How to Navigate the hybrid world of college admission: A Guide for Parents and Families From a College Admission Professional – But Also a Mom

Some days, I really wish that the 3G network hadn’t been invented. I long for the familiar weight of the old-school Bakelite receiver in my hands, and the freedom of choosing to just let it jangle off the hook if I am not up for a phone call.

The long cord that tethered us to that old phone limited both the content and duration of phone calls. And someone else could be responsible for answering the phone too! Letting calls on my cell go to voicemail now seems almost a deliberate slight, especially if the caller ID spells out the name of the person trying to reach me. Less information is more, in this context. 

This nostalgia extends to the world of college visits too!  After the “unprecedented times” of virtual info sessions and webinars, we are back to hosting families in person on our campus (albeit by registration only) for student-led tours, student hosted day visits, and information sessions led by our Admission counseling staff. We are thrilled to welcome folks back, understanding that nothing can truly substitute for the in-person experience of visiting a college campus: seeing the buildings, eating in the dining hall, and having (masked) face-to-face conversations with staff, faculty and students. 

But, like most other institutions, we have come to appreciate the access and convenience of virtual engagements and have continued to offer those too. So how do you navigate this strange new world of hybrid recruitment? While in life, less is usually more, I find, I encourage you to be thoughtful and strategic as you determine when and how to visit the colleges on your child’s list. 

Use the virtual format early in the search. You and your student probably have a much longer college list – thanks to your school counselor, experienced friends and the myriad of college ranking lists out there – than you could probably ever visit in person. Use the virtual format as a first pass in your initial stage of gathering information about colleges.   

Travel is still complicated! While travel restrictions have loosened considerably, most colleges have specific policies for visitors to their campuses regarding pre-registration, symptoms declarations and masking requirements. Virtual sessions don’t require any of that forethought or planning (more on this below).  Also, no travel time involved! 

Virtual sessions can be recorded for later viewing. Many colleges will record virtual panels and make them available for later viewing. Check out our YouTube Channel (need link here) to watch or re-watch our programming. Another check in the convenience column. 

Visit in person too! I realize that this seems contradictory to what I’ve said already. Virtual engagements are convenient, and for many reasons, that convenience is not to be underestimated. However, having the IRL experience is nuanced and personal in a way that a virtual experience is not.  

While repeated content may not be helpful (see above suggestion to check the websites of the institutions you are researching – not only to confirm requirements for visitors, but also to determine if the virtual information is identical to the in-person one), an in-person gut check to confirm your virtual impressions is a good use of your travel time. If you’re not able to make in person visits to all the colleges on the list, then follow up in person with the ones that rise to the top. Before you jump in the car for a college visit road trip, check the websites of the places you’re visiting to make sure that you are aware of all the details of the visitor policies. 

And whenever you’re visiting colleges – whether in person on a crisp fall afternoon or in front of your laptop while snuggling under a blanket on the couch – remember to keep it all in perspective (and to help your child do that too). One conversation or panel doesn’t tell the whole story of any institution; one tour guide or college representative is not the sum of identities, experiences or possibilities that can be found there.  Sometimes, less is more, but sometimes it’s not. Engaging with colleges in multiple ways will help create a complete and comprehensive picture in which your child may see themselves thriving.