Making the most of online campus tours amid pandemic restrictions

February 13, 2021

For prospective college students, campus visits remain an important part of the decision-making process. However, COVID-19 has forced many campuses to limit visitors and offer more virtual tours instead.

For example, Judson College in Marion launched a custom 360-degree immersive virtual tour last summer.

Though in-person tours have resumed, “given the realities of the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that prospective students and their families have a way to ‘visit’ our campus without physically coming to Marion,” said Mary Amelia Taylor, associate vice president for marketing and communications.

Limit distractions

How can students and their families make the most of online visits?

Faith Baker, assistant director of admissions at University of Mobile, says students who are visiting virtually should limit distractions.

“We recommend setting aside that time to be able to focus on the tour,” Baker said. “Our enrollment counselors tailor the visit to your interests and if you are multitasking through a virtual visit, you may miss valuable information.”

She also suggested meeting with an enrollment counselor to talk about specific interests so a tour can be catered to the student.

For instance, Baker said meeting with instructors in one’s potential major could prove invaluable when a student arrives on campus.

“These are relationships that develop into mentorships and have helped propel past students into the next phase of their career,” she explained.

Baker encourages students and parents to ask questions.

“The most common questions we receive are things relating to scholarships, ACT scores, housing options and dining plans,” she said. “Every school has a different process, and the only way a family will be fully informed is by discussing any concern or confusion with their counselor.”

Important questions

Brian Kennedy, assistant dean in the office of admission at Samford University in Birmingham, said learning about the application and scholarship process is important. Ask questions like:

  • How do you apply?
  • What are the requirements?
  • What are the deadlines?
  • What are the scholarship opportunities?

“Take advantage of the opportunities you have to connect with the admission office and most importantly, your admission counselor,” Kennedy said. “Virtual tours can be a great way to give you a taste of what a school might be like, but you can’t really know an institution just by what you see on a website.”

Sam Morris, director of admissions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, said students should ask about the difficult parts of living on campus or what the representative they are talking with likes least about the institution.

“Seeing how they handle these will help you get a better picture of the school,” he suggested.

He also noted the helpfulness of one-on-one meetings with financial aid counselors. Aid information changes frequently, he said, but students also can learn about paying tuition, payment plans and more.

Lucas Hahn, associate director of admissions at Boyce College on the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said in general, admissions questions fall into two categories — degree-related and institution-related.

For those considering a Christian college, asking which statements of faith faculty members sign can reveal the basic character of the institution, he said.

Hahn suggested students ask about faculty, what they are going to be learning in particular classes or majors and even about recent graduates’ success at finding jobs.

Parents usually ask safety questions about “blue box” phones on campus, campus police and the availability of a health center, Hahn said.

See for yourself

Before making a final decision, go to campus in person if at all possible, Kennedy said. Hahn agreed.

“A campus visit is going to be by far the most impactful,” Hahn said. “Virtual visits are also very helpful; they end up being the secondary visit experience.”

By Dianna L. Cagle

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