The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced students, faculty, and colleges to rapidly change their trajectory. Necessary shifts to virtual learning have forced students and faculty to quickly adapt to a different technology, develop new skills, and take steps to ensure that learning can continue.
Amid these challenges, prospective college students are still trying to navigate the process of choosing and applying to universities. Researching and evaluating colleges on your list can be challenging at any time — but even more so in the face of a pandemic.
Normally, during the college application process, it’s common to create a list of schools to research further. Currently, however, visiting a school and experiencing it for yourself is off the table. Choosing the perfect college during a pandemic isn’t an impossible task, it just requires some adjustments.
The tips below will help you navigate the college decision process during COVID-19.
Take a Virtual Tour
In place of physical tours, many colleges have guided virtual tours to give students a sense of the campus environment. Students can get an idea of the amenities available without having to leave their bedrooms, making it a simple and helpful way to understand what the campus is like.
CampusTours also offers students the chance to explore over 2,000 colleges in the US through video tours and interactive walking tours. With virtual reality, you can get a glimpse of the campus from home.
Chat With Students and Alumni
Who knows better what it’s like to study at a particular college than past or current students? Talking to a student or alum can be extremely helpful while you’re making a difficult decision. Someone from your school, cousins, or family may be attending or have graduated from the colleges you are considering.
Reach out to this extended community to schedule a talk. Armed with honest, unfiltered opinions of life at your potential college, you will be in a better place to make that critical college decision without being able to experience the atmosphere first hand.
Research the College’s Financial Health
In the past, you had to consider if you could afford college. Now, you have to consider if your potential college can weather the current economic storm. Make sure to consider a college’s financial health before signing on for a degree.
Post-COVID, the chances of a college perishing is higher and should be taken into account while making a college decision. Otherwise, you could waste time and money with no diploma to show for it. Search online to learn more about the endowments, tuition discount rate, and the financial responsibility of the institution.
Consider How Well the College Has Adapted to Digital Teaching
Considering the big shift to remote education, knowing how well a college has adapted to digital teaching is important. Most classes are now live-streamed, where teachers can see student feedback immediately.
According to research, close to 57 percent of student respondents said they were satisfied with the quality of remote teaching. But not everyone is pleased. Many students are also taking to social media like Twitter or Facebook to voice their opinions on digital class deliveries, so check these platforms to find out how successful your potential college has been.
Don’t Forget to Take Academic Quality Into Consideration
Evaluating academic departments, graduation outcomes, research opportunities, and knowing about professors is important while making your college decision, especially during COVID-19 when most of the research is online.
Looking up the college website, faculty reviews can be useful to examine the quality of academic instruction. Kevin Carey, an eminent higher-ed observer, wrote in the New York Times that the real differences in teaching quality occur at the department and teacher levels, so make sure not to limit your investigation to overall academic quality.
Make the Most of Career Services
Never forget that the whole point of going to college is to craft a meaningful career. While comparing colleges, it is essential to take a look at the career service offerings. A lack of career prep can negatively impact a student’s life — and it gets even worse if you’re also saddled with student debt.
College is a big investment and when not backed by a thought-out career decision can lead to a disconnect. Use Career Services to its full extent to get the most out of your time and money.
Whether you have been actively researching colleges for years or have just started, it is imperative to explore all your options. Proper research and vetting of your potential colleges will cement your steps towards a successful career and future.