In ordinary years, now’s the time that high school juniors and seniors would begin the process of touring potential colleges. Due to the current circumstances revolving around the pandemic, colleges and students alike are having to adapt to a virtual lifestyle. Students will likely have to make difficult decisions about the next four years of their academic careers without getting the opportunity to step foot on campus. However, the good news is that many colleges have found ways to help bring their campus experience to students virtually. Before finalizing a choice, below are some ways to make the most out of touring colleges virtually.  

Evaluating Yourself Before You Evaluate A School 

Before scheduling a virtual tour, it’s crucial to figure out which colleges best suit your interests. Jennie Taylor Tucker is the CEO and founder of Pointer, an app designed to inform students about the admissions process and help customize their search to fit their wants and needs. Her biggest piece of advice for prospective students is to use this time at home to evaluate themselves before evaluating a school. 

“This moment actually provides an opportunity to take pause and reflect on who you are as a person,” Tucker suggested. “This is such a challenging process under normal circumstances, and at this moment, so much of what I think students should be doing is thinking about who they are and what makes them tick. The more self-aware they are, the better their college exploration will be.” 

Getting to know themselves allows students to do the search process in a more thoughtful manner. Students can start by articulating what they value most and why they want to go to college. From there, they can find colleges that share those same qualities and begin putting together their wish list of schools.  

Where and What to Look For 

After listing a few schools of interest, the next step is to browse a college’s website. While these websites can sometimes be large and overwhelming, specific pages are designed for prospective students looking to gather more information.  

Students should begin this process by overviewing the school’s admission requirements. Keep in mind that schools usually mandate standardized testing, which may change due to the pandemic’s current situation. For example, some colleges are making standardized tests optional for the time being.  

Another significant factor to consider when researching potential schools is financial aid. Most institutions provide an online calculator where students can input their information and estimate the cost of attendance. Universities are a significant investment; therefore, searching for financial aid options should be taken just as seriously as the college search itself.  
 

Next, students should begin taking a look at each school’s curriculum. Students should never assume that the college of their choice offers every possible major, especially if they have a specialized field of study. It’s also important to remember that some majors are not open to all students and may require specialized training. If a student has a particular area of study that interests them, they must dive deeply into requirements and course offerings before deciding on a school.  

In addition to studying and academics, colleges offer extracurricular activities, clubs, and organized sports. Activities may include clubs associated with a field of study, recreational groups, volunteer opportunities, religious organizations, and many more. Not all colleges provide the same activities as others, so it’s best to browse a university’s website and see what they offer that best interests a student.  

Lastly, along with activities, clubs, and sports, students will also want to explore colleges other aspects of student life such as meal plans, the school’s size, where the college is located, safety, demographics, and even transportation. Researching all of these qualities for potential schools will make the process of narrowing down the right one much easier.   

Feel (Almost) Like You’re on Campus 

There are a number of ways to explore campus or speak to students and admission officers online. From online virtual tours to information sessions via zoom, colleges are more virtually accessible than ever.  

When looking at schools virtually, students should start by joining the mailing lists of colleges of interest; this will help prospective students stay in touch with upcoming virtual programs. Once in the system, there will likely be many virtual opportunities available. Another great resource is YouVisit, which offers free virtual campus tours of over six hundred colleges and universities.  

Many schools are also offering live chat services on their websites, where students can connect with admissions officers and enrolled students. “Schools are trying to be mindful of this moment and be as flexible, adaptive, and empathetic as possible to students,” Tucker said. “So, there are resources on a school-by-school basis that are available in a way that they wouldn’t be normally.”  

Though this search process may be disappointing for some students, it’s important to note that tens of thousands of students nationwide each year are unable to visit colleges before attending, so schools have experience in providing virtual options. Lastly, remember that you are not alone. While the circumstances may not be ideal, the process of finding your dream college is still possible. Follow the advice above to make the most out of virtual tours and ensure your success in narrowing down your options.   

 

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