So much of the college application process is tedious, stressful, and full of unknowns. College tours have always been the most exciting part of it all. By visiting schools in the spring and summer prior to senior year, your teen can narrow down that ever-growing “short list”, solidify an idea of what he or she wants in a school, and show “demonstrated interest” to the admissions officers.
More than that, though, these tours have helped prospective students, for the first time, truly envision their futures, evoke fond memories from their parents, and paint a clear picture of what their options are come decision time.
As many college campuses continue to be closed to the public, though, and as in-person tours remain closed, virtual college tours seem to be the only option. When making such an important decision, it’s incredibly frustrating to add missing out on college tours to the long list of COVID-related disappointments.
However, colleges have come up with creative ways to give your teen that same crucial experience.
As you and your teen delve into your search, there are some empowering steps to take to make virtual college tours exciting, informative, and helpful…and extremely convenient. 😊
Take Advantage of Everything the School’s Site Offers
Go to just about any college website right now and you’ll gain access to an interactive, comprehensive tour. They give you the opportunity to simply click on buildings you would want to visit in-person and watch a pre-recorded tour typically led by a student guide.
Because you are watching from the comfort of your home, it can be tempting to skip through parts of the tour. However, by doing this, you might miss key information that will help with your decision later.
Along with pre-recorded college tours, available at any time, many schools are offering live virtual tours and information sessions that include speakers and question and answer sessions with current students. For instance, along with an interactive Google Maps tour, Duke University is offering live information sessions led by students. University of Virginia, in addition to their virtual college tours, offers informal chats with groups of current students. With all of those options, you can still learn all the necessary features of the school on your own timeline.
Take Advantage of Everything the School’s Site Doesn’t Offer
As you can probably guess, information about schools on your teen’s list isn’t solely on the website. By following a college’s social media pages, your teen can learn more about campus events, what the school chooses to highlight, and what the buildings look like, inside and out. Prospective students can gain access to newspapers and media the current students put out and gain more of an understanding of what daily life is like.
Some colleges, or groups within those colleges, have or share content on YouTube channels. One channel called CollegeSideChats regularly releases zoom chats of a small group of students talking about their school experience, focusing on a different college each time.
Plan Questions to Ask on the College Tour
Prior to your virtual arrival, you and your teen should take time to research the school, its campus and operations, its offerings, and what makes it unique. This will ensure you do not waste your limited time requesting answers that are already on the website. It will also enable you and your teen to ask specific questions at the q&a session that show interest and help the overall decision process. Even though this process is through a screen, the opportunity to ask pertinent questions to your particular child is still there.
Take Notes On Everything!
College tours serve as an essential part of your college research. For that reason, you and your teen should take notes on the experience. Often, after visiting multiple campuses through virtual tours or clicking through a number of related sites and links, you will forget details that stuck out at the time or reactions your teen had. Your notes will serve as a key source when choosing a college after acceptance letters come in.
Notes you and your teen take along the way are also perfect for the “Why this school” essay required by almost every college. The more comprehensive, specific, and personal your reasons, the better your essay will be.
When you take advantage of college visits and tours, virtual or not, you receive invaluable information for the entire college application process. Even though this isn’t the way you imagined it, by following this college visit checklist, you make your “visits” more constructive, informative, and, hopefully, as exciting as ever! If you have any questions about touring schools online or want to simply commiserate about how overwhelming it is, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org