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Checkin' out colleges

Recently, I was recycling a bunch of old papers and files that I had accumulated over the last decade. Two things struck me: first, I have inherited my mother's packrat behavior. I saved literally every notebook, exam, and textbook from college and late high school, and have been hauling them around since graduating.  

Second, it's been more than 10 years since I applied to college. Not only did that make me feel pretty old, I was also shocked by how different researching colleges has become in only a decade.

When I was in high school, in order to do quick comparisons of colleges, like size, or tuition cost, you had to purchase a hefty magazine filled with all the standard details about the universities. Flipping through, back and forth, comparing costs and specialization, became laborious.

Colleges would also send recruiters to high schools, armed with glossy portfolios of their institutions. This was really the only way of seeing what the campus is like, other than taking a costly campus visit. Sure, that small school in Vermont looks wonderful in May, with everyone playing Frisbee and hanging out on the quad. But what about those dark and cold nights from October to March? What happened to all those smiling young people in t-shirts!?

Nowadays, there are hundreds of different search tools available to prospective students. Bing is at the forefront, elevating that decision-making process (which many feel is the most important decision a young adult makes) to a different level.

Let's go ahead and do a search for "colleges" on Bing. By the way, awesome picture today!


So here's where you expect to get your standard list of blue links. And if that's all you want from your searching experience, we got you covered. But if you want to take that search to the next level, why don't we see what Bing can do for our college search. Instead of browsing the links, let's check out what Visual Search can do.


Instantly, we get a listing of colleges that is completely sortable by exclusivity, affordability, etc. There's also a sidebar in which you are able to filter colleges by state, private vs. public, acceptance rate, specialization, and more. Let's walk through an example search. Pretend we want to go to a school in Virginia, and we want one that is fairly selective, but not too selective. Let's see what we get:


We see seven schools meet the criteria - easy, right? Now let's get some additional information to help us make a decision. Here we've selected three schools that we want to know more about: University of Richmond, College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia.


Once I've clicked the selection box in the top left hand corner of each box, I get a compare widget on the right side of the screen. Let's compare them:


We get a nicely formatted information grid about each of the colleges. We can see the stats of the school, compare tuition costs, look at the average SAT scores of incoming freshman (see below), or go straight to the university's website.


We like what we see from the College of William and Mary. Let's give them a closer look by clicking on the Details link.


Again, we get some really specific details that can help inform such an important decision. However, let's just say that W&M doesn't really fit our needs (Sorry, Tribe), and we think UVA is a better fit for us. We need some more qualitative information to back up the data. That's simple enough with Bing Map apps. Click on View campus map - we get a great satellite image of the campus, and the ability to explore at street level, find directions and search for nearby restaurants, hotels, etc.  Now select the Photosynth map app - we are transported to the Charlottesville campus, without having to actually go there!


Oooh! Here's a 'synth of the UVA Lawn, which we can navigate through like a virtual photo tour. And there's another one, of a lecture hall.


So, in the span of ten or so clicks, we've gone from looking for "colleges" to seeing an actual anthropology lecture at the University of Virginia, all the while comparing stats side-by-side, including tuition costs and academic standards. Of course, when you do plan a campus visit, check out great deals with Bing Travel.

Good luck to all the prospective college students out there! Enjoy your time there, because a lot of us wish we could go back!