#College Essays and Applications

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, many colleges have made the decision to shut down their campuses for the remainder of the spring, which means tours and information sessions for prospective students are also being canceled.

Students and their families often rely on these tours and information sessions (not to mention campus visits in general) to build their college lists. We recognize the challenges that these cancelations create, and we want to share some insights into other ways to get to know colleges so that you can feel as comfortable and confident in compiling a list of schools as possible.
Speak with Current Students

Have a friend or relative who is attending or has attended a college? Reach out to set up a call or video chat. Ask them questions about their experience. Ask them if they know other good people for you to speak with. Ask them about the best resources they know of to research a school more deeply.

Personal insights can be invaluable. While it will also be tempting to read blogs and other accounts online, there is a lot to be said for hearing accounts, feedback, and information from familiar and trusted sources. Even getting in touch with friends of friends is more advisable than reading some total stranger’s commentary.

Take Virtual Tours online

Check admissions office websites. Check YouTube. There are virtual tours and video series that will take you around campuses. They will not be as interactive, but it will help to still see some of what you would have toured in person. 

Dive into the College’s Website

Some college websites are difficult to navigate, but this is where Google can really come in handy.

Take a college that you are interested in and use the following Google searches to get the links you want:

  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate majors
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate course catalog
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate student organizations and clubs
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate community service and service learning
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate research for ____ majors
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate study abroad
  • ___Insert College Name___ undergraduate admissions

Then dive into the pages – and make sure to take notes!

Follow a College’s Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – follow colleges and their respective admissions accounts. Their posts will give insights into the school and what is going on. (Of course, make sure your student’s account is clean and there is nothing inappropriate before they start following a college’s account.)

Sit in on an online class

Especially with so many colleges moving to virtual classrooms via Zoom and other video chat platforms, students can call or email an academic department of interest at a college they want to learn more about to see if they can sit in on a class one day. The college may say no, but it’s worth asking and taking initiative.

Read the News

Go onto the college’s student newspaper and read articles about student life. Check out recent news from a college’s academic department of interest to learn more about any exciting research and recent breakthroughs.

Visit Campuses over the Summer…

Visits will resume – we just don’t know when. While many families strongly prefer to visit campuses when school is in session, it is important to remember that visiting colleges during the summertime is also an option. While you will not get to witness what it is like on a normal school day, you can still get a sense of the campus, talk to people who are there, and gather information and insights.

 Is the campus too big? Too urban? Questions like these can be answered at any time of the year.

And Visit Campuses in the Future…

Maybe that means over a long weekend in the fall. Maybe that means for an accepted students day next spring. If a college looks intriguing on paper, your student can always submit an application and then, if they are accepted, visit and decide at that point. There are many colleges without supplement essays, which means that additional work is minimal to apply once a student is already applying to other colleges through the Common App and/or Coalition. Even if this is not totally ideal, this should take pressure off visiting in the coming weeks.