These are undoubtedly strange times we’re living in. Many of us are adjusting to a new distance learning model and adapting to life at home with family members around us 24/7. Many students may be fretting that college campuses are now closed. Yet, seniors still need to commit to their college. The college decision process does not pause, so what can you do when an in-person visit is no longer an option? Here are four great ways you can still learn about which college may be the best fit for you.

Watch Student-Produced YouTube Videos

My favorite resource on the internet for a visual window into college life is YouTube. Just type the name of any college into the search bar at YouTube, and you will see a plethora of videos addressing many different aspects of the school. “Day in the Life” videos created by current or past students help prospective students imagine what life is like on campus. There are often great video reviews of schools, like “Why I Chose X” or “Things I Wish I Knew About Y,” that can give you more of an unvarnished take on the school’s dynamics. You can see dorms, athletic events, greek life, you name it. Often, these videos can be an even better resource than taking the official campus tour, as you may see the things that wouldn’t be on the tour but are considered important by the students.

You can see dorms, athletic events, greek life, you name it. Often, these videos can be an even better resource than taking the official campus tour, as you may see the things that wouldn’t be on the tour but are considered important by the students. Just remember: no single video can tell the whole story about a school. Try to get a wide swath of perspectives and don’t hesitate to reach out to your admissions representative if anything you see creates questions or concerns.

Scout Out College Review Sites

Relatedly, there are many third-party college review companies that offer interesting takes on colleges. A company like Go Beyond the Brochure has videos all over YouTube about seemingly every campus. YOUniversityTV claims to be the largest producer of college videos and has other resources as well to help you explore your schools. Campus Reel is another quality source of review videos, and if your school is smart enough to use SCOIR (like APH does!) then Campus Reel videos are integrated into a college’s Overview page when available. There are also sites that offer the opportunity for current students to give written reviews of colleges. Check out Unigo’s college search function for some good insights. You can even read Yelp reviews for something a little more entertaining. All of these sites will give you insights beyond what college admissions materials will do.

YOUniversity TV

Chat with Students & Alumni

Another way to go beyond the initial layer of marketing materials is to talk to current students or recent alumni at the colleges you’re interested in. Reach out to your college counselor or advisor (if you’re able), and see if there are any recents alums from your high school that they can put you in touch with to give you a perspective on making the transition from high school. Tap into your family’s social networks to see if anyone you know may be attending a school you’re looking into without you realizing it. You can also reach out to admissions officers and ask to speak or email directly with current students. Ask them the hard questions that are on your mind so that you can get clarity on your decision. And if you need help putting together questions, ask your college counselor or advisor for guidance!

Attend Virtual Events 

Finally, watch your email or portal for notifications on virtual events from your colleges. I know that there are a lot of institutions right now working on all kinds of virtual events geared towards seniors who are trying to decide where to attend. Usually, this is a time of year when admissions officers hit the road to attend college fairs and visit high schools, but now that they’re all at home, their energy will be focused on reaching out to prospective students in new and creative ways. April will be filled with opportunities to connect remotely with faculty and students around the country and to take virtual tours that haven’t previously been available. 

While the above tips are not a replacement for exploring college campuses in person, getting a great feel for a college from a distance can be done! You just have to be a little more proactive about seeking out resources and more intentional about what you’re looking for in a college (since you won’t get that “feeling” just by setting foot on campus). Remember that this time of social distancing will pass, and taking advantage of virtual opportunities now will leave you better equipped to make that final decision within the next few weeks!