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How To Make The Most Of Your Virtual College Visit

If you’ve read our blog post about what to do when you can’t tour colleges in person, you know that there are plenty of ways to search for schools from the comfort of your own home. From Zoom calls to virtual campus visits, it’s never been easier to interact with current students and admissions representatives.


So, how do you ensure that these are worthwhile experiences? How can you make sure that you leave an information session with a good idea of what the school is like? By asking the right questions and paying attention to the right things! Even with campus practically at your fingertips, it can be difficult to figure out what to look for—and that’s why we’re here. Read on to find out how to make the most of your virtual visits.


On campus tours…


  • Pay attention to the additional information offered. Virtual campus tours will typically allow you to click on notable buildings and either read more information or hear a pre-recorded tour guide speak about them. It’s easy to skip through these if you’re speeding through the tour, but take the time to slow down. The context and history behind buildings can be fascinating, and it’s also important to know the exact purposes of places—that medieval-looking castle on campus may look decorative to you, but could actually be a dorm, a library, or even a research center. You never really know!


  • Look out for the facilities relevant to your interests. If you’re an athlete, you’ll want to see the on-campus gym and recreation center. If you’re hoping to major in STEM, try to get a look at the chemistry classrooms. (Not all online tours will offer interior views.)


  • Be aware of spacing. How far are the first-year dormitories from hubs of student activity like the dining hall, student center, or library? And just how far are certain academic buildings from each other? Distance can be tricky to gauge from a screen, but these are important questions nonetheless. You might want to know, for instance, how early you’ll have to wake up to make it from your room to a class. And you’ll also need to know how far your classes are located from each other—you don’t want to have a class in the math building that ends at 2 and have only ten minutes to get to a different hall all the way across campus.


  • Take note of accessibility. Make sure that there are ADA-compliant ramps, elevators, and toilets, as well as adequate space in general for students with disabilities who may require wheelchairs or service animals.
What To Do When You Can't Tour Colleges In Person

In information sessions…


  • Do your research before, and refrain from asking questions with answers that might be readily available online. Location and school size, for example, are facts you can quickly and easily locate on a university’s website. Use the information session to dig deeper about admissions-related questions that may have more complex answers: what they look for in applicants, whether a certain kind of application type is recommended or preferred, or whether financial need can affect admission.


  • Take notes. It’s good to have a notepad handy, or a blank Google Doc pulled up in a separate window. You’ll want to jot down important dates, application advice, and any personal anecdotes offered.


When speaking to current students…


  • Ask about the things you won’t hear about on tours or in information sessions. At their cores, campus tours and open houses share only basic application information and broad perspectives of the school. So, take this chance to ask about the smaller, more random things like the intricacies of dorm life or larger things, like what students do for fun on the weekends. Don’t be afraid to get personal; many students are happy to share this information with you. Some of our suggestions: How was your first-year dorm experience? Is there accessible transportation to off-campus necessities, like grocery and convenience stores? Have you had positive experiences with university mental health services? Does Greek life play a large role in the social scene? What’s your favorite place to eat on campus? What has been your favorite class? Is the course registration process difficult to navigate?


  • Try to hear out both the highs and lows. College isn’t perfect, and every student will have things they love about it as well as things they dislike. Ask: What’s your favorite thing about this school? Your least favorite? What do you wish you had done differently your freshman year?


And above all…


Have fun, and try to picture yourself there! This is easier said than done—after all, you’re looking at a screen, not standing on a physical campus—but with so many options at your disposal, you’re bound to get a good feel for a few schools.


Remember that you’re exploring the places in which you might spend the next few years of your life, and let that thought excite you. This process can be daunting at times, but it may also help you discover more about yourself. With our help, you can be ready for whatever comes your way.

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Author: Julianna Chen

Julianna Chen is currently in her second year at Emory University, where she studies creative writing and Chinese. She is the managing editor of Lithium Magazine and a contributing writer for When not writing, she is watching a movie or eating a stroopwafel, sometimes both at the same time.