The global coronavirus pandemic is set to transform higher education landscape. Already, colleges and universities have had to shut down their campuses, evacuate students from study abroad programs in all corners of the globe, and move all of their teaching online. They now face the tough task of planning for an uncertain future, in which the college experience might look very different from years past.

As campuses emptied of students, faculty, and administrators over the last month, on-campus events for prospective and admitted students, unsurprisingly, were cancelled. Concurrently, countries around the world introduced stay at home orders and restrictions that have significantly reduced the ability to travel for the foreseeable future.

In light of the events of the last 100 days, and with no immediate resolution to the pandemic at hand, the question on the minds of many applicants and parents is, how do we research colleges whilst stuck at home? While there is no perfect substitute to visiting a college campus while it is operational, attending a class, and interacting with enrolled students, there are a wealth of online resources at your disposal to research your dream colleges. Read on to find out what you can be doing to turbo-charge your college search, and arm yourself with the knowledge to succeed in the admissions process:

Some of you might wonder, what about demonstrated interest?

This is an excellent question, since a number of colleges use demonstrated interest as a factor in their admissions review. Colleges use demonstrated interest as a way of predicting whether an admitted student will ultimately enroll at their institution. Since colleges want to maximize the ratio of acceptances to enrollments (also known as “yield”), demonstrating interest can often give applicants an edge in the admissions process.

Traditionally, students have demonstrated interest are by visiting the campus, participating in on-campus/alumni interviews, and attending college fairs/information sessions at their high schools. Since the current circumstances limit our options, students can consider:

  • Signing up for college newsletters – Being added to a college’s mailing list is a great first step to learning more about it and finding out how its policies and procedures are changing.
  • Opening all emails from your top colleges– Many colleges are now tracking student engagement, and analyzing whether their emails have been opened and how long they were opened for. Failing to open emails may send a message to colleges that you are not interested!
  • Attending online events or webinars – An increasing number of colleges are offering online information sessions to prospective applicants, and this could be a great opportunity to get face time with an admissions officer. Sign up for email alerts from your chosen college to receive notification of such events!
  • Emailing relevant questions to the admissions officers– As always, this is an excellent way to get to know the person who will be responsible for reading your application, but be sure to ask a specific, thoughtful question which cannot be answered with a simple Google search!

Online resources and websites for your college search:

1. College Website:The best tool to research available degree programs/majors, campus(es), and extracurricular offerings. Since the college website does provide a highly curated image of the institution, it might be more useful to watch videos of enrolled students and read the admission blogs and college newspapers for more candid viewpoints! For example, The Yale Daily News recently posted an article on how Alumni are offering help to students in light of the campus closures, while The Chicago Maroon announced that Booth is now offering MBA classes to undergraduates.

2. YouTube:You can find an array of information with this resource. There are official college accounts posting college tours, lectures by professors, news and announcement updates. If you’d like to know more about the housing facilities, dining halls, dorms and extracurriculars, there is plenty unofficial videos posted here as well. For example, New York University’s YouTube channel highlights student life and academics, but stands out with its accurate portrayal of student culture and NYC as a whole.

3. The Fiske Guide: This is a reputed tool available online and in print giving you an overview of over 300 top colleges. There is plenty of information on each college, its academic atmosphere, social environment, and student body.

4. College Virtual Tours: This amazing spreadsheet allows students to explore virtual tours of almost every top college in the USA in a few clicks. It also contains links to those colleges that are offering online information sessions.

5. College Data:A great free platform to assess statistics on admissions, costs, programs and housing.

6.Unigo:They have you covered from the college search, statistics, to an abundance of reviews by students.

7.College Express:Here’s another free tool giving prospective students an overall experience to each college. You can search colleges based on a distinctive quality or on scholarships offered.

8.Cappex: One of my favorite tools giving prospects a balance between comprehensive data and user-friendly experience. The website provides scattergrams depicting your chances to be admitted into your dream colleges based on student acceptances in the past, centered on GPA and standardized tests.

So go ahead and explore the above resources and if you have some spare time, you can take a free class from the 450 Ivy League courses that are currently on offer!

With the rapidly changing situation, we must remain vigilant, calm and level-headed and continue to follow recommendations from the experts. We will keep a lookout for further updates regarding COVID-19, so be sure to watch this space for more announcements.

If you have any questions, concerns, or simply want to chat about how COVID-19 will impact your college applications, do not hesitate to get in touch.