As soon as our kids begin to look at colleges, everyone wants to share their own experience. When our teens name a college they are visiting, every relative and family friend who went attended 30 years ago wants to regale them with dorm life stories, all hopelessly out of date. Recent grads can provide much more valuable information, but colleges change quickly and information about admissions and life on campus quickly becomes out of date.
A few years ago, the only real solution to exploring if a college is a good fit for your teen is to research the school online, gather the relevant data and visit campus.
Teens are expert at online research and we always suggest that parents consult the Common Data Set for the best comparison data (just Google Common Data Set and the name of the college). This is information that colleges report annually, all in the same way, and it make a great apples to apples comparison when looking for up-to-date admissions information, financial aid data and much more about a school. Most colleges also have an admission section to their website which is full of useful and relevant information.
But it is hard to replace a visit to campus. Many teens find when they travel to visit schools they get a sense if the campus is a good fit for them. Whether on an official tour or just exploring on their own, they get a feeling for the culture of the school. But are these observations superficial? Are they sometimes based on a script developed by the Admissions Office and delivered by hand-picked guides? Yes, sometimes.
How to visit a campus virtually
If your students want to learn more about the college experience from current college students, we love CampusReel as a great place to start. Below is the kind of authentic content their contributors create. This is not the slick packaging of the admissions office or the well produced videos that come from PR. Rather it is student-to-student communication in the medium with which they are all most comfortable.
Every expert will tell you to visit the cafeteria or student center and look around and talk to some of the current students to get a taste of life on a particular campus. I don’t know about you but if I walked up to a student I didn’t know and started asking questions, my kids would have walked the other way in embarrassment. Nope, that was not going to happen in my house. The videos from CampusReel give that sense of a school from current students that your teen might be looking for.
If your student was considering Boston College (Go Eagles!) wouldn’t this video give them a very real taste of dorm life?
Students on the site also discuss their schedules and what their lives look like day to day. They discuss the demands of their classes, their extracurriculars and how they fill their free time. Here’s a student from Boston University:
Since 2017, students have uploaded over 15,000 videos on the site covering 315 colleges. Students need to create an account to view the trove of footage, but there is no cost involved.
Nick Freud and Rob Carrol, co-founders of CampusReel, are only a few years out of college themselves so they have a good sense of what college students want and how best to serve it up to them.
Will this replace campus visits? Yes and No. If your schedule and finances allow for your student to visit a college in real life, that is preferable. But many teens want to experience, or at least explore, more colleges than they can access and CampusReel can be a useful tool to aid in that search.
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