"Visiting" Campuses During a Pandemic
In much of the Western world, March started like any other month. People went about their business, meeting, socializing. Prospective university students were planning their final university visits at upcoming Open Days, Admitted Student Receptions, and enjoying the last months of secondary school. Then the pandemic came, sweeping through Europe and into North America. Transcending all ethnicities, socioeconomic classes, regional and international borders, medical, transportation, and education infrastructures, the pandemic caused an abrupt change to our norms.
Seniors found themselves quickly transitioning into virtual learning, seeing sports seasons cancelled, switching to digital-only socialization, and accepting the cancellation of final exams, senior activities, and graduation. Among all of this, many seniors lost their final opportunities to visit schools on their short list. While students make decisions every year without visiting schools, a campus visit usually gives students a sense of the campus culture and what their day-to-day life will look like. To help you overcome this obstacle, here is a list of ways to get a feel for campus without being on campus.
College Websites Instead of just visiting the Home, Academics, and Major pages, go deep and start digging. By visiting pages that you normally would not, you will gain a better understanding of how the university works together as a whole. Some of our favorite pages to explore when researching schools for students are: Course Catalog, Student Handbook, Campus Organizations, Student Activities, Student Support, Disability Services, professor profiles. Some schools have student blogs you can follow as well through various offices. Take your time and explore what your shortlist has to offer from the university’s perspective.
Virtual Resources Schools are quickly putting together virtual resources due to the cancellation of open houses and admitted student receptions. Examples of great virtual events to attend are: Webinars Universities will post on their websites, either through the apply/admissions pages or academic department/faculty pages, upcoming webinars or virtual open days. These will allow you to chat with students, hear about the unique aspects of programs, and understand what you daily student life may look like if you attend a particular school. Be sure to check university websites on your shortlist to get the latest information. Information Websites These information sites give you updated information regarding campus visit policies domestically in the US. In addition, the LAUNCH Coronavirus website provides up-to-date information regarding national responses to the pandemic. NACAC Site LAUNCH Coronavirus Website Virtual Tours You Visit Campus Reel E Campus Tours You Tube (make sure to type in XYZ School Campus Tour) YouniversityTV
Campus Newspaper The campus newspaper is a great source to find out what is really happening on campus. It is unfiltered access because it is written by students, who oftentimes do great investigative journalism, uncover amazing opportunities, and highlight great stories. The campus newspaper gives you insight into the campus climate politically, culturally, religiously, and more.
Third Party Resources We believe you should use a variety of resources to gain insight into the school atmosphere and student opportunities. LAUNCH loves utilizing the Fiske Guide to Colleges as it covers schools in the US, Canada, and UK. This third-party review provides highlights and the potential pitfalls of campuses while highlighting unique aspects of each university. Other valuable resources include: Colleges That Change Lives by Loren Pope The College Finder by Steve Antonoff Times Good University Guide Student Crowd (for UK universities) Colleges Beyond the States by Jennifer Viemont Directory of Canadian Universities
Admissions Offices Universities not only have their own social media, many admissions offices, student organizations, and academic departments have their own. Follow them and engage with them. In addition, remain in touch with your regional admissions officer or point of contact at the university. They will be able to point you in the direction of appropriate resources and help you make connections with students, faculty, and additional staff on campus.
Alumni Alumni are a great resource for you to learn about the future outcomes of a university. Connect with alumni and hear their stories. From telling you what the weather situation is really like to reminiscing about the best traditions on campus, alumni provide you an idea of continued commitment to their alma mater. One way to do this is through LinkedIn. Search for alumni from the schools you are considering, send them a messaging asking for a directed 10-minutes of their time. If they are willing to talk to you, they will usually give you lots of information.
Your Application Your application is always a great place to return to so you can reflect on why you applied to each school on your list. You can read over your supplemental essays to compare how you were feeling then to how you are feeling now.
LAUNCH encourages families to use good, relevant, recent information to conduct their decision making process. Doing so ensures you are making the best decision for you and your family. This is a big decision. So while we know you cannot visit campus in person, we believe these resources will allow you to gather a well-rounded view of the universities on your short list. We know you can do it! #dreamlaunchsoar