For some high school seniors, the first step toward choosing what college to go to begins with setting foot on the campus – touring classrooms, peeking into the dorms and speaking to current students, gaining a glimpse at what the next four years of their lives will look like.
But for the high school class of 2020, who is graduating amidst a global pandemic, the choice of what college to attend feels more complicated than those of students before them.
“I toured a lot of schools I didn’t get accepted into, and all the schools I was accepted into I didn’t tour,” Elena Campbell, a Woodside High School senior and prospective UC Santa Barbara class of 2024 student, said.
Campbell, who is one of thousands of students who received acceptance notices from UCSB a little over a week ago, said she toured other colleges beside UCSB before admissions decisions came out. But the often unpredictable nature of college acceptances meant that UCSB, UC San Diego and Boston University are her current top three choices — despite not having visited any of them.
Following a switch to remote instruction and a shutdown of non-essential campus functions, UCSB’s April 18 annual open house — an opportunity for prospective students to tour the campus, interact with different student organizations and hear from administrative and student speakers — has been canceled indefinitely. The university’s visitor center has been shut down until May 4 out of an “abundance of caution regarding the outbreak of COVID-19,” according to UCSB’s admissions website.
However, UCSB admissions still advises would-be students to “experience UCSB through a virtual tour” and learn more about the school through webinar events like Business at UCSB, Clubs and Organizations, Sports and Recreation and Greek Life at UCSB, which will be posted online throughout April, according to Director of Admissions Lisa Przekop.
Przekop added that prospective students can also visit the webinar page during regular business hours to live-chat with admissions counselors and enrolled students and to sign up for informational texting and calling campaigns to remind students of important dates.
Przekop empathized with students who are unable to tour colleges and explained that the admissions team is working to provide adequate solutions.
“We are working under tremendous pressure to complete the transfer admission process by the April 22 deadline and to make the transition to serve students the best we can while working remotely,” she said in an email.
“They should focus on staying healthy and use this time at home to visit college websites, participate in virtual tours and virtual fairs, visit the college’s social media sites, and use email. Most of us are doing virtual advising, phone calls, emailing responses to questions. We are here working full time on their behalf.”
Przekop asked students to reach out to UCSB online student resources, counselors and attending students before the May 1 college decision deadline.
“The right fit is still the single most important factor in selecting a college, so do your research. Use social media wisely,” she said. “Talk with current students, follow instagram and twitter feeds but at the same time understand that some posts represent the “extremes” so don’t make decisions based on a single post that you read. Be a smart consumer.”
But webinars and online events “don’t really give me the same experience as visiting the campus in person,” Campbell noted.
Even for students that have already toured prospective schools, such as California High School senior Amy Hoefs, the coronavirus still leaves more unanswered questions about which school is the right fit.
“Despite having visited before, it’s different once you get accepted and actually need to consider if you can see yourself living there for the next four years … and seeing if UCSB or any other school feels comfortable to me,” Hoefs said.
“Coronavirus has definitely made it harder to choose a school.”
Ian O’Connor, a Half Moon Bay High student, said he is leaning toward choosing the school due to its coastal atmosphere. Connor resides in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town in Northern California, and hopes that the similarity in atmosphere between his hometown and Santa Barbara will make the choice a good fit.
“Seeing as UCSB is a pretty, coastal school, I’m probably going to go there because it isn’t going to be too much of a culture shock,” O’Connor said.
But others, like Campbell, are resorting to other unusual methods to help them pick what colleges they will attend come fall.
“I posted two videos [on Tik Tok], one for UCSB and one for UCSD. Whichever one gets more views and likes, in theory, that’s the one I’ll pick. It’s mostly a joke,” Campbell said.
“But honestly, it’s the best method of picking that I’ve come up with so far. I have no idea where I’m going to college.”