Now that college admissions season is right around the corner – are you ready to take charge of your upcoming college visits? The pressure is on, and a decision on your part is going to be both imminent and necessary!
So how does one “take charge” of college visits?
We can answer this with two words.
Information and Technology (…and apps & maps!)
Opps! I guess that’s four words. :)
All the info you’d ever need about a particular college is online. And it gets even better than that!
You’ll be able to access not only what the college wants you to see – but also what university attendees think – and possibly what professors and alumni think.
It seems these days it’s all about the apps – but there are many that do not use a smart phone, or would rather not! If this describes you, fear not – many of the apps reviewed below are cross-platform, meaning they are available on your home computer as web apps – so just print your maps and info and go with paper and a notebook. You can always enter your notes later if you so choose.
Much of the planning process is all about setting up to-do lists and checking off completed items as you go along. Here are two apps that will aid you greatly in planning your college visits.
37Signals is a company that has developed some of the most useful web-based applications on the planet. Basecamp is their project management software, and it is chock-full of features that will make your college visit planning a snap. Easy to use, pretty to look at and ultimately useful, there is a free plan which will allow you enough features to get your visits organized.
Basecamp works on just about any Web browser, and across all mobile devices (Windows Phone 7 users may have to use Kompass – a Basecamp app for Windows Phone 7). Because the mobile app is an HTML5 web-based app, all your changes are synced between your home computer and your mobile device.
Plan and organize at home, then take your mobile with you! What could be easier!
Remember The Milk
Remember The Milk or RTM is more of a traditional To-Do list with added features.
The web app is free to use, upgrade to the premium, for a price to use with mobile devices. There are native iPhone, iPad and Android versions that will cost you $25 per year to use, but the avid users of RTM don’t mind the added expense! They know how fantastic an app this is.
RTM is easy to use, almost intuitive in its simplicity – and will get the organizing job done!
As far as I’m concerned, there is only one app you’ll need for mapping out your trip. That app is Google Maps.
Whether you are travelling by rail, car, plane or on foot, Google Maps will get the mapping job done for you. The Google Maps app will open on any computer in any browser, as well as work on just about any mobile device. Check out the Google Maps mobile webpage for more info on what features are included on your mobile device.
If you are an Android user, you’re probably aware the Google Maps app on your device is also a turn-by-turn GPS navigation system in your hand! On the iPhone and other mobiles you’ll be able to use Google Maps Street View to check out the actual locations you’ll be visiting.
The best way to use Google Maps for college visits is to bring up the app on your home desktop or laptop and search for the colleges you’ll be visiting. When you find them, “star” them. You’ll then be able to find the locations on your mobile device by listing your “starred” locations.
You can also use the “directions” feature to get door-to-door directions and distances to your colleges – AND include multiple points (colleges) – so you’ll get a great idea of the mileage and time it will take from college to college, and for the whole trip.
Once you’re on the ground, use the Google Maps “walking” directions to get to your exact locations on foot.
I know, crazy isn’t it…but this is the world we all live in now!
Once you get to your colleges, you’ll want a way to quickly jot down notes so that you can remember the pros and cons of each visit.
Sure, you can use a pen and paper, but why not harness all that tech you carry around with you.
There are several cross-platform apps that will make it a joy to use your iPhone, IPad or Android phone or tablet to catalogue your notes for instant retrieval where ever you are!
Evernote is a full-featured note-taking and “capturing” app which can be very useful for keeping track of the colleges you’ve visited. There is a free version and a premium version. I believe most users will find the free version to be more than enough to keep track of college visits – but if you start to use it for EVERYTHING you may want to upgrade!
I’ve used Evernote since 2008, which I realized in doing the research for this blog post! All my notes from that year are still online, I find this to be remarkably helpful for cataloguing important items.
Think about using an app like this for college visits – and imagine if you have several children, being able to go back and look at the notes you made for the older child! Invaluable!
You can set up notebooks for each individual college you’re visiting, and then keep all kinds of notes in it. You can include links to the college’s web site, review sites, forums dealing with the college – and, of course, your own visit notes which you can upload contemporaneously from your mobile device.
Evernote works in every browser, and also has native apps for Android, the IPhone/iPad, Palm, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 – really just about any mobile device.
SpringPad is a very, very smart note taking app. Although slightly more complicated to use than Evernote, this is the app to use if you’re plugged in, wired up and ready to go!
SpringPad also works on the “notebook” concept – but the items you can add to the notebooks are varied and include contacts (you can connect your google or facebook contacts).
Once you add a college to your notebook as a contact, including the address of the college, you’ll have a google map attached to the entry – and can easily get directions (and all the other Google Map goodies) to the college.
Other types of entries include: check list, packing list, shopping list, alarm, event, task, bookmark – just about anything you can think of! Your individual college notebook can contain all kinds of info about the visit, and the college.
Download the SpringPad app for your mobile, and you’ll have it all in the palm of your hand – add notes to the notebook while you’re at the college. I always like creating an immediate “pros and cons” list – a very good way to sort out your first impressions.
Geo-location Aware Apps
Foursquare is a geo-location app that is experiencing unprecedented growth in popularity. Some are even betting on Foursquare being as popular as Facebook and Twitter in the near future.
I like using Foursquare for both it’s social media features, as well as its mapping and “tips” features.
So what is geo-location and Foursquare? Basically, users “check-in” at locations they arrive at, using a mobile device. Foursquare is available on both the iPhone and Android platforms and syncs to the web-based version of the app.
Foursquare users are awarded badges for achieving various levels and locations, which makes it fun to use and popular with teens. Colleges are just starting to get on the Foursquare service, but users often leave their own tips when visiting and attending colleges.
This is where the app becomes invaluable on college visits – even if just to find the favorite local burritto joint!
If you’d like to find out more about using Foursquare for college admissions check out the blog post I’d written over at StudentAdvisor.com, How to Look for Colleges Using Social Media.
Facebook has built location into both their mobile app and desktop app. You can add a location to any photograph you upload – and you can check into location (much like Foursquare) on the mobile app. If you tag a photo with the college you’re visiting (and the college allows tagging), your photo will appear on the college’s Facebook Page wall.
You can also add whom you’re with to the check in – so if you’re in a group, you can tag your friends and relatives.
Using Tech for College Visits
You know you have the tech in your hands! You have it in your Blackberry, your iPhone, your iPad, your netbook – your desktop!
Harness this power for college visits – make them easy, fun and productive whether you’re a parent or student!
Parents, this is a chance to show your high school student just how cool you REALLY are (don’t worry they’ll never admit it!) – and students, here’s your chance to show your parents just how organized and together you can really be (don’t worry, your parents will still nag you!).
Take charge of your college visits, and you’ll be one step closer to making one that most important decision – which colleges you’ll apply to, and perhaps which one you’ll attend!
Enjoy your remaining college visits! I’ll be monitoring the comments section below to answer any questions you may have.