Steps to Manage the Virtual College Tours and Build the College List

The upcoming high school senior class will have a different experience building their college list. Due to the COVID 19 virus, the typical college campus visit is currently not available. Colleges and universities have been quick to adjust and have enhanced their virtual admission experience.  In mid-March, the PayForED team started investigating how this area was changing and have noticed how the shift to a digital experience has gradually increased each week.  We are seeing colleges add something different each day to attract the best students.

Here are some recommended steps to manage the virtual college tours and build the college list:

  • Set up a new email account the college search process
  • Use the college website to register not the virtual college tour websites or YouTube
  • Attend other college events that are offered
  • Contact your regional admission representative
  • Identify test-optional rules for colleges on your list
  • Broaden your college list
  • Create a COVID discovery experience
  • Explore career interest and contact college career centers

Setup a new email account the college search process

In this digital environment, it will be even more important to show your interest in a college.  Currently, it is uncertain what the fall will hold as far as college fairs or college visits to your high school.  Most of the student’s college interest will be tracked via a digital footprint.  This will include opening emails, attending virtual tour events, and other virtual admission events offered by each college.  Colleges, just like a business can see who has opened an email and if you have clicked on certain links.  It may be a good idea to create a separate email for these queries so that you can avoid being swamped by college information to your personal email.

Use the college website to register not the virtual college tour websites or YouTube

Several companies offer a list of various virtual campus tours.  Before going that route, I recommend that you check out the college website and determine if there is a virtual tour or experience.  Typically, campus tours can be found on a specific virtual tour page, but we have found them on the main page of the college and admission page.  Using the college website will better control email privacy and confirm that your email was registered on the school’s site as the source.  Many colleges have expanded the virtual events to include zoom meetings, virtual admission chats, webinars, and virtual tours by a current student.  To do this correctly, search for the college first and then once on the school’s site search for the virtual tour.

Attend other college events that are offered

Many colleges are adding new virtual events in this new environment.  Attending the additional virtual events throughout the summer could be an actual blessing for the college-bound student.  In the past, most colleges had specific open house days which could be difficult for some students to attend due to travel or schedule restrictions.  Registering and attending some of these events is a good way to show your interest in the college since it puts a digital stamp for the student. Having virtual events gives the student opportunities to attend more events in their specific interest.

Contact your regional admission representative

Most colleges have regional admission representatives.  It is recommended that you contact them via phone or email to establish a connection.  As student recruiting has changed, many colleges have added a current student contact list.  You may want to ask if that list is available so that the college-bound student can contact a current student with similar interests and get some direct insights.

Identify test-optional rules for colleges on your list

Due to the virus, more colleges have moved to a test-optional admission policy for this year and some institutions have already made this a permanent decision.  As you visit the college website, determine how this application decision may impact your admission.  Consider talking to your high school college counselor about this application method. Eliminating the need for standardized testing could minimize a student’s stress level for the coming year.

Broaden your college list

It is important to remember, that colleges are a business and need to fill seats each year.  Just like families, many colleges will be suffering from the economic backlash of the COVID 19 virus.  This will be seen more in the middle tier college level where families may find better financial aid packages.

Having a broader list of colleges may improve your ability to get a better financial award.  The PayForED College Cost Analyzer helps students identify the academic and financial position at each school.  Many students understand the term academic reach but there is also a term that is often not discussed by colleges called financial reach.  Understanding both your academic and financial reach can help you broaden your college list and reduce the stress of the admission process.

Create a COVID discovery experience

During this disruptive and social distancing time, many students will be unable to participate in activities that make them unique.  Colleges will be looking at how you used this time.  Did you discover a new interest or skill?  Many schools will be asking what you did with this available time.  Having that story prepared for an admission discussion or being part of a college essay could be important in the upcoming admission reviews.

Explore career interest and contact college career centers

Many families overlook the available resources that a college career center can offer to the student.  They can help with career path discovery, internships, and career placement.  We recently wrote about how competitive the job market is in comparison to when many parents went to college.  Having a conversation with the career center could give certain colleges an advantage.  It might help certain students narrow career interest and major hence graduating on time.  It can also help the student understand job placement and specific career opportunities.  You may not be able to physically visit the career center this summer, but you can contact that office.

Understand your financial position and expectations

During the college list building stage, the financial aspect is often not discussed.  Parents let the child build their list which often results in an emotional tie to a college without any financial reality.  In this new normal, families should understand the affordability aspects of each college on their list before applying.  The PayForED College Cost Analyzer creates the custom financial outcome by college.  It helps students and parents, estimate what they will pay at each college but more importantly how they will pay for it.  This is done at the list building stage and again once the financial awards are sent to the student upon acceptance. 

Virtual Tour Summary

In this time of more questions than answers, students and parents will need to be flexible.  Colleges are in the same confusing state as families.  They are making changes daily to adjust to this new normal.  Remember that your digital footprint will be more important than ever.  This includes your other digital presence in other social media platforms.

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