Visiting colleges virtually is new for a lot of us. While there are some things that are impossible to recreate from an in-person campus visit, there are many other ways to learn about and engage with a campus community through the virtual world. In fact, you might find some new and valuable insights made possible only in this format. These opportunities are free of cost and accessible from your Internet-connected device. If you are feeling unsure about how to approach your college visit virtually, here are a few tips to get you started. Most importantly, as with any aspect of the college search process, remember to trust your instincts, follow your interests, and don’t be afraid to seek help from trusted mentors or loved ones. We also hope you find a way to have fun, too!
Check the admissions websites for the schools you’re interested in to view their calendar of events. These could include— but are not limited to— information sessions, student-led virtual tours, asynchronous campus tours, student panels, admissions workshops, one-on-one chats, multi-institution events, and much more. Most will require pre-registration, and some events fill to capacity. If you can, sign up early, mark your calendar, and plan to attend. However, there is no need to attend all the events in the same day/week. Many events will recur with some frequency, so space out your college visits in a way that works for you. Don’t forget to take breaks from the screen to rest, as this is just as important.
2. Come with your questions, and don’t be afraid to ask them.
Many virtual events will include an option to submit questions in writing via the Q&A or Chat boxes. The presenters want to hear from you! If you have questions, consider writing them down so you don’t forget, and ask away. Depending on the size of the event and volume of questions received, not all questions may be answered. But pay attention to the responses to other questions; you might learn something interesting you hadn’t thought of prior or even inadvertently get some other questions answered!
3. Take notes on what you learn.
Consider keeping a notebook or a note on your phone to record what you learn. Keep this next to your computer so it’s readily accessible while you’re attending online events. Taking some notes during a program can remind you what you found most interesting and can also help you differentiate between schools after your visits have concluded.
4. Note your Zoom settings.
If you’ll be participating in an event with your camera on, note your background or use a virtual background if you’d appreciate the privacy. Be sure your sound is muted if requested by the presenter (and not otherwise controlled by the presenter). When submitting a question or participating in a chat, use language that you would in a school or classroom setting. The virtual world can allow for some informality, but you still want to present your best self.
5. Keep an open mind!
Be open to new platforms, event formats, and even schools. You might be able to get to know a school even deeper this way because of innovative opportunities to engage with students, faculty, staff, and admissions representatives. Although this isn’t the format we imagined or hoped we’d be using this fall, you might learn something new or different in the virtual setting that you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered!