Not all colleges are open to visitors just yet. Not all families feel comfortable traveling right now. So what should high school seniors making final decisions about where to attend college do? What do younger students who want to start checking out colleges do?
Here is a plan for those of you who want to explore colleges no matter what stage of the process you are in.
1. Start local.
Traveling across the country for the first time in over a year can seem pretty scary. Instead, check out your local colleges and universities that are within driving distance. Even if a student doesn't want to stay local for college, they can get a great sense of what size institution and type of setting they may want. Small, medium, or large? Urban, suburban, or rural? It's amazing how many colleges are within an hour or two of your hometown.
2. Contact the admissions office before your visit.
Find out if tours and information sessions are being offered and whether reservations are needed. Also, learn what will be open to visitors. All buildings? Dorms? Dining options? It is important to know what to expect when planning your trip.
RELATED READING: 6 Questions You Need Answers to During Your Campus Visit
3. Consider a drive-by visit or a self-guided tour.
Even if the admissions office is closed, all is not lost. In some cases, families are either staying in their car and driving around campus or parking their car and walking around on their own. If this is permitted, it can allow the student to see the college firsthand which is sometimes necessary for them to make a final decision. University of Richmond is offering both a self-guided walking tour and driving tour, so check it out!
4. Virtual tours and information sessions are better than nothing.
If you aren't able to visit in-person just yet, check out those virtual tours and information sessions. In some cases, the college's admissions office might be offering live and interactive presentations which can feel a lot more engaging than a pre-taped video.
5. Take notes as you go!
I just launched a free College List Visit Worksheet this week for families doing in-person and virtual college visits. Many times students complain that the colleges all sound the same after a while. To avoid this, write down the little things you see and hear while you are visiting or investigating a college. Those observations, tidbits, and highlights can ultimately lead you to apply or enroll.
As a former college tour guide and someone who loves visiting colleges, I am so excited that things are beginning to open up (or will be opening up in the near future). While things are not nearly as bustling on most college campuses yet, a student starts to get a feeling about a college the moment the car turns onto the road leading up to campus. If you can't do that in-person visit just yet, visit virtually and be ready for that feeling to hit you. It is amazing how intuitive students can be if they are open to listening, observing, and feeling the power of education through their phone, computer, and heart.