Under normal circumstances, every fall and spring, high school juniors and seniors complete college visits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is having effects on all aspects of education. As a result, lots of educational institutions are going online, and not just for classes. In-person activities, including college visits, are canceled for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there is a virtual alternative. Now is the perfect time to take advantage of college video tours.
It’s important to maintain your college timeline. College video tours help make this possible. If you’ve never taken one, you might have some questions. Don’t worry, virtual college visits are designed to make things simpler for you. Below we discuss what you need to know to make the most of your virtual visit.
What are College Video Tours?
A college video tour is just what it sounds like: a way to tour a college through video. Different colleges have different ways of doing this depending on their resources and funds. Some colleges offer pre-recorded videos, while others offer live-stream tours. Some even offer interactive tours, in the style of Google Street View.
Regardless of the specifics, a school virtual tour allows students and parents to get a “ground level” experience of what it’s like to attend a college campus. In-person college visits are great, but they cost time and money; not everyone can afford them. Even though a virtual college visit is not quite the same as being there in person, it does afford prospective students free and accessible exposure to a college. Because of this, it can be a great way to quickly and easily “weed out” colleges from your application list, for everybody.
Preparing for the Tour
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Like anything else, you need to prepare for your virtual college tour. If you’re shopping for the place you might spend the next four years of your life, do you really want to cut corners?
Do your homework. Read up on the school you’re planning to tour. Then, visit its website to learn about the history of the college and its campus, as well as its current status and highlights. Remember too that most colleges put a great deal of money and effort into marketing their websites to prospective students. This means that while they can be useful, they can also be biased. Also, don’t forget to consult outside sources. Websites like College Factual, U.S. News and World Report, and College Navigator all provide accurate insights about colleges and programs.
Make notes on what you find. Then, figure out what you’re really interested in, and what matters most. What are your ideal qualities? What are your deal-breakers? Keeping a spreadsheet to track and compare notes and data is a great way to manage your college search. Doing this research helps you better understand what to look for on your tour.
During the Tour
As we mentioned above, the specifics of your virtual tour may vary. Because of this, you need to be flexible in your expectations. However, you still need to pay attention while on your virtual college visit.
During the tour, make notes, and think about what sticks out to you and what questions you have. In particular, watch for specifics you noted in your pre-tour research. If the tour is live and you have the opportunity to ask questions, do so. If the tour gives you the opportunity to explore and take your time, take it. Don’t worry if it is just a series of videos. Be as objective as you can. Identify likes and dislikes, take note of what excites your, confuses you, or bothers you. Don’t ignore little feelings or hunches that pop up; write them down!
After the Tour
If you finish the tour and the school has lost its charm, cross it off your list and move on. If you’re still interested in the school, it’s time to go a little deeper. Start by reaching out to people who work there. College advisors are a great resource. If you think you know what you want to study, find the relevant department through the college website and email key faculty members. Ask questions about the programs, as well as student activities.
You can also reach out to alumni, whether locally, or through alumni groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. This can provide insight into what the start-to-finish experience is like at the college. Additionally, it’s a great idea to reach out to current students to get an insider perspective on what the college is like right now.
Finally, look for other tours of the same college. Not all colleges will have multiple tours, but some will. Other tours can give your other angles to consider.
What if They Don’t Offer College Video Tours?
If a college you are interested in doesn’t offer a virtual tour, make your own! All of the tips discussed here apply generally toward doing your college list research. Use these same methods to build your own tour. Use student groups, college websites, outside sources, alumni, and YouTube. Some colleges have even been mapped Google Street View, which allows you to “walk” through campus. There are options, you just need to be creative.
Always a Great Alternative
Whether we’re in a global pandemic, or just another busy spring semester, college video tours provide an accessible alternative to traditional campus tours. When browsing for colleges, don’t waste time and money upfront trying to go to every place on your list. Take advantage of what’s available virtually and get to know a place before making travel plans. Use this to narrow down your list. Then, when you’re ready (and if the campus is open) work on making an in-person trip.
Remember, college visits are only one part of your college preparations. Make sure you’re on track with academics and testing too! Contact Livius today to learn about personalized tutoring.