As the pandemic upends normal college visits, high school seniors seek a different view of campus

Liana Simmons (Courtesy photo by Kelly Hansen)

by Naomi Harris

Getting into college is not what Avonworth High School senior Liana Simmons is worried about. With five college acceptance letters in hand so far, she’s facing the daunting prospect of choosing a campus to live, study and grow for four years without ever having physically been there.

“Unfortunately, the thing that I need is to be on campus because I’m not confident in myself that I’m going to make a decision or a confident decision of where I want to be if I have not yet stepped on that campus,” said Simmons, 17. 

Simmons is one of many students who hasn’t been able to visit college campuses due to restrictive rules barring formal visits and tours caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The deadly virus reduced national college enrollment, particularly for students of color. The percentage of high school graduates who went to college immediately after high school fell by more than a fifth last fall. Colleges and universities have made attempts to adapt recruiting efforts to avoid a similar or more severe drop from this batch of high school seniors, but it is unclear how students will respond, even amid vaccine distribution.

To help students transition, school counselors are advising students interested in post-secondary education to sign up for virtual events, talk to current students and connect with admissions counselors. 

But top of mind is stepping on campus and actually visiting the school, said Nicole Levis, a school counselor at Avonworth. 

Ebennie Davis, 18, is interested in connecting with students and professors at the University of Pittsburgh. But she finds that difficult after a long school day. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

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As the pandemic upends normal college visits, high school seniors seek a different view of campus

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