How to Research for Colleges Online

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted and changed all of our lives into something we would have never imagined – something we would only view in the movies. As a result, students and their families now have to navigate the incredibly complex and daunting college search process from their homes by using the internet to research for any information they can find about potential schools. Currently, it just isn’t possible to visit colleges in person, touch and feel the campus and its students and faculty to fully grasp whether this is a school you want to consider to apply to, and potentially eventually attend. That is off limits and probably won’t be accessible to anyone until either late this year or, more probably, into next year. Given this, you can’t rely on all 5 of your senses to make this decision. Here’s the good news. Everyone is going through this and is on an even playing field. No one has any advantage over another.

So, what can you do to have a leg up on your peers? Signature College Counseling wants to relay onto you various ways you can virtually experience a college and gather as much information as you possibly can during this crazy time we are living in so you can make the best decision based on the information you have.

Below are steps you can take and tools you can use to research colleges from the comfort of your own home or anywhere where you may have access to the internet. What we always tell our students is to make a plan. Follow these steps, do so for a set amount of schools each week that you want to research (maybe, 5, 6, 7, or more) and then within a 4-5 week period you will get through your entire list of schools, being better educated on each and how well they fit you, your SAFE match – Socially, Academically, Financially and Emotionally. So take in our golden nuggets below and get to it! Start researching!

Tools and Strategies for Researching Colleges Using the Internet

• Go to the college’s website and assess the programs that they offer and associated curriculums for a best academic match.
• For statistical information, such as retention, graduation rates, acceptance rates, test score criteria, money matters and more, visit College Navigator (a government website) and College Data (a website with information retrieved directly from the colleges themselves).
• Take virtual tours of the colleges you are interested in by going to YouVisit.com, campustours.com, or campusreel.org. You can also type in your search bar “YouTube (insert name of college) Campus Tour” to search for tours for specific schools.
• Go to a college’s website and sign up for their virtual tour and information sessions, if they have them. This is an excellent way of showing demonstrated interest and to see how each college portrays its institution.
• There are virtual college fairs that are being offered where many institutions are participating. Sign up for these to gather information about each of the participating colleges.
• Purchase the Fiske Guide, which outlines 400+ colleges and assesses them on a variety of points. They are an independent firm that provides a perspective on these institutions and a write up for each that presents the school’s personality and offerings on many levels. Definitely worth the read!
• Go to colleges.niche.com and unigo.com for college overviews that provide different perspectives from current students. Don’t take any one comment for fact though! Look for trends.

Subscribe to the social media platforms of the colleges in which you are interested, which is one way of indicating demonstrated interest and for you to view what the college is about on an ongoing basis.
Sign up for a college’s email list so you receive ongoing information on their institution. Make sure you open up their emails and click on the links to their website. You will gain valuable information on their college and also show your demonstrated interest as well. Yes, many colleges track this information!

Looking for help with the college search and selection process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

Contact us at info@signaturecollegecounseling.com or by phone, 845.551.6946. We work with students in person, through Zoom, over the phone and by email.

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