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  • Swati Chopra

College-bound students, college tours and the coronavirus - Part 2

Within the span of a few short days, we have seen everything from travel suspensions and NBA season cancellations to school district closures and, most recently, Disneyland closing its doors for at least two weeks. While the country is trying to come to terms with this new reality, colleges and universities are doing the best they can to help seniors and admitted students plan the next few weeks before their decisions need to be finalized.

The first piece of good news—Ohio State University has changed its policy and is extending their freshman tuition deposit deadline to June 1st, from the current date of May 1st. And we have reason to believe that many universities will join this bandwagon. (Just minutes ago, we heard that Ithaca College and Southwestern in Texas have extended their deadlines to June 1st as well.)

In response to the pandemic, colleges and universities across the nation are moving from in-person instruction to virtual learning as early as this week, many even sending students home for the duration of the quarter/semester. This move impacts not just current college students but prospective students as well. It's tradition to do college visits before making a final decision, and, understandably, many seniors wait until acceptance letters are in hand. Colleges understand this and are moving as fast as they can to accomodate your questions and queries online. Don't forget that March is the month when most universities are finalizing their freshman class. They've just barely finished their list (if even) so for them to move straight from admission lists to virtual tours and online admitted student events is challenging to say the least.

Here's a list of ways to help your senior through this difficult time.

For my Zal Method students, you can log in to your student portal and find virtual tours, freshmen data, statistics, GPA/testing averages, and more under your college list tab. (If you're not a current student of mine, reach out to me and I'll help you set up an account.)

Virtual Tours: Check college websites first since many of them offer virtual tours and many have moved their Admitted Student Welcome Days from in-person to online. You can find virtual tours of more than 200 colleges at You Visit and Campus Reel.

YouTube: Search for YouTube videos on your colleges of interest and you’ll find plenty of students sharing information and experiences about their colleges/dorms.

Facebook: Students might not be interested in Facebook, but they should start there and follow Facebook groups for admitted students. Join all of them to get a better idea of the vibe and culture at each campus. You will meet other freshmen as well as gain access to upperclassmen. You don't have to have officially enrolled with the university to join most groups. There are groups for parents of the Class of 2024 as well! One you've decided to enroll you might find your roommate there, too. Twitter and Instagram are good places to connect with future friends as well.

College Admissions Offices: Be on the lookout for announcements for organized virtual tours and admitted student days from colleges. Email or call your regional admission representative to learn more about their plans for prospective or admitted students. They might be able to connect you with student leaders and RAs (Resident Advisor/Assistant at the dorms).

A note for juniors: Some might say it's good to call them and show demonstrated interest, but at this point, I don't think you should worry about that (I think we've moved way beyond that and are firmly knee deep in unchartered territory). Also, don't call them asking about stuff you can easily google, there's a fine line between showing interest and wasting their time.

College Websites: Most websites have everything you could dream of. Make sure to keep a spreadsheet so that you can compare different colleges. Take a look at the section on student life and learn about student organizations and club sports.

Current students: If you haven't already, reach out to your friends from school who might have older siblings or cousins at different universities. Chances are most of them are heading home as we speak. The most honest opinions may very well come from freshmen and upperclassmen who are already there. Not sure or comfortable asking friends? Talk to your counselor and see if they can connect you with past students.

Location/Size: This should've been something you checked before you applied but it's good to go back and reassess now. Now that we're where we are, would you be okay being 1,000 miles from home? Or should you look at schools that are closer to home?

Beyond the obvious: Don't forget to go back and check stats for each college that's on your list. Start a google spreadsheet and check the financial aid and fees. It's also important to check their websites for majors, classes, dining options and residential dorms/apartments. How easy is it to change majors? How's the dining plan? Have you thought about single or double occupancy in the dorms? What do students do on the weekends? Where do they hang out?

Since this is a fluid situation and the news is changing every hour, do the best that you can do and ask for help along the way. It's new territory for everyone but there are a lot of folks out there who will help if you just holler.


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