by Marissa Harris ‘22
As Covid-19 cases and deaths surge, stressed high school students still are searching for the college that is right for them. Colleges and universities are helping students and their parents stay safe with virtual tours and by allowing families to walk around alone on campuses.
While large and formal group tours are not an option at most colleges, juniors and seniors in high school can still walk around and drive through different campuses to get a feel for the place. Some colleges, such as the University of Maryland College Park (UMD), have an app that can be used while walking around campus on one’s own terms. The app has a starting location and from there takes one to different locations. Once one arrives at each location, there is an audio to share information. Even if there is not enough time to do everything, the app is a very helpful resource to get a feel of the school and campus.
Even without an app or formal tour, colleges and universities still permit students to wander around the campus. Junior Hailey Sepulvado went to the University of Delaware for the day to walk around with her father. “There weren’t any tours available, but I still wanted to get a feel for the campus and see if I like it, which I did. So I’ll probably go back and do a real tour either virtually or in person when it is allowed.”
In addition to self-guided physical tours, UMD is one of the many schools that offers virtual tours, often that can be “personalized” by the student or parent. According to the New York Times, the website of the National Association for College Admission Counseling provides information for more than 1,000 colleges and universities and includes an overview of resources available at each institution, including links to virtual tours that are offered. If one is not comfortable with physically walking around a campus or can not travel, the virtual tour option can be found on most schools’ designated website. According to the New York Times, Campus Tours and YouVisit are two websites that offer interactive maps, photos, and videos. These two websites will help students tour and compare different schools, and may be an ideal alternative to traveling out-of-state and staying in hotels during the pandemic
Stella Stevenson, a senior at Blake, has “…done virtual tours of schools like University of Delaware, West Virginia University, Ohio State, and more.” Although the virtual tours were a good start for Stevenson, she says every college can start to look the same virtually and she will need to visit them in person before making a final decision on where to attend. Senior Hailey Sondike has also done virtual tours, and like Stevenson, is planning to visit college campuses soon. Sondike said she experienced virtual tours for, “just a couple schools and they were nice. I got to see the different buildings and the nature of the campus which is pretty, and the dorms inside I liked a lot.”
Many current seniors are settling for now with the virtual tours with the hope that the conditions will improve in the spring for actual tours at the colleges that they have been accepted to attend. “I have done virtual tours of some schools, and plan on finding a way to visit the colleges in person after I hear back from all the schools I applied to,” said senior Sydney Pollock. “I already have an idea of where I want to go, so it all depends on if I can afford it, if I like the location, and if I can I see myself at the school.”