How to make a real college decision in a virtual world


If your student is planning to start college in fall 2020, you might have a lot of questions in the wake of COVID-19. Particularly, how can your student choose the right college when campus life is pretty much nonexistent right now? Here’s how to move forward together to make a real college decision in a virtual world. After all, there remains a need to keep future plans in motion.

You still have the opportunity to get information

Universities are creatively working to continue providing the information families need. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Representatives are more available.

  • Enhanced virtual experiences. 

  • Personalized answers to individual questions, needs and concerns.

  • Greater flexibility to connect with staff.

  • More casual conversations.

  • More information is accessible digitally.

From virtual visits to interactive information sessions

Lots of colleges are hosting virtual events. This is a new, engaging approach to meeting with university representatives to learn more about the school and get up-to-date information. A benefit of these new virtual visits is that they can double as information sessions — live, interactive discussions with university reps (i.e., staff, students or both), giving families greater access to information. Many offer a college presentation, where potential students can ask questions over a chat feature and get real-time responses. To get even more information, reach out to see if a university offers interactive visits with a particular degree program within a college, or current student Q&A sessions.

The new campus tour

Social distancing and shelter in place (stay at home) guidelines certainly make it difficult to take an in-person campus tour. But just like with classes, many colleges have taken their campus tours virtual. And they’re more informative than you might expect.

Obviously, virtual visits are missing one huge component of an in-person tour — the actual walking and sightseeing around campus. Often led by a current student guide, these tours take students and their families on a campus journey highlighting main buildings and hot spots. Some universities are solving this issue by posting campus tour videos led by a student. This way, the whole family can be part of the virtual experience without the cost of travel. Families can make it a fun at-home experience together.

Have it your way

Universities are better able to cater to individual questions with the digital format, and it makes it easier to be nimble and pivot to an unplanned topic when needed. The conversation also becomes a bit more personal and casual. After all, seeing an admission representative live streaming the presentation from their dining room table makes any intimidation a student might have vanish instantly. 

The decision

Virtual tours and visits are just some of the ways colleges and universities are adapting and finding creative solutions in this temporary virtual environment. Universities may offer refundable early deposits due to the unpredictability and uncertainty we’re all experiencing. Just ask.

Also, look for a list of frequently asked questions or monitor your email inbox for the most current information to help in your decision-making process. Websites and emails should address how the university is handling this uncertainty and providing security.

It might be helpful to create a list or spreadsheet to compare schools and their responses based on what’s important to your family. Whatever decision you make will be the right one at the time. In the end, resilience rules.