Pandemic changes college acceptance experience

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) High school seniors are making decisions about their future in a new way thanks to the pandemic.

Mill River Union High School senior Olivia Suker had pictured wearing the prom dress she already bought and walking through a crowd of her friends and family in her cap and gown. She was also planning to spend her spring break touring the colleges she was recently accepted to.

Before the pandemic, she only visited one of the three.

"Having to pick between two schools that I had never been to before was a little bit scary," said Suker.

Scary because she knew based on her experience touring colleges her junior year, that visit can be a game-changer.

"The ones that I was pretty dead set on, I had been to the website, and I was like I'm going to love this school... we went to a couple of them and I just got out of car and was like, nope, this isn't it," said Suker.

Though it was tempting to go with the safe choice and pick the college she saw, Suker made her final decision to go to North Carolina State University about a week ago, relying on her own research and the school's webinars to get a feel for the campus.

Offering virtual experiences is a method most universities are adopting, to welcome accepted students in the decision-making process.

"We're optimistic that through those efforts, we've been able to make good headway in showcasing the benefits of UVM," said Moses Murphy, with the University of Vermont.

UVM just held it's sixth virtual information session and tour Monday. During the tour, admitted students can interact with staff, faculty and student ambassadors.

School leaders are also video conferencing with prospective students across the country. But some seniors like Suker say while the virtual experiences are helpful, they don't totally showcase the culture of a college, which she argues is a critical part of the visit.

"I think it's the part after where you're walking around with your family or your friends or whoever is with you on your visit and maybe you talk to students or you observe people eating in the cafeteria," said Suker.

Her principal at Mill River Union High School has proposed a few options for graduation, including a virtual broadcast with no live audience and with a ceremony later in the summer.

Rutland County community members are tentatively planning a delayed prom.