H.G. of Lido Beach, NY writes:

I've done the college tours, pored over the college websites, and read through the media hype offered by the admissions offices. How do I find out what life -- social, academic and otherwise -- is really like on campus?

The College Whisperer responds:

To really know what college life is like, get the students point of view.

Yes, gather all the reading material you can. Bookmark those college websites. Collect the glossy viewbooks. Take as many tours as budget, time and sanity allow. Talk with college administrators, professors, and the head of buildings and grounds.

Most of all, hobnob with the in crowd -- actual college students.

"How do I speak with students," you ask? Well, surely, you will meet potential classmates on those college tours, in classes you choose to sit in on, and, when classes are in session, on the quad and in the dining halls.

Tough to strike up a conversation, or to find a living, breathing student on campus during your visit?

Well, there are other ways to get the inside scoop; the honest, if not unbiased views of those who, at least figuratively, are in the trenches.

Check out college newspapers (most are online nowadays), particularly those that are student run. A fantastic source of information, from where to hang out, what do do when class is over (where's Thursday's frat party again?), and which profs to avoid like the plague.

Search the web for college blogs. [The ones written by students, not by the admissions office, although these may prove useful as well.] Some student blogs are corny. Others are quirky. Many have absolutely nothing to do with college life (which, in and of itself, may say quite a bit about college life). [Here's a blog from a student at Olin College.

Seek out and join online college forums, such as those found on College Confidential. Students, parents, and college admins share their experiences and knowledge, and, yes, you can breakdown and digest forums by topic and by college.

Ask questions. Lots of questions. Get answers. Formulate your own opinions. Explore all of the possibilities. The more you know about a college, the better equipped you will be to make a wise, and ultimately, comforting decision.
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For more on learning about colleges and college life beyond the campus tour, check out Lynn O'Shaughnessy's post on U.S. News & World Report, 9 Alternatives to a College Visit.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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