In-person college visits matter, but applicants should stay safe and find alternatives

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Maddie Kosc

Spring break of my freshman year, I visited nearly 15 universities over the span of a week. My sister, who was a soon-to-be senior, was visiting as many colleges as she could before her time to apply came. Little did I know that when my time to apply came, we would be in the middle of a deadly global pandemic. Looking back, I am very thankful that my family dragged me along on all of their college tours during my freshman year. Though my sister and I have very different academic interests, her college visits were some of the only experiences informing my own college choices when my time came.

As much as I have gone out of my way this year to attend virtual events and tours for my top schools, these virtual events do not come even remotely close to the experience of actually touring a school. Personally, I am able to get a true feel for a college by walking around the campus, seeing the students there, and experiencing the environment for myself. I definitely felt that this element was lacking from my college application process this fall. 

As the virtual events began to pile up, my schools seemed to blend together. I heard the same speeches about academics, student life, and post-graduate opportunities over and over. I exited out of these virtual events feeling dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and sometimes having less clarity than when I logged in. Scrolling through my list of colleges, I found that I was missing that special connection with nearly all of my schools. Luckily enough, I still had some knowledge from the many tours I had been on in my freshman year and combined this with my virtual event experiences in order to make my decision.

The class of 2021 already has some difficult decisions to make this fall. If they haven’t been lucky enough to visit their colleges in person, these decisions become even more difficult. Given recent COVID-19 outbreaks at universities across the country, it is not wise for potential applicants to visit colleges in-person at this moment in time. While I know how important it is to visit schools in-person to truly get a sense of the school, we are fortunate enough to live in a time where there are virtual alternatives to traditional college tours. I encourage college applicants this year to do as much research as they can about potential colleges, and find students who attend that college. Many of them are more than willing to give you a glimpse of what their college experience has been like thus far.

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