High school seniors worry about their college decisions

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COLUMBIA - Senior year has not turned out how most students thought it would, and now COVID-19 is affecting their freshman year as well. 

By mid-April, many high school seniors have visited schools and know where they want to go to college. 

"When I toured the campus I just knew that was where I wanted to be," said Brooke Lemke, a high school senior in Wisconsin. 

Lemke toured the University of Missouri in the spring of 2019. Little did she know, that would be the last time she visited MU. 

"I was planning on showing up to campus a couple of times this spring, but with everything going on with the coronavirus, it's kind of like all the stuff I was planning on doing got canceled," she said. "It's hard to make a trip down there. I can't even go visit the campus on my own anymore, which makes it hard."

The last time students were on Mizzou's campus was March 6th, the week before the school's spring break. Following the break, the university announced the rest of semester and summer classes would be online.

Lemke considered staying in Wisconsin. 

"Now it's just kind of like, I don't know the campus and I don't know where I am going to be going or what I am going to be doing, is there even a point to going out of state for a semester," she said. "Why not just stay home." 

The senior said for now she is set on still coming to MU in the fall, but says she's worried it won't be quite the same as she remembered it. 

"That's been a huge worry of mine that all of a sudden I am going to be a student on the campus rather than just a visitor and I'm all of a sudden going to realize that this might not be the place for me," she said. "But, maybe it is," she said. 

Some colleges are trying to address those concerns with a new way of recruiting students. 

Central Methodist University is allowing students to take virtual tours of campus. 

"It's actually on the homepage," Dr. Joe Parisi, the Vice President of Enrollment at the university said. "It actually takes them right to virtual CMU."

Students can take a virtual tour of the campus, connect with faculty, and live a day in the life of a student.

Parisi said the goal is to keep students connected with the university.

"Instead of just sending students the link and talking to them about it afterwards, get on a zoom session and share your screen," he said. "Walk them through the really cool aspects of Central via the tour."

Lemke said she worries, however, that an online tour of campus won't give the same experience as a real one. 

"I'd love to meet the people on campus and get to know, hey these people are really welcoming, and you can't really have that personal connection through an online meeting,' she said.

Central Methodist said the key is not neglecting the relationships with prospective students.

"Part of our process is that relationship build," Parisi said. "I challenge all of our enrollment management staff to say if you had a relationship with someone else, what would that relationship look like. Virtually, how would you continue to take that relationship to another level."

With a lot on the minds of high school seniors, they're still looking to what's next. 

"Virtual summer welcome, we'll see how that goes," Lemke said. "Hopefully the semester starts in person in the fall because I am sick of online school. I don't think I can handle that."

Parisi's advice to high school seniors is, simply, to remain positive.

"This is an opportune time to make it something special," he said. "What a better time to really sit down as these students explore their future."

Listed below are links to virtual tours for mid-Missouri colleges:

University of Missouri

Stephens College

William Woods University

Westminster College

Columbia College

Central Methodist University

State Technical College

Lincoln University

Moberly Area Community College