Getting to know colleges can be a little like speed dating. There are a large number of colleges to learn about during the search process, and a relatively short amount of time to get to know them.
Sure, your teen will want to learn more about certain colleges eventually by visiting schools and attending campus tours. But before doing this more intensive “dating” early on in the relationship, doesn’t it make sense to learn as much as possible about this prospective partner before investing too much time and money into something that might not last?
The simplest, quickest way to learn more about specific colleges is by starting at home with some Really. Intense. Online. Research.
Use online college search engines
There’s a plethora of information available about colleges at sites like BigFuture. These sites include things you didn’t even know you wanted to know, like information about other colleges that would be a similar match to what you’re considering, or tools for comparing colleges side-by-side.
College search engines are great for quickly gathering general information about schools like size, location and admissions statistics. They also include information about application deadlines, majors offered, campus life info, admissions information and tuition.
Importantly, students can also discover whether their current GPA and test scores are competitive with other students who’ve been admitted to the school.
Peruse college websites
Teens can get a good feel for what they’ll experience at each college they’re considering by scanning through the official website. This is where crazy-detailed information lives, such as:
- online course catalogs with descriptions of classes, electives offered and requirements for majors
- syllabuses for certain courses to learn about requirements and workload
- housing and dining options
- information about professors
- research projects happening in different departments
- available activities, clubs and sports programs
- study abroad options
- support services that are available for things like academics, financial aid and career planning
Review social media
Your kid’s on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter anyway, so this one’s going to be easy: Check out what colleges are talking about on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to get a better sense of the overall climate there.
There’s a mishmash of things to experience, like articles about campus events, stories from students, interesting research projects, and photos of sporting events. Harvard even included a compilation of beautiful stairwells found around campus.
Take a virtual tour
Visiting colleges in person takes time and planning. Before doing that, get a good sense of what a walk around campus would be like by taking a 360 degree tour of the school online.
Many colleges offer this via their website, but sites like eCampusTours.com also offer virtual tours for over 1,000 colleges to give a solid sense of what the campus is all about. Or, you can simply to a Google search for the college’s name and “virtual tour.”
YouTube or Vimeo are other places to find video of what you’ll experience on campus.
Read the college newspaper
Many colleges publish their student newspaper online, which is a great way to learn about what students are working on and talking about. It’s a less formal, less scripted way to learn more about specific colleges.
Student newspapers contain much more than just campus news. They can include stories about the college and community, opinion pieces, sports and arts articles, even controversies happening around campus.
Connect with current students, alumni and faculty
This one of my favorite ways to gather great, candid information about colleges.
Your high schooler can contact the college admissions office to request email addresses of current or past students to learn more about their perspectives about the school. If he’s really interested in a certain major or field of study, contacting faculty directly in a specific academic department is a fantastic way to learn more about what it’s all about.
Some colleges also offer forums for prospective students to connect with students or faculty to directly ask questions – be sure to do an online search for this or ask the admissions office directly.
Sign up for email updates
Getting on a college’s email list allows your student to receive consistent updates about what’s happening around campus. Admissions offices will send information about majors, scholarships, events, campus resources, deadlines and other aspects of campus life.
Many colleges also offer a separate email newsletter for parents, too, so it’s a great way for you to stay informed.
…So, help your teen to speed date away right now with the colleges he’s considering. Then plan on future, in-depth dates with the schools he’s most interested in later on with personal college visits!
Learn more about the best time during high school to search for colleges with my free College Planning Timeline.
Do you have another great way to do a little college research online? Have a comment about the article? Leave a comment below!