Visiting Colleges in the Time of COVID

Applying to College, Building Your College List, College Visits, Saving Money

Junior and senior high school students have traditionally used Spring Break to tour college campuses. For seniors, this is the time to visit the colleges they have been admitted to, before deciding where to enroll. And Juniors often use Spring Break to explore colleges they are considering applying to in the Fall.

It is incredibly exciting to step foot on a college campus, checking out the classrooms, the dorms, the students, and the community in which the college is located. And there’s no better way for teens to discern what factors are the most important in choosing a college than to experience a wide variety of campuses – large research universities, smaller regional universities, liberal arts colleges, some near home and some across the country.  However, not all students are able to visit an assortment of colleges, for a variety of reasons – and this year, COVID has taken campus visits off the table for nearly everyone.

But that doesn’t mean that students can’t still visit campuses! While hundreds of campuses are closed to visitors, as of this posting, there are many hosting small group tours, including Bentley University, DePauw University, and University of Miami. Larger colleges often have open campuses you can walk through, like UC Berkeley or NYU. To compliment this, many colleges post a self-guided tour on their website. If it is safe for you to travel, then check the college websites to learn how each one is handling visitors and tours.

If it’s not safe for you to travel, there are great options for touring campuses virtually. Although virtual tours don’t provide the full experience of visiting when the students are there, they can give a sense of what the campus looks and feels like. Some of the best virtual tour websites include Youvisit, and CampusReel; also check out the YouTube channels for each college. And for seniors, many schools are having “live” virtual Admitted Students Days, including some of these popular campuses:  American University, Boston University, Chapman, DePaul, Georgia Tech, the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

Regardless of whether you end up visiting campuses virtually or in person, you should continue to pay close attention to the details. Does the size of the campus feel right to you? What courses are required and offered? What are the dorms like? What food options are there? What safety measures does the campus offer? What is the community surrounding the school like? Can you find good off-campus dining and shopping nearby? There are no right or wrong answers as only you can determine which of these factors are the most important to you.