How to Make the Most of Online College Tours



In 2020 many colleges started to seriously develop virtual campus tours to try to fill in the gaps left by restrictions on face to face meetings. While some colleges had previously had brief video tours, they did not do a good job at helping students really get a good feel for the campus. With almost all perspective students touring virtually, though, colleges felt the need to improve their offerings. Students who don’t wish to travel far to campus, or who don’t feel it is safe to meet in person, can now get close to the full tour experience through their computer screens. These virtual experiences can be made almost as beneficial as in-person tours with a few simple tips. 

  • Sign up for official tour and make sure you have the necessary software

Don’t just hop on the college website one day and watch a five minute video tour shot with a drone over the campus! Get in touch with the admissions office and ask about a guided tour where you can video chat with a guide as you work your way through a comprehensive tour. A complete campus tour should take at least an hour for even the smallest campuses. Having a live guide to talk to and ask questions of is the best way to mimic an on campus tour. In order to make the tour go smoothly, make sure you have the program you need in advance! Maybe you’ll be meeting with the guide through Zoom, but maybe it’s on some other platform you have never used before. Get it up and running in the days before your appointment to avoid missing your tour.

  • Do research before the tour

Make sure you know something about the college you’re touring. Do they offer the programs you want? Are they in an area you would enjoy living? Are you reasonably close to their admissions criteria? Don’t waste your time doing 100 tours of colleges that won’t be a good fit. Just because you can tour from your couch doesn’t mean you should!

  • Have questions ready

You’ll get the most out of a college tour that is tailored to you, but unfortunately, the tour guide won’t really know you. You have to help them tailor the information that they present. Do this by asking questions. Have some questions ready prior to your scheduled start time and ask others that you think of as the tour progresses.

  • Take notes!

After a handful of tours all colleges kind of look the same, especially on a screen. Which one was the one with the great professor I talked to? Which one had that horrible library with no tables? Write down your thoughts during the tour. Since you’ll be sitting in your home instead of out walking around it should be easy to keep organized notes!

  • Follow up with the admissions counselor afterword

Make sure to send a thank you email with any follow up questions after the tour. This is especially important if there were many people on your tour. You want your counselor to remember you!

  • Visit in person after admission

Once you’re admitted, make sure you do a real visit prior to committing. Some things can only be experienced in person and you shouldn’t commit to going to a school for four years without having ever set foot on campus!

How to Start the College Process: Three Tours

A lot of students start junior year not entirely sure what they want in a college. By the time they reach the start of senior year, they need to know. The summer before senior year and that school year itself will be full of college applications, essays, letters of recommendation, and financial aid paper work. To make this process go more smoothly, students should try to have their list of colleges just about ready before senior year starts. This means that the summer prior to 11th grade and junior year itself are the time for figuring out what a student wants in a college and writing a list of places to apply to. While some students have had their dream school picked out for years, others approach the process with a completely blank slate. If this is you, you might be overwhelmed, wondering how to narrow down the thousands of available options.

A great place to start is on any college campus. An even better place to start would be on three college campuses. You can make life easy on yourself by touring three campuses close to where you live. There is no need to travel far, you’re just looking for things you like and things you don’t like. Indeed, knowing what you don’t want is just as helpful as knowing what you do want!

So which colleges should you start with? You should aim for three distinctly different options: one large, one mid-sized, one small. At least one of the three should be private and at least one public. One could be a city campus with others being in small towns or rural areas. In short, you should try to see as much diversity in options as possible.

When planning these visits make sure to sign up to take the official tour. This will give you a chance to see classrooms, dorms, and cafeterias as well as to ask questions about majors, campus culture, and graduation rates. You should take careful notes on what you like- if you don’t write it down, you’ll likely forget it!

After the three colleges tours are done sit down a write a list of “must haves” for a college. Are small class sizes a “must” or a “never”? What major or majors must be available to you? Must the campus be bustling or quiet, city or country? Once you get all of your “musts” on a list start doing research on schools in your desired geographic area. You’ll find that it’s much easier to narrow down your possibilities now that you know what you want!

If you want help with this process reach out and let us know- we’d love to work with you as you get ready for college!
Michal Strawn

ACT Testing Update

A little over a year ago we posted a blog about a very exciting announcement from the ACT. The company had decided to begin offering students the opportunity to retest individual sections of the ACT. Students were elated- gone were to be the many long mornings taking the entire ACT; instead, they looked forward to taking the full test only once and then focusing on just a few sections for improvement on test dates thereafter.

Unfortunately, this change was postponed. With the global pandemic closing many test centers, the ACT was struggling to find enough seats for even just the students who needed to take the test for the first time. Individual section retakes simply could not be prioritized when some students couldn’t take the test at all.

The fallout from that situation is still felt in many locations as large backlogs of students who haven’t been able to test try to make up for lost time. Due to this and other concerns the ACT has once again postponed the implementation of the individual section retakes, saying in part


“ACT will not be rolling out section retesting in the 2021-2022 school year. We plan to use insights from our efforts to offer this feature as we enhance and innovate new product offerings. Though there are merits to this enhancement, we have renewed our commitment to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to take the full ACT test.”

https://www.act.org/content/act/en/new-act-options/section-retesting.html

On a positive note, however, the ACT has begun super scoring for students. Students who have taken the test multiple times will see a super score on their score report. This score takes the best section scores that the student has across multiple test dates and reports it as one single composite score. If, for example, a student takes their first test and gets a 25 on reading and a 20 on math and then takes a second test and gets a 20 on reading and a 25 on math, the super score will be calculated using the two 25s and ignoring the 20s.

Students who are applying to schools who accept super scores can use this to their advantage! The students will still have to retake the entire test each time, but they can focus their energy on just one or two sections with lower scores since they know that their previous good scores in other areas will be reflected in their super score no matter what.

Of course, if you would like some support in making a plan for taking the ACT then get in touch! We’re happy to discuss  your specific situation and help you prepare!

-Michal

The Summer Before Senior Year: To Do

By Michal Strawn

Many students don’t begin thinking about colleges until late in their junior year or early in their senior year of high school. The perception is that until the applications are open, there isn’t much you can do. Boy is that a misconception! In the months prior to the start of senior year, there are many steps that students can take to help reduce the stress of application season and help the entire process move smoothly. Consider making our to-do list your to-do list for the summer.

1. Finish that list

Filling out applications isn’t actually all the difficult, it’s just time consuming. What can be difficult is finding the colleges to apply to! Take time over the summer to find a handful of colleges at which you can see yourself being happy and that have a strong program in your chosen field. Look up their admission requirements to make sure you have a few “sure things” on your list so that you’ll have options no matter what!

2. Visit

If you didn’t get any visits in during Junior year then need to happen now. The next break you have from school will be at Thanksgiving and that’s too late. Visit at least a few colleges to get a good feel for what you like and what you dislike. Adjust your list from there.

3. Prepare for the ACT or SAT

You’ve likely already taken these tests once or twice. The summer before senior year is the final big push for any improvements that you want to see. Fall of senior year will be your last chance to take these tests and get your scores back before applications are due.

4. Write your essay(s)

College applications may not be due until the late fall or early winter, but essays tend to pile up. It can be a lot of work to complete a few main essays plus a dozen supplementals for all the colleges you wish to apply to, especially on top of school work, sports, and other school year commitments. You can get a head start by completing the common application essay (and any others you know you’ll need) over the summer.

5.Start the scholarship search

Many students assume that they should first apply for colleges and then figure out how to pay for it. Nothing could be further from the truth! Many scholarships have deadlines that are early in senior year. Make sure they’re on your radar early or you may miss out!

With these things completed you’ll have a head start on senior year and be prepared for success in your college application process!