MAINE, USA — Choosing the right college can be tricky, but choosing your future stomping grounds without touring the campus is even trickier.
High schoolers across the nation are searching for colleges in the midst of a global pandemic. Chloe Berk from Southern California and Elizatbher from Massesuchttus are among them and have their eyes on Maine colleges.
"I mean it definitely is weird,” Chloe said.
Weird, that is, because her college visits are completely virtual.
“It’s usually one of the student tour guides and they're walking around with a camera behind them and they say, ‘This is our student library and we have these things in it,’” Chloe explained.
Chloe said putting on a polished impression of the schools makes it hard to differentiate between them. Elizabeth agreed, saying it makes it hard to know which school students “click with.”
On the plus side, students are able to get a glimpse of schools around the country without missing days of school or taking a road trip.
Chris Richards at U-Maine Orono said the virtual shift seems to have prompted more student interest from outside New England.
"17% up in New York applications, 50% up in Maryland," Richards said. "All 50 states and 130 countries [are] represented in our applicant pools."
Colby Vice President of Enrollment Matt Proto said the school's admissions department has been increasing a virtual presence for years now.
"It helps students who can't afford to visit a hundred college campuses," Proto said.
In many cases, virtual college tours are still led by student tour guides.
"There are still chances to interact with the students," Proto said,
But for an authentic and unfiltered look at a school, Elizabeth reccomends seeking out a student blogger.
"When you're watching a YouTube video of a kid who goes there, they might tell you, 'The food at this dining hall sucks or I don't like this department,'"
Vloggers, Zoom information sessions, virtual tours: it's not the way any other generation found its academic fit, but it may just be the future.