For American citizens, the cost of application fees, standardized tests, and other requirements can quickly mount, but for international students, especially those who have been accepted, the most challenging and cost-prohibitive aspect of the process can be traveling to visit campuses. After all, how can you be sure that the school is right for you if you are not able to visit before accepting its offer?
Fortunately, recent technological advances have changed the ways in which we communicate, and they can help you decide which college offer to accept, even when you cannot physically visit the campus. You can:
1. Take a virtual tour
The on-campus environment of a particular college or university is often a central factor in the college decision-making process. Unfortunately, this can be difficult—if not impossible—to gauge for many international students. But schools have begun to ease this burden by offering virtual campus tours on their websites. Taking such a tour can allow students to gain a sense of the college’s location and its facilities—without leaving their homes.
While virtual tours cannot provide you with a complete picture of the campus, they can be a great first step.
2. Contact faculty and staff members
Perhaps you have already spoken with several faculty and staff members about your academic background, ambitions, and how you might fit at their school. But what you may have neglected to inquire about was the environment and its opportunities.
There are few individuals who know a college or university better than the faculty and staff members who teach and work there. Thus, they can provide valuable insight into whether or not this school is the best option for you. Consider reaching out to any faculty or staff who you have previously spoken with to see if they have any advice or thoughts to offer.
3. Join online groups, and speak with current students
In order to provide prospective students with an objective or more detailed overview of their programs, many colleges maintain a list of current students who have volunteered to act as liaisons for prospective or incoming students. These individuals can answer any questions that you might have about the campus culture (including its academic opportunities and extracurriculars), and they may be easier to contact than faculty and staff members.
In addition, certain programs may have established online groups where you can have your questions answered by peers who have opinions and insights that may be of significant value. Of course, they cannot tell you whether or not the school is right for you, but they can share their own experiences, which can give you a better idea of what to expect.
4. Read campus newspapers
As student-run publications, college newspapers offer a unique perspective on their institutions, administrations, and campus cultures that you likely will not find elsewhere. These newspapers can give you a sense of the school’s priorities (sports vs. academics, for example), as well as familiarize you with certain groups or opportunities.
In many cases, you may be able to access college newspapers for free online, but there may be some occasions where you are expected to pay. It is also important to keep in mind that while they are largely objective, the stories in these newspapers may not tell you all that you need to know.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.