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College 101

What to Do If You Can’t Visit Schools
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

There are two good times to visit colleges: when you're Narrowing Down Your List, and once you've gotten a couple of glorious acceptance letters in the mail. But what if you can't pull off a campus visit?

Truth is, college visits cost money. There's the cost of a gas or a plane ticket, the cost of renting a car, the cost of a hotel room. Campus visits also require time that you (and probably your parents) can't spare.

If you live in a foreign country, well...it's all of this nonsense, times a hundred and plus a visa.

The Pros and Cons of Visiting Colleges



A visit to Big State U, a school you were wild to attend, reveals that it wouldn't be a good fit for you after all. You cross Big State U off your list.

You miss Homecoming. Your girlfriend dumps you for the second string quarterback. Bummer, dude.

You're accepted to Wee Prestigious College. You go for a visit, and it feels like home. You know which admissions offer you'll be accepting.

Not only does the trip cost your parents nearly two thousand dollars, but TransAir loses your dad's luggage. Dad is not a happy man.

Your college visits helped you figure out which schools to apply to, which school to attend...and, hey, they were kind of like mini-vacations!

Your college visits cost you and your parents’ time, money, and effort. And wouldn't you rather just take a vacation to Hawaii?

Fortunately, there are substitutes for college visits:

  • Get To Know Your Counselor. Your counselor receives oodles of print material from every college in the country. If you want to know what a school has to say about itself, if you want to see what it is about Big State U that makes Big State U think it's a rockin' place to be, then beg your counselor to part ways with a college guidebook or three.
  • Surf the Internet. Guidebooks only tell the school's side of the story. The Internet, however, can provide you with reviews of and opinions about a school from a hundred different viewpoints. There are college ranking websites, professor review websites, websites dedicated to student and alumni chatter...the list goes on. Check out College Research Resources for more ideas.
"Good luck trying to find a virtual frat party though. We hear those are hard to come by. Guess acting like an idiot digitally isn’t quite the same."

  • Talk to people. Chances are, you can Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon yourself into chatting with a current student or alum of any school that you are interested in. If your connections are such that you really can't get in touch with a Yale graduate, then go beg your counselor for an introduction. They've had hundreds of kids come through their office over the years, and they can probably point you in the right direction.
  • Contact a school's international student adviser, if you're an international student. Not only will an international student adviser be able to go over the run-of-the-mill information that you need about the college and its admissions process, but this person can also get you up to speed on what exactly you will need to provide in order to get a student visa.
  • Take a virtual tour. Colleges provide video tours of their campuses, their dorms, their sports facilities, and their classrooms. If you can't make it to a college in person, then sit back in your big comfy chair and let the Internet whisk you away to your dream school.

Visiting a college campus isn't just an informative experience, it's also an exciting one. We get the attraction. But, keep in mind that a college visit will neither decrease nor increase your chances of receiving admission to your dream school. The campus visit is just a tool, one you may or may not use, depending on circumstance, and one which has less expensive, less time- and work-intensive alternatives.

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