College List with no Visits?

Anyone else struggling to help their seniors form college lists in the age of COVID? Pre pandemic we only visited a couple schools near by just to get a sense of a tour. Have sat through endless online info sessions and virtual tours, but nothing is clicking. Have flipped through websites. Has anything helped your family?

I really wanted my son to be able to walk the campus of a large university to get a sense for HOW large 30k+ students really is. Wanted him to sit in a huge lecture hall class just to sense if it felt right. Wanted to take him to some parts of the country that are very different from our home to see if he can envision himself spending 4 yrs somewhere remote, or rural, or in a suburb, etc. This is a HUGE investment. It just does not feel right to commit so much when you can’t visit.

You’re doing what you can through virtual tours and online information sessions. Surely he has some opinions after watching those?

Some colleges are opening in-person tours up again. We have one scheduled for October! Such tours tend to be for small colleges, however, not large universities. It may be possible to walk the empty campuses, though.

Why do you think “nothing’s clicking”? Is it because your senior feels he can adjust to any of those places, or is he truly despondent over not getting to visit in person or possibly not getting the “full college experience” being denied this year’s enrollees?

The things that you want your son to see or experience before making a decision may not be things he feels will matter to him. Let him do the talking and listen to what he has to say.

I’d also encourage reading of the student newspapers, following social media feeds, and signing up for virtual student panels. You can get a good sense of the “vibe” of school.

As an aside, even big flagships usually only have large lecture courses freshman year. And, nowadays, it’s very common for any large class to have mandatory recitations of 20-25. The class sizes drop off very quickly going forward as well.

I wonder if there are schools allowing prospective students to sit in on classes virtually this Fall? IMO, one of the most important things is hearing the conversations between profs/students and how that dynamic flows. Are students stressed out? Are professors engaged? What is the feel of the classroom.

Yes, many students and parents are having a hard time choosing colleges without the ability to visit, or have tours.

Let’s have some perspective though. Not so very long ago, you applied and your first visit was when you got to campus on move in day. And there are MANY students who still do that. Families who can’t afford the traditional college visit experience, kids who live far from the college, international kids, and even kids who do enough research that they don’t feel a need to visit.

Get a Fiske Guide and use the website Niche, and to a lesser extent, Uni Go (all one word), along with campus virtual tours, official Instagram pages, Facebook, and whatever else you can find. Hopefully by the time acceptances are in hand, students will be able to visit campuses. Good luck.

Do you have it narrowed down to general location? My S19 has underlying health issues and we did not want him closer to home. He applied to 2 (visited both) and decided one was stronger in his major interest. D21 wants warm weather, with that comes the higher price tag of being out of state, so I posted her stats on this site along with her area of interest, searching for merit scholarships and received some great responses to narrow the search.

Also, lots of students do not prioritize the aspects of college that can only be discovered on a visit. For example, students who care about the affordability, academic programs and courses offered, and prestige factors over the experience factors may not find visits to be as useful in deciding.

In addition, with the possibility of more remote or distance learning (depending on whether and when medical advances on COVID-19 occur) could mean that the experience difference may be smaller than it was previously (e.g. if a year or few are done at home remotely versus on campus, or if the on campus experience is highly restricted with social distancing measures).

“Wanted him to sit in a huge lecture hall class just to sense if it felt right.”

Those might never come back. And frankly, why should they? Except for being able to continue to see all of the equations and diagrams on those ginormous movable blackboards in O Chem, and being able to keep copying down the equations and diagrams, while the professor moved on to the next item, I don’t think much is lost by attending a large lecture online instead of in person. Also, if it is recorded, I can go back and get to not only the diagram I’d missed earlier, but also to the words the professor used while explaining it. Definitely would have been a win-win for me.