COVID-19 Wrecked Your College Tour Plans? Here’s What You Need to Look for in Your School
The COVID-19 outbreak is occurring as thousands of high school seniors try to choose their college for next year. With the May 1 decision day looming, the pressure is building for seniors who have yet to make a decision. Due to the travel restrictions and health concerns, they can no longer visit these schools or take tours. This can wreak havoc on decisions, as many students may not be able to see their choices before they have to commit.
To try to combat some of these unexpected challenges, I want to share some components I wish I had paid attention to when touring colleges. There are so many things that I didn’t realize would be important when I actually got to school, like campus size and advising resource availability. It’s easy to become enamored with the physical appearance of a university’s campus and forget about the more practical things.
Research class size.
When I was looking at schools, I was not particularly concerned about this. After completing my freshman year, I realized that class size heavily affects my academic success and social opportunities. I lucked out with my school, which has about 30 people per class. I could have easily ended up at a bigger school where the classes hover at 200 or 300 students in each lecture, which would have been detrimental to my college experience. Sit down and think about whether this factor is important to you, and if it is, be sure to research what classes look like at that school.
Consider the climate.
You may think that weather is not a factor for you, but that may change when you have to walk twenty minutes from your dorm to the gym in a March blizzard. Although I love my school, I wish I had given more thought to the climate. However, don’t let the climate be the end-all be-all of your decision, either. I know tons of students who grew up in one type of climate and are now living in a completely different type, and they love it. Be open to experiencing new things, but make sure you can adapt and that your mental health won’t suffer if you’re going to a climate to which you are not accustomed.
Look into competitiveness of clubs and organizations.
Something that can be impressive when you tour schools is the lengthy list of extracurriculars that are offered. Typically, your tour guide will mention the most notable and obscure ones, like the Burlesque Club or the Quidditch team. Something they might not mention, though, is that some of these extracurriculars can be incredibly competitive to join. I had never considered this factor when applying to schools, but I realized early on that the existence of these choices does not guarantee you will be able to participate in them. This is especially true for clubs that are related to professional development or a specific skill.
Plenty of students show up on campus with intentions to join specific organizations and are met with piles of forms, applications, and interviews in order to be accepted. Due to demand and lack of space, certain clubs can get extremely competitive. Toward the end of the second month, lots of freshmen have to face the stark reality that they have not been accepted to the clubs they had planned to join, and they don’t have a backup plan. Be sure to do your research on extracurriculars available and how competitive they are to join, as this can often be a significant limiting factor to your social and professional life once you get on campus.
Take a virtual tour.
Although on-campus tours have been cancelled for the rest of spring, there are still resources available. Many colleges offer virtual tours that you can access on their website; these can help you get a feel for the campus’s layout and physical attributes without actually visiting in person. Scroll around for a while and find some buildings that would be important to you if you were to become a student there, like the student union or the gym. Try to visualize what your life would look like as a student there.
Speak to the students!
Most current college students are eager to talk about their school. If you follow any on Instagram or know any friends-of-a-friend, now is the time to reach out! Ask them to talk about their experiences at the school and let them give you any advice they have. After becoming a student at a specific college, you develop a lot more insight into the whole process. If you don’t know anyone at the school you’re interested in, head to Niche‘s Instagram page (@nichesocial) and read some of the featured student testimonies!
Choosing a college can be stressful, especially when you don’t know what exactly you want. By taking a step back from the enticing quad and the beautiful stone buildings of the physical campus, you can focus your attention on more personally impactful components of your future life as a student at that university. Allow your cancelled campus tour to serve as an opportunity to continue to research and learn about where you belong.