Universities Introduce Virtual College Fairs and Webinars

Malayna Chang, Staff Writer

Opening your laptop, you click on the invitation from Columbia University, signing in to your first virtual webinar. You are greeted by the smiling faces of a Columbia admissions officer as well as a few college students, all of whom are ready to guide you through the daunting college process. Questions pop up in the live Q&A chat and you listen excitedly to the answers to the many worries that have been plaguing you all year. 

Due to COVID-19, the majority of universities began offering virtual college fairs, webinars, and tours. High school students can sign up via the university’s website and participate in virtual college webinars and tours through Zoom or another virtual medium. While many universities previously offered virtual tours prior to the pandemic, the virus compelled most universities to expand, adapt, and upgrade their technology to allow for students to learn more about them from the safety of their homes.

“I visited UC Irvine, UC Davis, and Cal Tech. Virtual college webinars are helpful in providing students more knowledge about the school. You get to learn more about the activities provided in said school and its environment and see how students live their life, such as dorms and daily transportation,” junior Ink Chavanapanit said.

The College Board is also hosting the BigFuture Days virtual college fair series with a wide variety of universities attending. Students can connect directly with college admissions representatives and participate in live Q&A sessions to learn more about a particular school.

There are four main events separated by regions of the United States. The Northeast event will take place March 7, the West/Southwest event will take place March 30, the Midwest event will take place April 18, and the Southeast event will take place April 29. Each event will feature a large variety of colleges, including many “elite” schools, such as the Ivy Leagues, as well as vocational or technical schools.

“The College Board Big Future virtual fairs are four hours long. You can drop in and out of the event at the times that work for your schedule. The College Panels and College Planning sessions will be recorded. Students do need to register in advance to attend the live events and access the recordings,” Miramonte College and Career Center counselor Stephanie Brady said.

In addition, many universities are offering virtual college tours on their individual websites. Many come along with pre-recorded audio tour guides that help navigate each student on their virtual tour. Most colleges utilize You Visit, which is one of the top-ranked interactive content companies. Students can sign up in a few steps by submitting their name, high school, GPA, and prospective majors, and are then allowed access to hundreds of universities.

Universities also offer live virtual webinars, which are usually led by that university’s college admissions officers and may also feature current or former students who share their personal experiences at the college and offer advice. They often feature a live Q&A in which the officer or the college student will answer prospective students’ questions.

“I have virtually visited UC Berkeley and Georgia Tech, both via Zoom. In both visits, current students talked about all aspects of the colleges, from campus life to common majors with a slideshow of information in the background. Both offered participants the opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real time which was very helpful,” junior Wyatt Barnes said.

“Virtual college fairs are a great place to gain some information about the colleges. The content is not any different, just the process. I do think attending is worthwhile. As with everything some are better than others. Many run in the form of a presentation and some do allow for one-on-one meetings. Since it is harder to make a connection in a virtual environment, it is good to be active in the chat and pay attention to what they have to say,” Brady said.

Logging out of your first college webinar, thoughts swirl around in your head as you think excitedly about what it would be like to experience college at that university. All of your questions and worries have been answered and solved and you can’t wait to start the application process once and for all.