This month marks one year since COVID-19 changed our lives forever. Many sacred ways of life were disturbed because of the pandemic. Gatherings became taboo and travel was frowned upon. Because of this, long-standing traditions were abandoned overnight. Colleges across the nation were forced to change the way they introduce themselves to students. Normally, students would show interest in colleges by going out to the campus to visit. Almost every college student had visited the campus prior to enrolling. Now, colleges have been forced to introduce virtual tours to avoid in-person contact.
I am a prospective college student and I have had a lot of experience with these virtual tours as a result of COVID. These tours are a fantastic way to give students an idea of what a college’s campus looks like. However, there are a few aspects of touring that the virtual tours fail to exhibit. Talking to students and faculty at a college is oftentimes a great way to get a feel for the environment at a college. This is something that virtual tours can not do. Another, slightly less important, aspect they fail to exhibit is the ability to taste the school's food. This can make or break an experience at a college. If the food on campus is horrible, it will be expensive to get food off of campus every day. Ensuring that the food is good is a vital aspect of touring a college.
For the past year, colleges have had to deny prospective students access to the campus. However, this did not mean that they made no effort to help introduce students to the campus. Colleges have begun to use virtual tours to show off their various buildings. To do this, a 360-degree camera is required. The college will use the 360-degree camera and set it up at various locations throughout the campus. They will take pictures every 50 or so feet. All the pictures taken are then put into a program that stitches them together into a slideshow of sorts. Prospective students can use this program free of charge for almost every college and see every aspect of the college online.
Robbie Ross, a college freshman, is currently attending Nebraska Wesleyan University and has had a lot of experience with virtual tours. During his senior year, he was choosing between a few colleges and wanted to visit them to help him make his decision. However, all his visits were canceled due to COVID. The colleges he was looking at all began to roll out new virtual touring programs, which helped him decide. “When I was choosing my college, I think I would have made a different choice if there hadn’t been virtual tours. I was set on going to a junior college in Nebraska before I used the virtual tour on NWU’s website. I fell in love with their campus because of it,” says Robbie.
In the coming years, it will be interesting to see how colleges change their policy regarding student tours on campus. Colleges will inevitably gain access to better technology which will enable them to give better virtual tours. This can help students who may not be able to afford an actual visit, even when COVID is gone.