Each fall, college admissions representatives visit high schools to meet juniors and seniors and share information about their campus programs. Tight budgets mean they can’t get to all the schools they’d like, including many small rural ones. Therefore, Oregon GEAR UP coordinated a pilot program for virtual visits, no travel required!

15 rural high schools and 23 colleges signed up to participate. Notably, 10 of the colleges were from states other than Oregon, giving students the opportunity to explore colleges they might not otherwise have known about.

The virtual visits provided a flexible option that reached a variety of students, from full-class presentations with 9th and 10th graders, to small group conversations with 12th grade students. "Just having the opportunity for face-to-face (even over the screen) has opened doors for our students — we know it's hard for all colleges to get to our school so this was huge for us," said one high school staff member.

The most successful virtual visits followed a similar structure to in-person visits with time for introductions, sharing key information and question and answers. Preparation was key — in addition to testing the video chat technology, colleges sent printed materials ahead of time and educators prepped students with questions to ask.

100% of college reps would offer virtual visits in the future, noting the value of reaching a broader group of students. “I liked that it allowed me to connect with students I wouldn't have met otherwise because I couldn't travel to them.”