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Colleges revamp admissions, campus tours, amid pandemic

Published: Oct. 1, 2020 at 11:44 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - At Roanoke College, fall usually means college tours are in full swing, prospective students and parents clustering around a tour guide. This year, things look a little different, by design.

“What’s really exploded are the virtual visit opportunities,” said Roanoke College’s Vice President for Enrollment Brenda Poggendorf.

Roanoke College is one of dozens of institutions that is taking the college search to the search engine this year. Some, like RC, are keeping limited in-person tours. Others are dropping them entirely.

“Since we moved online, several months ago, we’ve catered to over 5,000 visitors,” said Virginia Tech’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions Juan Espinoza.

If prospective students want to see the home of the Hokies, for now, it has to be done on a screen. But Tech is doing what it can to make sure those virtual tours still have a personal touch.

“Our tours are now being done by a Hokie ambassador, which is a student volunteer,” said Espinoza. “They’ll walk around campus and give students a real custom feel of what our campus feels like right now.”

Both schools say the virtual approach has allowed more kids from around the country, and world, to see their schools and apply.

But that’s not the only part of the school search that’s different this year.

“One of the biggest changes that we’ve rolled out is going to test optional for our applicants,” said Espinoza.

No SAT or ACT means schools are looking at other factors.

“Demonstrated interest is helpful,” said Brenda Poggendorf. “We want to read their essays, and it’s important that they do that to give us a fuller picture of who they are and what they bring to a campus.”

But with all the challenges students are facing, Poggendorf says this year’s college application process will be about one thing.

“The watchword this year is flexibility,” she said.

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