The Beneficial Introduction of College Virtual Information Sessions


Nicholas Abbatiello, Editor-in-Chief

Junior year for many high school students, including myself, involves some sort of college planning. Whether that’s taking the dreaded SAT or ACT, meeting with guidance counselors, or visiting various colleges, every junior has to think about college or their plans after high school. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has thrown a wrench in this process for students across the country. 

High schools and colleges alike have been forced to close and move to virtual learning, which means students have less contact with teachers and guidance counselors during a critical time in their educational career. It also means fewer opportunities to discuss possible college choices with their guidance counselors and to visit those colleges. The spring of my junior year was supposed to be filled with college visits in hopes of further shaping my college list. However, almost all visits, irrespective of their location within the country have been canceled since March. 

Colleges, however, are adapting to meet the needs of our ever-changing situation. Turning to technology, they have begun to move more resources online. In an effort to inform more students of the possibilities available at their campus, colleges have bolstered their websites to include more information about their campuses and programs. One such way that many colleges have adapted their websites is by adding informational videos or virtual information sessions. 

Based on my experiences in both of these methods of virtual information, informational videos touch upon some of the most important factors of the university. Usually, these factors are topics like the available majors, location of the university, financial aid opportunities, and extracurriculars offered. Virtual information sessions, on the other hand, go more in-depth into the college and discuss, aside from the main aspects of the university, other aspects of it such as the student body and housing. The virtual information sessions also may be centered around a particular topic. For example, I attended a virtual information session where an admissions committee worked with prospective student attendees to determine which application out of four fictitious ones to accept. 

I prefer virtual information sessions for a few reasons, one of which being the level of detail covered in the sessions. Another major difference between the videos and sessions is the length of each. Generally, informational videos are between ten and fifteen minutes long whereas virtual information sessions are live, and tend to be anywhere between half an hour and forty-five minutes with time after for questions. In my opinion, the live aspect of the virtual information sessions makes it feel more personal, and like I’m more connected to the university. Information sessions also generally tend to have both an admissions officer and a current student presenting both of their perspectives and experiences, whereas videos tend to just have an admissions officer. For me, hearing the perspective of a current student is important, because I want to know how they feel about their experience as I could be in their position soon. 

Previous to COVID-19, I had been watching many online informational videos. The videos are satisfactory but leave many questions about the college and aren’t very helpful overall. Virtual information sessions, on the other hand, do a much better job at addressing all aspects of the college and giving insight into how life as a student would be at the college. I had also attended a few on-campus information sessions before quarantine, and in my experience, virtual information sessions achieve about the same level of detail as on-campus sessions. 

But not all students can attend on-campus information sessions. Whether it’s because of the expenses of traveling to a college, or that there is simply no time to do so, many students cannot travel to attend an information session. Virtual information sessions enable all students to understand more about the universities they are applying to, regardless of if they can make it to the campus. Another positive effect of virtual information sessions. 

However, for those that can travel to campuses, virtual information sessions cannot replicate physically being on campus. Generally, there are two parts to traditional information sessions, the information session and the campus tour. Living on a college campus for four years is a long time, so it’s important for a student to know if they like the location of the campus and also that they like how it looks. 

When I toured campuses, I usually knew whether or not I could see myself there. When on campus, I was able to determine whether I could picture myself on campus and in the surrounding area, and also if I saw myself fitting in with current students walking around. It is hard to tell how it would feel like to be on campus if not actually there, but virtual information sessions help give insight into what being on campus would be like. While virtual information sessions are no replication of how it feels to attend an on-campus information session, they are a very helpful substitute for them.

I’ve attended almost twenty virtual information sessions now, and I can confidently say that they’re a positive addition to the college process and that even after the specific circumstances we’re in are over, they should continue. They have helped to shape my college search process and prepare me for the next years to come, as I’m sure they have for many others too.