For most people, Covid-19 has made it more difficult to visit colleges in person. But consider the plus side of a virtual college search.

Right now, most colleges are creating lots of extra online content aimed at prospective students, making it easier to assess whether you might be a fit at that school. And with schools creating robust “virtual visit” programs, you may be able to learn as much about a college across the country as the one down the street.

Here’s our five-step guide to getting the most out of your virtual college search.

1. Attend a virtual college fair.

Virtual college fairs are great ways to get introductory information about colleges. Four national college fairs — with more than 600 colleges each — are scheduled for this fall. You can sign up to attend live and interactive Zoom sessions, where a representative will explain the application process, financial aid, academics and student life. Your school district or city may also host a virtual college fair this fall – ask your high school counselor.

2. Take advantage of the online content schools are posting.

Colleges are producing more videos and podcasts, and hosting more webinars, than ever before. Take advantage of these ways to learn about life at schools that interest you. Follow schools on social media to find out about chances to connect with professors and students such as discussions on Instagram Live.

3. Find out if colleges will virtually visit your high school.

Ask your high school counselor which colleges will virtually visit your high school this fall. This is a great way to get more in-depth information about schools that interest you. At virtual high school visits, you’ll listen to an admission counselor’s presentation about the school and have a chance to ask questions. This is also an opportunity to introduce yourself to the person who may be reading your application and make a positive impression.

4. Plan virtual visits to schools on your short list

Schedule virtual visits to the colleges where you’re planning to apply. At St. Edward’s, we offer virtual campus tours (led by students and using still images), online information sessions and financial aid webinars. With advance notice, we can also arrange for you to talk with a current student who is from your geographic area or arrange for you to meet with a professor in a specific academic department. We also offer special “Friday in Focus” live web sessions about specific majors.

We especially encourage you to meet individually with your admission counselor to talk about what you’re looking for in a college. You may have concerns about the application or financial aid process that we can address in a one-on-one appointment. You can request to schedule a Zoom appointment with your admission counselor.

5. If local rules allow, visit on your own.

If you live near a college you’re considering, check to see if you can visit on your own, even if tours aren’t offered. At St. Edward’s, it’s ok to drive or walk around campus, as long as you maintain social distance and wear a face covering. Campus life looks different than “normal times,” of course, but you’ll still be able to see students, outdoor spaces and the view of downtown. Just remember that our admission staff are working remotely, so you’ll need to schedule any Zoom appointments in advance.