CEDARVILLE, Ohio — Usually around this time, high school students are visiting colleges to figure out the best fit for them. But since COVID-19 forced schools to close, colleges across the country are turning to online platforms to provide a similar experience.

  • Cedarville University has provided virtual tours for year, but now they're offering virtual campus visits which include talks with admission counselors
  • 60 percent of students attending Cedarville University are out of state with 43 percent coming from other countries
  • The number of virtual campus visits are matching the number of in person visits right now, which lessens the concern for drops in enrollment

Cedarville University has completed its second week of virtual campus visits with students as close as Michigan to as far away as Germany and Mongolia. Excited about the virtual option, students say it's perfect for helping them narrow down their college choices in spite of COVID-19 school closures. 

For years, the school's offered virtual tours, but this is the first year for virtual visits, allowing students to participate in live presentations, ask questions, chat with other students and take virtual campus tours.

The goal is to create an experience as close to the real thing as possible. So far, school enrollment officials like Scott Van Loo say it's going well.

"So, on a typical day, some of our individual visit days, we will see 20-25 guests and their families, which would be 75 to 100 people that would come, that would come for a visit. And we're now seeing similar numbers register," Van Loo said.

Taking virtual campus tours at their pace, Van Loo said seeing the in-person numbers match online is encouraging because at one point they were nervous about whether students would connect and also if they'd see a dip in enrollment.

"All the things that we've historically used to predict. It's a new day. You can't necessarily predict because everything has changed around us," Van Loo said,

Meeting via Zoom to talk about deadlines and scholarships, Assistant Director of Admissions Hope Strayer said the online option is filling a great need.

"I think kind of being able to stream something has taken some of the inhibitions away from students who wouldn't otherwise be able to come to visit," said Strayer.

While most students who plan to attend in the fall have already visited campus, school officials hope they can offer in-person visits again soon. But for now, virtual visits will have to do.

Cedarville University has not cancelled their orientation dates as of yet. They are hoping that once COVID-19 dies down, students who got a taste of the campus virtually will come for an official campus visit.

In the meantime, the school has pushed back its date for National College Decision Day from May 1 to June 1. That is the date where students make a deposit declaring their enrollment. They have also put contingency plans in place just in case family finances of prospective students change enough to where it impacts their enrollment.