November 2020
virtual meeting

As high school counselors, college access programs and prospective college students navigate their first virtual fall college admissions season, colleges admissions staff are building off what they learned in the spring and summer. And one of the best ways to connect with colleges is the virtual group visit.

Group admission visits — in-person — have long been an important way for students to connect with colleges during the college search; now Minnesota private colleges have found ways to virtually offer much of what they would have done in the past face-to-face.

Admissions staff miss in-person connections and campus tours, but there are some upsides to the new normal of virtual group visits. “One of the real advantages of our virtual visits is it lets us connect with prospective students on their timeframe,” said Dave Wagner, director of admissions at St. Olaf College. “From a student perspective, they can pick and choose what works best for them.”

There is always concern with the amount of screen time students are getting, but admission staff at St. Olaf have noticed many students feel comfortable in the digital space and meeting students where they feel most comfortable is important, Wagner said.

Virtual group visits are just one type of virtual option Minnesota private colleges are offering. From virtual tours to information sessions, we have collected all these options and organized them in a searchable online calendar to make it easy to find visit options. We’ve also collected links to each campus' visit web page, so you can contact the colleges directly.

These virtual group visits look and feel different, but colleges are still bringing current students, staff and faculty to chat with prospective students. This is one of the strengths of virtual options — future students can get directly connected to people on campus.

“Some of the coolest virtual group offerings we have are focused around interests like an academic program or student group,” said Mai Chue Moua, assistant director of admissions programs at Hamline University. “We incorporate current students who have the same interest. We really want the visit to be more engaging rather than just a presentation.”

One of the different types of virtual group visits provided by Minnesota private colleges are custom group visits, which can be arranged by counselors and access program staff.

“If you’re a high school counselor or work at an access program, reach out to admission staff; we’d love to host something special for your group,” Moua said. “We recently hosted an AVID group and were able to provide some specific information about scholarships and opportunities just for access programs.”

Although virtual group visits will never replace in-person admissions, the strengths and success of virtual group visits are clear to college admissions offices. Both Moua and Wagner made it clear, even when things get back to normal, virtual group visits will still be an important tool for prospective students in the college search process.

By Tom Lancaster