Seeing Is Believing: “Visiting” Colleges in the Time of COVID19

March 16, 2020 juliasurtshin No comments exist

Seeing is believing – we all know that. Whether you’re a senior trying to decide between your offers of acceptance or a sophomore or junior looking to add context to your college search, visiting colleges is often the Spring Break activity of choice. So what to do when colleges are closing campuses, cancelling visitation events and curtailing admission activities?

Although you might be tempted to throw up your hands (washed, of course), actually there is a lot you can do to further your understanding of what colleges would be the best fit for you. As the CDC continues to recommend social distancing, a number of my colleagues have come together to offer thoughtful suggestions.

Dana Rolander, an IEC in the Midwest, points out that virtual tours can help fill the void created by the current situation. Many colleges offer virtual tours on their websites. Youtube videos can provide additional and varied glimpses into life on campus, providing rich perspective. A recent search for one school yielded multiple “day in the life” videos, tours of residence halls, pros and cons, and a peek at Greek life. Campus Reel https://www.campusreel.org. offers virtual tours of more than 300 colleges.

But of course, there’s more to a campus visit that just touring buildings. Visits offer opportunities to gather additional data and ask important questions.

If you want to know more about colleges’ outcomes (what students do and how they fare after graduation), Denise Eliot, and IEC hailing from Southern California recommends that you look at institutions’ Linkedin pages. By clicking on the Alumni tab you can see where alums live, what kind of work they do and also conduct a variety of searches. Further, many students have Linkedin profiles and you might be able to message them with questions.

Although many colleges and universities are closing, that doesn’t mean that nobody’s working. Take this opportunity to email university administrators and staff with your questions. For example, contact the career planning office to inquire about job fairs, on-campus recruitment and other services. Most colleges have campus directories on their websites, so take advantage and reach out to the people you were hoping to connect with during your now-kaput campus visit. The only caveat here is make sure that you’ve done your research by carefully reading the office’s webpage before posing questions.

Admission representatives are likely working as well, although perhaps remotely. Reach out to them for suggestions about furthering your investigation sans a campus visit. Reps can often connect you with campus resources and student ambassadors with whom you can connect through Skype, FaceTime or Zoom. Be respectful of reps’ time by being clear about what you want or need from them. They are working under difficult circumstances as well, so don’t waste their time with vague pleas.

The obvious is often easily overlooked, as New Jersey IEC, Lisa Bleich, reminds us. College students are fabulous resources and they’re coming home! Connect with students from your high school who attend colleges on your list. Ask them anything and everything you can think of. They can give you perspective that isn’t available anywhere else!

Massachusetts IEC, Eric Endlich, suggests that although you may not be a Facebook regular, most colleges and universities have Facebook pages. Furthermore, they frequently have groups for admitted students. Connecting with others, can add to your understanding, especially about campus culture.

Juniors, while Spring Break visits may be out of the question, you’ll have other opportunities to visit colleges of your liking. In the interim, use this time to really work the process provided by College Ahead. Use a wide range of resources to investigate the colleges on your list – both those suggested here, as well as those provided with your CollegePlannerPro account.

Seniors, yes, making a decision about where to attend college, especially when you can’t “test drive” it, can be a daunting prospect. However, if you’ve worked with College Ahead you’ve engaged in a thoughtful process with built-in help.

  • Review your Shopping List. This is your foundation. Think about your current priorities and how they might be different from when you started your research.
  • Review your completed College Information & Assessment Sheets and take time to think about what kind of picture the information paints of each college.
  • Reread your “why this college” essays and consider how what they say resonates with you now.
  • If you have unanswered questions, conduct some final research. Consult the website list you received in your initial consultation packet for such useful resources as www.collegedata.com and https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/.
  • Make a list of pluses and minuses for each school where you’ve been admitted. (Remember, there are no perfect schools and everything is a trade off.)
  • Compare financial aid awards when affordability is a factor.

Most importantly, keep in mind that the single most significant factor in making an wise college choice is YOU! Your attitude and your willingness to engage have the biggest impact on the success of your college decision, your college career, and your life trajectory. Although where you attend college is likely to have a lasting impact on your life, even more critical is the extent to which you take advantage of the resources and opportunities offered by your college or university.

You do not need to make this decision in isolation. In addition to talking with your parents, remember, I’m here and available to help you sort through the options. Often this last step in process is the most difficult. Zoom meetings are a convenient and safe option in this challenging time. Feel free to reach out with your questions and concerns.

Be Well-
Julia

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