Campus visits are a classic part of how students hunt for the right college. With COVID-19 limiting what families can do in-person, exploring college options is still possible, given how much is available online these days.
“Colleges have stepped up — there are so many more resources now for students than there ever has been,” said Kate Malczewski, independent educational consultant and partner at College Connectors. “Students have access to faculty and staff in ways that they haven't had before. So, they might not get to campus physically, but I feel like they are getting the best possible alternative.”
Traditionally campus visits often include taking a tour, meeting current students, seeing classrooms and maybe eating in the dining hall. Online offerings have some consistent components as well, including how they have used videos and maps to create interactive “virtual tour” options.
In-person campus visits offer a lot for perspective students and families, and it may seem challenging to replace them. “Take the college search this summer piece by piece,” said Jessica Brosvik, assistant director of admissions at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. “If you were looking forward to something particular about a campus visit try to find it in a digital option — whether it’s talking with faculty or touring an art studio.”
Minneapolis College of Art and Design, like other private colleges, is providing new opportunities to connect to campus from digital art sessions with faculty to virtual tours with admissions staff, Brosvik said.
“We recommend all of our students take a virtual tour of campus,” Malczewski said. “Go to college websites and take in as many virtual options as they can. Even use social media to connect to colleges; colleges have done a great job with their social media presences. It’s certainly not a time to just wait till the fall.”
To help families with their online search, Minnesota private colleges have launched a new campaign called Summer Explorations. The campaign’s website offers an easy place to get started. For families looking for a virtual admission session to work with their schedules, there’s a shared calendar. There’s advice for how to begin a college search, resources describing the different colleges and a schedule of virtual panels that combine reps from a few colleges in one conversation.
Even with social distancing restrictions easing and colleges beginning to offer some one-on-one in-person visits, virtual options are still important tools for the college search process this summer.