The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of American life—including, of course, higher education. As campuses shut down (partially or completely) in 2020, prospective students found themselves unable to rely on in-person campus tours as part of their decision-making process.
With no choice but to adapt to this “new normal,” colleges increased their offering of virtual tours as a cost-effective, time-saving (and social distance-friendly) way to visit a college campus when an in-person visit wasn’t possible.
Now, with the end of the pandemic in sight, high school students find themselves wondering when they’ll have the opportunity to book on-campus tours again.
When Will In-Person College Visits Resume?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to this question. While some schools like University of New Hampshire are offering limited capacity in-person tours, others like Boston University are still only hosting virtual events.
For now, we advise parents and students to check individual college and university websites to assess available options on a case-by-case basis. The good news is that students can gain immense value from either option!
Making the Most of a Virtual College Tour
As virtual tours have become more popular, their quality has improved quite a bit. Prospective students can get a good feel for what life is like at a particular school without stepping foot on campus.
If you’re planning to take a virtual tour, make sure you get the most out of it! Here’s what we recommend:
- Use your webcam and microphone. Using your camera and microphone allows you to have a real conversation with the tour guide. That dialogue keeps everyone engaged and creates a more interesting journey for students as they see different parts of the campus.
- Stay for the entire tour. It’s rude to leave while the tour is still going on, even in a digital format. Remember that the person on the screen is a real human being—and even on a virtual tour, they can see when someone leaves.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. It’s expected (and totally okay!) to verbally stop the tour guide to ask them questions. While speaking up may be challenging for introverted personalities, your questions and comments are welcome! It’s better to get your question answered in the moment than to move on to another topic and forget what you wanted to ask.
Protocols for In-Person Campus Tours During COVID-19
Colleges and universities that are offering in-person campus tours already will likely have pre-established protocols in place to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff members. These protocols may include:
- Out-of-state visitors self-quarantining for a specified period of time prior to the visit
- Temperature checks to rule out fevers
- Strict limits on the number of permitted guests accompanying the student
- Answering health screening questions during check-in
- Wearing masks properly as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Be sure to check the school’s policy before making any plans for an on-campus visit. The last thing you want is to show up at a college two states away only to be denied entry for not following safety protocols.
Whether you do an on-campus visit or a virtual tour, make sure your student is asking this question: Will I be happy here? It’s important to find a school that’s the right fit for them instead of solely focusing on the most selective school their grades will get them into. A campus tour is a great way to gain clarity on a student’s emotional response to a college’s environment..