For most of our Estrela families, the months of March and April are typically focused on prepping for spring break college visits or, for our high school seniors, Accepted Student Days on the campuses to which they've been admitted. In the wake of the quickly spreading COVID-19 (Coronavirus), many U.S. colleges are canceling all on-campus programs for current and prospective students. So, what should families be doing? Here are our answers and tips for traversing this unexpected - and certainly unplanned for - situation.
The colleges I hoped to visit over my break have moved to online classes for the coming month and cancelled visit programs. Can I still stop by the campus for my own self-guided tour?
While we understand that many families have invested time and money into arranging for spring break visits, it's important to remember that the campuses are moving to remote instruction to limit the amount of close contact amongst members of their campus community. "Dropping in" to a campus after they have specifically cancelled their own admission visit programs/tours does not reflect well on you in any way. They have cancelled visits and stopped their regular campus activities for a reason and having families wander a closed campus unannounced defeats the purpose of these directives. So, as tempting as it might be to move ahead with your plans, we urge you to reconsider.
This was my only chance for campus visits before I actually submit applications this fall. Will the colleges hold this against me when it comes to "demonstrated interest?"
The short answer is: it's highly unlikely. This is one of those questions that will best be answered by individual colleges but our hope is that all institutions will understand the circumstances surrounding this unusual time and identify other ways that students can demonstrate their interest in a school.
So, what other ways can I show a school that I'm interested besides an on-campus visit?
There are MANY ways to show a college some love! First, if you're concerned about demonstrated interest and haven't yet filled out an online inquiry form for a college you're considering, do this today. A college will have no idea that you're interested in their institution if you aren't in their database system. Second, many colleges assign admission staff to work with students from certain regions, states or schools. Do some digging to find out who this person might be for your school and send them a brief email of introduction. Let them know you'd planned to visit campus but COVID-19 has changed your itinerary. Ask them if they plan to visit your school in the fall and let them know you'd love to connect with them at that point.
I've been accepted to a few colleges that I haven't yet visited, and some have cancelled their admitted student days. I don't feel comfortable making a decision sight-unseen. What are my options?
First, many colleges are actually moving their admitted student programs to an online format. Yes, we know this isn't a perfect replacement for an on-campus experience, but it will certainly still provide you with the content you'd receive during the program. Our guess is that faculty, current students, coaches, and other staff members will be included in these online events so you'll have access to many of the folks you would have encountered during the visit program. All that aside, you might be wondering how you can get a sense of the actual campus without physically stepping foot on the grounds. Many colleges have virtual tours available on their websites, as well as on sites like YouVisit or Campus Reel. These tours can give you a lay of the land from the comfort of your home. While not a perfect solution, it's certainly one way for you to "see" what a campus looks like and, in some cases, hear from actual students.
What about that May 1st deadline? Will colleges let me decide later than that date?
This is the question of the moment...and really one that should be asked of each college to which you've been admitted. It may be too early to tell what will happen with the May 1st reply date but it doesn't hurt to get ahead of the game and reach out to your college options to see if they've decided about granting extensions on this decision date.
I was really looking forward to actually meeting current students during my visits. Is there any way I can do that now?
Many colleges offer students an opportunity to chat via Skype or FaceTime with current students throughout the year even when there isn't a health scare closing their campuses. Remember that admission rep we mentioned earlier who works with students from your area? Add this request to your outreach to them. Many will be happy to connect you with a current student or even a local alumnus in your area to chat about their experience at their institution.
We're sure that there are many questions that will continue to come up regarding the college search process and the impact COVID-19 is having on prospective students and families. Feel free to comment below as you think of these and we'll do our best to address them. In the meantime, our friends over at College Kickstart have put together a list of colleges whose campus visits have been impacted by the Coronavirus. Be sure to check this out before making travel plans in the coming weeks and months. Finally, stay safe, stay calm and make good choices. College is important, but so is both your physical and mental well-being.