Researching highly resourced colleges through websites, books, college fairs and visits is an important part of any application process. In normal times, colleges host walking tours led by students who are knowledgeable about campus life, information sessions featuring detailed outlines of the school's offerings and community, and, occasionally, overnight stays that allow you to get a sampling of both academic and social life at that particular school. During the Covid-19 era, however, many college campuses remain closed or have opened only partially, disrupting the normal activities.
College visits during Covid-19
College admissions offices have adapted quickly to the new remote reality and most have placed extensive online resources at your fingertips on their websites, including virtual tours, interviews, and information sessions with current students, faculty, and admissions and financial aid representatives. This allows you the luxury of informing yourself broadly without leaving home.
The shift to an online platform has not changed our recommended best practices. Information sessions and interview requirements vary from school to school, but it remains in your best interest to register for both, whether virtual or in person, whenever possible, especially for the schools you are seriously considering. And while in-person tours may be unavailable currently, some campuses are open to drive or walk though on your own. Even if the gates are closed, it is still possible to visit the surrounding area or town.
It is worth regularly checking college websites, as the rules of the game have changed quickly and continue to be highly variable and fluid.
RHSP’s Virtual College Visit Initiative
RHSP has a list of over 100 highly resourced colleges with hyperlinks to their tours, information sessions and YouTube Channels. We provide a questionnaire for you to complete and, based on your responses, we will send you a list of 15-20 colleges that fit your academic qualifications and interests. The list will have colleges that several RHSP students have attended and others that you and your family may not know very well.
When you complete a virtual tour and information session, you will be asked to complete a research form with data on the college that will be helpful as you continue your college search. Once RHSP receives your completed research form, you will be awarded two RHSP eligibility points, the same as for an actual college visit.
As you engage in the new world of virtual college applications, our traditional guidelines for in-person encounters (set out below) still apply.
College visits post-Covid-19
Visiting a school is important for two reasons. First and foremost, it allows you the opportunity to see the campus for yourself and determine whether or not it's a good fit, as well as the chance to ask questions that might not be easily answerable through the school website or viewbook. Secondly, scheduling a campus visit and admissions interview demonstrates that you are interested enough in the school to travel to campus and really consider the possibility of attending. Though many competitive colleges do not require interviews or visits for admission, it is highly recommended that you arrange both--particularly for schools you are seriously considering.
The most important aspect of any campus visit is planning, which admissions offices make incredibly easy. Be sure to visit the college website and look at schedules for tours, information sessions, and interviews--as well as contact information if you have further questions. If you'd like to schedule a meeting with a particular person on campus (such as an academic department head or a sports team coach), the admissions office will provide the information you need.
It is recommended that you have a notebook and writing implement to take notes throughout your visit. A useful practice is to have one notebook with separate sections for each college being considered, where notes can be added before, during and after the visit.
Oftentimes, your visit to a college will begin with an information session hosted by an admissions counselor. These sessions usually consist of a general overview of the school, facts and figures about academics, the student body, and admission statistics and requirements. In most cases, they also will highlight specific aspects of the college that make it unique. Some info sessions feature a panel of students who can offer their insights and specific, varied experiences at the college. There also may be an opportunity for questions, so be sure to take advantage of the expert in the room and ask any questions that may come to mind.
College visits normally include a campus tour led by a current student. The tour is an opportunity to engage with someone who is knowledgeable about nearly all aspects of the school and can speak to the college's academic and social life. Depending on the school, tours usually involve an academic building, a residence hall, the dining hall, and other facilities such as athletic centers, libraries, and performing arts centers. Tour guides are usually chosen for their enthusiasm and knowledge about the school, so be sure to pay attention during the tour and don't be afraid to ask specific questions. If your tour guide doesn't know the answer, they should be able to put you in touch with someone who does!
Some schools also offer specialized tours for certain aspects of campus, such as the sciences, arts and engineering. If you're interested in pursuing either of these aspects in college, research whether the college offers such tours.
Some very highly resourced colleges do not do on-campus interviews by admissions officers. In these cases, students who have applied will have an opportunity to be interviewed by an alumnus in their area.
Most colleges have admissions interviews that are either mandatory and an important factor in the admission decision process or are characterized as being informational to answer questions a prospective student might have. It is highly recommended that interviews be done in either case, because, even in the latter, it is an opportunity to make a good impression on someone who likely will be a part of the decision process.
Usually available starting the spring of junior year, admissions interviews provide an invaluable opportunity to meet face-to-face with a knowledgeable school representative and showcase your personality, passions, and interest in the school. While the notion of being "interviewed" may be intimidating to many, admissions interviews are merely relaxed and enjoyable conversations - they simply want to get to know you! Oftentimes they will ask you about the classes you're taking in high school, your involvement in your school and community, and your interests and hobbies. The interviewer frequently will give the opportunity to ask questions, so be sure and take advantage of this. For list of common college interview questions, click here.
You want to make the best impression possible in a college interview. Our tips on dressing will ensure that you dress the part.
If you have questions regarding a specific major, program, or sports team, you can contact the admissions office to ask about arranging an interview with a coach or department head to talk in detail about the program.
While day visits to college campuses are a great way to gain insight into a school, a better way to experience even more areas of campus life is to plan an overnight stay. Many admissions offices will put you in touch with a student (sometimes one who shares your particular interests or field of study) who will host you overnight and take you to a class, practice, or rehearsal while you're on campus. If you're seriously considering a school, we highly recommend you look into staying overnight, as this is the best way to experience a true "day in the life" and sample classes, extracurricular life, and--perhaps most importantly--the college's dining hall.
When you identify a college that is worth a closer look, you can take advantage of our fortunate location in the Northeast to make a two to three day trip to visit several colleges along the way. In taking these trips, you may stumble across a college that speaks to you more in person than it does in pictures or in writing. We recommend our list of suggested college trips to maximize your campus visit.