With campus closed to visitors, most of the newly admitted class of 2025 will have to commit to a school without ever stepping foot on campus. But as Cornell has ramped up its virtual tours and talks, some admitted students say stepping into the shoes of a Cornellian has never been more accessible.
Without campus visits and with the annual in-person spring admitted students days canceled for the second consecutive year, the undergraduate admissions office and individual colleges have offered virtual glimpses into campus life — including through virtual livestreamed tours, information sessions and pre-recorded videos on admissions and financial aid.
Many recently admitted students have only seen Cornell through a screen — but for those who said visiting campus would remain inaccessible in a year without a pandemic, these expanded virtual resources come as a relief.
Haley Qin ’25, a first-generation, low-income student, said these virtual resources allowed her to better connect with the Cornell community.
“Without these resources if it was a normal year, it would be a lot more difficult because I wouldn’t be able to … visit [campus] and connect with the students,” Qin said. “Having these virtual resources really did help me.”
These virtual visits have included everything from social media takeovers to text events with current students and webinars on topics including diversity and career development opportunities.
Mark Bell ’25, an incoming architecture major, found the live virtual tours helpful as he saw campus and heard from current students about their experiences. Bell also said he found the College of Architecture, Art and Planning’s virtual portfolio review session useful in crafting his application.
Although she wasn’t able to visit campus, Jessica Cohen ’25 said watching in-depth videos about housing and specific academic programs available on the website were helpful in learning more about the University.
“It’s a lot easier having all of the resources right in front of me,” Cohen said.
In a typical year, distance, time and financial constraints limit some prospective students from visiting campus. Now, Katie Chen ’25, who is from California, said the virtual offerings eased her college application process — saving her the time and cost of a cross-country trek and creating a more even ground with students who live closer to Ithaca.
“I actually prefer this setting because everything the New York people could do, I could also do,” Chen said.
Several students said they felt Cornell fared better than other universities in their virtual offerings for prospective students.
“Compared to a lot of the other schools, Cornell is very well prepared,” Bell said. “You can definitely tell that it was a struggle for a lot of other schools to adjust to everything that is going on.”
Several prospective students also used other resources to learn more about the University, including through YouTube videos, Google maps for self-guided virtual tours, Reddit discussion boards and Instagram takeovers.
Prospective and admitted students also said they spoke with current Cornell students through University-sponsored events and through more informal conversations.
Krista Roessle ’25 attended a texting event hosted by the Big Red Ambassadors, where she messaged a current Cornell engineering student to learn more about the school. Roessle said none of the other universities she applied to had a similar event, which allowed to talk to older Cornellians in a less structured setting.
As a first-generation, low-income student, Jacob Blizard ’25 said he appreciated the support that the University has provided him and other FGLI students through the virtual format.
“I really felt comfortable reaching out to Cornell students about their experiences,” Blizard said. “They really value your voice and opinion.”
As an international student from Canada, Ben Collins ’25 said the virtual visits allowed him to better understand Cornell and the other universities he was considering.
“I think the pandemic has really encouraged me to put myself out there and find these resources online,” Collins said. “ Who knows, maybe I would have seen the Cornell campus and that would have been it.”
The Class of 2025 will be the second class to experience the college process almost entirely virtually due to the pandemic. Despite the challenges, students said they believe that these virtual resources will be helpful for future admissions cycles, making the college search and application processes more accessible.
“Having all these resources available would make it more convenient for the student. it’s a lot easier to find these virtual resources,” Qin said. “I feel like they should definitely stay.”