Can’t tour colleges right now? Go virtual!


Touring prospective colleges and universities is a rite of passage for some families. Prospective students visit campuses to get a sense of the college’s character and facilities, and to picture how well they would fit in. But coronavirus has temporarily changed that. For months, many campuses closed to guests altogether, and those that didn’t were still lacking the normalcy of student life. Even if the college you wish to see has resumed offering campus tours, you may not be ready to visit yet due to safety concerns. What’s the alternative?

The state of Florida boasts 28 state colleges and 12 universities, offering something for everyone!

Research! Students will just have to get a little more creative, communicative and resourceful, which is not a bad thing. Doing so may help uncover the perfect, deciding, golden nugget of information required to make a best decision. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Online tools. Even before COVID-19, many Florida campuses offered virtual tours online. One clearinghouse of information (https://www.youvisit.com/collegesearch) for many (but not quite all) Florida colleges and universities gives you the chance to take a 360-degree walking tour, with a virtual student tour guide offering details about the buildings and the programs they house. You can see Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza at the University of South Florida, the student union at Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus, or Landis Green at Florida State University. It’s a great way to get a visual sense for the state’s many campuses.

Research the community. Once you’re familiar with the campuses, broaden your search to the surrounding community, including nearby apartments if you might not live in a dormitory. Explore what shops, restaurants, entertainment, recreation and natural sights are nearby.

Alumni networks. It’s likely that your community has an alumni chapter for the institution you’re considering attending. Reach out to them and explain your situation and see what insights or connections they can share.

Current students. Do any former students at your high school attend the institution you’re considering? Any siblings of your friends? Could your guidance counselor point you in the direction of a current student? Reach out and ask your questions about campus life.

Social media. Follow the institutions that you’re interested in attending on social media, including any for your specific targeted major (e.g. business, engineering, etc.). Follow the official admissions accounts, but also hunt for accounts of clubs or activities you might enjoy.

Read the student newspaper. It’s probably available for free online, and it will give you a glimpse of everything from school politics to live theater and concerts.

Call the admissions office. They wish you could be there as much as you do! So ask their advice on how you can get to know the campus from afar. Many schools will happily connect you with a current student who will tell you all about their campus experience.

There’s no need to wait for everything to return to normal to get started on your campus search. Even if you’re ultimately able to take a campus tour before you make your decision, learning more now will help you narrow your search and ask smart questions when you arrive, and might even help you prepare your applications! 

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