10 Things to Do When a College Visit Isn’t Possible

By Patricia Gorden Neill - March 19th, 2013

Many families are struggling these days to make ends meet, and heading off on elaborate trips to visit colleges simply isn’t in the budget. A single parent family may not be able to take the time away from work to head to another city to visit her daughter’s choice of college. Today finds many people without the income they enjoyed even a few years ago due to a troubled economy. Don’t get stressed, not being able to visit all or any of the colleges on your list isn’t the end of the world. Yes, it always helps to visit a college to get the feel of the place, that essential something that makes you realize you’d feel at home studying at this college. If it isn’t possible due to money or time constraints, here’s 10 things you can do to get as close to a virtual college visit as possible.

Use the College Web Site

Every college has a Web site that is kept up to date. Spend as much time on its various pages as you need. Check out the financial aid page, the admissions page and your department page if you know what you want to major in. Get to know the page as well as you can, in fact, study it. While no Web site can give you the same sense of fitting in as being on campus, you’ll learn more about the college than most of the students heading there for a visit. You’ll be surprised at all you can learn about the college, such as menus for each of the dining facilities, a professor’s current research interest, student Web publications, the home city’s music scene, the bio of the current poet at the poetry reading series, academic study groups for certain classes and when they meet, undergraduate research opportunities and a host of other school-related information. Bookmark the college’s Web site and budget some time to read it every day. Be sure and take the virtual tour.

Go to the College Fair

Your guidance counselor will have a list of the upcoming college fairs and college nights in your area. You can meet with your college’s representative there and ask questions of him or her. Pick up all the available publications such as brochures, college newspapers, business cards and sign up for the college’s mailing list. While you’re there you can also check out other colleges you haven’t ever thought of before. Mostly, however, try to spend a little time with your college’s rep, as it will help put a face to your application when they receive it.

Online College Fairs

Modern technology allows the National Association for College Admission Counseling to host online college fairs on their Web site. You can visit the virtual exhibit center with all the virtual display tables and participate in live chats with college representatives. Even if the college you’re interested in doesn’t participate in a real college fair in your area, check out the online college fair sessions. There’s a lot you can learn through this venue.

Visit a Local College

If you can’t visit your dream college because it’s too expensive to travel across the entire nation, visit the local colleges in your city to get a sense of how a college works. Use the local colleges as a template to discover what’s important to you in a college and what kind of questions you will want to ask at your dream college if you get a chance to visit. For that matter, you may fall in love with the local college and end up going there.

Apply for College Visit Funding

Some universities and colleges provide funding to help students visit the college. Contact the colleges on your list to see if any of them have this sort of program. Also, check with your high school to see if any College Access Grant funding is available to help you and your family visit a college or two. You never know about these kinds of programs unless you ask, so ask.

Meet with College Alumni in Your Area

Many universities and college maintain a network of alumni who are willing to help with their alma mater’s admissions process. Graduates who volunteer for this are trained in representing the college and in conducting interviews. This interview could be as formal as an interview at the admissions office at the college with an evaluation sent off to the college after the interview. Or it could be an informal session where the graduate shares their thoughts and feelings about their college experience. Keep in mind that if you make a good impression, these folks could go to bat for you with the admissions office.

Read the Host City’s Newspaper

Find out lots of information about the city where your university is located. The newspaper will carry stories about local crime, sports teams, neighborhoods and concerns of the city’s people and government. Check out the city’s Web site as well, it could be they have a page devoted to tourism in their area with lots of photos and lists of activities.

Get in Touch with Current Students

Did anyone who graduated from your high school go to the college on your list? If so, find out their contact information from your high school and initiate contact via email or Facebook. Ask some of the questions you would have asked on a college visit. You many not only get a lot of current information, but also make a friend if you decide to apply to that college.

Check Out YouTube

Many colleges today have a YouTube channel with official video tours of the college, or videos of the college’s a cappella singing group and silly fun videos made by students. You’d be surprised what you can learn about a school through these videos.

Read the College Newspaper

Many college newspapers are now online, but even if it’s not, subscribe or have a copy sent to you by the admissions office. You’ll discover what’s happening on campus, discover students’ concerns and issues and get news about the sports teams.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.