CLEVELAND — Deciding where to spend the college years can be a difficult decision for high school seniors, and it’s even more challenging during the pandemic. 

What You Need To Know

  • Many schools have opted to give prospective students virtual tours during the pandemic

  • Some prospective students said it's not the same, making it hard to get a feel for the campus

  • Schools like Youngstown State University believe it's important to actually see the campus to experience it

High school senior Catherine MacGregor is now facing that decision first-hand. One thing the Laurel School student doesn’t have to decide is her major. 

“Actually, over the pandemic, I taught myself how to sew when we were in quarantine,” she said. “So, I really want to get into fashion design because of that.”

MacGregor’s now working on her own fashion line selling upcycled clothing crafted during the pandemic. 

Her mom, Katerina, said she’s proud of her daughter’s determination and drive. 

“It’s incredible to know what she wants to do. She’s super passionate about it,” said Katerina. “I went up last night to check if she was doing her work, and she was sewing.”

With three older siblings who all attended the same Ohio college, Catherine is considering blazing her own trail. But the schools she’s interested in aren’t offering in-person visits. 

“I had like the virtual tours, but that’s kind of difficult to see the campus and really get a perspective on the schools,” she said. 

That prompted the MacGregors to take a few off-the-record road trips and check out the campuses on their own. 

“We went to look at one school and it looked incredible. It checked all the boxes,” said Katerina. “And then we showed up and it was this teeny campus.”

To help prospective students get a feel for the campus, Youngstown State University is still offering in-person visits, but on a much smaller scale. Tour group size is limited to allow for ample social distancing, and three tours are held daily to help accommodate more people.

Director of Admissions Christine Hubert said there’s nothing like actually setting foot on campus. 

“YSU’s one of those places you need to see it in order to experience it,” she said. “And so, when she weren’t able to have students here on campus (to tour), it just wasn’t the same. They weren’t able to actually feel the energy.”

The school started offering virtual tours at the onset of the pandemic and Hubert said that will continue moving forward. The online offerings expand the school’s exposure to students who otherwise wouldn’t have the ability to experience it. 

“Because we want to make sure that students from California and Florida and Texas and Arizona have the opportunity to see the campus, whether they’re here or it’s a virtual experience," she said.

Whether you can visit a campus in person or not, Catherine said talking to someone who’s actually attended the school can have a huge impact on your decision.

“Which I think is different than talking to someone with admissions or looking at a website,” she said. “And I think that was extremely helpful.”

But no matter what school seniors decide to choose, they hold the power to make the best of their situation. 

“It’s what you make of it,” said Katerina. “It’s whatever school you end up going to, you look around you, find your people. You find your interest and it works out. I really believe that you can make anything work out anywhere.”