Expert Tips: Top 5 ways to evaluate a college in the COVID-19 world
Can’t visit the colleges you are considering? Here are 5 best practices from the experts at College Inside Track:
Take a virtual tour of the campus with a current student as your guide
- Nearly everyone is telling families to take virtual tours of colleges they are interested in, which is certainly good and conventional advice.
- But an even BETTER idea is to connect with a current student at that college (perhaps an alum of your HS, someone you connect with on social media or if needed, someone the admissions office connects you to), do a video call with a screen share, and have them go through the campus tour with you, sharing their real perspectives and allowing you to ask questions throughout
Schedule a video meeting with the department chair in the area of study you are considering
- Professors can provide a wonderful perspective on their department, curriculum and areas of emphasis and unique opportunities outside of the classroom. Ask about outcomes specific to the department such as 4-year graduation rate, job placement within 6 months of graduation, acceptance rates into graduate programs, etc.
- While you are at it, request to observe an online class if one is available.
Evaluate the campus culture
- Engage personally with your admission rep and ask all the specific questions on your mind, including those related to COVID-19 and how the college is handling it both for current and prospective students.
- It is unreasonable to expect to have all the answers (because no one does), but perhaps more importantly, how a college responds in a time of adversity provides a unique window into its true campus culture. Many schools have an “aspirational culture” that they tout throughout a glossy and well-manicured admissions process, but things move much too fast during a time like we have now to hide what is really there.
Schools with a terrific culture will shine, and those with issues will equally stand out.
Schedule a video meeting with someone in the career advising office
- Similar to campus culture, the answers and resources available in the career advising office will tell you a lot about how much a college values (or doesn’t) this for students. Because it can be hard to evaluate without much context, interviewing career advising offices at multiple colleges will allow you to really see the differences.
- This is especially important for students who are undecided, as different colleges handle that much better than others.
Review likes and dislikes
- Part of the college decision is an emotional one, but it is also important to not overlook the logical aspect. Ironically, that may be easier to focus on without the ability to visit colleges in person and fall in love with the beautiful campus, brand new student activities center or the gourmet dining hall.
- Jot down the criteria that are important to you in making your decision and take a stab at weighting them by the most to least important. Create a spreadsheet and try to objectively rate each of the schools you are considering in each category. Did the results surprise you?
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