Strolling the quad, checking out dorms, sitting in on a class, and chatting with enrolled students about what the food is really like…

How can the typical college tours still happen through the lens of a webcam?

Well, they cannot, because a pandemic is anything but typical; however, virtual campus visits offer a different sort of opportunity! Admission counselors are adapting too, and they have some tips on how students can embrace this new way of interacting with and applying to colleges.

Jeremy Branch

Jeremy Branch

In fact, virtual engagement should already have been commonplace prior to the COVID-19 outbreak because it allows formore equitable access. As Jeremy Branch, Senior Assistant Director of Enrollment Management at Penn State Brandywine, points out, “Zoom did not come out of thin air.” While the technology has always been there, admission professionals are actively making themselves more available than ever to students “in fuller and richer ways,” Branch adds. Can’t find the time or airfare to visit a West Coast dream school? No problem. Just Zoom on over for a tour!

But arrive prepared. “Be intentional in your outreach,” advises Branch. If you schedule an online meeting with an admission officer, arrive with

  • Thoughtful questions
  • Notes about yourself and your schooling to share
  • Etiquette — Present yourself just as you would visiting or meeting in real life (You wouldn’t show up twenty minutes late in pajamas, right?).
Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan

Are virtual visits and admission meetings online worth the trouble? Meg Ryan, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, for Allegheny College thinks so. While demonstrated interest from an applicant varies from college to college, some schools do track these efforts; they create extra points of consideration “beyond just a submitted application.” For example, it can help the admission committee better identify “mutual fit” if a student expresses special interest in unique offerings like an Honors program but does not fall into the typical, desired Honors student profile.

It is likely that even when on campus operations return to business as usual, these virtual engagement opportunities will persist. And they should; after all, students are able to have more frequent, enhanced, and direct interaction with admission staff.

Without frequent travel obligations during quarantine, they have more flexible scheduling. They are also well aware of shifting circumstances. That robotics tournament you were counting on to reveal your candidacy canceled? They get it, and they want to hear about it–as well as all the other experiences and skills that showcase who you are. They are eager to answer your questions about their institutions and programs. They understand your concerns about teaching and learning’s changing landscape. Admission representatives are viewing current and future applications in context of a socially distanced culture. It is important that students set aside their fears and realize admission professionals are their advocates. Branch stresses, “No one remains in the field…who does not like students.”

Of course, it is possible colleges and universities will resume on campus access in the near future, but this remains uncertain for most right now. Institutional websites and social media will contain the most recent, accurate updates. Ryan and Branch agree students should contact a school’s admission offices directly with questions and concerns rather than trying to crowdsource or YouTube the answer.

So instead of asking over and over, “Why me? Why during my graduating class’s turn?”, try to open your mind, be proactive, and view virtual opportunities as what Ryan describes them to be: “a whole new world at your fingertips” to direct your college search and engagements.Strive Scan

NOTE: StriveScan is hosting a Virtual College Exploration event for students applying to college now through May 21st. Don’t miss your chance to interact with and learn more from 450+ colleges in 47 states & 13 countries! View the schedule of opportunities now, and register for free. Missed an event? Experience the recordings.




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