14 Mar Are College Tours a Post-Pandemic Possibility?
For high school juniors, spring break was always a great time for squeezing in a few college visits. Nothing is better than seeing a college in person to get a feel for the space, the people, and the classes. During the pandemic, however, this opportunity stopped almost completely and juniors were forced to go the route of the virtual visit.
Now, as we finally turn a hopeful corner on ending COVID restrictions, colleges and students are tentatively rethinking the college tour. This decision has to be a careful balance between what each college is offering for its tours, and what the student is comfortable doing. Some colleges still have safety protocols in place, and some students are still concerned about potential exposure.
Most colleges are anxious to open fully again, and have adjusted tours accordingly. Those that are now offering in-person tours may still require vaccinations, and some may limit the size of the tour group. For up-to-date tour information, check the websites for your selected colleges. If you are still concerned about health safety, don’t be afraid to investigate the virtual tour options.
A lot of colleges perfected the art of the live virtual tour during the pandemic, and expect many students to continue to use it. If you go this route, however, make sure you sign up for a virtual information session to show demonstrated interest, in case you want to apply. You can access social media groups to get input from current students and others who have visited the college. An online site named youvisit.com also offers pre-recorded virtual tours from over 600+ schools, for free.
No matter what way you choose for your college tour this year, here are some things you will want to learn:
- Admissions: Learn about the admissions process for your major at each college on your list. Find out which admissions application they use: Common App, Universal Application, individual college application, The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application, or A Shared Application for a System of Colleges. Some majors may require an audition or portfolio as part of the application. Also, learn about Early Decision, Early Action, and Regular Decision deadlines.
- Campus Feel: Think about what is important for you to be comfortable, and then investigate how each college might be able to meet your needs. Look at buildings, class size, gym/rec center, dorms, eating spaces, library, and student resources centers. Get an idea of off-campus housing, entertainment and work possibilities.
Financial aid plays a critical role in the college visitation process, as you want to find out whether you will be able to afford attending each school. Review the website carefully, or set an appointment with financial aid during your visit to get answers to these questions:
- What are all financial aid deadlines for the college and the state?
- What financial aid applications must be completed? (FAFSA, CSS Profile, other?)
- What percentage of students receives financial aid for the full college term?
- What is the typical Cost of Attendance?
- Do most students graduate in four years?
- What percentage of students finds employment in their field of study after graduation? How much do they typically earn?
- What is the typical student loan debt balance after graduation?
- What work-study options are available to students?
- How do outside scholarships affect your financial aid offer?
- What is the financial aid appeal process?
No matter what way you choose to take a tour, use the opportunity to gather as much information as possible. You want to apply to colleges that can meet your emotional and educational needs, but also need to be able to afford going there.
Remember that CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and making the best choice for your family. Set up a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.