With decision deadlines approaching, Sixth Formers turn to virtual college campus tours

A Sixth Former peruses Indiana University’s Admissions Webpage from his home during the quarantine period on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. — photo by Jake LaRocca ’22

As it does every year, the May 1st college-decision deadline looms for second-semester Sixth Formers. 

     During the month of April, college campuses across the world witness an inundation of frantic students who do not know where they will spend the next four years. 

     This year is different. The coronavirus has other plans for the Class of 2020, and specifically many of Haverford’s own Sixth Formers.

     In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak, college campuses across the United States and the rest of the world remain closed, resembling desolate wastelands. Closed signs and barriers restrict access to educational facilities. Vacant they will remain for the remainder of the academic school year. 

     And so, many Sixth Formers who were not admitted under binding early-decision applications will depart from historical practices in choosing which college is right for them. In doing so, they will rely on something new: virtual tours provided by colleges themselves.

A screen shot from the Haverford School College Counseling Office’s Virtual Meeting in early April.

     “I’m really in awe of our [college] admissions colleagues and how much work they’ve put into offering students the opportunity to visit campuses virtually,” Associate Director of College Counseling Ms. Heather Stinson said.

     Though she recognizes no online research can match a genuine, on-campus experience, Stinson extols the authenticity of this year’s virtual resources.

     “It’s not the same thing, and I own that 100%,” Stinson said. “But these institutions have really poured their hearts and souls into trying to replicate an authentic experience.”

Ethan Brodie ’20 poses for a screenshot during a virtual interview on Monday, April 6th, 2020. — photo by Ryan LaRocca ’20

     Sixth Former Ethan Brodie, who just recently made his final college decision, also applauds colleges for the quality of their online resources. Having visited all of his preferred schools prior to launching his applications, Brodie believes this year’s online resources for the most part accurately represent the colleges to which he applied.

     “The online tours I did gave me similar impressions to the ones I had when I actually visited the schools in person,” Brodie said.

     Sixth Formers Pierce Berkman and Caleb Reed agree.

     “Although it is difficult to make a decision based on virtual tours, colleges are trying their hardest to make them as engaging and informative as they would be in person,” Berkman said.

     “Even though I had seen the campus recently in person, online resources were really helpful in confirming that Lehigh was the right fit for me,” Reed said.

     Social media and online chats with prospective students also offered Brodie and Reed a clearer picture of the schools they were deciding between.

     “Through social media, I was able to connect with members from the student body,” Brodie said. “And just based on the conversations I’ve had in chat rooms with students from the various schools, I was able to grasp a sense of their work ethic and what the social life is like at the school.”

     “It would’ve been great to meet other prospective students in person at an accepted students’ day,” Reed said. “But I’m still happy to be able to continue to connect with future classmates through Instagram and Facebook groups.”

     But in the end, for Brodie in particular, it was not the inability to revisit schools that contributed to his final college decision. Deciding between St. Andrew’s in Scotland and the prestigious Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, the pandemic itself helped him make a decision.

“But now that we’ve seen a global pandemic like this happen once, I was worried about what the response would be in Scotland as opposed to the U.S. and how I would manage getting back to my family if it were to happen again.”

Ethan Brodie ’20

    “Originally, there was a chance I wanted to be in Scotland because I thought it would be a great experience,” Brodie said. “But now that we’ve seen a global pandemic like this happen once, I was worried about what the response would be in Scotland as opposed to the U.S. and how I would manage getting back to my family if it were to happen again. And so ultimately, I decided to commit to attend Indiana.”

     Berkman, however, will continue to ponder his decision, allowing online resources and media to guide his thought process.

     “I’ll definitely need to give it some more thought,” Berkman said. “Even though it’s not the actual campus, virtual tours and other online resources are very useful, and I expect that they will help me make the decision on where I will spend the next four years.”

Author: Ryan LaRocca '20

Ryan LaRocca is an editor-in-chief of the newspaper, previously serving as the editor of the sports section. Last year, his article "J.R. Leitz emerges as leader in the pool" received third place recognition for sports articles in the Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing Awards. This year, his piece "Swimming & diving look to spring back" earned a Gold Key and his feature "Rise of the Jewish Student Union" earned a Silver Key. Outside of The Index, Ryan acts as the captain for the water polo team and the vice president of the Entrepreneurship Club. In the classroom, his favorite subject is history.