Virtual College Visits

During a recent conversation with one of my colleagues, she told me that in the 1970s, her dad moved into his freshman college dorm three hours away from home, sight unseen.  I’ve been asking myself lately if this is how students in the class of 2021 will begin their college experience.  The answer is no.  You have so many resources available to you in 2020 that simply did not exist 50 years ago.  In response to COVID-19, colleges and universities have seriously amped up their virtual visit options.  Below, you’ll find some details on what you can expect in terms of college visits and how you can use the rest of the summer to prepare for the application process.

In addition to the more traditional online information sessions, campus tours, and interviews, many colleges and universities are offering chats with current students and/or professors, general admission sessions such as mock admission committees, and financial aid podcasts.  Keep in mind that registration is often required for programs happening in real time.  Check the websites of the schools on your college list to see what they offer and consider engaging in these programs before school starts this fall.  

We encourage you to spend some time tracking your online visits.  Note the positives (a well-spoken, honest panel of students, an innovative virtual campus tour, etc.) and the negatives (a professor that seemed distant, an indistinguishable campus tour, etc.).  These factors will ultimately help you narrow down your college choices.  Also, write down any questions you might have after your visit.  Following up with an admission counselor about something you noticed in a virtual session could help strengthen your understanding of a university and show the admission counselor your level of interest and thoughtfulness.

In addition to questions regarding your personal and academic interests, the questions listed here may help you get a more holistic picture of the school community.

  • What is the surrounding neighborhood like?  What is the relationship between the campus community and the nearby neighborhood?
  • Where do students go between classes?
  • What isn’t featured in the virtual campus tour that you wish was included? 
  • What was it like to be a freshman on campus?
  • What has been your biggest challenge at your school? 
  • What could be updated at your school? (By design, virtual tours highlight the picturesque parts of campus on the sunniest of days.  Dig a little deeper to get a more balanced, realistic impression of the school.)
  • What are the issues that students care about on your campus?

Here are some sample general admission programs that may be of interest as you embark on the college process:

University of Pennsylvania Selective College Admission and Essay Writing Workshops, among other topics

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