Last week I hit the road and visited nine campuses in 36 hours. Only one campus official asked me to stay in the car and do a driving tour. The rest, I masked up and walked around, marinating in the individual campus “vibes.” Here are some on-the-ground tips for college touring during COVID if the schools you want to visit aren’t offering scheduled tours:
Study the Online Campus Map
Before parking and masking up, drive around the college perimeter to get an initial sense of the school. How big or small is it? How flat or hilly? You can gauge how active certain pockets of the campus are by noting pedestrian traffic or hang-out spots. Maybe the first-year dorms are far from the academic “quad” or maybe the student center and dining halls — the busy part of the school — are close to the residential buildings. Also, you can take note of where the surrounding neighborhoods, town or city limits annex the campus.
See the Football Stadium
Even if you’re not an athlete or a football fan, walk or drive to the sports complex or stadium. The architecture and size can reflect the personality of a school. Is the field in the middle of a campus? Is it five miles away, a campus of its own? And then ask students you meet if they’ve been to a game. You can glean how much school spirit is linked to sports spirit.
Talk to Students
As long as you respect their space and time, there’s no reason NOT to chat with students from a social distance. Some may even offer to walk with you for a bit and give you an unofficial tour. My takeaway was that students are happy to be on campus, and though they didn’t say life felt normal, they did say that it wasn’t as “weird” as they thought it was going to be.