The higher education landscape is changing, fast. There are stories every day of how colleges are responding differently to new circumstances in light of coronavirus. And the truth is, it’s still unclear how everything will end up. You may find yourself wondering how to research and evaluate the colleges on your list during a time like this.
Here are some of the steps you can take to help make your college decision.
Take a virtual tour
It’s hard to replace the feeling of stepping onto a campus and knowing it’s where you want to be. Thankfully, many colleges are hosting virtual campus tours, which can help give you that sense for the campus environment. You can view a list of colleges offering virtual tours here.
Talk to current students
Another great way to learn more about what it’s like to be a student at a particular college is by talking to an existing one! Chances are that they are home right now and willing to talk to you about their first-hand experience. Check out our blog post on this topic to learn more about the benefits of talking to a current student.
Research the academic quality
An important factor in getting the most out of your college investment is your eventual earnings outcomes. This is, in part, influenced by the academic quality of the institution you attend. So, it’s important to do your research before committing to a school - and not just because of the earnings impact. If you have a particular field or major in mind, you should explore the school’s website for information about that academic department. You should also feel free to reach out to faculty directly. In this post, Lynn O’Shaughnessy has a list of questions you can ask to better qualify the school’s academics.
Evaluate career services
During the college comparison process, take a look at the school’s career services offerings. When it comes to college and career satisfaction, your interactions with career services may turn out to be as important as your choice of major and/or your financial aid award. We talk about how to evaluate the career services and academic advisors at the schools on your list here.
Consider financial health
There are new and urgent questions to consider on colleges’ financial health now, given the impacts of COVID-19 on higher education. If a college closes or has financial difficulties while you are enrolled, it can have significantly negative consequences. There is no one indicator of whether a college or university is going to have financial challenges, but we dive deeper into what you can be looking at to get a sense of a college’s financial health here.
Meet with campus offices, virtually
Even if you can’t go to colleges in person, it doesn’t mean you should forego talking to key campus offices! From the financial aid office to the residential office, the more information you have the better prepared you will be to make your college decision. Reach out and schedule virtual meetings, or give them a call, to ask these important questions.
Many things may change as the coronavirus situation continues to unfold. As you do your college research, our advice is to keep your options open for as long as you can. Closely monitor the news for the colleges on your list in addition to the above steps. Many have pushed back their decision deadlines to June 1, and others may grant an extension if you need it.