Norfolk Academy juniors and seniors are gaining a valuable boost in the college application process, thanks to what has quickly become a popular initiative from the College Counseling Department.
During a typical autumn, more than 100 colleges and universities send representatives to the Academy campus. Gathering either one-on-one or in small groups, the visits allow Upper School students to network, ask questions, and learn about institutions they might want to attend.
Amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, though, this is hardly a typical autumn. Many colleges have cut their travel. And to prioritize the safety of its entire community, Academy is not allowing visitors on campus on school days.
College Counseling wanted to keep the visits coming, however. For juniors they are an invaluable way to explore college options. For seniors they are a great chance to re-connect with the schools on their list, while also making an impression on some of the people who will review applications. (By November 1, almost every Academy senior will have applied to at least one college.)
What the College Counseling Department has developed are virtual visits, in which college representatives Zoom into small group sessions. Usually lasting about 45 minutes, the sessions include introductions, presentations from the representatives, and questions from students.
The virtual visits began in early September. By the time they wind down in early November, up to 75 schools are expected to participate. The list includes the commonwealth's flagship public institutions (UVA, Virginia Tech, and William and Mary); military institutions like the United States Naval Academy; Ivy League schools; and other stellar public and private schools from around the nation.
Student engagement has been strong, with most juniors expected to attend at least one visit. The visits take place during the middle of each week, at times that don't conflict with Upper School after-school activities. Because they are on Zoom, even students choosing Academy's Distance Learning program are able to attend.
“We've been thrilled with the success of this year's virtual visit program," said Jennifer Scott, Director of College Counseling. “It has been a wonderful way for our students to connect with colleges at a time when in-person visits are difficult. They are also a great way for our admission partners to learn about what is going on at Academy during this, the Year of Courage."
Because of the pandemic, the college application process will be atypical this year. Schools are making changes that will impact both seniors and juniors.
Mrs. Scott advised students to keep an open mind as they go through the process and to remember that students, parents, teachers, and counselors are all in this together. Students should be active participants, attending Zooms for any school they might be interested in. They should also communicate openly, asking lots of questions.
“Virtual visits are an incredible opportunity to connect and we hope that students take advantage of them as an important resource this fall," Mrs. Scott said.
To learn more about our College Counseling, please visit their webpage.