In-person research through COVID-style campus visits

Campus tours are definitely different this year. What can you do to experience life on campus before life on campus?

Continuing on the October theme of how to effectively explore PSE, let’s take a look at campus visits.

Should you take the time to visit the schools that you’re applying to? ABSOLUTELY YES. You’re about to drop a lot of money and you’ll be spending a lot of time there, so I would highly recommend you step on campus before you commit your time and money. That being said, we’ve firmly established that this year is weird. I can understand if it seems like a stretch to go on a campus tour. However, you do have options, so let’s look a bit closer.

Quick reminder first: application deadlines won’t come until early next year – late January and early February. Second, you won’t have to confirm offers of admission until around May of next year. So even though applications are opening now, this is really a process that takes several months. You have plenty of time to explore the campuses you’re considering.

Your 2020 options

There are a couple of different versions of campus visits – one is an open house and the other is a tour. Given that open houses are generally attended by hundreds of people, we can all assume those are off the table at least for fall. Public health guidelines around what is acceptable and what is not vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And from an insurance and risk perspective, I can’t see any schools attempting these. At least keep an eye out for virtual open house events.

At a virtual event, you will get a chance to chat one-on-one or in small groups with current faculty and instructors, and students connected to a program. You can explore student services in more detail and ask questions about how the school supports the student journey – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially – in addition to the academics. Added bonus: you won’t be yelling across a crowded hallway.

Campus tours are typically much more intimate affairs, including maybe a dozen people each. Colleges and universities have gotten quite creative about their tours these days. Some offer socially-distant “bubble” tours where you are physically on campus with people in your bubble, and the tour guide keeps a good ten feet away at all times. These tours tend to be exclusively outside, so touring a residence room, a lab or the campus’s athletic facilities probably won’t be an option. Many schools are also offering virtual tours. I’m not just talking about a click-through tour on their website – I mean a tour where the tour guide takes you around the campus over Zoom or FaceTime. Not a bad idea, and your chances of seeing those indoor spaces is definitely higher on these tours.

Once you’ve done the online version, keep checking public health guidelines for options in the spring. Pandemics don’t last forever, even if this one seems that way. Like anything else, do the best you can with what you have.

Need some help with clarifying your career goals before you start this step? Check out our services for youth for more information!

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