Nov 30 2020

4 Ways Colleges Are Reaching Prospective Students This Year

Campus tours and Q&As go online to help students navigate the college search process.

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way prospective students learn about colleges. Instead of attending traditional college fairs or visiting their dream schools this year, many students are now connecting with admissions representatives online and going on virtual tours.

With the right technology, colleges are able to re-create most of the live interactions that students expect to get from an information session or campus visit. There are other long-term benefits to bringing these experiences online too. Students can easily explore out-of-state options without needing to travel, while colleges are able to expand their reach.

Michelle Luraschi, co-chair of the Missouri Association for College Admission Counseling, tells St. Louis Public Radio that switching to online college fairs has helped connect students with out-of-state universities that don’t typically send representatives to their areas.

“Colleges have a finite budget, and so they travel to where the numbers are, to where they get students,” Luraschi says. “And so, we think it’s especially exciting for our smaller and our more rural districts who don’t have these opportunities.”

In the absence of in-person tours and sessions, colleges and high schools alike have to be innovative. Here’s how some are working together and using technology to provide students with other options.

1. Immersive and Interactive Campus Tours

With the help of 360-degree cameras, college counselors can take prospective students on interactive campus tours without anyone needing to leave the safety of their homes. These cameras allow users to walk around a room or location and capture their surroundings. David Wu, director of international programs at Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy in Atlanta, used 360-degree cameras and drones to record video tours of 100-plus college campuses across the country, including Harvard University, Michigan State University and Stanford University. To make the experience more immersive, students can watch the videos with virtual reality headsets, which will help them feel as if they’re actually walking across campus or sitting inside a lecture hall.

2. Videoconferencing Sessions and Online Q&As

Many colleges are also using videoconferencing platforms to welcome prospective students. For example, Davidson College in North Carolina is using Zoom to offer 60-minute live information sessions and guided campus tours led by two current students. High school seniors can also learn more about the daily life of a Davidson student by connecting with them through live Q&A sessions held on Zoom.

RELATED: Colleges Find New Ways to Create Social Experiences.

3. Virtual College Fairs and Events

Another option is to bring college open houses to virtual event hosting platforms. The Idaho State Board of Education recently partnered with the Idaho State Department of Education’s GEAR UP Idaho program and Idaho Career and Technical Education to deliver a three-day virtual college fair using a platform called vFairs. On vFairs, students can stop by virtual booths and interact with college staff from schools including Boise State University and the University of Idaho. Some college students have even built replicas of their campuses on Minecraft that have been used for social events and open houses.

4. Mobile Connections with College Recruiters

College counselors can also introduce students to mobile applications that help connect students with recruiters. For instance, the California College Fair used an app called Ping to match students with colleges based on their interests and qualifications. All students have to do is take a short quiz on their school preferences before, during or after a virtual college fair, explains Casey Welch, CEO of the app’s parent company, Tallo. Recruiters fill out a similar quiz, which the app uses to match them with students. Students can easily contact college recruiters afterward to get more information about the application process or campus life.

By offering virtual options, college counselors and recruiters can continue helping students who are navigating the college search process, even if students are unable to attend in-person campus visits.

Getty Images/Denis Tangney Jr.