Campus Visit During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted on July 31st, 2020 to College Admission by

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on education, including college admission. At the beginning of the pandemic I wrote two articles about how students can adapt to the situation in the classroom and with their college search. Now, nearly 6-months later, schools across the K-16 spectrum are re-designing their milieu in order to keep their community safe. K-12 schools are offering distance learning and hybrid learning options, some colleges are implementing 50/50 models, and some colleges are going to be 100% distance learning. While these changes are impacting your classroom experience, they are also dramatically impacting how prospective students and families conduct college visits.

You may remember from an earlier post that campus visits are an integral part of your college research. They are a great way to get a feel for a school’s physical space, student culture, and surrounding community. A visit isn’t just limited to going to a school for a tour and information session. It also includes going to college fairs, meeting admission representatives at your high school, attending regional admission events, and participating in fly-in programs. However, social distancing makes it impossible for colleges to host any kind of in-person experience safely. These efforts required some level of travel and in-person interaction with complete strangers. Instead, colleges are now offering virtual campus visit opportunities.



The idea of a virtual visit may feel new, but it’s not. Colleges and universities have offered virtual campus tours for about the past 20 years. So while the idea isn’t a new one it has recently and rapidly evolved to utilize more modern delivery platforms. So what does a virtual campus visit look like in 2020? Well there are as many answers to that question as their are schools. Some schools are still relying on their virtual multi-media presentations; some schools are publishing high-end YouTube video presentations; and yet other schools are actually hosting live webinars with admission officers and student tour guides; yet other schools are offering a combination of these options. Regardless of the delivery system, the advice in approaching a virtual college visit is the same as with in-person visits.


1. Set it up!



Once you know which schools you want to visit, go to their admission website. There is always a “visit” page. Pre-pandemic, this is where you would sign up for a tour and information session or see admission representatives’ travel schedules. Now those pages are focused on information about their virtual visit options. If schools are offering live presentations, you will be able to register for the event right then and there! If schools are posting videos, multi-media presentations, or pre-recorded presentations–then you just need to block off time in your calendar to watch them.


2. Get your questions ready!



You are bound to have questions related to how the school will meet your needs, help you achieve your goals, and support your aspirations. You will also come up with questions during the presentation.  It’s best to spend some time prior to the visit to write down any questions you want to ask or topics you want to be sure to learn about. You can also use the same document to capture any questions or ideas that come up during the presentation itself.


3. Go visit!



With your visit scheduled and questions prepped, go ahead and visit (virtually)! Set up your laptop, mobile device, or smart TV and enjoy! It’s important to keep notes on what you learn. Centralizing all of your thoughts into one notebook or electronic file will help you with the fourth and final step. I recommend using the same document you used for your questions to keep your notes about the visit.


4. Reflect!



Shortly after the virtual visit, take a moment to reflect on the experience. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • What did you learn from the admission officer?
  • Did you feel like you could relate to the students?
  • Did you feel excited about the school?
  • What didn’t you like?
  • Do you feel like you could call this school “home” or your “home away from home” for 4 years?

This isn’t a comprehensive list of guiding questions, just a small handful to help you get started. Be sure jot down your thoughts in the same file, document, or notebook you have been using to catalogue your questions and to take notes!

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