High school seniors looking to join the class of 2025 are touring the Forty Acres without setting foot on Speedway or pausing to look up at the UT Tower. Instead, they’ll make their college decisions via online tours and information sessions.
Ray Quiñonez-Flores, a senior at Plano Senior High School, toured the campus on their own with the self-guided Look Around Virtual Tour. The program allows anyone to view photos of campus landmarks, such as the Life Science Library and Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, in 360 degrees glory.
While they can’t visit campus in person, Quiñonez-Flores said the virtual format has made tours more accessible for them.
“Not all colleges are very close to Plano; they're all pretty far,” Quiñonez-Flores said. “Getting to do the virtual tours exposes me to a lot more colleges that I can take into consideration.”
Quiñonez-Flores will be a first-generation college student. Their parents aren’t too familiar with the college application process, so Quiñonez-Flores will be navigating it independently. Quiñonez-Flores also plans to attend a virtual information session closer to the application deadline.
“My college situation is really all in my hands,” Quiñonez-Flores said. “My parents are obviously going to support me, but I have to do everything myself.”
This past summer, the Admissions Welcome Center saw a 17% increase in students attending virtual information sessions or tours compared to in-person visits in the summer of 2019, said Alexandria Mitchell, director of prospective student experience. Mitchell credits this trend to the ease of signing up for a session, since no travel or parents are needed.
“Normally, the parents come to campus with their kid and then take the tour with them,” said Kellie Woodin, an Office of Admissions ambassador and tour guide. “Our tour groups are half parents and half students — and now we don't have the parents.”
While students have always traveled from out-of-state to attend tours in the past, Woodin said the online resources are allowing more high schoolers to experience UT’s campus.
“What we gain from being online is the efficiency of having everything in one place, making it easier and more accessible to students that may not have had the opportunity to come to campus in the first place,” advertising senior Woodin said. “We want them to come visit us.”
The Admissions Welcome Center has been operating virtually since March, Mitchell said. These resources are free, but they require a reservation and access to a device with internet connection.
Instead of the usual two-hour-long, in-person campus tour and information session, Woodin said the tour process is broken up into two separate virtual components. Prospective students can now choose if and when they want to attend each segment.
This fall, Mitchell said there will be livestream tours where a guide will explore campus from a live feed. Spanish-language information sessions and tours will be available starting in September.
For those able to travel, Mitchell said the Admissions Welcome Center will offer socially distanced tours in groups of 10: one tour guide plus nine students and family members.
While virtual resources have made the college decision process more accessible, Woodin said she misses the in-person connection.
“I really miss being in person with the students and being able to connect with them because it makes a really big difference when you are choosing which college you want to go to,” Woodin said.