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  • Beverly Brutzkus

Exploring Colleges (Mostly!) Virtually:

The good news is that colleges are beginning to open up after the coronavirus pandemic led to campus shutdowns last March. However, college road trips this year will still look different than in past years. Some changes you will see are limited in-person walking tours with social distancing, masks and reservations required (ex: University of Iowa, University of Nevada, Reno), dedicated in-person tours for admitted students only, self-guided tours, and even narrated drive through events. However, many campuses are still closed to visitors, so check before you go!

Early planning is key to exploring colleges right now!

To get started:

Step 1: Go to Each College’s Website (“Undergraduate Admissions” and/or “Visit Us”)

Sign up for Webinars, Virtual Tours, Phone Calls…:

A live or pre-recorded session will help you learn more about a college’s academic programs, student life, and how to navigate the admission and financial aid process. Virtual information sessions are typically led by a member of the admissions staff and may be followed by Q&A via live chat. You can usually sign up for a phone or video conference and speak directly with an admissions counselor.

Take a Virtual Tour:

Each college will lead you through different types of tours. Many will ask for your information (fill that out as some schools track your demonstrated interest). Some offer tours based on your interests. Virtual tours will let you look at different parts of the campus using interactive maps and other tools.

Find an In-Person Tour:

Some colleges are open for tours, but you will have to book them in advance. Tour groups may be limited to one family at a time, you will probably fill out a form asking you about COVID-19 symptoms, and you might not be allowed in certain (or any!) buildings. If you do an in-person tour, also check out the local community! Take photos especially if you are visiting multiple colleges in one trip!

Explore the Academics Page:

If you have a particular major in mind, see what courses you would be taking. Read descriptions of the classes, learn about elective classes available and find out the requirements for each major. This can help you decide if a college is the right fit for your academic and career goals.

Explore Student Life:

Look at the housing page, check out dining options, athletics and intramurals, clubs and organizations, student government, diversity, cultural opportunities.

Investigate Support Services:

On each college's website, you can learn about the services it provides to help students succeed. Academic support can include tutoring, writing assistance and study-skills courses. Other support includes help with the financial aid process, counseling and career-planning services. Also investigate how the college has been supporting its students during this unusual time!

Look at the College’s Admission Requirements and Deadlines:

Note the various application deadlines. (Regular, Early Action, Early Decisions…). Make sure you meet the basic requirements such as the right number of math, science and language courses. Also look at Naviance (if your high school uses it) or websites with scattergrams such as Cappex to see if each school is a Realistic, Reach, or Safety school for you.

Step 2: Contact Alumni and/or Current Students

Use online resources or ask friends and family (or me!) to get contact information for alumni or current students. Some colleges are hosting live chat rooms where prospective students can chat with current students. Finding someone in your major can be especially helpful!

Step 3: Find Student Created Videos

Look on YouVisit and Campus Reel for unofficial videos that may give you insight into student life on and off campus. TIP: Want to REALLY know what goes on with the student body? Look at social media accounts that AREN’T accounts connected to the college to find out about the true, organic, culture of the school.

Step 4: Look at Other Online Resources

College Express and Unigo are helpful for searches by area, major, etc… Also look for online webinars and virtual college fairs to help you gather even more information.

Step 5: Fill Out a “College Comparison Chart”

· Keep track of your findings! Don’t get different colleges mixed up! Note things you like, or don’t like!

· Contact Conejo College Consulting to get a chart, then modify it to include what is important to YOU.

· If you can’t find information, ask me or contact your local admissions representative from the college.

· Here are suggested items to note:

1. Campus and surrounding community - Is it walkable, safe, accessible, thriving…?

2. Your Potential Major or Minor – any special entrance requirements (portfolio, audition…?

3. Application requirements: Are standardized tests optional or required (MAKE SURE YOU LOOK AT INFO FOR THE CORRECT YEAR AND TERM), will you need letters of recommendations, or essays?

4. Application deadlines: What are the dates for “early decision”, “early action”, “regular decision”, etc.

5. Costs and financial aid information - If test scores are optional for admission are they still required for school scholarships, are there separate applications for scholarship consideration, is it automatic…? What percentage of need is met? Will you need to submit a FAFSA and/or CSS Profile?

6. Social Opportunities - athletics, religious, Greek life, sports, clubs, etc.

7. Would it be a "Safety", "Target" or "Reach" for you? (I can help you determine this based on your qualifications and resume)

9. Residential Life and Dining: Are freshmen required to live on campus, are there special residential interest groups, are single rooms available, could you have a car…?)

10. Other notes important to you such as transportation costs, study abroad options, job placement rates, quarter or semester schedule, class sizes, faculty: student ratio, support services…

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