College Visits During the Pandemic

Traditionally, college visits have been one of the anticipated “high points” of a high schooler’s experience. Nothing compares with checking out college campuses and beginning to dream in living color: how the food smells and tastes, how the dorms feel, how the professors and students interact and the general atmosphere of the college itself. It’s important to be able to picture yourself there! And that’s hard to do without seeing things firsthand.

Recent covid-19 restrictions are changing the face of these desirable and important student visits. Christian colleges normally host high school visitation events (often lasting several days) throughout the year, but most have shifted format over the past months. Though restrictions are lifting in some parts of the country, visits which once involved overnight stays and dormitory tours have been temporarily abbreviated or altogether eliminated. Instead, you will now find almost every college offers a virtual tour, Zoom appointments with an enrollment counselor and often pre-recorded digital resources about academic programs, residential life or financing. Google your school of choice and you may even find “A Day in the Life” student video showing a sneak peak into what college life is like at a particular institution.

Thankfully, most Christian colleges recognize that while these online resources are helpful, there is irreplaceable value in in-person visits. Many are finding ways to get students onto their campuses, despite tricky health regulations. While tour sizes may be smaller, and visits shorter, it IS still possible to make those all-important college visits! Here are some step-by-step things to consider in planning for them:

  • Prioritize which colleges you want to visit, keeping in mind that those closer to home will be easier to see (and well worth seeing by way of a comparative base, even if they’re not as high on your list).
  • Looking at your calendar and budget, narrow in on possible times for your visit. If possible, consider visiting in the spring or fall when classes are in session. But keep in mind that summer visits can be productive as well, even though there are typically fewer students on campus.
  • Contact your top school(s) to set up your visit(s). This can sometimes be done online and other times must be arranged by calling the college admissions department (usually listed on their website). A phone call can help to clarify what to expect on your visit. For example: will you be allowed to sit in on a class, eat a meal as a guest in the cafeteria or meet with an enrollment advisor?
  • Hold your scheduled dates loosely (as we have all been learning to do in this interesting season). Depending on changing health regulations in each region of the country, it is possible to experience future cancelations if stay-at-home orders are again put into place. Wisely check back with enrollment personnel a week or two before your anticipated campus visit to make sure of any changes or updates.
  • Prepare for possible temperature checks upon your arrival to campus and plan to wear a mask in order to respect mandatory health requirements. It is also advantageous to come prepared with a list of questions for your tour guide, so as to make the most of your time on campus. If possible, take time to check out the city or area surrounding the campus, as this will give you further information about what to expect if you attend.
  • ENJOY YOUR CAMPUS VISIT! Be fully present and take in all the details you can! Afterwards, it is advisable to jot down some notes, highlighting your initial impressions and any thoughts you have about what you have experienced. This will be helpful as you return home and begin the decision-making process.
  • If possible, contact past or current students who have attended the college you’ve visited and ask them about their experiences and opinions, as this will help to round out what you have been able to observe firsthand.

Campus visits may not look exactly like they used to, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. They’re still a useful and fun way to hunt for the college of your dreams!