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Students are growing up in a ‘virtual world.’ What does this mean? Well… let’s just say most of us didn’t grow up asking questions to a puck-sized robot named ‘Alexa’ when we wanted to know the weather. And we sure weren’t attending school through a computer screen while sitting at the kitchen table.

The college process is ever-evolving, and changing faster than many can keep up with. For most students, what was supposed to be an exploratory year on college campuses quickly became a year of utter digital chaos.

Though this past year has prevented us from embracing the college process as we know it, what else can we do in the face of such challenges other than accept it, control what we can control, and adapt accordingly?

There are multiple burning questions in the minds of prospective students, and surely with good reason: What’s the best way to connect with a college virtually? How am I supposed to determine if I am interested in a college by visiting the campus through a computer screen? How will I know if I fit into the student body without physically seeing students?

The short answer? Get creative! Take advantage of campuses that are open to visitors, even if official tours are canceled. It might still be possible to take a walk around a campus to envision yourself walking from class to class, or get a feel for the college town. Truth be told, this kind of casual visit could go a long way in shedding light on your connection with the school (or lack thereof). Let me put it this way… the second I stepped foot on the campus of a big school, I knew I wanted to go to a small one.

Many have been quick to knock virtual tours of universities for being one-dimensional. A lot is missed when you experience a school through a screen, but that does not mean there is nothing to gain. Okay… so you won’t experience grabbing a legendary ‘Primanti’s Sandwich’ on the college strip, but you can still get a sense of what it’s like being inside Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. And sure, you may not be able to watch Michigan play Ohio State at the Big House, but you can still tour the freshmen dorms and get a sense of where you’d be living.

In this hyper-digital era, students have even begun turning to websites like CampusReel (for student-made videos) and Unigo (for student-made blogs). Since actual college students are creating the content, prospective applicants are ensured an authentic glimpse of the campus vibe. YouTube has also been a helpful source, rich with videos depicting "A day in the life of a [insert college name here] student."

Communication with schools and their respective admissions’ offices is crucial, as not all schools offer the same remote opportunities. Some offer virtual tours, some offer one-on-one chats with current students, admissions counselors, or professors, and some may even offer opportunities to virtually observe live classes. You, the student, must dive deep into the admissions websites to learn about their visit offerings.

If you can’t find anything that explicitly tells you how you can connect with the campus from home, ASK QUESTIONS (and I DON’T mean to Alexa)! Add yourself to the school’s email list. Shoot a message to Admissions introducing yourself and asking for the best ways to learn about their school.

The bottom line is: colleges are doing their best to meet students’ needs, and students have got to meet them halfway. In the history of college admissions, there has never been a more robust library of virtual resources and means of connectivity. So while this is a bummer for everyone, we all need to make an effort. Maybe that means streaming a virtual tour on your living room TV with a few masked friends, or sitting by a heat lamp as you read about UCLA, simulating some California sunshine! This unfamiliar period is what you make of it, so try your best to make it worthwhile.

Blog Contributors: Melanie Talesnick, Alison Grill, Adam Lewis, and a new addition to our Admit U Team, Laura Charos, a recent graduate of Bucknell University with a B.S. in Neuroscience.


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