Oct 01 2020

How Schools Can Host College Tours and Fairs Virtually

With the right technology, college counselors and recruiters can help students navigating the college search process, even if on-campus visits are impossible.

The coronavirus pandemic transformed how high school students are learning about prospective colleges. Instead of attending traditional college fairs or visiting their dream schools this fall, 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 area.

“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.”

4 Ways Colleges Are Using Tech to Reach Prospective Students

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

  1. Recording campus tours: With the help of 360-degree cameras, college counselors can take prospective students on an interactive campus tour without anyone needing to leave the comfort 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. Leveraging videoconferencing tools: 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.
  3. Experimenting with virtual and game-based platforms: 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 also built replicas of their campuses on Minecraft that have been used for social events and open houses as well.
  4. Connecting with mobile technology: 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 an in-person campus visit.

MORE ON EDTECH: Find out why school districts should embrace virtual job fairs.

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