How to decide on a college without visiting

PHOTO: Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many high school seniors have been unable to visit the colleges they are considering attending. As a result, college decisions have been especially difficult this year.

By Aleena Yarovaya, Staff–

Senior Azalea Morris takes in the scenery of the University of Southern California’s main quad: the wide, green, park-like area, the historic brick buildings and the sunny Los Angeles sky overhead. Instead of walking to the next location though, Morris moves her mouse on her computer screen. Morris is not physically present at the university, but viewing it on her online tour. 

Morris is one of many college seniors struggling to make an informed college decision at this time. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many college seniors are unable to visit schools they have been accepted to in-person or attend admitted student days, forcing them to turn to other resources to make their decision.

One popular way to try and simulate physically visiting a school is through an online tour of the school. Many colleges offer official online tours on their websites, as well as popular websites like and 

Heather Marshall, a local college counselor, has been giving college tours online due to the pandemic for schools like the UCs, CSUs and private schools in California.

“Knowing that spring break is often a time when college tours take place and understanding that physical tours were not possible this year, I decided to host virtual spring break tours,” Marshall said. 

Marshall sees these tours as a way for students to find out what is important to them in a college. She recommends narrowing down choices by thinking about what they want in a school, including factors like size, location, majors and dorms.

After they have narrowed it down to a few top choices, “seniors should hop online to the schools website, but also consider searching YouTube for student-made college tours,” Marshall said. 

Although these resources are helpful for many, Morris has struggled trying to make her decision based solely off of online resources.

“Basically it kind of sucks, I was looking forward to visiting because everyone’s biggest piece of advice for choosing schools is to visit and people say ‘you just know’ [when you visit],” Morris said. 

Many colleges have tried to replace admitted students days with calls over the video conferencing company Zoom instead, where students and professors will speak about the schools. Morris found these unhelpful and has turned instead to watching vlogs from youtubers who attend the schools.

“One thing that is sort of nice is not having school so I have more time to do research,” Morris said. 

Senior Ainsley Dahl focused on the logistics of the colleges when making her decision between the University of Oregon and UC Santa Cruz. She had planned to visit both schools in March, but soon realized that would no longer be possible.

“I did a few virtual tours but nothing could replace actually being there, so I had to mainly focus on my major, academics and the social aspect of college when making my decision,” Dahl said. She also reached out to current students at the schools to get their perspectives, which led her to ultimately choose UC Santa Cruz. 

One final factor for seniors to consider is what their options are should the college choose to continue with virtual classes in the fall.

“Does it make sense to pay a university to take online, general education classes, or does it make more sense to take virtual classes through a local community college or is it better to take a gap year? There isn’t one right answer, every student needs to consider their own needs and health,” Marshall said. 

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