As I sit in my home office (aka a desk set up in my living room), conversing electronically with students, parents, counselors, and colleagues, there is no doubt in my mind that Coronavirus has changed the landscape of college searching dramatically. I don’t need to tell you twice because each of you has felt this loss and this shift in your own ways. 

I hear so much now about Zoom-fatigue, blue light glasses, virtual this and virtual that, that I feel myself fearing a change so great that true connection is lost in this college search process. This thoughtful connection is what keeps me energized and loving the work I have the privilege of doing with students and families.

And yet, I refuse to give into that fear. I’m #KeepingHope because hope is so much stronger than fear. A whole new world of possibilities has opened up, and we must remain committed to connection. 

But how do you forge a connection when separated by a screen, physically distant, or wearing a mask? I’ve got four ideas for you!

  1. All of the questions don’t have to change. A few years ago I wrote about asking these 6 questions on college tours. I stand by that advice because not one of those questions requires your physical presence, and what’s more is that at Hope, we still offer individual virtual tours with a current student. Connection is forged by asking the deeper questions and getting to know a college through a student’s eyes. 
  2. Take advantage of the efficiency, and recognize the follow up. With so many more colleges and universities offering virtual open houses, tours, and meetings with admissions representatives, you can get a lot more of your questions answered in much less time. Just as important, though, is what happens after your virtual experience. Did you get a note from your tour guide? A call or text from your admissions representative? Connection is forged by people who reinforce the message you heard on the screen with their actions toward you in other ways.
  3. Talk about ground rules at home. When my kids shifted to remote learning in March, I wanted more than anything to be a fly on the wall during all of their class meetings. And yet, I knew that was not normal to them (in a time when we desperately wanted something, anything, to be normal) or their teachers. As part of your college search process, you’ll likely want some semblance of privacy in conversations with current students, college representatives, faculty members…and so will your family. Before a virtual event or meeting, talk about expectations you both have and work out a compromise of who is a part of which conversations. Connection is forged when thoughtful boundaries provide for open dialogue and encourage independence — things essential to college success. 
  4. Look me in the eyes. It takes practice to stare at the green dot next to the camera on my computer during virtual conversations (and I’ll admit, I’m still working on it myself), and yet when I’ve been on the receiving end of someone doing that really well, I feel that connection. Beyond the screen, we’ve restarted in-person individual visits at Hope, safely masked and physically distanced. My smile, my surprise, my intent listening (tell-tale sign is my furrowed brow) will all show in my eyes, and I know yours will too. Connection is forged by still seeing one another.

Being a connected college searcher in the time of Coronavirus takes some forethought, planning, and active participation — all very normal things in a not normal year.

Ready to forge that connection with Hope? We’re ready to see you.

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