Understanding a Campus Community: Utilizing Virtual Panels
As college campuses have made the transition to online learning and virtual platforms, finding new ways to connect with current students and understand the campus community is important. Many colleges are offering virtual information sessions and panel discussions, which are great ways to hear from current students as well as administrators, faculty and staff at the college.
During your work researching colleges and universities it is important to understand not only the distinct academic offerings and the benefits of the college’s location, but also to research the student body to discover more about who you will be learning beside in the classroom, cheering with at athletics events, and hanging out with at common spots on campus. The campus community that comprises the college you choose to attend will contain your future friend groups, your future classmates, your future connections to internships, research opportunities, and much more – so it is important to understand who they are.
A good place to start is by asking yourself, “Can I picture myself fitting in with this community?” During virtual information sessions and panels, there are often current students sharing their experiences – use this time to listen to them and understand what they are passionate about. What are the highlights current students mention during these online discussions? How do they spend their free time with their friends?
When it is appropriate, take the time to ask some of your own questions. Dive deeper into how these students started out as students at their chosen college and discover where they learned to become involved members of their campus community. Where did they initially learn about interesting clubs and activities? Who specifically did they reach out to about a fun activity off-campus? A panel discussion is a good time to ask questions that can be relevant and useful for other listeners as well. Use this time to broadly understand what motivates a student at their institution. If you have specific follow-up questions reach out to the host of the panel or the students themselves afterward, usually you can find contact information during the panel or on the college’s website.