For years, high school seniors went to visit colleges around the nation, hoping to find the perfect fit for them through the exploration of the campus and its surroundings. In March 2020, however, that all changed–like almost everything else. Most colleges canceled field tours around campus, forcing students to turn to online virtual tours. However, students still felt like they were missing out on the feel of a campus–something that can make or break a decision.
Most tours cover the same aspects of the campus, but senior Sean Norton found ”libraries, dining halls, and student centers” to be the most important locations to visit, as they are the hubs of student activity and pillars of the colleges. Even though these areas were sure to be covered on most virtual tours, the feeling of community and school pride when over a computer screen made determining the overall vibe extremely difficult. SHS senior Ella Daraskevich agrees, noting that “the energy and excitement of a college campus” is what draws students’ attention and makes the school more appealing. This feeling can not be seen through snapshots of an empty campus found online, making it a crucial point for schools to question how to make their virtual tours stand out from the rest.
As COVID-19 rates begin to decrease with vaccines, many campuses are beginning to open for in-person tours for the first time in almost two years with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. These precautions have aided students in being able to visit more schools in the area while still keeping the health and well-being of everybody as a first priority. Although keeping tour-goers outside of the buildings has allowed for these tours to be successful without spreading COVID to prospective students, there are downsides to these “limited” tours. SHS senior Nolan Jones recalled “not being able to go into most buildings, especially dorms, which [he] really wanted to see” due to these restrictions, however.
As virtual tours gained popularity, they soon took a backseat to the wildly more impressive in-person tours. Yet, these virtual tours still have an important place in the college admission process in 2021. With the risks of traveling around the nation to see schools, virtual tours have allowed students to view schools across the country without taking crowded flights with other people.
The college admissions process has been far from normal for the past couple of years, but with innovative ideas and thoughtful precautions of colleges around the nation, students walking across the stage in June at SHS will have comfort knowing they were able to visit schools both in-person and virtually instead of basing their decision off of pictures from college website.