Virtual college visits insufficient, create difficulty for students choosing universities during pandemic

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sru.edu

Slippery Rock University is one of many local universities not holding in-person visits due to COVID, and their alternative is virtual walk-through campus tours that allow students to see images of buildings while hearing a little bit about each one.

Sarah Levenson, Managing Editor

If there’s one thing students have learned from remote learning, it is that there is not nearly as much value online as there is with in-person schooling. Students feel the same when it comes to virtual college visits or substituting in-person tours for gathering information on websites. 

The decision of choosing a college sets one’s entire life on course, so it is crucial that people know what they’re buying into for their education and are afforded the luxury of seeing schools in-person. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, having to do either virtual college visits or no real tours of schools at all has forced many students to choose schools to apply to based on images from Google, website statistics or 15 second TikToks. 

While virtual college visits do give helpful incite and allow students to see buildings through a screen and learn basic information, they don’t fully allow people to get a feel for the college. It’s crucial that students are able to physically set foot on college campuses to see if they feel like home or meet with a professor to get a feel for their desired program. 

“What I disliked is not actually getting to feel what the campus was like. Looking at pictures is totally different from being there,” senior Sunny Taylor said regarding virtual college visits. 

Besides “visiting” colleges through a computer, another issue with virtual college visits is that learning about a school through images and words on a screen isn’t a proper alternative for in-person visits. Students and their parents need to know exactly what they are getting from schools, since they will be paying for it. 

One would never buy a house without first checking it out in person to make sure it’s up-to-snuff, even though they may have already seen photos of it. Likewise, people don’t purchase cars without taking them for test drives and meeting with a car dealer to discuss the details of the car. The same goes for choosing a college, as students need to physically set foot on college campuses in order to see if they feel at home or if the cost would be worth it. 

Additionally, universities holding only virtual visits because of the pandemic is completely unreasonable. Schools of any size should be able to easily hold in-person visits by simply staggering tours to allow for smaller groups, having guests wear facemasks and making sure everyone remains six feet apart.  

Despite all of the difficulties that virtual college visits cause, there are some benefits to them. By not allowing students on campuses, universities don’t have to worry about risking people’s safety from the coronavirus. Students who live a long car ride or flight away from a school also don’t have to worry about the cost and time a trip to a college would take, as they can simply join a virtual visit from home. Plus, bad weather is no longer a concern and students can virtually visit schools during any time of the day, so they don’t have to miss a day of school. 

“One good thing about virtual tours is that there is more flexibility when it comes to time and weather. You don’t have to worry about if it’s raining or freezing cold because you’re just at home,” Taylor added. 

Being forced to select a college based on a TikTok or by scrolling through a school’s website to receive basic information because of COVID-19 is unnecessary and insufficient. No matter how small or large a school is, college tours can easily be held in small groups with social distancing and facemasks to abide by guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Speaking from personal experience, many smaller schools throughout western Pennsylvania and Ohio like Westminster College and the University of Mount Union have all successfully continued holding safe, in-person visits throughout the pandemic. 

If smaller schools can hold in-person college visits safely, all schools should be able to as well, as long as they make an effort and don’t retreat to useless virtual visits.