Visiting with VR

Colleges establish new online college search forums


Ella Holiday, screenshot

Senior Ella Holiday does YouVisit for the University of California Santa Barbara. YouVisits showed students a 360 view of campus life, with interactive panoramic photos and videos.

Mackenna Moslander and Tala El Qadah

While college tours no longer include strolls around the campus and in-person discussions with student ambassadors, prospective students and parents to consider schools virtually.
With over 5,000 universities in the United States and countless internationally, not every potential student can visit every school of interest. Senior Ella Holiday says she feels like she’s been able to expand her search because of the easy accessibility of so many schools online. 

I feel like I am visiting a lot more schools online than I would even consider in-person,” Holiday said. “It does feel like a lot more solely academic information than campus life though, and I tend to find a balance more informative.”

Some virtual resources consist of weekly information sessions, student panels and sessions overviewing specific academic programs. While some universities already provided online resources before the pandemic, George Washington University also created new ones according to Regional Director of Admissions Andrea Frangi. 

We have developed and augmented a whole suite of ways for prospective students, their families/guardians, and college counselors to engage with GW virtually,” Frangi wrote in an email. “I’m also a very visual person so when doing my virtual high school visits, I always share an interactive map so that students can see the actual physical location of GW within the context of Washington, D.C.

Some families did not visit universities in-person even before the pandemic, like parent John Comerford who used college brochures, pictures and articles to learn about  Duke University’s social life and academics. Comerford says visiting schools in-person was much less common in past generations.

“I decided not to tour because my brother went and he really enjoyed it,” Comerford wrote. “I honestly didn’t think much about it too much and knew that I wouldn’t be the only one who didn’t tour the college beforehand. I was only nervous about how competitive the school would be.”

The environment of a college campus is about more than just the direct campus, as the surrounding city and shops are a part of the community as well, according to College Counseling Director Rebecca Munda. 

“Colleges have built such robust offerings for students because of COVID-19. If families are able to have access to that information online whether it is a faculty panel or a student panel,the school’s offerings can help students to decipher what that community offers,” Munda said. “ I think they will definitely return to in-person tours when this is all over because for students who can step foot on campus it can be very helpful, but visiting isn’t necessarily always the most feasible in every situation.”

While not being physically on a campus can have disadvantages, it can also present new alternatives to traditional tours and Q&A sessions. Online tours can provide a sense of comfort and less pressure, according to senior Ella Holliday. 

“I went on a couple of in-person college tours and I really enjoyed going and feeling the vibe of the campus,” Holliday said. “I think not as many questions were asked in-person because many students like I find it more comfortable to type a question.”