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Don't Let the Pandemic Limit Your Vision

A young woman sitting on a cliff side stares into the distance towards the rising sun. She has blond hair, is wearing pink top, and ripped. jeans. The image is indicative of thinking ahead.
A picture of W. Kent Barnds from Augustana College wearing a baby blue checkered shirt and a patterned, dark blue bow tie.

W. Kent Barnds

W. Kent Barnds is the Executive Vice President for External Relations at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. He has some advice for finding your ideal college! 

Don't Let The Pandemic Limit Your Vision.

High school juniors and seniors, this means you.

Your college search is going to be different. Your opportunities to visit campuses will be more limited. You won’t attending college fairs and college nights, or have the chance to get to know an admissions representative when they visit your high school this fall. Those of us in admissions lament that we can’t host you, meet you and spend time with you, too.

But, the pandemic should not reduce your options or limit your vision. Many colleges across the country are trying to do their part. 

Here are 6 things to think about, so you don’t miss out on your dreams:

Reach out directly to colleges – During a typical college search, many students discover colleges through a school counselor at a college fair, or because a college purchased their name after a standardized test. They may have been added to the college’s “mailing list” by completing an inquiry card or having their name-badge scanned at a college fair. Since these experiences will be limited this year, taking the initiative and reaching out directly to colleges will help you. You can complete an online inquiry form or email the college if you want to know more. 

Make time each week to focus on your college search (and include friends!) – The typical senior year flies by, but yours will go even faster. Before you know it you will need to choose your college. Since you may not have the benefit of lunchroom discussions, why not schedule a college search conversation with a handful of friends each week? You might even be able to arrange guest appearances from admissions reps from certain colleges. But it begins with you making time.  

Allow colleges to reach you by phone – Colleges also will be doing everything they can to get to know you, and that will include trying to reach you on your cell. It’s still one of the best ways to engage during the college search, because a real-time conversation and opportunity to ask questions is so important. You have the tool to do this. Don’t let college admissions staff and student ambassadors fall through when you screen your calls.  

Check (and open) your email – We know you prefer Snapchat and Twitter, but we either haven’t caught up yet or we don’t want to get in the way of your personal communication. This means checking your email if you care about getting good college information. Yes, it’s slow and sometimes boring, but colleges still use email. It’s especially good for finding out about applying, financial aid and scholarships, visiting, and more that you haven’t yet thought of. 

Check out the virtual options – If you are holding out for that in-person visit, you are going to miss out on important opportunities to engage. Colleges are trying to do everything they can to make the virtual experiences informative and to include at least a little of the magic that can happen on campus. Comparing virtual experiences also is a good way to compare colleges right now.  

Use your imagination – Unlike major league baseball, with its artificial crowd noise and cutouts of fans in the stands, we can’t manufacture the energy of the college experience. It’s up to you to imagine how we can help you excel. In all of my nearly 30 years in college admissions, I’ve asked students who visit during the summer months or on Saturdays to use their imagination to see what happens during the school year when our community is fully active and involved. Well, now imagination is needed more than ever. Let your imagination guide your questions to us and hold us accountable. What are your ambitions? How can we help you reach them?

We are going to do our very best to be there every step of the way as you navigate your college search, but we can only do our part. I hope the suggestions above can help you move forward during this moment in our history, and find the college and the future you see for yourself. 


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