. When it is practical to go on tours again, your student will have a good amount of research finished already, which will make their decision easier.