Admissions Officer Insight: Researching Colleges You Can’t Visit

Kathleen Abels, Haverford College, Associate Director of Admission and Coordinator of International Admission

There are amazing QuestBridge college partners all over the country, and it would be nearly impossible to visit each campus. Admission officers understand just how much time, energy and resources it can take to visit colleges in person, and we want to support you in finding alternative opportunities to learn about our communities. With a little initiative, you can make meaningful connections without having to be physically present on campus.

Here are just a few ways to get to know what it would be like to live and study at a particular college:

Take a Virtual Tour

Getting the lay of the land is always a great place to start. Most colleges have virtual tours available on their websites that mimic the campus tour experience. What do the classrooms look like? Can you see yourself calling this place home? Are there common trends or threads running throughout the tour that align with your interests and values?

A virtual tour can provide you with general information likely from a current student’s perspective. It may also lead to other questions or inspire an interest in exploring aspects of campus life. But of course, a virtual tour was not designed with your specific interests or passions in mind, so it’s always worthwhile to investigate a bit further.

Scroll through Colleges’ Social Media Feeds

Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. Twitter. Snapchat. If you have an account, so do most colleges. Often colleges will repost photos from current students or student clubs and organizations on their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds. Find those club pages and see how student groups are engaging with the community. I personally find college YouTube channels to be illuminating. What are they highlighting? Take a few moments (or lose track of time, more likely) to listen to recent speakers, cool student bands, alumni presentations, faculty and student research projects, etc.

Many admission offices have Facebook accounts and can point you in the direction of the resources above, in addition to offering information about application deadlines, fly-in program opportunities, and more.

Which leads me to….

Connect with the Admission Office

We are nice, I promise, and we are here to empower you as you navigate this exciting and unfortunately, often stressful, process.

This time of year, admission officers are traveling all over the world to meet you at your high schools and community based organizations, and give regional presentations open to any interested student.

If the schools you are interested in don’t come to you, admission offices may offer online chats. These are great opportunities to have your questions answered or see what kinds of questions other prospective students are asking (oh yeah, we know there are some lurkers out there…).

Of course, you should also feel free to e-mail us, too. I find the most productive e-mail exchanges are with students with well-researched and school-specific questions.  Don’t be alarmed if you receive an “out of the office” message. We will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Reach out to Students, Faculty, and Staff

So you have heard from the virtual tour guide and an admission officer, but take some time to reach out to current students, faculty, and other staff. You could connect with other QuestBridge Scholars or e-mail specific clubs to see current initiatives. Maybe there is a professor who is the leading expert in a field you are studying or you are hoping to learn more about academic support services; feel free to introduce yourself!

Of course, don’t feel like you have to e-mail anyone, but if someone’s perspective will give you a better sense of whether or not this is a community that will support and challenge you, then it may prove fruitful.


Whether or not a college offers interviews—and when, where, and how those interviews occur—varies widely, so this piece may require more research. There are colleges, including Haverford, that offer off-campus interviews without requiring any application materials to be submitted.  Many colleges have enthusiastic alumni who would love the opportunity to chat with you at a convenient coffee shop or over Skype. While these interviews are often helpful for the college, they should also be beneficial to you. This is your opportunity to meet a member of that community and get a sense of whether or not this is a place where you will thrive. And truly, that is what we all want!

Kathleen Abels, Associate Director of Admission and Coordinator of International Admission