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4 Virtual Ways to Learn More About Your Top Colleges

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

To say that learning looks different right now is an understatement.

But changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic aren’t just happening to they way we learn on our campuses but also the way we learn about them.

The cookie cutter, in-person campus tour isn’t the end-all-be-all for getting a feel for college life. And for many prospective college students, an in-person tour is not a possibility or even the best/safest option.

Interestingly, I fell in love with my university before setting foot there. It happened during a chat with an alumna from my area.

As she shared and reflected upon her experiences, I was captivated by the campus culture and the community she had found. This sense of excitement was only amplified when stepping onto my campus for the first time as I connected with current students and literally saw myself in the campus community. 

Even though how we connect with one another has changed—at a distance, over a video chat, through text and email—it is still very much accessible and, I believe, more important than ever.

Here are four less conventional (read: not in-person) ways to connect to colleges:

1. Reach out to current students.

This is by far the best way to connect to a college.

Who knows more about the college than the people that go there?

Whether it’s done through a Niche social media account or in a portal on your fave college’s website, connecting with students can be convenient and quick.

If anything, it’s easier than ever, as so many of us spend most of our days online.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask honest questions.

I bet you both could use a much needed break from that calculus homework anyway. 

2. Connect with alumni from your area.

The more college experience stories, the merrier!

Alumni can cover all the same experiences of the current students—and then some.

They can give a complete four-year picture and share where there degree has taken them. (Like internships, grad school, first professional jobs, etc.)

If you don’t know one personally or can’t seem to connect to someone online, you may be able to schedule an alumni interview or meeting through the university.

P.S. These meet-ups can also be a part of the admissions process.

3. “Explore” the campus.

If you ever played around with Google Earth, you know that exploring a place doesn’t necessarily mean physically traveling there.

With everything moving online, colleges have been doing their part to connect with prospective students, specifically with campus tours.

If your prospective school hasn’t already published a virtual tour on its website, ask the admissions office.

And speaking of exploring virtually, just spend some time on your college’s website. You can find course catalogs, faculty biographies, dining and housing information, and updates about pandemic protocols.

4. Spend more time on social media.

This sounds like the antithesis of any sound advice, but when it comes to exploring a college from a distance, social media can be a decent substitute for real-life interactions.

If you’re sick of hearing from your parents that you waste too much time on social media, now you can tell them you’re using it for college research.

Instagram allows me to follow what the university is doing as well as what its specific colleges, departments and resources are working on. You can even go as far as to follow extracurriculars you might be interested in.

Just keep clicking and you’ll be sure to stumble upon other great college resources, like @nichesocial on IG. Check out the Niche TikTok account and YouTube channel, too, for diverse, student-created content. The quotes, pics and videos often provide perspectives you can relate to, a language you can engage with, and real unfiltered content you can reflect on.

The “New Normal” Challenges Colleges, Too

While there are multitude of resources and ways to connect, it can be intimidating to walk into the college admissions process, especially now.

Just remember, colleges are also feeling their way through this “new normal” too. The whole world is trying to forge connection in a season of disconnection.

Reach out, be true to yourself, and trust that where the process takes you is where you are meant to be. 

Author: Alyssa O'Connell

Alyssa is a junior at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Secondary Education and English with a minor in Italian. When she isn't writing for Niche, you can catch her on stage with her musical theatre organization, giving tours of campus or reading Shakespeare, all with a coffee in hand.