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Posted at 9:13 PM ET, 03/10/2010

Virtual college fair lets students ‘visit’ schools

By Valerie Strauss

It must be frustrating for many high school students to be told by counselors and admissions deans that they should visit a range of college campuses before deciding where to apply.

While many students have the resources to travel, sometimes from state to state and region to region, soaking in different campus experiences, there are many others who don’t.

That’s where CollegeWeekLive comes in. The country’s largest virtual college fair will hold its next big event March 24-25, at www.collegeweeklive.com.

Students can explore, online, more than 250 colleges in all 50 states, and, especially important, get a chance to chat personally with admissions staff, current students and financial aid experts.

The fair is a good idea even for those students who can travel; they can get a sense of where they might want to go before hitting the road. Last year more than 50,000 high school students attended CollegeWeekLive to explore and narrow down college choices.

Shannel Brown, 18, a student at Anacostia High School, attended last fall's virtual fair. At first, she said, she was skeptical that it would help her.

"It just did not seem real to me--the whole thought of colleges giving me one-on-one advice to make the process of applying to college and filling out my FAFSA easier for me," she said. "I really found it helpful when I was able to talk to Spelman College and Kentucky State University admission officers." They assisted her with the application process and, she said, she was accepted to both colleges.

CollegeWeekLive partners with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, the United Negro College Fund, as well as with D.C. Cap and other organizations.

The Web site also has a long list of virtual open houses to specific colleges. Check for dates and times.

In April, for example:
April 8-- The University of Alabama in Huntsville TEXT CHAT
April 9--University of California, Irvine VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 10-- The University of California, Riverside VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 13--University of Florida VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 15--University of Miami VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 20--Mount St. Mary’s University TEXT CHAT
April 21--University of California, San Diego VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 22--Texas Tech University VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 23--University of California, Irvine VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 24--University of California, Berkeley VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 27--Washington State University VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE
April 28--Long Island University Brooklyn-Campus International Students TEXT CHAT
April 28--Long Island University Brooklyn-Campus Domestic Undergrads TEXT CHAT
April 29-- Wright State University VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE

And that’s just in April.

Go to CollegeWeekLive by clicking here and learn how you can participate.

Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking washingtonpost.com/answersheet And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | March 10, 2010; 9:13 PM ET
Categories:  College Admissions  | Tags:  college admissions  
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Comments

As a college consultant, I have thought many times how frustrating it must be for students who cannot afford college visits to hear that they are the only way to know whether a college is the right fit. They may be the best way, but not the only way. I think many of the virtual tours are really good and at least give students a feel for what the campus looks like. They can always read student reviews about the surrounding community and what it offers. A whole new resource is collegeweeklive which provides a lot of information on schools and other subjects pertaining to college admissions. Students should not be discouraged if they cannot visit a school, but take advantage of books like Edward Fiske's Guide to Colleges and other resources to find out as much as they can about colleges that interest them. Many schools also have students available who are happy to contact prospective applicants and answer any questions they might have. Talking with a current student can give you a good perspective of what it is like to be a student there.

Susie Watts
Denver, Colorado

Posted by: collegedirection | March 11, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

There are other much better websites available for virtual tours. ecampustours.com is an excellent website and available when you want to visit not just for 2 days at random times throughout the year. I always have to wonder when only one company is mentioned in an article is it journalism or advertising. Green College Tours,Virtualcollegerfairs and others do this as well if not better. The concept is an excellent one it is the execution of the idea that is lacking.

Posted by: CharlesUomee | March 11, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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