As seniors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School complete their college applications, the deliberation process is deemed the most stressful part. Visiting and touring campuses are vital for college decisions because it gives students an opportunity to decide what environment they want to live in for the next four years of their lives.
In the midst of COVID-19, several universities are being considerate towards the students that cannot take their admissions exam. As a result, they are becoming “test-optional.” Along with this, AP exam scores are being evaluated differently and there is increased speculation on the scores’ worth to a competitive school. Universities have shown that there are massive groups of high school seniors that take a gap year before going to college.
The ongoing pandemic has made it difficult for students to gain a sense of their future home. Top reasons for visiting college campuses include sitting in lectures, meeting the other students, seeing conferences by guest speakers, asking about the clubs and seeing a bit of the social life outside of the classroom.
Seniors will not be able to see some of the most accomplished experts in different fields of study or indulge in meeting college students to ask them questions about their personal experiences. They are also unable to experience the nightlife of campus. Visiting allows seniors to gain a better perspective of the unique college life.
“I feel disappointed because I was really looking forward to going to these colleges to see the campuses in person and how the other students looked and behaved on campus,” senior Kayla Sibble said.
Other seniors are finding ways to compensate by participating in virtual information sessions or even contacting current students at the college of their choice.
“The college application process is obviously very different now that we won’t be able to tour schools. For me, I have found it very difficult not being able to tour as it is harder to imagine myself on a campus I have never seen,” senior Ella Singer said. “I try to make up by taking virtual tours and researching as much as I can about the schools. It will definitely be a tough decision to choose a college having never set foot on campus before.”
Seniors have the opportunity to watch virtual tours of universities and attend live information sessions. Universities such as the University of Florida and the University of Miami are providing multiple updates and opportunities to learn more about admissions and programs.
“I feel like it’s very important to visit a campus in person in order to really feel out the atmosphere and see what the landscape looks like. Even just to see the buildings in real life can definitely impact your decision. Even though I’ve been attending virtual tours, it’s honestly not the same at all,” senior Ciana Steller said.
Seniors have also expressed how they feel about experiencing the city atmosphere and asking face-to-face questions about student organizations and clubs.
“In touring campuses, I was definitely most looking forward to seeing the city’s environment and feeling as well as the buildings of the universities. I want to study architecture so I place a lot of importance on the campus’ aesthetic and what it looks like as well as the surrounding city life,” Steller said. “It would have also been [nice] to hear more about the programs and clubs offered by people who are actually involved, rather than just by reading off the website.”.
Broward County is providing great sources for students to still be engaged in learning about different colleges and their admission processes. Naviance has been a great resource for many students. This tool allows them to create a list of their top colleges, join Zoom calls with admission officers, do research on the programs and learn about the clubs and organizations they could get involved with.
“The pandemic has influenced me not to apply to a lot of out of country universities even though I had wanted to originally. However, my main goals are still to leave Florida and apply to a somewhat large campus,” Steller said.
Other resources such as Niche have been a substantial resource to search for information on student populations, athletic teams, ratings, and scholarships. Additionally, Unigo is also a useful resource that provides college match quizzes, information on student loans, scholarships, and online courses.
Several upcoming college freshmen are seeing this pandemic as an opportunity to learn more about programs and different fields of study in the universities they are interested in. Colleges are making sure to touch on these programs in virtual sessions to compensate for the lack of interaction.
“I am focused on applying to the same schools I was interested in before the pandemic and I even added a few more additional colleges that have great programs and opportunities in the field I want to pursue,” Singer said.
It is unknown whether or not the application process will return to its original form, but seniors should make it their priority to receive the proper information and resources for a smooth application process.