Virtual college fairs lack connection during COVID-19


As the Class of 2022 begins the college process, many reflect on the virtual options colleges have offered.

Zaina Saif

Junior Sam Skolnick of Hazlet had long looked forward to seeing her dream school’s campus. A digital slideshow of snapshots with pre-recorded narration wasn’t exactly what she had in mind.

Ever since COVID-19 entered students’ lives, virtual alternatives to in-person experiences have gotten richer by the day. The pandemic has completely changed the college admissions process for CHS upperclassmen. Now, with virtual college fairs, the campus comes to them.

The MCVSD Virtual College Fair took place on March 24. Inside the platform, visitors were able to text and talk with admission counselors from universities and colleges all over the country.

Although campus visits and dorm stays are typically the best way for high schoolers to wrap their heads around what life is like on a college campus, under the circumstances of COVID-19, guidance counselor Melanie Sambataro thinks virtual fairs are an all-around better option.

“The virtual fairs allow for short informative presentations and time for opportunities to ask questions,” Sambataro said.

Many students feel that virtual fairs allow them to gain a sense of the school but not a connection to the people.

“You don’t get an actual feel of the school’s environment and without that, you don’t know if it’s the one for you, or not,” Skolnick said. “I liked having that when I toured CHS.”

Others, including Junior Ryan Lau of Marlboro, expressed that virtual tours have helped with the difficulty that comes with looking at colleges during a pandemic.

“The virtual fairs were a pretty good substitute for me and I don’t think the lack of in-person touring is going to affect my college application,” Lau said.

Sambataro recommends that seniors shift their focus off missed touring opportunities and instead research the pros-and-cons of schools as well as cost consideration. She encourages sophomores and juniors, who are starting their college search process amidst a pandemic, to take a virtual tour.

“I think it is a great way to get a general vibe and first look at a school,” Sambataro said.

Navigating college admissions in a pandemic has been challenging for many seniors.

“The way you feel on campus is one of the most important parts of deciding on a school, so it’s been hard to really know which school is right for me,” said senior Ava Turner of Middletown.