Shared Experience: College tours during Covid-19

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Photo Credit: photo by Alexa Leviten used with permission

Visiting colleges during your Junior and Senior year is important to make sure you like your college.

By: Alexa Leviten, Editor

Visiting colleges is an important step in the process of choosing where you want to apply to. During mostly junior and senior year is when students start going on college tours.

My experience

Recently, over spring break I went on my first round of college tours. I visited four colleges, with three of them being in Pennsylvania and the last one being in New Jersey. After I did research on the ones I wanted to visit, my mom and I planned out where we should get a hotel. We also planned how many tours we can do a day and timed things out.

Because of Covid-19, I was only able to book a guided tour for two colleges, Temple University and Stockton University. I also visited Penn State and West Chester, but it was self-guided. Tours guided by someone are way more beneficial and impactful. This is because as you are walking around and seeing the campus, you are also hearing what the buildings mean and what they are used for. When I was walking around campus on my own, the buildings didn’t have much significance to me.

Accommodations for guided tours

At West Chester University, they had an app that gave you a live virtual map with a guide speaker. As you arrived at certain stops, it would play a pre-recorded audio message about the place you were visiting. It was definitely better than walking aimlessly around a college campus and it was an interesting accommodation for guided tours.

I also did a couple of virtual college tours. They honestly don’t give the same effects that an in-person tour would give. But also, even some in-person tours don’t feel as normal right now because not as many students are back in person at all colleges. Virtual tours would be beneficial after you already know you would like the environment of a college. They can help you look into the details of a university to see if it still interests you.

Things to consider

From my experiences, there are a few things to consider when narrowing down your options. Some people may already know some specific criteria they want in a school. Personally, I didn’t know until I went on in-person tours.

First off, think of where you would want to go to college and how far you want to go. Realize that if you are more than 3-4 hours away, it isn’t as convenient and easy to go home if needed. Your first year of college will most likely be the first time you are living and being on your own.

Secondly, it is important to be cautious of the financial aspect of college. Talk to your parents about it and look out for how much the school helps support financially or gives out scholarship opportunities.

Third of all, college tours really helped me see what type of college setting and environment I want to be in. It also helped me realize a good school size I would want in my college. This was because conveniently, all four colleges I visited had a different vibe to them.

The overall takeaway from the trip

Penn State is a huge school, with almost 100,000 students and multiple campuses spread throughout parts of Pennsylvania. After visiting just the main campus, I realized that this type of school was just way too big and rural for me. West Chester was the next school I visited. It was smaller, closer together, and more suburban. They had a really pretty campus and a downtown where locals and college students go. I liked that there was an area where I knew other college kids would be hanging out near because it could help me meet new people.

After that was Temple University in Philadelphia. I always knew that I liked the city life and after touring at Temple, it confirmed my liking for it even more. Lastly, on our way home, we took a tour at Stockton which is a small university in Galloway, NJ. It confirmed again that I don’t want to go to a rural college.

From these four college visits, I can automatically take some colleges off my list if they don’t match the scene I like. In-person guided tours definitely make the biggest impact on your experience, but virtual tours are worth going on still to see if the amenities offered there are of your interest at least. Self-guided tours are also good to go on and can even help form a stronger bond with whoever you go with.

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