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Tips For Researching Schools—Without Visiting

With many colleges announcing virtual learning for January due to rising COVID cases, a return to normalcy seems unlikely next year.

For college applicants, navigating the admissions landscape and researching schools may seem even more difficult next year with many campuses closed. Emily Dobson, a contributor at College Essay Guy, recently offered a few tips on how applicants can best research colleges—without visiting.


When researching schools, Dobson recommends that applicants keep key questions in mind. She calls it the five-question framework:

  • What type of student might be happy and best served at this institution?
  • What are the standout features or attributes of this institution?
  • Describe the physical facility and the influences of the surrounding communities and consider the influence of the college/university/school/program.
  • In general, what are the admission criteria?
  • Research two or three examples of similar institutions and describe the reason for the similarities—would those also be on the list for the right reasons?


One of the best ways to help answer some of these key questions, Dobson says, is to sign up for university email lists.

“Taking the time to go to the admissions page to sign up for the mailing list often allows applicants to get tailored information about specific programs, advanced registration opportunities for webinar events, and sometimes even fee waivers for applications,” Dobson writes.


Another strategy to get to know a school, Dobson says, is to engage on social media.

“Social media is a great way to engage from more than one angle, and explore more than one point of view,” Dobson writes. “As you peruse, ask yourself what noticeable attributes and unique features make this college special and what type of student seems to fit in at this school. Asking the college what type of student is happiest at their university is part of YOUR requirements. You want to be happy where you study.”

Sources: College Essay Guy, Inside Higher Ed

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