Campus visits have a tendency to blend together, particularly when they take place through your computer screen. Yet, if you have the opportunity to virtually visit some colleges that excite you, a visit can give you the clarity you want from the college search process.
Trust me on this one. As a born-and-raised rural Nebraskan, I got to know Tufts (and decided it was my dream school!) without ever setting foot on campus, and long before any virtual info sessions were available. I went on to become a tour guide and student writer for the admissions office. After graduating from the School of Arts and Sciences, I joined Tufts Admissions as an admissions officer and manager of our print publications. In all of these roles, I've thought not only about how we can communicate the story of Tufts to visitors on campus, but how we can tell these stories to students and families who aren't able to visit. I’ve picked up on a few tips that could help you have a meaningful (virtual) campus visit.
First thing's first... What do I mean by a virtual visit? Here at Tufts, you can sign up to attend an online information session (hosted by an admissions officer), go on a virtual tour of campus, and complement your virtual tour with story-based "mini tours" offered by our tour guides. If you're able to set aside a couple hours of your afternoon, I'd recommend combining these resources for a complete campus visit experience!
1. Do your basic research before your virtual information session.
Your virtual information session will cover many of the basics, but doing a bit of research ahead of time will help you determine which schools you want to virtually visit. You might start with academics. These will be the core of your college experience. Make sure you are visiting a school with academics that excite you. Research what majors or programs are offered. Then take a quick look into campus life. Where is the campus located? What types of residence halls do students live in? Once you've grounded yourself in these basics, you'll be able to ask more meaningful (and specific!) questions during the Q&A section of your virtual information session. Which brings me to my next point...
2. Ask questions you can’t Google.
All Tufts virtual information sessions are divided into a 30-minute session and a 30-minute Q&A. The admissions officer giving the session (hi there!) will excitedly answer all of your questions from the comfort of their own home, no matter how Google-able that question might be (we're starved for any kind of interaction!). But here's the thing... standardized testing ranges, acceptance rates, and student to faculty ratios are all easily accessible numbers that you can find with a quick search. To make the most out of your virtual visit, dig deeper. Ask for stories, ask about the campus vibe, ask about favorite spots on campus and lesser-known traditions and newer majors, ask what students do in the summertime and on weekends—things you can’t as easily find online. If you're jotting down notes, instead of compiling a list of numbers, compile a list of feelings, reactions, and reflections. What resonates with you?
3. Why not make it fun?
I'm in the life-camp that popcorn makes everything better, so why not prepare a pot of freshly-popped kernels or a bag of microwaved popcorn (I'm also in the life-camp of convenience) to enjoy during your virtual session or tour? Because we use a webinar platform, no one can see you. So if you'd like to dress in your best, go ahead! But if you're watching on a sleepy afternoon once classes are over, there's no harm in curling up in sweatpants or pajamas to learn about Tufts. Have a parent join you so that you can chat together (harmless inside jokes are even allowed because we can't hear you) and compare takeaways after.
4. Think of one crucial aspect of your college experience and use this to guide your virtual visit.
Use what you know about yourself to your advantage. You might be eager to have a spirited student body or a college that emphasizes volunteering. Maybe you’re thrilled about conducting research with a professor or want a robust sociology department. Asking a specific question at each school can help you weigh their values against yours, and help differentiate schools that look similar in print.
5. At the end of your virtual visit, think about why you would attend the school.
Our mini tours each include an anecdote about why the tour guide picked their school. After attending a virtual information session and virtual tour, consider why you would. Do you have an answer, and how does it stack up to other schools you’ve visited? (An added bonus: this might end up being your response to the "Why ___?" supplemental question, and a more personal response than citing the location or naming a few majors.)
It's okay to be sad that you can't set foot on an actual campus right now. Parts of that experience can't be replicated, not through the best photos or the liveliest stories or even the wonders of virtual reality. But virtual or not, this process is still yours. It's a time to reflect on who you are and imagine where you'd thrive, a time to put your needs first (and know that every need is valid). Make sure it feels right, and know that we're here (even across the screen) to support you. Contact your admissions officer if questions come up, read student blogs, and check out the latest issue of JUMBO Magazine.