Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Externally Published Articles

  • Destination Maturation
    Julia Surtshin, The Journal of College Admission, Summer 2015
  • Where to Start Your Summer Search for Colleges and Financial Aid
    Brent Huntsburger, The Oregonian, June 2013
  • Reassuring Words About Financial Aid
    Higher Education Consultants Association Newsletter, January 2009.
  • College Consultant Tries to Allay Jitters
    (Interview) The Oregonian, November 2007.
  • Liberal Arts & Professional Education
    Under 25, Spring 2002.
  • How to Write That College Essay
    Under 25, Winter 1991.

Recent Posts

September 26, 2017

Calling All Seniors: How You Can Boost Your Chances of Admission!

With just a few short weeks before college applications are due, using your time wisely to make the biggest impact on your applications is critical. By fall of your senior year, much of what goes into an application portfolio is largely “in the bag.” Your GPA is, for the most part, set, as is your record of extracurricular activities. Your teachers know you and you can’t, at this point, significantly influence what they might write in their letters of recommendation. But you do still have opportunities to boost the likelihood of being admitted to the colleges that interest you. Everyone likes to be liked, right? Yep, it’s a no-brainer. But, what’s that go to do with applying to college? Well, colleges want to be liked, just as you do. Yes, it makes them “feel” good (okay, I know colleges can’t actually feel), but this is not just about vanity. The more a student engages with a college, the more confident admissions officers can be about that student’s likelihood of enrolling. If you follow college rankings or are a statistics geek, you’ve heard the term “yield”. Yield is the percentage of students accepted by a college who in turn, “accept” the college by enrolling. Yield is one factor that goes into college rankings. Yield information is used to inform a wide range of decisions including how many students to admit, how many to wait list, how to use the wait list, and how to allocate and use resources. Consequently, yield is critical to college admissions officers. So, it should go as no surprise that students who “show the love” may increase their chance of acceptance. It’s important to stress that, more than anything else, you must be genuine. This is NOT about “kissing up” to colleges, but rather, authentically engaging with them. Admissions officers are experts at sniffing out insincerity. And this is not just about the colleges either. From your perspective, the more you sincerely engage a college, the more you’ll know about how closely it matches what you’re seeking in the college you attend.

Demonstrated Interest

My colleagues and I call this engagement “Demonstrated Interest”. Approximately 50% of the colleges responding to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s Admission Trends Survey www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/publications/state-of-college-admission/ report that Demonstrated Interested is of Considerable or Moderate importance in making their decisions. So, how do you demonstrate interest?

Ways to Demonstrate Interest

1. Request additional information after looking at the website. 2. Engage your admissions counselor in a meaningful “conversation”. Identify the admissions officer      who handles your geographic area or high school and ask him/her a couple of significant                    questions. Genuinely endeavor to learn more about the institution than is available through online      resources. 3. Open emails from the college and, if appropriate, forward to your parents. 4. Attend a regional information session. 6. Visit the booth at a college fair. 5. Visit the campus. 7. Request an interview. 8. Write a genuine “Why College X” statement. 9. Ask to be put in touch with a current student to get more of his/her perspective. 10. Supply all requested and recommended information and materials. 11. Write thank you note. 12. Apply early.

Some Words of Caution

DO NOT… 1. Keep up a constant dialogue with an admissions officer. He/she is extremely busy and you don’t        want to become thought of as a nuisance. 2. Ask questions whose answers are available online or in print. 3. Ignore directions, most typically by sending materials that are not requested or recommended. 4. Behave inappropriately. Be friendly and put your best foot forward. Applying to college is                    important business. You’re in the home stretch. Keep positive, focused, and submit your applications before the last minute.   TIP: The PSAT is coming up. Doing a little prep beforehand will help you do as well as possible.  
August 24, 2017

Gathering The Team: Students, Parents, School-Based Counselors & Independent College Consultants Working Together


As the new academic year gets underway, now is the time to refocus on how best to meet our goals and aspirations. College-bound high school students, their parents, school- based counselors, and independent college consultants all have at least one goal in common: to have students gain admission to several colleges that meet their academic, personal, and financial needs and preferences. Most of us would agree that having all parties on the same page and cooperating is likely to be the most successful approach.

So, how do we accomplish this?

Here are some thoughts about “Best Practices”.

Students With Both School Counselors and Independent College Counselors

If you’re a student who has both a school counselor and an independent guiding you through the college search and admission process, please…

* Understand that one does not replace the other. These two professionals have different perspectives, different pressures, and different roles. There is a great deal of variation as to how each will assist you. Be sure that you understand how each can support you, respect their different roles, and interact with each accordingly.

School Based Counselors

Are experts on school curriculum.
Understand you in context of your peers.
May/may not suggest colleges they believe will be good fits.
Write recommendations.
Likely will not have time to support individual applications.

Independent College Counselors

Will suggest colleges with probability of good fit.
May facilitate college research.
Won’t recommend you to colleges.
Guide applications.
Assist with final decision making.


* Be both tactful and respectful when letting your school counselor know that you’re working with an independent counselor.

* Assume responsibility for your own college search and pay close attention to the information, expectations, resources, and deadlines that each counselor has made available.

 

Parents

If you’ve hired an independent college consultant to help you and your teen navigate the college search process, please…

* Like your teen, understand and respect the different roles, perspectives, and responsibilities of each counselor and interact with each accordingly.

* When relaying information or suggestions from one counselor to the other, be mindful that counselors want to collaborate, not be adversarial.

* Support your teen in taking charge of his/her own college search.

 

School-based Counselors

Whether you’re in a large public or small private school, if you know (or think) that one of your students is (may be) using an independent college counselor, please:

* Clarify any uncertainty.

* Understand that independents recognize the pressures you face and know that you’re working hard to meet the needs of students.

* Know that reputable independent consultants respect your perspective and want to collaborate with you, not replace you.

* Recognize that what a student has relayed from an independent likely has been “filtered” either intentionally or unintentionally and may not be what the independent actually said.

* When in question about an independent, reach out and contact him/her. We welcome partnering with you and, as long as we have permission from our students and their parents, we’re happy to discuss them with you.

* Get to know the independent college counselors in your area, either by participating with them in local professional development activities, or by inviting them to meet with your department.

 

Independent College Consultants

Most of our students have school-based counselors and it is their best interests that we work constructively together. Please:

* Understand that school-based counselors frequently have a wide range of responsibilities and depending on their school size, hundreds of students in their caseload. College counseling may be only one small part of their job.

* Explain to your client families the different roles of school counselors and independents and emphasize that one does not replace the other.

* Ask your client families to sign information release consents and reach out to their school-based counselors in a respectful and meaningful way.

* If given permission to do so, contact school counselors. Ask how you can work with them most effectively and what, if anything, they would like from you.

* Support the policies and procedures that school counseling departments have in place to regarding curricula, recommendations, and transcript requests.

 

For further thoughts about counselors as team players, see https://www.nacacnet.org/news–publications/publications/journal-of-college-admission/how-iecs-fit-into-the-counseling-puzzle/

 

Here’s to a new school year! Cheers everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 8, 2017

From Home Education to Higher Education

From Home Education to Higher Education by Lori Dunlap
Book Review

 

Education continues to evolve and the number of students who are homeschooled continues to grow. Here are my thoughts on one “just off the press” resource that recently caught my attention.

 

From Home Education to Higher Education is a short, very accessible and substantially researched book. Dunlap has two goals: 1) to introduce and explain homeschooling to admissions personnel and counselors and 2) to provide homeschooling parents with guidance about how to demonstrate their children’s academic achievements.

 

Dunlap, a homeschooling mother and former Director of MBA Career Development at the University of Arizona, devotes most of her book to her first goal, and herein lies the strength of this slim volume. Dunlap has made considerable effort to debunking common myths about homeschoolers, documenting home schooled students’ preparation for college and their college successes. For educators and others wanting to understand the wide range of homeschooling experiences, examine the myths surrounding homeschooling, and become familiar with some of the research regarding homeschoolers’ academic outcomes, this book is a great place to begin.

 

Chapter Six addresses how post-secondary institutions view homeschoolers and how they’ve adapted their application review processes to accommodate homeschooled applicants. The book’s last chapter provides recommendations about what colleges and universities can do to increase their homeschooled populations.

 

Dunlap has done a marvelous job of shedding light on the world of homeschooling and how post-secondary institutions might adapt to this growing population. She devotes less attention to detailing and supporting the legitimate needs of colleges and universities to homeschooling families, and as such, does not accomplish her second goal quite as thoroughly as she has her first.

 

From Home Education to Higher Education opened my eyes. It taught me a lot about the world of homeschooling and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand the homeschooling experience.

 

For more information about Lori Dunlap and her views on homeschooling visit https://teachyourown.org.

 

July 17, 2017

Colleges That Change Lives…are coming to town!

 

Navigating the transition from high school to college can be fraught with confusion and stress. Students and parents alike can become tied in knots. The people of Colleges That Change Lives are coming to Portland with a program that just might change the way you think about the entire college search process.

 

Colleges That Change Lives “was founded on a philosophy of building the knowledge, character and values of young people by introducing them to a personalized and transformative collegiate experience.”

 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 at 7 pm, Colleges That Change Lives College Fair
Oregon Convention Center Ballrooms 203 & 204
777 NE Martin Luther King Blvd, Portland, OR 97232

The program is free to the public and no pre-registration is required.

Onsite parking $10.00

 

The program begins with a 30 minute information session, followed by a college fair lasting approximately 1.5 hours.

 

So, what makes this event different from traditional college fairs?

 

1. This event is aimed at assisting students in engaging in a “student centered college search process” where the emphasis is on thinking outside the box, moving away from the rankings rat race, and concentrating on what students need to become the happiest, most engaged, and capable young adults possible.

 

2. Only a select number of colleges will be represented. This will not be an overwhelming experience. All of the colleges are dedicated to educating undergraduates and providing them with experiences that will best enable them to pursue individual goals, be it employment, graduate school, volunteer engagement or another self-defined path.

 

3. Attendees will come away with a clearer understanding of the transferable skills developed by a liberal arts education as well as tools for evaluating how well individual colleges can meet their academic, personal, and financial needs.

 

Representatives from member colleges will be available to provide information and answer questions. For a complete list of member colleges visit www.ctcl.org.

 

If you want to become inspired to think about the college search in a new way and learn about some fantastic colleges, some of which you’ve probably never heard of, plan to spend a couple of hours at the Colleges That Change Lives College Fair on August 2nd.

 

For more information about student centered college admissions, visit:

Home

http://www.educationconservancy.org

 

 

 

 

June 25, 2016

What is the right ‘fit’ when it comes to selecting a college?

Barnard Library & Quad - Finding the right fit when selecting a college

Everyone talks about the importance of finding the right fit when selecting a college. But what exactly does “fit” mean? Some college counselors define it as colleges that offer your choice of major, that are academically suitable for you and that your family can afford. Others define it as colleges where you find your “tribe,” meaning that you see students who seem like you and where you feel comfortable. All of these factors are important.

 

The factors making up the right fit are unique to you

If you feel that you belong, if you meet friends, feel comfortable, and are not unduly burdened with finances, you’re much more apt to stay enrolled until you graduate. But, as the late night infomercials say, “wait, wait, there’s more…”

 

If you really want to get the most bang for your college buck, you should evaluate the colleges you’re considering with a longer-range lens. Colleges with the best fit for you are those at which you will not only be happy and succeed, but where you will thrive academically, socially, emotionally, and physically, so that you will be well-equipped to pursue your post-graduation goals.

 

How to go about finding the right fit when selecting a college

You’ve changed a lot since you were 12 and you probably want to do a lot more changing and growing by the time you’re 22 – the age at which many students graduate from college. Keep in mind that you’ll be in a new environment, complicating the task of finding the right fit.

 

So, before you begin researching specific schools, take some time to think about why you’re going to college; what experiences you hope to have during college; and what you hope to be like by the time you graduate. Your answers are the keys to defining what YOU mean by fit, and identifying colleges that will meet your individual needs.

 

“It’s not just about getting in. It’s about who you’ll be when you get out.”

 

Thank you for visiting the College Ahead website. If you are looking for support or coaching around the college search and application process, please contact Julia at julia@collegeahead.us or call +1 503 968 2544

Welcome to the College Ahead blog!

Julia Surtshin

I'm Julia, a certified college counselor specializing in college planning, preparation, search and admissions. Welcome to my blog. For more than 12 years, I wrote a newspaper column titled College Corner. This blog continues that tradition. I’ve been an independent college counselor for more than 20 years. That means I’ve worked with dozens of students and I’ve seen the successful resolution of dozens of different challenges. Read more about my background here.

 

First and foremost, this blog is about you! If you want to see a topic addressed here, or if you have a question about college selection or application, feel free to email me. I’ll do my best to answer it, or if necessary, find someone who can.

 

My professional motto is “Navigating the college search and admissions process with confidence and optimism.” I want you to approach this transition enthusiastically and I’m here to help you do that.

Articles

Recent Posts

Don’t Mistake Training with Education

Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder, professors at Carleton College, recently wrote a thoughtful opinion piece, Don’t Mistake Training with Education, in which they highlighted the stark differences between these two, often confused, forms of teaching. Although the article was written to demonstrate how diversity training is insufficient for effectively addressing complex issues such as racism, their message has much broader application.

Failure to understand and appreciate the differences between training and education short-changes students, both those who would benefit from post-secondary training, as well as those for whom a college or university education is the more appropriate path.

Khalid and Snyder identify ten points of distinction:

■ Training makes assumptions; education challenges them.
■ Training is packaged; education cannot be contained.
■ Training rewards compliance, education curiosity.
■ Training is having to say something, education having something to say.
■ Training tells you what to think; education teaches you how to think.
■ Training answers questions; education poses them.
■ Training is generic; education all about context.
■ Training simplifies the world; education reveals its complexity.
■ Training promotes conformity, education independence.
■ Training is performative; education is transformative.

Khalid and Snyder write that training should be the preferred approach in many situations, especially when there are clear-cut problems and directly applicable solutions. Students who know they’re interested in such hands-on fields as auto mechanics, culinary arts, fire fighting, medical technologies, or welding, may want to pursue community college, trade school, or apprenticeship training which will equip them for immediate employment. Knowing how to repair the cars we drive and operate the variety of medical devices used to by health care professionals are valuable and necessary skills.

On the other hand, there are students who are interested in challenging their world views, engaging with complex issues, and developing new habits of thought and expression. These hallmarks of education, as identified by Khalid and Snyder, are precisely those of quality liberal arts education. Liberal arts education is less about the information students acquire and more about the habits and skills they develop. It is concerned not only with what is happening today, but also with preparing for a world that is currently unknown.

Futurists tell us that today’s young people are likely to work in jobs that haven’t even been imagined yet. Furthermore, they can expect that their world will be dramatically different from the one we live in now. Students who have the desire and ability to engage in transformative thinking should be encouraged to do so.

Recognizing the differences between training and education, and appreciating the value of each are critical for effectively guiding students and for addressing our current challenges, as well as those that await us.

Essential Wisdom from An Expert

Courtesy of Dr. Steven R. Antonoff & Independent Educational Consultants Association

Dr. Antonoff is a nationally known expert in the field of independent college consulting, the author of several books, and a close professional colleague. I am continually impressed by the scope of his knowledge and the wisdom of his perspective. Students and parents alike can benefit from his experience.

Here are several “golden nuggets” that I hope you all will consider carefully, whether you’re about to begin or are in the midst of the college search and admission process:

  • Picking a college is not just about what you’ll do when you graduate; instead, it’s about the four years you spend there and the experiences you accumulate.
  • The value of a college education is determined not by the name of the institution on your diploma but by whether you choose to take advantage of the resources available to you.
  • The college or university that can provide you with a happy and fulfilling four years is not limited to just one school or even one group of schools.
  • Your college search should focus more on educational aspects and less on admission concerns.
  • Don’t panic if you’re uncertain of your major; consider yourself not “undeclared” but rather “multi-interested.”
  • Never lose sight of the following statistic: 75 percent of colleges accept over 75 percent of applicants.
  • Always remember you are more than your test scores, and the SAT and ACT are not intelligence tests.
  • The more you look for fit and match (rather than name or prestige), the less stress you’ll feel and the fewer tears you’ll shed.
  • You have more than 100 truly elite colleges in the United States to choose from.
  • Your grit, passion, and perseverance will impact your college experience and success in life far more than your IQ, class rank, or popularity in high school and college do.

Test Optional: Is It Really? What Else You Should Know

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the spring administrations of the ACT and SAT to be cancelled, many colleges declared that they would become “test optional”. Plans ranged from test optional for students applying for the Class of 2021 only, to test optional as a complete change in policy for the foreseeable future.

But test optional? Just skip testing entirely? Could it be that easy? Wouldn’t it be better to have test scores, especially good ones? A few months ago most people, myself included, advised many students to “stay the course” and try to test in the fall. But now as August test sites close, test dates are cancelled, and stress levels mount, it’s time to rethink.

If you’re in the Class of 2022 or later, unless you’re already registered for one of the exams, put concrete plans for testing on the back burner for now.

Is Optional Really Optional?

The short answer is, YES. Just recently the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released a statement by admission officers just under 500 colleges “affirm[ing] that they will not penalize students for the absence of a standardized test score. Together, [they] strongly endorse a student-centered, holistic approach to admission that will not disadvantage any student without a test score.” Holistic review has been around for a long time and college admission officers are skilled at evaluating applicants along these lines.

Test Optional ≠ Test Blind

Test optional and test blind are two different policies. Under the first, students who don’t have scores won’t be disadvantaged when their applications are reviewed, but those who do submit scores will have them considered. Under the second policy, no test scores will be part of the review process.

For colleges that are test optional but not test blind, it’s not completely clear how they plan to evaluate applicants who submit scores without disadvantaging those who don’t. One option would be to group score submitters into one pool and those who don’t submit scores into a separate pool and then make decisions accordingly. Because admission officers haven’t explained their plans, asking questions might be your best bet.

So, should I still try to test?

Like so many other things in college admissions, “It depends”. The short answer is that you should submit test scores if you believe they will strengthen your application.

That being said, the decision to test or not is highly individual, and while it’s beyond the scope of this post to give comprehensive advice about whether to test or not, but here are some questions to consider:

  1. Have ALL of the schools on your short list adopted test optional policies? If not, this could be the deciding factor.
  2. Is testing available in a convenient location? Traveling a long distance or to an unfamiliar location could add unnecessary pressure to an already stressful situation.
  3. Do public health conditions allow you to feel comfortable about being in the testing situation? Although both the ACT and the College Board have policies and procedures in place for test sites, masks are not being required and there have been reports of less than ideal circumstances.
  4. What is your testing history? Are you a strong standardized test taker? Have you taken a diagnostic test that predicts a strong score that would be commensurate with your grades?
  5. To what extent have you prepped for the exam? If you haven’t prepped yet, do you have enough time to do the work to earn a score that will boost your application. If you’ve already started prepping, can you keep up that level of readiness until you actually test? Retesting will be unlikely.
  6. How much time do you have? Time is not unlimited. Are you better off spending time prepping for one of the tests or devoting it to preparing and refining your applications and essays?
  7. How are your other academic credentials? If you have a strong high school transcript with rigor and strong grades you might make a different decision than if you haven’t really applied yourself during high school, are a strong tester and have been counting on your test scores to boost your application.

As with many issues during this time of COVID, circumstances change constantly. With all the uncertainty swirling around, it’s important to keep in mind that the number one priority should always be students’ mental and emotional well-being. There is already more than enough stress to go around. This just might be the right time to choose to apply to colleges test-optional.

Be well.

Turning the College Admissions Process on Its Head

If you’re like most parents, you want your student to navigate the college admission process with curiosity, confidence, and optimism. That’s a tall order in the best of times, and as we all know, these are not necessarily the best (or easiest) of times. So what’s a parent to do?

One thing you can do from the comfort of your own, physically distanced space, is read The College Labyrinth: A Mindful Admissions Approach, by Dr. Erin Avery, CEP. A deceivingly slim volume, this read packs a decidedly big punch.

Avery demonstrates her understanding of teenage angst and the unspoken, frequently unrelenting, pressure felt by college-bound teens. Avery’s goal is to define the college search process “in terms of what is best for the student by keeping students centered, rooted in perceptions of self- worth and self-identity in order to emerge from this process a more fully formed adult prepared to embrace the often circuitous pathway of life…” (p. 13). She wants students to view the college search and admission process as a “pilgrimage, a quasi-sacred journey… within which [they] can reflect and explore rather than merely engaging in a win/lose task…” (p. 43).

Turn the College Admission Process on Its Head

In other words, Avery is advocating turning the entire college admission process on it’s head! How’s that for a radical thought?! Rather than students focusing on what credentials they need in order to be admitted to the colleges of their choice, she’d prefer that students start with who they are and what they want, along with thoughts of where they might like to go in life, and only then research colleges to determine how effectively they will support those goals and dreams.

Want to join the revolution? Become and stay student-centered. Steer clear of the US News and World Report college rankings that will hit newsstands on September 9. Step away from the focus on “name brand” that’s perpetuated by the media. Where your teen attends college is not a referendum on either their worth as a student or on your success as a parent. So forget about the car decal cachet competition.

Encourage your teen to start with what they know. Suggest that they begin by identifying their strengths, challenges, preferences, and goals. Have them reflect on their learning styles, social preferences, and extracurricular interests, as well as their goals and expectations for college. Using these as the starting point will help them determine the types of environments in which they’ll thrive and will aid them in maintaining a sense of personal efficacy and control.

Why It’s So Hard

There are umpteen factors at play that make the college search process fraught with uncertainty. Perhaps one of the most salient is Avery’s concept of liminality – of being in between and without the security of structure. Adolescence is liminal, in that it’s a period between childhood and adult-hood with more chaos than structure or order. Avery says, “Applicants to college are journeyers through liminal territory, standing in the doorway of their current life stage and looking outward into the wider world and as such they constitute a nomadic tribe searching and eagerly awaiting their arrival on firm ground…” (p. 26). Our teen nomads are engaged in a journey or quest (think Don Quixote) in which they feel they have little control.

What Parents Can Do

Provide grounding ballast for your teen. Teens, by their very nature, lack the perspective that you, as an adult, have. You know your teen’s strengths and their challenges. Reiterate their strengths, especially when they seem to feel that they don’t measure up. Help them brainstorm for ways to cope with and overcome their challenges. Helping them stay balanced is perhaps the most significant thing you can do for your teen.

Empathize with your teen. If you’re frustrated by your teen’s procrastination, consider this: people always procrastinate for a reason. Why is your teen putting off prepping for the SAT/ACT? Why do they sidestep writing their college application essays? Think about the uncertainty of Avery’s liminality. Contemplate the feeling of futility your teen may be experiencing that no matter how much test prep they do, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the score that will open doors or that no essay they write will be exceptionally noteworthy. Imagine the anxiety of believing that their future rests in the hands of college admission officers who don’t know them from Adam or Eve?

Be your teen’s cheerleader. We all need them now and then. The process of presenting their academic career for review likely has your teen feeling judged. When your teen’s confidence lags, bring out the pom poms – no, not literally, of course. Be the carrier of your teen’s confidence until they’re ready for it back again. And rest assured, they will be. Just wait until those college acceptance letters come rolling in.

The College Labyrinth contains considerable wisdom. The messages are deep, complex, and far beyond the scope of this post. You may find this seemingly accessible book a challenging read, as it is packed with numerous references to authors, developmental psychologists, philosophers, and theologians. The repeated references to religious symbols, figures and concepts can be off-putting for those with a secular mindset. However, approach this book with an open mind and you’ll discover quite a few precious nuggets that will help you and your teen navigate the college search and admission process with your sanity intact.

Hidden Treasure: The Best College Research Tool You’ve Never Heard Of

In a previous blog post I wrote that researching colleges is like peeling onions. There are many layers to examine. You start by using readily available resources and then, step-by-step, move to an increasingly more intimate understanding of a school’s core nature by visiting and talking with people. Unfortunately, options for visiting colleges are slim to nonexistent during this Summer of COVID 19, which leaves many students and their parents wondering how to get “up close and personal” with the colleges on their lists.

Since writing that post, I’ve discovered a wonderful new resource that can help you make an end run around this nasty virus. Enter the “virtual college tour”. Design your own virtual college road trip with the help of StriveScan, a company that provides scanning services for college fairs. StriveScan has helped fill a need by hosting a huge library of video recordings on its website, enabling to you “visit” multiple colleges from the comfort of your own home. At www.strivescan.com/virtual/recordings/ you can learn about a wide range of colleges from Augustana College in Illinois to York College of Pennsylvania. Colleges you may be more familiar with include include Whittier College, the University of Puget Sound, the University of Redlands, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Think of these approximately 45 minute recordings as private Info Sessions, minus the Q&A. Although not quite like being on campus in person, these recordings can give you both valuable information and a sense of college culture. They have the added advantage in that you can watch them at your leisure, rather than by traveling to two or three colleges in a single day, leaving you exhausted, dazed, and often confused about what you saw where.

StriveScan’s recordings go far beyond college-specific videos. For those of you just beginning your college search, the site has numerous videos with titles such as: Finding Your College Fit, Being Undecided at a Large Public Research University, How to Utilize your College Admissions Counselor, College Without the Sticker Shock, and the Best Questions to Ask Admission Counselors. To take full advantage of what StriveScan provides on this site, browse the recordings. This site is truly one of the best kept secrets in the college research toolbox.

Getting to know colleges and their individual cultures during the time of COVID 19 requires that you be creative, innovative, and persistent. These are qualities that colleges want to see in applicants. So, think carefully about what YOU want to know about colleges, get off the beaten path, demonstrate your ingenuity, and enjoy the treasure hunt.