Colleges are looking for new and innovative ways to have prospective students visit their campuses in the midst of a pandemic.

By Reese Plagenz, ’23.

College visits are the best opportunities for juniors to start planning their future applications and for seniors to see where they’ll spend the next four years.

The spread of COVID-19 greatly changed the class of 2020’s end to their senior year. The progression of switching to online classes led to cancellation of sports seasons, a traditional graduation at the Schottenstein Center and prom.

On the bright side for the class of 2020, many had already picked the college they would attend in the fall.

Meanwhile, for the new senior class of 2021, there are only a few opportunities to visit a campus they’re looking into while maintaining the safety precautions many states and universities have put into place. During the spring and early summer months, it was almost impossible to do any tours of campuses. 

Now, colleges have been planning safe, beneficial ways for students to take a tour of their campus, whether it be in person or virtual. 

College visits conducted in person are hard to come by, but colleges are slowly progressing into reopening. Colleges are announcing safety precautions to provide ways for high school students to stay healthy and imagine themselves on campus. 

Augustana College has set an example with their touring guidelines. 

According to University of Business magazine, Augustana College in Illinois is limiting the size of in-person campus tours to only one family per tour. College students will guide the family along in the tour while everyone, including the tour guide, wears a face mask.  

However, Augustana College isn’t the only university making these changes.
Many colleges around the country have decided that the right regulations for in-person tours will allow them to start semi-normal schooling again. Tours are not only beneficial for the students but also for the universities. Universities are struggling to find ways to display the best aspects of their campuses. It’s difficult to decide on a college without getting first-hand experience about where you’ll be spending your next four years of education. 

Although not all colleges and universities agree that it’s time to start in-person tours; many have instead made virtual tours accessible online. The aim of the virtual tours is for it to feel as if students actually present at the campus. It’s important to universities that the students have the option to experience what it would feel like to spend the next four years there, even if it is from a laptop, phone or iPad. 

At Hanover College in Indiana, you can choose from one of two options for your virtual touring experience. The first one being a typical slideshow you can manually click through to look at different viewpoints of different buildings and areas at the campus. The second option is only for students with access to VR goggles. This look at the campus makes it seem as if you are actually there, except without the noise, smell and feel the in-person campus would have. 

Even though it’s not ideal, virtual tours are becoming the best alternative for students unable to safely visit in person. Professors at various universities have even voiced their opinion on this option. 

In an article from US News, director of web communications at Hanover College, Jack Lackner agrees with the idea of virtual touring and agrees it can be a different look at a campus. 

 “I think it can be an authentic view into campus of what it really feels like to be there,” said Lackner.

At UAHS, the College Center is available to guide and help upperclassmen. Any student can either visit in the center on their designated hybrid days or email College Counselor Kathy Moore. 

“The application process feels very different for our seniors due to lack of testing and due to the fact that most colleges were closed last spring when many had planned on visiting. Many schools have gone test optional for the Class of 2021,” Moore said. 

Even with the many challenges COVID-19 has caused for graduating high school students, colleges are offering new alternatives.