Parents, once you and your college-bound student have created a working list of no more than 12 colleges, it will be time plan a virtual college road trip. That’s right, before you pack the snacks and spend lots of money taking a college road trip, you should take a virtual campus tour. Many college-bound students don’t consider public colleges that are more than 50-miles from home. In fact, over 5 million people live 45-minutes away from any higher education institution. And 31 million have access to only one public school. So a virtual campus tour could help your student find the right college – that they may have never considered otherwise.
Think about it this way: When you are ready to look for in a new house in a new city several hours away, you won’t just drive down random streets looking for houses to buy. You’ll spend time reviewing the listings online to see floorplans, backyards, neighborhoods, and comments about the local area. This is a virtual real estate tour. Let’s do the same for college and consider 3 benefits of taking a virtual campus tour.
You Can Afford a Virtual Visit
For many prospective college students and their families, visiting colleges is a challenging and expensive trip to take. A 2019 survey by Niche showed that rural, suburban, and urban high school students visited at least 3 colleges; some as many as 7. Virtual visits pave the way for college road trips.
Students may live in rural parts of the country without access to a major airport. In addition, flying out of a regional airport to multiple sites may be cost prohibitive.
Students may live in urban areas. While mass transit makes it easier to get around town, it may not allow them to visit some colleges easily. Even in cities like Boston and New York City, where families can visit many colleges by taking the train, going outside of the city may not be possible.
Students may live in single-parent households which could limit the opportunities of visiting colleges far away, even if they seem to be a good fit. An inexpensive virtual campus tour allows prospective students to save lots of money by “visiting” many colleges from home. And if it’s raining, you can visit the dorm without having to get out in the storm.
You Can Picture Yourself on Campus Before You Take a Picture, of Yourself, on Campus
Doesn’t that sound like Austin Powers introducing himself? Students, taking a virtual campus visit is one of the best ways to “picture yourself” on campus. Virtual tours may include photos, 360-degree panoramic views, short videos, or virtually-guided tours. Some colleges may allow you to interact with current students, alumni, or professors.
While you can visit some colleges using the “street view” on Google maps, sites like YouVisit and CampusTours offer quality, self-guided, 360-degree panoramic views of various spots on campus that allows you to get a virtual feel for the surroundings. Each view includes a short description with a photo or video.
Unfortunately, not all colleges include a campus tour. On the CampusTours site, colleges without a virtual tour are redirected to a map on the college website.
Through the GEAR UP VR app, the University of North Carolina System created a 360-degree tour of their 16 universities that can be viewed on a desktop, mobile phone, or VR headset. One bonus feature of the VR tour is the opportunity to go inside the buildings, which is not always possible or allowed on the regular tours.
You Can Hear First-Hand Stories
eCampusTours and YOUniversityTV include interviews from students, alumni, and faculty to give you a first-hand account of their college experience. These personal stories allow you to “hear” the campus. eCampusTours has a library of 1,300 colleges along with a general info page with information about the college, admissions, student body, programs, and cost. YOUniversityTV allows users to favorite or share the college tour. A host will narrate your tour and conduct interviews. In some videos, admissions officers shared who they were looking for as a potential candidate.
While many colleges produce virtual tours, some may also offer tours of the dining halls and dorm rooms like the University of Oklahoma.
If you don’t have time to look at multiple sites, I would recommend starting with CampusTours. The visually appealing tours are produced professionally, include a short description of the featured area, links back to the college, and encourages students to apply.
Just be aware that these “free” campus tour sites may have featured colleges scrolling on top along with paid ads on the side. For example, YOUniversity requires viewers to watch a commercial for a sponsored college before watching your selected college.
Once you’ve watched virtual tours of your preferred colleges, you can plan your road trip and ask well-informed and thoughtful questions. Now about those snacks!
Dolby. eBay. Electronic Arts. Google. Instagram. Netflix. Nike. StubHub. Trader Joe’s. Yahoo! These are a few of the companies Stanford faculty and alumni have helped create. Will you be the next successful Stanford graduate?
After the death of their fifteen-year-old son, Jane and Leland Stanford established Stanford University to do something for “other people’s” children. Over 130 years later, Stanford has become one of the world's leading research universities. Located in California’s Bay Area, one of the most intellectually dynamic and culturally diverse areas of the nation, Stanford graduates have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of giving back to the local and global community.
With around 7,000 undergraduate students, you won’t get lost in the crowds. Almost 70% of all classes have fewer than 19 students. Once a student becomes a Cardinal (the color, not the bird) 95% of incoming freshman graduate with a degree!
Located in Northern California, Stanford is one of the most highly competitive academic universities admitting less than 5% of applicants. Some have called this the Harvard of the West.
If you believe this campus might be the right fit for you, make sure you are making top grades starting in the 9th grade. While 99% of admitted freshman are in the top 20% of their high school class, 94% are from the top 10%.
So, if you have the grades to be accepted, Stanford is an affordable option. Stanford was one of four universities Michael wanted to attend with another being his top choice. However, since he received a full-tuition scholarship (based on grades) and the Cal Grant A (based on the California Dream Act), he decided to become a Cardinal and study sociology.
Almost half of freshman students don’t declare a major until their sophomore year. However, it is beneficial to know what a college has to offer before you apply. At Stanford, the three most popular majors are interdisciplinary studies, engineering, and social sciences.
Along with top academic programs, their athletic teams have won more than 115 NCAA titles.
Stanford’s special facilities include the National Accelerator Laboratory, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and the Hopkins Marine Station. Students can unwind in the mountains, the beach, at the Stanford Shopping Center, at local art museums, two observatories, or by enjoying the beautiful landscaping on campus.
When you are ready to visit Stanford University, know that along with orientations for prospective students, you can make an informal visit, sit in on classes, and even stay overnight to get a true feel for the campus.
If you have visited or attend(ed) Stanford, please share about your personal experience!
In 2015, I visited the Johnson & Wales University campus in Denver, Colorado. My colleague, Paul Hood-Patterson, wrote this very creative post about what makes attendance at JWU a recipe for success for so many students.
Read on to learn how this school, known for its excellent culinary programs, might have the perfect blend of ingredients to create your future!
1 Strong Foundation as a Business School
4 Campuses with Internship Opportunities
Several Handfuls of Experience
1 Large Focus on Careers
Start with the beginning. First, take a look at the foundation of the school. Johnson & Wales was founded in 1914 as a business school in Rhode Island. From the beginning, the school has been dedicated to business and grew throughout the years from a junior college into a university with four campuses across the country. The Denver campus we visited opened in 2000, and the other two campuses are located in Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL.
Add in four campuses. Each campus has its own unique flavor. Providence, Rhode Island is still the main campus, but a JWU student may take advantage of opportunities at any campus to further their education and experience. For instance, if you are studying in Denver but want to take an internship in Miami, you can use your JWU connections. This can be beneficial whether you are studying business, hospitality, culinary arts, or any of their programs.
Mix in several handfuls of experience. One of the things Brett discovered at JWU is an emphasis on students graduating with both a degree and an impressive resume. By graduation, each student should have a great deal of hands-on experience in their desired profession. All programs require students to complete an internship, which allows them to gain experience by working on real projects with real companies.
Sprinkle in the career focus. JWU keeps its main focus on the career goals of its students. The admissions counselor Brett spoke with, Michael, recommends that students declare a major before they enroll. Because of the intense career focus, changing majors could set a student back up to two years. Sometimes the work opportunities available to JWU students can be so good that students leave their studies early to take a job. This is a challenge for the school – providing such great opportunities that they lose students to employers!
Give it time to cook together. So, if you’re hungry for more information about Johnson & Wales, be sure to do your own college visit at one of their four campuses. If you choose this school, you can take their business background, add valuable experience, benefit from their focus on your end career, and let it all simmer for three trimesters a year to create your unique JWU experience.
Make sure you discuss your goals with a college planning professional so they can help you find a college that fits your own tastes.
It was a beautiful cool day in late September when I drove from Plymouth Rock Landing to Providence, Rhode Island. I was headed to visit Brown University, one of eight Ivy League schools.
In 1764, the “College of the Colony of Rhode Island,” the 7th college in America was established as a Baptist college with the idea of admitting students regardless of religious affiliation. Ezra Stiles, who maintained the religious freedom that Roger Williams brought into the colony, wrote, “That into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests; but, on the contrary, all the members hereof shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience.”
In 1805, with a $5,000 donation, it was renamed Brown University for Nicholas Brown, Jr. one of the original founding members. During the first commencement, they debated both sides of a given issue. Today, the faculty selects two seniors to speak – they’ve never invited guest commencement speakers.
Pembroke College in Brown University was the coordinate women’s college founded in 1891 and merged into Brown in 1971. This system resembled those at Columbia University (Columbia College / Barnard College) and Harvard University (Harvard College / Radcliffe College). One of the last graduating classes from Pembroke Colleges included Susan Bennett – the voice of "Siri."
The Brown commencement has been held at the First Baptist Church in America since 1776. A replica of the church was built on the campus of Dallas Baptist University and is used as their chapel.
The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation, and the world by discovering, communicating, and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation. We do this through a partnership of students and teachers in a unified community known as a university-college.
Brown offers a unique way of learning. First of all, applicants are accepted to all 80 departments and are asked to list their intended study. And Brown does not offer majors; they offer concentrations. This is key to understanding how students study and how they are graded.
 Choose How You Study
Open Curriculum – learn from everyone. The open curriculum was established in 1969 as the “New Curriculum” and brought Francis Wayland’s 1850 vision to fruition). Only ten colleges (including Grinnell College, Smith College, Amherst College) offer this type of learning.
Students choose how to study, have no rules, and lots of freedom. There are two desired outcomes.  Ensures you great freedom in directing the course of your education and  Expects you to remain open to people, ideas, experiences. The challenge for each student is to make connections between those courses. That’s what makes the open curriculum work.
 Choose How You’re Graded
Brown does not have a required core curriculum. Students take 32 courses with the option to drop a class if you fail. When registering for courses, Brown students must indicate whether they are taking a course for a grade (ABC) or satisfactory/no credit (S/NC). They don’t want learners to be intimidated by a letter grade. Students may change their grade option for a course online during the first four weeks of the semester.
 Choose What You Study
Finally, you can choose what you study. For the first two weeks of each semester, students can try out as many classes as they want. Then you’ll pick four classes to take that semester. The key to success is that after two weeks, those who want to stay will be committed to learn. In other college settings, classrooms are filled with students who have to take the required core class.
David, a Brown senior, said that he knew Brown was his is destiny when he quoted the first 14 lines of the Canterbury Tales with his freshman advisor. He has taken advantage of the open curriculum philosophy. His concentration is in physics and philosophy. He enjoys parkour, bird watching, formed the Brown Marshal Arts club, and has applied to become an American Ninja Warrior.
While computer science and biology are popular concentrations, students should know that the most popular program, engineering, was established in 1847 – first in the Ivy League and third in the country. However, it wasn’t until 2010, that Brown established the Brown School of Engineering.
Students can work with (or have a class under) Andries van Dam, the founder of the computer science program, who helped create hypertext, and whose work in computer graphics helped launch modern day animation (Pixar, etc). This is why he is the namesake for “Andy” (Toy Story). His book, Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, appears on Andy’s bookshelf.
Another unique program is the Program in Liberal Medicine Education (PLME). This is for high achieving students who know they want to pursue medicine. This 4+4 medical concentration receives 2,500 applicants with only 100 being accepted. Less than half attend.
Accepted students average a 750 on each section of the SAT, take at least one SAT Subject Test in a science, and complete three years of the same foreign language. And since you cannot transfer in at any time, YOU must know you want to do PLME, not your Dad!
Yes, Brown is highly competitive with less than nine percent accepted. For the Class of 2021, 32,723 applied, 2,801 were admitted and 1,643 decided to attend. More than half are women, forty percent were students of color, thirteen percent are first-generation students, and sixteen percent are international.
Financial Aid advisor, Annie Cappuccino, shared that admission is not about specific students (how many X of Y were admitted). It’s about how THIS student shines among ALL applicants. What DO you bring and what WILL you bring are the questions to answer.
Brown costs $68,000 per year with no merit or athletic scholarships given. In 2003, they implemented a need-blind admission policy to eliminate the ability to pay as an admission factor. In 2018-2019, they will eliminate loans from all undergraduate financial aid packages with The Brown Promise by replacing packaged loans with grant funds that do not have to be repaid.
The financial success of their alumni (Brunonia’s) who give back will make the Brown Promise a reality. Some of the alumni include: Lee Eliot Berk (1964), president and namesake of Berklee College of Music; John Hope (1894), first African American president of Morehouse College and co-founder of the NAACP, John Seely Brown (1962) the inventor of spellcheck; Chuck Colson (1953) founder of Prison Fellowship; Horace Mann (1819) father of American public school education; Jim Axelrod (1989) Chief White House correspondent; Chris Berman (1977), ESPN host and anchor; Larry Elder (1974), radio personality and TV talk show host; John F. Kennedy, Jr. (1983), – lawyer; journalist; publisher of George magazine; son of President John F. Kennedy; Lisa Loeb (1990) alternative singer-songwriter; Emma Watson (2014) actress; Masi Oka (1997) actor; John W. Heisman (1891), namesake of the Heisman Trophy; Alicia Sacramone (2010) Olympic gymnast; Julie Bowen (1991), actress; the recently crowned Miss America 2018, Cara Mund (2016).
So if you are a student who doesn’t need structure, is ready to serve, wants a STEM and humanities focus, and is excited to explore your future, Brown might be a good fit for you. It also doesn’t hurt if you enjoy a colonial setting and cold winters.
Perhaps you’ve never stepped foot on a college campus or it’s been two decades since you’ve attended college.
Every youth worker can be a tremendous source of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and have an eternal impact on college-bound seniors during the fall college admissions process.
We know that Jesus hung out with people (John 1:14), talked about the future, and ate a lot of fish. So as your seniors are excitedly talking about their future independence, grab a fish sandwich, and join the conversation when seniors start talking about college.
Encourage Seniors to Stay Focused on Their Journey
College planning can be confusing and stressful – especially for first-generation students and others who don’t know where to attend. They need a trusted youth worker to share advice.
When you’re at a tennis match, cafeteria table, or in the church parking lot, listen to their story. One Wednesday after worship service, Daniel and I began discussing his grades, his career choices and his college choices. He wanted to study music and shared that his dad wanted him to study something else. It was causing conflict in their relationship. So, I listened and encouraged him to consider God’s calling while respecting his parents. After a lengthy discussion, we prayed before he left.
Host a college planning seminar at your church. Invite college students, educational consultants, school counselors, and college admissions officers to speak.
Connect your students with other seniors who are scheduling official college visits, especially if they are still unsure about where (or if) they want to attend. Visiting a campus is an important step in the process.
Take an informal visit to a college campus. I was driving a group of students back from a leadership camp that was held at a private university campus. As we were nearing a Historically-Black College or University (HBCU), Albert asked if we could stop and visit. He was going to be the first person in his family to attend college and I wanted to encourage his options. So, we stopped for a thirty-minute, informal visit. It was a blast! Hearing his friends get excited about attending college was fun as well. After taking a few pictures near the entrance, we discussed their college future for the remainder of the trip. And yes, he was accepted to that HBCU (not the one pictured)!
Keep your seniors focused by asking career and college based questions. Start with these:
Share information about college planning through announcements or social media. Use this College Application Timeline to get started.
September – write essays, take tests, apply for scholarships (two each week), request recommendation letters
October – finalize college lists and essays, apply for financial aid
November – submit college applications, apply for more scholarships!
It is easy for seniors to get distracted with drum rehearsals, AP classes, and homecoming floats. Youth workers can keep seniors focused on their college journey and strengthen their faith in Jesus.
(Click here to read part two.)
You may have read about the high school senior from Memphis, Tennessee who was accepted to 149 colleges and offered $7.6 million in scholarships.
As a future parent of a teenager, I am thrilled for her and her parents. Her college bills are paid!
As an educational consultant, I want to help you filter through a few outcomes reported in her story.
Her school counselor shared a list of colleges that did not have application fees. This was a smart, money saving decision! She would have spent over $6,500 on application fees alone (the average is $45 per college). And 20 percent don’t charge to apply. What is not shared is if the student created a list of colleges that were good academic, social, emotional, or financial fits.
Students should apply to at least four, but no more than twelve colleges and universities. Many counselors would argue that four is enough. While there is no cap on applying to colleges, anything over 20 can be overwhelming. While the reporter shared that she was maximizing her college options, this can be a stressful way to select a college.
As of May 26, when the article was published, the student was still trying to decide where to attend college. Decision Day (when your decision and deposit are due) was May 1. So, some of these colleges made the decision for her.
It is recommended that you visit each campus you’re interested in attending before applying. You wouldn’t buy a car (especially your first!) without checking it out, driving it, and finding out that is a good fit. So, if you haven’t visited a campus, you shouldn’t attend the college. I have visited 28 colleges in four years. This student would have visited one college a week for almost three years. That’s a lot of walking!
Colleges and universities are in the business of higher education. So, everyone must pay for their service. I’m assuming that most of this senior’s financial aid came from merit aid (which is totally, totally deserved because it’s earned by her grades and test scores). Merit aid is the best way to pay for college!
She was also crowned the charter school’s top Million Dollar Scholar (out of 145 seniors). Altogether, the senior class received $30 million in scholarship offers. A neighboring high school had 51 students receive more than $1 million in scholarships; some received $4 million.
Earning her bachelor’s degree at her top choice university has a total cost of attendance of $81,000. She won’t need $7,539,548 she received. What will happen to the private scholarships she was awarded but cannot use? Did she earn more than enough? What about the students who fell short of winning that scholarship?
While this is an extreme case, every student needs to finding the right college, needs to visit the colleges they want to attend (unless cost is prohibitive), and needs to find a way to pay for college.
I truly believe this student will excel wherever she attends.
College planning philosophies will differ from high school guidance counselors to independent educational consultants. However, the goal remains the same. It’s not about graduating high school. It’s not about being accepted to college. It’s about coaching students through the college planning process to find a college or university where they can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. This will result in a lifetime of opportunities including saved time and money (4 vs 6 year graduation), increased earning potential (2xs more than a high school diploma), and establishing a healthier lifestyle regardless of age, income, or demographics.
With that goal in mind, mastering Internet technology for college counseling is important. You should log every podcast, virtual tour, college search engine, scholarship search database, and more so you can guide your students with confidence. Here are some tips to become their digital filter.
Podcasts give you a way to listen to relevant career and college planning content on your time schedule. Listen to a few before recommending them to others. Don’t be afraid of social media, it doesn’t bite. As a college planner, take the time to teach students how to interact and behave with adults using various social media platforms. Videocasts and videos are great ways to learn more about a specific career or topic.
The career search is missing from so many plans and usually limited to what major a student is interested in studying. Help students use personality, learning style, and career assessments to understand who they are and what they like. Look for a college search engine that does not focus on the best marketing campaign, but one that shares the best matches for your student. Before taking campus tours, virtual tours will give students insight, spark excitement, and generate questions to ask on their actual tour.
Since paying for college is at the front of everyone’s mind,helping students find and use quality financial aid, scholarship, tutoring and test prep companies is important. Financial aid sites will include federal and state aid. While students shouldn’t pay for scholarship options, they may find more value in paying for the personal interaction for tutoring and test prep.
Read. Take notes. Read. This is great advice for a student entering college. It’s also great advice for every career and college consultant. Books share planning tips and great stories. Blogs share ongoing, relevant information based on every subject mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to share your own personal experiences either. Write a blog for your local audience.
Once you’ve become your student’s digital filter, you’ve reached your destination. Success!
Parents, once you and your college-bound student have agreed upon a starting list of colleges, it will be time plan a virtual college road trip without packing the potato chips. Before you spend the time and money of traveling, taking virtual tours are a great way to see the campus together and prepare for a fun experience.
Think about it another way. When you know what you are looking for in a new house in a new city several hours away, you won’t just drive down random streets looking for houses to buy. You’ll spend time reviewing the listings online to see floorplans, backyards, neighborhoods, and comments about the local area. This is a virtual tour in real estate. Let’s do the same for college.
A virtual campus tour allows prospective students to visit many colleges from home. Some may be photos, 360 panoramic views, short videos, or virtually-guided tours. This is one of the best ways for your student to “picture themselves” on campus. In some virtual tours, you’ll be able to interact with current students, alumni, or professors.
YouVisit and CampusTours offer quality, self-guided, 360 degree panoramic views of various spots on campus with a short description. These sites allow you to see the campus. Colleges without a virtual tour on the CampusTours site are redirected to a map on the college website.
eCampusTours, CollegeClickTV, and YOUniversityTV include interviews from students, alumni, and faculty to give you a first-hand account of their college experience. These sites allow you to hear the campus. eCampusTours has a library of 1300 colleges along with a general info page with information about the college, admissions, student body, programs, other, and cost. Just know that some videos may not play. CollegeClickTV focuses on short 1-2 minute videos of students, professors, or local merchants sharing their story. YOUniversityTV allows users to favorite or share the college tour. One or two female hosts will narrate your tour and conduct interviews. Admissions officers shared who they were looking for as a potential candidate. While many colleges produce virtual tours, some may also offer tours of the dining halls and dorm rooms like the University of Oklahoma.
If you don’t have time to look at multiple sites, I would recommend CampusTours as my go-to site for virtual campus tours and YOUniversityTV for personal insights. Just be aware that these “free” sites may have featured colleges scrolling on top along with paid ads on the side. YOUniversityTV has you watch a commercial for another college before watching your selected college.
Once you’ve completed your virtual college road trip of your preferred colleges, you can plan your actual road trip and ask well-informed, thought-out questions. Success!
Now you can grab those potato chips!
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.