Building a college list without a college visit is tough. Even though it’s been months, most colleges are still struggling to translate in-person visits to an online format. Still, virtual tours and information sessions can be a useful tool if used correctly. Here’s how to make the most of a less than ideal situation:
- Take notes. Colleges blur together—even when you’re touring in person. Online visits make it even more difficult to parse the nuanced differences between schools. Write down any relevant fact or impression. It helps, too, to make note of anything quirky or visual—the color of the admission counselor’s shirt, a silly campus tradition, an awkward tech glitch. It will help jog your memory later.
- Try to space them out. Zoom fatigue is real, and stacking multiple tours and info sessions in a single day makes it more difficult to keep your facts straight.
- Opt for live info sessions and tours. Some schools chose to pre-record their info sessions rather than stream them live over Zoom. We’ve found these tend to be slightly less helpful. By all means, give these videos a go (and take notes!), but live sessions are more memorable, give you a better sense of school culture, and allow you to ask questions. Registering for a live version also shows “demonstrated interest.”
- Make note of the admission counselor’s name and contact info. Send them a thank you email the next day.
- You don’t need to turn on your camera if you don’t want to, and many colleges begin the session by telling you it’s optional. We’re advising students that if others have enabled their cameras or the admission counselor is particularly encouraging, you should absolutely enable yours too—even if you’re the first to do so. (Others will follow suit.) This year, any face to face interaction with admission offices is valuable.
- Lean into the format. Virtual visits can be … awkward. Try not to hold it against the college itself. Cringe through the technical difficulties, camera-nervous tour guides, and cheesy jokes, and try to focus on what matters.
Remember, virtual tours and info sessions can’t paint a complete picture. You’ll find our guide to COVID-era college research here.