Something For Everyone On The Virtual College Search Menu

Hi! I’m Tori Moore, one of the Admission Counselors at Olin, and I’m here to talk to you about the virtual college search!

Fall is in the air! If you are anything like me, you’re already buying pumpkins in bulk and baking a variety of pies (arguably too many pies to feasibly eat). With the fall season comes a host of fun activities, and it is also a popular time to visit colleges. Though this activity *may* not be considered as fun as apple picking, it is an important part of the college search process, and it can help you determine where to apply and which colleges could potentially be your future home for the next four years.

Halloween-themed pumpkin pies on a table decorated with leaves and spiders.

With many campuses being closed to visitors this semester for health precautions due to COVID-19, the college search process is definitely different this year! Schools are offering a variety of ways to connect with their campuses and communities virtually. It may seem, however, overwhelming to navigate this new virtual realm. So buckle up and let me be your guide to the variety of virtual programs schools have to offer!

Not all schools offer the same virtual programs, but here are some of the most common, in order from first introductions up through deep dive explorations: 

Virtual College Fairs: Are you still trying to get a layout of the land before you focus on some specific schools? Try attending an online college fair to get exposure to a huge range of colleges and universities across the country and world. At a virtual college fair you may hear quick pitches from a variety of institutions over the course of an hour or twoit’s a college search buffet. 

  • Best for: Just starting out, exploring many colleges at once, and gathering information 

Virtual Information Sessions: Information sessions are typically with admissions counselors, and occasionally a current student as well. They serve as one part of your introduction to the college. They often cover the school's programs and majors, its institutional values, and what the community is like, as well as covering the admission and financial aid process.

  • Best for: Getting a deeper introduction to the school as a whole

Virtual Tours: Tours are typically led by current students and more interactive than a virtual information session. This is your opportunity to get a sense of the campus culture and the school’s community from the perspective of current students themselves. Tours can really help you gauge the ~vibe~

  • Best for: Meeting current students and getting the vibe

Virtual Panels: If you are itching for programming that goes beyond the standard information session and tours, attending some virtual panels may be your next move! Many colleges and universities are offering speciality panels that cover a range of topicsanything from student-run panels about campus life to faculty panels within a specific department to panels that are community/identity-based. 

  • Best for: Learning about specific topics straight from community members’ perspectives

Virtual Class Visits: The best way to get to know a school’s academic program is by experiencing it hands-on! If a school you are interested in has a course visitation program, go check it out to get a sense of what it would be like to attend the course as a student. This can also be an opportunity to interact with faculty members.

  • Best for: Experiencing the school’s academics in real time 

Virtual Open Houses: These are the virtual versions of an actual open house event. In-person open houses are usually one-day events where you can learn a little more about the college or university. They usually include a combination of all of the above programs: information sessions, panels, campus tours, and opportunities to chat with faculty. Most institutions are still offering open houses virtually, though they may not be limited to only one day (who wants to spend six hours in a zoom meeting anyway!). 

  • Best for: A deep dive into all aspects of a school you’re interested in

Depending on where you are in your search and what you want to learn about a college or university, there is a virtual visit program for you. At Olin we have a whole bunch of live interactive programs for you to get to know our students, faculty and staff. You can go to Hangin’ with Oliners and get the inside scoop on student life, take a live tour and learn about our campus, attend an information session with one of our admission counselors, check out Olin alongside other colleges, and more! Be sure to check out Open October @Olin, our virtual open house series, starting Friday, October 2! 

Spongebob Squarepants walking backwards through a door doing finger guns, with the words "See you soon!"

The author.

Tori Moore is an Admission Counselor at Olin.