Planning College Visits As We Return To “Normal”
We can see it in our everyday lives. Whether it’s feeling more comfortable having a cup of coffee, or lunch with a friend—(in a restaurant!) or feeling relieved that our children will return to the classroom because the proper protocols are in place. We can’t wait for things to get back to “normal” including visits to colleges and universities. And colleges are slowly finding their way toward welcoming visitors back to campus.
Over the past year, colleges have made major investments to create new ways to introduce and familiarize prospective students (and in many cases, admitted students) with their campuses and communities. Live and pre-recorded virtual campus tours, virtual admissions information sessions, student panel discussions are now available online. Even after a “return to normal,” many colleges and universities will keep these resources available to all students who wish to take advantage of them.
Yet for many students and their families who have the means and the time, on-campus visits are still the preferred way to get to know the many colleges that they are considering or applying to.
So, what’s happening with on-campus college tours? How can families plan when so many things are up in the air or have changed since the last time colleges were open for on-campus events?
Tips for planning custom college visits
Below are some tips that we hope will make it easier for you to know what to expect both during the planning process and once you arrive on campus.
Plan college visits in advance
Most importantly, plan as far in advance as you can. While I always suggest that families do this, now it is more important than ever. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the colleges, when offering on-campus events, are limiting the size of the groups, so they are filling up much faster than they have in the past. Better to plan ahead than to be disappointed.
Different types of visits
You will also want to read carefully and pay attention to what type of visit(s) each college is offering on campus. Some colleges are returning to combined information sessions and guided campus tours, just as they did before the pandemic. However, as of yet, most are not. Some are offering short welcome sessions followed by guided tours. Other colleges are offering welcome sessions followed by an option for a self-guided tour.
Different tour types to choose from
These self-guided tours vary as well. For instance, some colleges offer newly designed maps to follow, while others, like Vanderbilt, are offering a virtual tour on your smartphone that will allow you to see twenty different locations around campus. At UNC Chapel Hill, even though they are not yet offering on-campus guided tours, the Visitors Center is open for limited hours during the week and the public is welcome to walk the campus on their own. At still others, like Pepperdine, both guided tours and drive-thru tours are available—so if the in-person tour is not available, you have another option. As you can see, the types of visits available run the gamut!
Be mindful of Covid-19 protocols
At most of the colleges, the public is not yet permitted into the buildings on campus. Additionally, you will have to be sure to follow any additional Covid-19 protocols that are in place at each of the campuses. For example, visitors may be required to wear face masks at all times and observe physical distancing while on campus. Be sure to take these requirements into consideration when making your plans.
Stay up to date
It is important to stay up-to-date as to any testing and/or quarantine requirements. Hawaii still has in place their Safe Travels pre-travel testing—even for vaccinated travelers. If you are considering visits to UK universities or those in other overseas locations, and for international students thinking of visiting US colleges, be sure to diligently check any travel requirements. For up-to-date information about protocols, US travelers considering international travel can refer to Travel (state.gov). International travelers planning to visit the US can reference this website: Visas and Visiting the U.S. | USAGov.
With so many versions of tours and custom college visits available, it is important to do your research. This will certainly help you and your teens prioritize and determine which schools to visit now, and those you might want to visit at a later time.