Choosing a University Virtually: What to Keep in Mind

Life has been completely disrupted, and the Coronavirus has forced us to be creative, innovative, and flexible during these times in order to keep the world revolving. While the pandemic is a whole topic in and of itself, I will try to keep this short, sweet, and to the point.

One thing that has been on my mind heavy lately is students (and soon-to-be students). Not only because I, myself, am a student but also because education as we know it has taken on a new life form. What this means moving forward… no one knows. But for right now, you must ensure that the best decisions are made for your education and success because the impacts of decisions made now will last long after quarantine and social distancing are over.

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I know that this is an important time of year for students and individuals who have applied to college, graduate school, professional school, etc. because it is around this time that acceptances have been offered, and students would typically be visiting various schools in preparation for making a decision – a decision that should never be taken lightly.

I work closely with the Admissions department at my medical school, and we were preparing for our “Second Look Day” where students who have been accepted come and spend the day at the school, go on tours, speak to faculty and students, view housing, and get all of their questions answered. Obviously with the current state of things, many universities and schools will not be resuming in-person events for the remainder of the academic year and have opted to make these “Second Looks” virtual. While this is a great alternative since life still has to go on and decisions still have to be made, there are many pros and cons to the virtualness of this experience.

As someone who has experienced the college application process 3 times and attended 3 different institutions, I have quite the experience when it comes to evaluating school options, assessing my own preferences and priorities, and making an informed decision about where I continue my education. My goal here is to give you some advice to keep in mind if you are a student that has a major decision to make in such unprecedented times.

 

 

1. Attend the virtual experiences (if offered) and ask questions.

This is pretty self-explanatory, but please do it. With the unpredictable and uncertain future, you may not have any other opportunity to hear from the faculty and staff and engage with the institution with the mutual focus on educating you about the school, the curriculum, student life, and much more. So do yourself the favor and make the time. Also, beware that whether in-person or virtual, appearances can be deceiving, and schools can show you the best parts of themselves. However, this happens regardless, and your goal should be to weed through the fluff and acquire all of the necessary info you need to make the best decision for you.

Have a list of things that are important to you and what you want to know. List in hand, make sure all of your questions are answered by the end of the virtual day. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You SHOULD be invested and ask, considering this is your future.

An important question that I encourage you ALL to ask during these times since it is very relevant is: How did the university respond to the Coronavirus pandemic in regard to their students? Students are personally and directly affected by institutional decisions. How quickly an institution acts, how they treat their students, how they are currently communicating changes and updates, and overall the handling of their operations in regard to this crisis, are very TELLING.

 

 

2. Find a way to engage and network with faculty, staff, and students virtually through Zoom, Skype, phone, etc.

In my opinion, the biggest con in the virtual Second Look days is that accepted students may miss out on the opportunities to personally speak to the faculty and students at the institution and pick their brains. For me personally, this was singlehandedly the most important factor in truly getting a feel for the institutional culture, environment, and the happiness and comfort of the individuals there. This is huge. This is the way that you assess whether or not a school is the right fit for you –  to get all the behind the scenes info that you may not otherwise get. If none other, please take this tip seriously. I’m sure admissions departments and students will be making themselves more accessible during these times so please take them up on it. Do not feel embarrassed or that you are bothering them. Ask questions. Ask the HARD questions – the ones that you really want to know.

 

 

3. Utilize social media.

In today’s society, social media is a powerful tool. Use hashtags, locations, etc. to look at the institutions’ platforms, tagged photos, events, and much more. Put on your Sherlock Holmes fit, and do a little digging. A lot can be found on social media, and it may give you some insight.

 

 

 

4. Travel keeping CDC guidelines in mind.

So this one is tricky, but it is possible if you are someone who really wants and needs to experience the environment. Using social distancing and current guidelines, you can travel to an institution and look around. Be mindful that you may not be able to enter facilities, housing, etc. Therefore, this may only be useful if you want to physically see a campus or get a feel for the local community surrounding the university.

 

 

5. Stay true to yourself and your values.

Selecting a college or university is a major decision. When you come into the process, you should know what is important to you and what you value in order to make it easier to narrow your choices as you learn the information needed to X out options. Choose an institution where you feel comfortable, where you will grow and flourish, that demonstrates the mission and values that are important to you, and one that you believe will uphold your best interest.

 

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I wish you all the best of luck during these times. Please make the best decision for yourself and your education. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. Keep flourishing!

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