SAN JOSE (KPIX) – High school seniors across the country are forced to make big life decisions when it comes to choosing a college to attend without ever leaving their homes, as universities cancel campus tours during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now many colleges are turning to technology by offering students virtual tours.

“We actually planned on going in the next two weeks, we had tickets already booked,” said Tanya Perez.

Perez’s daughter, Cameron, is a senior at Foothill Hill School. They were able to visit two college campuses before the outbreak, and planned to visit the University of Oklahoma in April. It was the last college her daughter wanted to visit.

But then, travel became more difficult, and colleges cancelled in-person classes and campus tours.

Tours have long been a way for high school students to get to know a university’s campus, community, faculty and culture. It’s also a way for parents, like Perez, to learn more about where their children will live for the next four years as they leave home for the first time.

Kelly Harvell, who was accepted to a list of elite and Ivy League schools, planned to visit two universities this April before the tours were cancelled.

She said it has made it a challenge to choose which school to attend, especially since some of them are on the East Coast, where she’s never been.

“For me, thinking about leaving California is a really big decision,” said Harvell.

Seniors are now trying to make a life decision without ever leaving their homes, and using the shelter-in-place order to learn more about colleges through their computers.

Some of the virtual tours, like San Jose State University, offer a “walk” through campus that’s also accompanied with a “tour guide.”

Universities are also connecting students to faculty and current students through video conferencing, like Zoom.

“I think that they’re actually doing a really — a lot of the schools that I got into — are doing a really good job of offering online options,” Harvell said.

But some students, like Dublin High School senior John Kim, said not being able to physically visit colleges has been challenging. He had two offers from colleges on the East Coast, and one in California.

“I wish I could’ve visited myself,” said Kim. “I’ve never spent a lot of time on the East Coast, myself, it was hard to make that leap of faith to go there.”

He ended up choosing the school in California.

Perez’s daughter is still undecided.

“So it’s really disheartening because we’ve actually seen two campuses, and that was our very last one. We were so close, yet so far,” Perez said.

What makes the decision even more difficult is that time is almost up. Many colleges have made their commitment deadline May 1, which is before the shelter-in-place order is over for some counties and states.

Perez said another issue is that colleges have deadlines for housing. One of the colleges her daughter is looking at has a housing deadline for mid-April, which means she must make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

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