As the calendar turns to May, many high school juniors are looking to some of the academic and social rituals that mark the end of the year, although this year, they will take place virtually. Or, at least, at a social distance.
One such ritual is beginning the discovery process of the college search. Although our college campuses are not currently open to welcome visitors in person, Penn Admissions and our colleagues at other institutions are thinking of you as a high school junior, on the verge of senior year.
And we are planning. For you.
We are planning for virtual campus tours and information sessions throughout this spring and summer. We are planning for fall travel, whether that will happen in person or virtually. At Penn, we have started to rally our Penn Alumni Interview Program to meet virtually with our applicants to the class of 2025. All of these efforts are new, creative ways for you to engage with us, experience our campus, and learn more about what makes a good fit for you.
For students, this virtual world can offer broader and more flexible options to “visit” a campus that might have been harder to reach in person. Be sure to check out virtual campus visit opportunities, including virtual tours (see Penn’s tour here) and information sessions. At Penn, we recently published a series of videos offering practical tips and advice on the various components of the college application. Watch the series – all or part of it – here.
I would also like to highlight the resources on this blog, from essay writing and interviewing tips to visiting colleges and the framing reflections on the 5 I’s and 4 C’s that can help you start this process and guide you along the way.
You may also want to go to Coursera for a course I co-taught, How to Apply to College. The course includes great resources and advice from students who remember what it was like to be a prospective college applicant. Just like you.
Also, on this blog and on the SiriusXM app are past episodes of The Process, a radio show that I co-host along with Eileen Cunningham Feikens, Dean of College Counseling at The Dwight Englewood School.
On a recent show that we taped and broadcast on April 19 on SiriusXM Stars channel 109, Eileen shared her “Deep Dive Five” on researching colleges during these remote times:
1) On college admission websites, register for college mailing lists. View the virtual tour offerings and keep an eye out for any upcoming virtual events.
2) Go deep into understanding the curriculum by going past the admission pages and researching course catalogues, departmental websites, and research opportunities
4) Connect with regional admissions officers, current students and other campus resources through designated emails, chats or social media channels for prospective students.
5) Speak with current graduates from your high school and other alumni who may serve as a resource or sounding board about their experiences.
You might find that these days at home offer a bit more time for self-reflection, and this will also serve you well in your college process. Maybe you have some more time to think about what your interests are, what excites your curiosity, or what makes you want to take action or get involved. Similarly, you might think about what aspects of a college community are most important to you (such as size, location, campus community, academic offerings, arts, music, athletics, clubs etc.) and what characteristics you’ll want to look for while you consider your next step. Perhaps this current moment offers you the opportunity to start your college search with some more time to think about yourself.
Indeed, as we adjust to new routines and rhythms, we have all learned more about what is most important to us. Use this time, again in Dean Feikens’ words, to be ‘reflective’ of what that means to you. Rest assured that, on the college and university side, we are here for you and we are ready for you.
Take care and be well.