ESM Prep

Perfecting Your College List - Virtually

Curating a perfect college list is always a daunting task, and this process has never been more difficult than it is now. There’s no way to sugar coat it: visiting campuses—especially when school is in session and filled with real, live students—is a crucial component of the college selection process. So, being unable to #feelthevibe in person makes choosing your schools all the more challenging. 


All is not lost, however! There are plenty of ways you can develop a rich understanding of campus life and individual experience without setting foot on a quad. Here’s our tips for making the best list possible, even when you’re unable to tour. 


  1. Location, location, location: An imperative component of list-making is narrowing down your schools by location. Where are you excited to live? What’s the weather like? These may seem like silly factors, but they can have a huge impact on your well-being at a given school.  Consider whether you’d like to have a more remote campus environment or a more urban location. How close are you to the nearest airport or train station? How big is the actual campus in terms of acreage? Is the campus in a location where you’d like to live post-grad? If so, what’s the cost of living like? 



  1. Consider your interests: A great way to hone your list is to only consider schools that will enable you to really delve deep into your interests and future goals. Do you want to study abroad? Are you looking for a school that offers internship opportunities? Do you want to work on campus? What kinds of career services are you looking for? Think about as many factors as possible to help develop a rich, individualized list catered to your goals. How to search?  Collegexpress is an effective tool to help you search for schools via various keywords:  interests, prospective majors, sports culture, etc.  You can even research schools through lists they’ve created, and as you scroll through “Colleges Most Like Hogwarts” or “Colleges for Video Game Lovers,”  you may come across some ideas for schools you’d never previously considered! Ultimately, this site does an amazing job of showing schools based on what you are looking for.


  1. Get to know the campus (virtually!): Utilize the resources colleges provide, like virtual tours (Campus Reel is a great additional resource), information sessions, and webinars to familiarize yourself with a school’s campus and culture. You can also use outside resources like Unigo, which offers comprehensive ratings and reviews of colleges written by current students and alum. 


  1. Be Organized and Specific: Once you’ve started to create your list, it’s imperative to be organized and specific in your planning. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of all the factors you’re considering (cost, size, major options, housing, etc.) so you can easily sort through your options. Sites like Big Future and Niche can help you research schools to develop your list and familiarize yourself with the elements imperative to this decision making process. Even from your couch, there are plenty of ways to dig in and get excited about your college applications. You still can explore, inquire, and engage virtually as you begin choosing your best fit schools. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions, attend discussions, and request more information—you can absolutely maximize your remote-touring experience so that you can apply as an informed and excited candidate! 



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