College fairs have long been a useful way for students to learn about schools as they build their college lists. But the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed events like these this spring, leaving students with fewer opportunities to connect with and discover schools that may be a match for them. To address this need and to help students stay on track with their college planning, the Coalition hosted a virtual fair April 23, featuring 40+ colleges and universities across the country.
More than 10,000 students registered for the event, which consisted of an opening session, followed by panels of schools answering questions in eight virtual “rooms.” While the high volume of web traffic caused connection issues in the opening session, the college fair portion of the event proceeded as planned.
There, students heard groups of schools speak to questions long asked at college fairs — about academic programs, internship opportunities, and campus life. But schools also addressed the question on everyone’s mind: how will the pandemic affect college admissions in the years ahead?
Colleges discussed the steps their campuses are taking to address the disruption, with many going test-optional for the next admissions cycle and beyond. They also gave advice to students concerned about the gaps in their transcripts and extra-curricular activities, suggesting students should share with admissions offices, via their application or interviews, how the pandemic affected them.
“My hope is that students came away feeling reassured that admissions officers understand that applications will look different in the years ahead,” says Stacey Kostell, CEO for the Coalition for College. “No student should count themselves out because of hardship they’ve experienced during the pandemic.”
Because of a clear need for more events like this one, the Coalition is planning more virtual experiences for counselors and students this spring and will share registration information soon.
In the meantime, the opening sessions that were affected by technical difficulties, are now available on demand. Watch the conversations, on “Tips on Creating Your College List” and “Behind the Scenes: How Admissions Decisions Are Made” featuring admissions professionals from Allegheny College, Washington University in St. Louis, Bates College, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and Williams College.