Visiting campuses has become a right of passage for high school students, where juniors and seniors can interact with current students, tour the facilities, attend departmental presentations and observe the campus culture. Visits also allow students to participate in informational sessions to learn more about admission requirements and best practices. In a nutshell, campus visits help students understand fit, and whether they want to apply.
COVID-19 has impacted the way that students can interact with colleges. Today, most colleges have canceled in-person tours and informational sessions. Attending national college fairs and meeting admissions representatives at local high schools is also not happening. So how can students in this environment get to know a college better?
College admissions offices are working diligently to make their campuses and student ambassadors available in a virtual format. To stay abreast of upcoming opportunities to explore a campus virtually, prospective students should sign up for the admission office mailing list. As events are planned in the coming months, this ensures that students will get an invitation.
Students should also explore the college’s admission website for newly created virtual campus tours, student panels and department presentations. Some colleges, like Loyola Marymount University and Dartmouth College, have even hosted (and recorded) virtual open houses for prospective students that you can still watch today. Participating in these events is a great way to learn more about the college and their admission practices. It is also an easy way to demonstrate interest to those on campus who are making admission decisions.
Virtual campus tours are also available through YouVisit, Youniversitytv, and a college’s YouTube channel. YouVisit is the closest thing to actually taking a tour on campus, complete with an interactive tour guide. There are nearly 400 recorded college presentations from May on StriveScan. Learning about campus life from current college students can also be insightful. CampusReel’s platform allows prospective students to watch short videos about day-in-the-life activities at colleges across the nation.
While college fairs will not be held in-person, attending one online is still possible. The National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) will offer four virtual college fairs for students with over 600 colleges on September 13, October 12, October 18 and November 8. Registration to attend the NACAC fairs will open in mid-August. The Coalition for College is hosting online events as well in August, September and October. The Colleges That Changes Lives (CTCL) fair, usually held in Bellevue in August, will also be online. Dates are forthcoming, but they plan to host three virtual events in August, September and October.
Use these fairs as an opportunity to connect with admission representatives to ask specific questions that cannot be discerned by looking at just a website. Do not ask if they have an English major on campus (because of course, they do!). Instead, ask about senior capstone experiences in that department, or examples of internships that students in these majors have recently completed. Virtual fairs are also a great opportunity for students to learn more about extracurricular life, the first-year experience, and living and learning communities on campus.
Parents are also encouraged to participate in events to better understand the college admissions landscape today. On August 6, Dr. Denise Pope, Co-Founder of Challenge Success and Senior Lecturer at Stanford University, is hosting A Healthy Approach to College Admissions webinar for parents of college bound students. Dr. Pope will address myths and common questions, as well as the unnecessary pressure put on high school applicants today.
Kiersten Murphy, M.Ed. is an independent college counselor and President of Murphy College Consultants in Issaquah. She can be reached at www.schoolconsultant.com.