How to Find the Right College for You Without Visiting Campus

November 03, 2015

Narrowing down your college choices is a difficult process, and for many prospective college freshmen, the most important decision they’ll have made in their lives so far. There’s a lot of pressure to find the right “fit” for yourself, which makes sense—after all, you’re choosing where you’ll be spending the next four or so years of your life, and the friends you make there will stick with you long after you graduate. But in order to choose your college, most suggest physically visiting college campuses, which for many students isn’t an option. So how do you pick which college to attend without visiting?

When choosing between your final options, the most important thing to do is to get in touch with current students at the colleges you’re considering. While many colleges have webpages and blogs dedicated to showing prospective students the character of their student body and campus, these aren’t always the most useful resources because they’re obviously biased toward portraying the college in a very positive light.

To get an honest opinion, you should connect with current students one-on-one so you can have an open conversation about the pros and cons of their institution. The first place you should turn to is your immediate network of family and friends. If you ask around, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to find someone who knows someone else who has a kid at that college you’re interested in, and so on. A lot of people don’t bother asking because it doesn’t occur to them or they think it’s awkward, but trust me, most college students will be more than happy to take a bit of time out of their day to help a struggling high school senior. They’ve been where you are, they’ll sympathize with your situation.

 

On a similar note, you should definitely also take advantage of the resources made available to you by your school. If your friends or parents don’t know anyone at the schools you want, chances are some of your teachers or college counselors will. In most cases, you won’t be the first student from your high school to apply to or attend whatever colleges you’re looking at. Both your teachers and counselors are usually perfectly willing to put you in touch with alumni from your high school whenever they can. You just have to take the initiative to reach out first.

It’s possible that no one in your social network will be able to connect you with a current student who can answer your questions. In this case, you can resort to the tried-and-true method of our generation and turn to the internet. I don’t mean just going on anonymous forums like College Board. You should join Facebook groups for prospective students for whatever institutions you’re interested in—these will usually include several current students, who you can try messaging directly to start a conversation. This works well if the two of you have something in common, like both being Film and Media majors, or participating in the same extracurricular activities. If there’s some student group or program you’re particularly interested in, you can even track down the people involved and email or otherwise get in contact with them. There are plenty of ways to go about this, but the bottom line is that getting an honest first-hand opinion about a college is the next best thing to actually visiting.

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Williams ‘20


Accepted to Williams, Claremont (CMC), Amherst, Swarthmore, Pitzer, Northwestern, Tufts, WashU, Grinnell, Rice, Emory, LMU

I’m an Econ & Bio major who’s passionate about STEM, social issues, and design. As a transfer, I learned a lot from navigating this hectic process twice, and I’m excited to help!
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