Let’s get one thing straight: the college search is exhausting. Just thinking about the hours I spent scouring College Board’s matchmaker tool, College Confidential, and US News in high school makes me feel like I need a nice, long nap in my dorm. And I know I’m not the only one. You can only juggle pros and cons lists, excel spreadsheets, and general admissions angst for so long without wanting to beat your head against your keyboard, and those feelings lead to one thing and one thing only: hardcore procrastination.
The college search is the one academic area in which I am 100% in favor of procrastination, because you will seriously lose your mind if you try to knock out all your research in one brilliant burst of effort. It’s a demanding process and you’re allowed to take your time — I promise. What you have to remember is this: you can make your procrastination productive by making your usual social media scrolling a part of your college search. It’s easy as pie, and you’ll hardly notice that you’re getting real work done.
Now, the internet is a big, scary place for a prospie, so I’m going to break this down site by site.
Can you say free campus tour sans expensive travel and absurd amounts of walking? College students are glued to their Instagram accounts, and there’s nothing they love more than photographically repping/complaining about their schools. Tracking your schools’ tags on Instagram is even more beneficial if you make use of geotagged posts — you’ll be able to see every corner of the library, from the stacks to the view from the windows to the coffee shop inside. You’ll be able to see sports fields, the insides of dorms and classrooms, and what the dining hall food actually looks like. You can also follow the Instagrams of local businesses — from coffee shops to sandwich places to that one awesome place for Indian takeaway. And, as always, follow the colleges’ official accounts for picture-perfect profiles.
Obviously you can use Facebook to keep an eye on the college adventures of your graduated friends and family, but it’s even more helpful than you think. Most colleges have a Facebook page that’s frequently updated with campus news, athletic updates, and photos of college-sponsored events. In addition, almost every college has its own version of the following Facebook pages and groups: “University of _____ Crushes,” “Overheard at University of _____,” “University of _____ Class of 2018,” and “University of _____ Confessions.” Most of these groups are fluff (i.e. nothing you find here will truly make or break the way you feel about a college), but they can give you a great feel for the social flavor of a school (e.g. do vicious comment wars break out often? Or do posters seem friendly, more or less?).
Using Twitter in your college search is a slightly more daunting task, but if you can actually keep up with all the activity on your newsfeed, it’s worth it. You can follow the official accounts of colleges in which you’re interested, their sports teams’ accounts, their clubs’ accounts, the accounts of some of their local restaurants and shops, and, of course, the accounts of current students. You can also follow the colleges’ presidents, deans of students, and admissions deans — anyone who can offer you a different perspective on the schools of your choice.
While I would stay far, far away from the general appblr (college application Tumblr) scene, Tumblr can be a fantastic resource for learning about schools in which you’re interested. By tracking the tags of the schools you like, you can find pictures, videos, and blog entries of current students. Consider following entire blogs run by current students and see what they have to say; you can even drop them an ask every now and again if you have specific questions about their school (they’ll most likely be thrilled to answer!). Pro tip: make sure that you’re tracking every variation of your colleges’ names so that you’re not missing anything (e.g. track both “The University of Virginia” and “University of Virginia,” as well as its abbreviation, “UVA”).
While you won’t find an earth-shattering amount of information on Pinterest, you will be able to create gorgeous virtual collages of your college options (the one I made for my current university during the process is right here). I loved constructing really large, detailed boards and then deleting them one by one as I narrowed down my college list. It was cheesy and lame, sure, but it helped give me a feeling of power and control – two feelings not easy to come by when applying to and deciding between colleges.
YouTube is a beyond fantastic application resource for the tech-savvy prospie. Again, most colleges are hip-and-with-it enough to have a channel of their own, and you can also follow the channels of any clubs or sports teams that catch your eye. It’s not unheard of for other prospies to videotape their tours or parts of them (though I personally wouldn’t recommend that), so take advantage of those as well. See if any of your colleges have comedy groups that make video sketches or if any of their band concerts/a cappella concerts/improv shows/athletic events can be found in full.
Not technically a social media website, but if you’re looking for high-quality campus photos, this is the place to be. Most of the photos on Flickr are taken with honest to goodness cameras (we’re talking multiple lens, super pricey, non-iPhone cameras here), so you can get a really clear look at your schools of choice outside of the pictures available in pamphlets. Another bonus: when you’ve actually made your college decision, Flickr has got your back when it comes to your computer’s new, spirited wallpaper.
The inclusion of Spotify might seem a bit strange, and definitely won’t be of use to every prospie. But trust me: it’s worth checking to see if any of your colleges’ a capella groups have released any albums available for streaming. And if they have, enjoy jamming out to the sounds of your potential future alma mater. Both the top male and female a capella groups from my college have released albums (with such cutesy titles as “Good Morning Mr. Jefferson,” “Rugby Road, and “Guys in Ties”) and listening to them never fails to get me in the collegiate spirit.
So where’s what we learned today, ladies and gents: College searching? Total energy suck. Social Media? Kind of the best. Together? The perfect combination of quasi-procrastination and quasi-research (AKA: a match made in heaven).