COVID-19 has caused a seismic shift in nearly every aspect of our lives, the least of which not being the college admissions process. With in-person tours largely excised from spring and summer college programming schedules, the virtual landscape allowing students to evaluate schools in their pajamas has grown exponentially.
Rather than view this as a negative development, however, why not celebrate the enhanced accessibility these virtual formats provide? A windfall of conserved time and effort, online tours and virtual resources will allow you to navigate your dream schools from the comfort of your couch – no plane ticket required!
The experts at Command have your back, and we’re excited to teach you about available resources and how to take full advantage of this leveled playing field to stand out this admissions cycle. Read our advice below to discover how you can make the most out of virtual college tours this spring and summer!
Select the Most Reliable Resources for College Virtual Tours
College tours can range drastically in scope, variety, length and detail, so be sure to prioritize those that will most accurately meet your needs. CampusReel is a premier resource that offers detailed and unique tours of your favorite colleges from the perspective of students themselves, so be sure to refer to it as a reliable option. With over 17,000 virtual tours to choose from that span state universities, Ivy League colleges, liberal arts schools and more from all across the nation, you’re bound to find CampusReel’s safe, fun and student-driven video content helpful.
In addition to CampusReel’s personalized insight into schools’ cultures and traditions, the virtual offerings schools promote on their own websites can also prove immensely useful! Hearing about a college or university from the perspective of the institution itself is an irreplaceable opportunity, so don’t let these exciting virtual admissions events pass you by!
Engaging directly with schools by taking part in their official admissions programming will be one of the key ways you can demonstrate interest this spring and summer! Demonstrating interest, although not necessarily the most influential aspect of the application, can play a crucial role in tipping the scale on your application towards an acceptance. Schools are increasingly inclined to keep their yield (the percentage of accepted students who accept the offer and attend) high, so they often consider whether an applicant has signed up for email lists, attended tours, and information sessions. For this reason, signing up for official admissions events is imperative if you want to let your favorite schools know that they’re at the top of your list!
Resources can generally be found on schools’ official websites, in the ‘admissions’ section of the content. Additionally, signing up for schools’ official mailing lists will give you the chance to be the first to know when new admissions events become available. Of those enticing admissions events, these 5 virtual forms generally dictate their offerings and benefits:
1. Live and Recorded Virtual Tours
Who says you can’t still enjoy a live tour this spring? Merging the safety of a virtual tour with the interactivity of an in-person tour, live virtual tours are making appearances on spring programming schedules all across the country! You’ll relish the opportunity to ask questions continuously just as much as the vibrant perspective on what a realistic day at the school can look like, with no post-production smoke and mirrors!
Slightly less serendipitous but equally as informative, recorded virtual tours are also certified by schools as compelling stand-ins for a firsthand visit. Both the live and the record virtual tours will take you one step closer to that ever-elusive goal of demonstrating interest, however, so don’t stress too much if your dream school only offers one or the other!
2. Q&A Events
True to the name, Question & Answer events allow students and parents to take their inquiries right to the source, with knowledgeable panels eager and equipped to answer even your most niche questions! These events are an attractive option for you if you have one or two burning inquiries that a more anonymized tour or informational session likely won’t address. Make sure your questions are cogent and accurately reflect your enthusiasm for the school!
3. College Fairs
Enabling you to make best use of your time, easily compare options, and quickly refine your college list all at once, college fairs will be your best friend this spring and summer! Signing up is generally quick and easy, and the experience of interviewing schools about the ways they can help you reach your unique goals will prove invaluable to your search process. You’ll be able to ask questions alongside other students on a series of virtual pit stops, so remember to take detailed notes! They will help you manage and organize the deluge of great information you’ll receive!
4. One-on-One Virtual Admissions Visits
Talk about demonstrating interest! These one-on-one sessions are an unbelievable opportunity to “sit down” with an admissions officer of your dream school. Whether you’re shy when it comes to asking questions in groups or you really just crave a deep dive into every molecule of your dream school, don’t let these limited opportunities pass you by! The conversational nature of the format does mean that your questions should bear nuance, however, so prepare to do more than scratch the surface to make a positive impression on the admissions officer.
5. Informational Sessions
In 30 minutes or less, these sessions will grant you a straightforward and holistic picture of the institution you’re curious about. Encompassing everything from academic life to housing dynamics, these sessions are an excellent choice for students early in their college search process! Although you’ll generally be listening more than you’ll be speaking, it isn’t a bad idea to prepare to…
Ask Impactful Questions!
One of the best ways to both glean more information about a school and demonstrate interest on a virtual admissions event is to ask questions with an impact. The most meaningful inquisitions derive from a place of unique interest and strong foundational knowledge about the institution, diving deeply into topics that can’t easily be ascertained by a website visit or Google search. Instead of asking “How is the dining hall food?” for example, why not pose a query such as, “Which recent research developments in the Anthropology department, if any, would be available to freshmen looking to double major?” Whether it’s a designated Q&A event or a more holistic virtual informational session, your questions can make a big difference in helping you stand out while gaining some truly individualized information!
View the Opportunity from the Lens of Your Potential Major
Remember: A crucial component of every successful application is fit. When evaluating your application, colleges will value just how much your “story” – where you’ve ‘been’ and how it relates to where you want to ‘go’ intellectually and career-wise – aligns with the opportunities and curriculum they provide! An aspiring Nobel Laureate, for instance, would have to be a bit more creative in convincing MIT they’re aiming to go for the Literature Prize rather than the Physics Prize on their campus.
For this reason, if you know what you’d like to pursue as a major or career, be sure to approach these amazing virtual opportunities with that goal top of mind! You should be taking tons of notes if an informational session veers towards study abroad opportunities, for instance, if you dream of becoming a UN ambassador! Asking questions and diving into resources from the perspective of your potential major will pay dividends in both determining if a school on your list is the right fit, and, if it is, conveying that fit impactfully on your college application.
Pay Attention to the Tangible Details
A lot of the “Why this school?” supplemental questions will hinge on the inclusion of pertinent and granular details that draw you towards the school in question. Now that the “When I first stepped onto campus…” intro will largely exit the lexicons of this year’s applicants, what will you include to show you’ve done your research?
The more personal nature of tours and informational sessions often brings to life key aspects of a school that even the most detailed of web pages may gloss over. Making note of these tangible details, be they standout academic courses, world-renowned labs or a uniquely interdisciplinary programs, as the virtual events illuminate them is therefore paramount. Whether the resource you discover prompts the end of your search or the beginning of a new one, you’re bound to benefit from paying attention to the details that resonate with your academic goals.
Take Note of the Intangibles, As Well!
With that being said, virtual events will often grant you amazing insight into the intangible details of a school, as well! If niche resources can’t be gleaned from a static webpage alone, then a “vibe” certainly can’t, either. Student-driven platforms such as CampusReel play a key role in helping you determine intangible qualities like the friendliness of students or campus attitudes towards community service (or dining!). So, on your next virtual event, pay attention to who is speaking and how they’re speaking just as much as you pay attention to what they’re saying.
Get Your Parents Involved!
Finally, don’t forget to get Mom and Dad involved, if possible! As much as you love independence (maybe you’re a little extra eager to hit campus next fall…), remember that your parents not only want to be involved, but should be involved to help you make the best decision. As the person or people who got the front row seat to all 17-18 years of your show-stopping developmental process, they probably know you, your dreams and your quirks much more than you’d think! For this reason, they can play a meaningful role in helping you determine if a school aligns with everything that makes you you.
Why not make it a family event, and join from the same profile on Zoom? You could also give them the cold shoulder and throw the link in the group chat, but whatever you do, keep them in the loop so you don’t have to go this journey alone! By picking up on details that you might miss and evaluating a school’s offerings from the unique lens of the working world, your parents will be invaluable interlocutors in the post-event debrief!
Despite all the ways COVID-19 has upended the college admissions process, viewing the glass as “half full” will take you far, empowering you to take full advantage of this more expansive virtual experience. So, yes – take notes, prepare good questions, (and wear your finest slippers!), but above all, embrace these events as opportunities to learn, grow, and travel to places you’ve never been before with the comfort of your family.