It’s understandable to want to get a feel of the high schools you’re thinking about applying to, which you can usually do by going to tours, walking around the school, listening to students and faculty about the school, and asking questions. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this aspect of the high school application process is being converted to online video meetings and video format, but you can still get the same amount out of a virtual tour with a little more effort.
We have learned as a student body through online classes that it is much harder to absorb information from Zoom meetings, so on the virtual Q&As and information sessions, you will want to take thorough notes to stay engaged and have details to look back on for when you’re making your high school list. Taking notes on what you like and may not like about the school will help define each one in your mind, and after looking at so many schools, especially of one type, you’ll need that help. It’s also beneficial for you to get the most out of Q&A sessions by coming to them with questions, and that means doing research on the school, looking around the website at the classes and clubs they offer. If the school also has student testimonies you can watch, be sure to do so; this can be a good way to get a feel of the student body.
360° tours are the virtual replacement for walking around a high school this year, and they can either be a collection of photos of around the school or a video production, complete with 360° visibility that allows you to click and drag around the screen to explore a classroom or a gym. It may sound tedious, but you also want to take a few notes on these, flipping through/watching once to absorb and the second time for note-taking, again because it helps define these schools for you, and this is crucial when you aren’t getting the full experience of being inside the school.
It is also helpful to supplement the resources these schools give you with research of your own. Websites like Niche and GreatSchools give you detailed overviews of every aspect of a school, and you can look in the comment sections to see some common questions and comments about the school. Also, try getting in contact with students of a school you really like and want to put high on your list, either through contacting the school or asking around your own community and ask them about their experience.
A virtual school tour does not have to be a negative thing. It can even be a less stressful experience than in-person tours. Try to enjoy what you do get from a school, make the most of the resources you get, and don’t panic if a school doesn’t offer a virtual tour (it is currently not required that they do); this is when the outside research comes in handy!
Halina de Jong-Lambert is a sophomore at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music, Art, and Performing Arts in New York City. She is an acting major at the school, enjoys Stephen King Novels, and is a fan of Oscar Wilde.
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