4. Virtual tours: For most current college students and graduates, getting a feel for a college was tedious and sometimes costly. Today, much of this work can be done from home, says Dave Kerpen, author of the New York Times bestselling book Likeable Social Media. "Five years ago, in order to get to know a college, you'd have to go on a tour," Kerpen says. "Now, you can go on a virtual tour of basically any college, any time."
[Find more tools that help students visit college campuses from home.]
Virtual tour sites such as eCampusTours and YourCampus360 allow students to see a campus from the convenience of the couch. Users can access more than a thousand virtual tours between these two sites, utilizing 360-degree functionality—at no cost. While the virtual tours may help students narrow their list of colleges, they shouldn't make their final decision without a physical visit, says Berg.
5. Skype: The free video chat service, Skype, is successful at connecting people from around the globe. The use of this service is slowly being adopted by admissions offices across the country in order to connect with prospective students that can't make the long trip in for an initial visit.
"The opportunity for programs like Skype, where you have immediate and prolonged video interaction with schools, is almost as good as sitting in the office of an admissions counselor," Berg says. "Skype provides instant gratification [for students]."
6. Facebook: With more than 750 million users on the social network, Facebook is the unquestioned leader in its field, and colleges across the country are feeling the pressure to provide a voice on the platform. This gives students and parents the advantage when researching the culture of a school, says Kerpen. "Facebook allows unprecedented access, insider's access, to what's going on at colleges," he notes. "For students and parents, it's a major opportunity to really see what's going on, [and] what students and alumni are talking about."
[Read about colleges bringing campuses to Facebook.]
7. Twitter: The search function of Twitter is a powerful tool to observe conversations, Kerpen says. "It allows students to find out what's being said right now about a particular college."
Whereas a college or university may be able to filter the discussions taking place on its Facebook page, it cannot control the conversation on Twitter. Kerpen suggests students and parents use Twitter to connect with others who have unfiltered information about a school. "People you know and people you know of are a lot more trustworthy than a [college] brochure," Kerpen says. "Leverage the opportunity to find out what real people are saying."
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