Virtually Explore The College Campus of your Choice
Regardless of whether or not you use Second Life to experience an alternate reality, conduct business or simply have fun, you may want to consider using it in your college search.
More and more college admission officers are using Second Life to attract students of the future. If you’re not familiar with Second Life by now, here’s the 411: It’s a free Internet-based virtual world that launched in 2003 but didn’t gain mainstream popularity until 2006. To sign on to Second Life, you first create an avatar, or a virtual person, through which to view the digital world and interact with its other residents. You can then socialize, participate in individual and group activities, or create, trade or buy items and services. (However, the avatar can’t take exams for you. Sorry!)
More than 300 schools, including Duke University, Pepperdine University, the University of Texas-Austin and Vassar College, use Second Life as an educational tool. Some educators conduct distance-learning courses there, while others supplement classes with the unique digital world. A few colleges have even bought land on Second Life to re-create their schools online.
But more recently, many schools are participating in virtual college fairs. More than 10,000 students worldwide registered for the first fair, which allowed attendees to talk to admission officers at about 100 colleges, watch streaming video of experts and listen to panel discussions about the admission process — without leaving their homes. Though there is some anonymity at virtual college fairs, students are encouraged to provide more information, like SAT scores and academic accomplishments and interests, because most schools registered at the event are looking for high-achieving students.
Can’t afford to visit every school you’re interested in? Schools like Case Western Reserve University invite students to visit their Second Life virtual campuses. Although avatars cannot actually taste the campus food, they can meet other prospective students and chat over a virtual meal. Students who enter Case’s Second Life campus can also explore various campus facilities, like the library and dormitories.
Keep in mind that though Second Life can assist you during the admission process, it’s only one way to learn more about the colleges you’re interested in. Using several of your search options — virtual worlds, admission chats, campus overnights — may ultimately be your best bet. But if you already have an avatar, why not benefit from him or her in your real life? Visit college websites to find out what kind of Second Life options they offer. Virtual or not, there’s always more to discover about the college of your choice.