Making the Most of Virtual College Tours

By Joanna Nesbit

 Taking a college tour is an exciting introduction to college life, but not everyone is able to visit a campus in person before they apply. Luckily, colleges recognize the challenge, and they have resources so you don’t miss out. 

If you can’t take a walk around campus, you can still get a feel for it with other tools. Here are eight ways to learn about colleges without heading there in person.

Check Out the School Website

As simple as it may seem, you can learn a lot by just going online. Check out the student services offered, student clubs, study abroad programs, majors, class requirements, athletic facilities, residence halls, and access to the local community. 

Read about how a campus welcomes and supports students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and other specific groups. Even though the website gives a top-level view, once you have a general idea about a school, you can tailor your questions for a virtual or in-person meeting to learn more. Jot down notes as you explore the sites.

Take the Virtual Tour

Virtual tours give you a visual overview of the academic buildings, dorms, athletic facilities, and other parts of a campus. Some colleges offer virtual interactive tours with current students and info sessions with an admissions counselor. These more personalized tours may require scheduling in advance on the website.

You can also check for college channels on YouTube. You might turn up unofficial tours that give you a more objective perspective. Simply search the college’s name plus virtual tour in the YouTube search bar.

Schedule a Virtual Info Session

Many schools offer video chat sessions with an admissions counselor who can tell you about the college culture, provide resources, and answer questions. 

Or if you want a student perspective, you might be able to schedule a chat session with a student ambassador. Even if these ambassadors present the college in a positive light, they might be candid about the student experience of transitioning to college academic work, mistakes they’ve made, or their best tips for new students. Explore the website for types of virtual meetings and chats available.

Reach Out to a Current or Former Student

For a more personalized, objective opinion that isn’t all roses, try reaching out to a student who’s not a student ambassador. Ask your high school guidance counselor, parents, or friends whether they know a student who attends the college you’re interested in. The college admissions office can also connect you to a student on campus or from the academic department you might be interested in.

Talk to a Regional Admissions Representative

You can chat with an admissions rep in a few different ways—even right at your high school. Regional admissions representatives travel to high school and regional college fairs, give presentations at high schools, and sometimes hold in-person interviews at a venue with interested students. 

Look for events scheduled for your area, or find out who represents your area on the admissions page and email them directly to learn more. If you’re struggling to find info, call the admissions office.

Read the Student Publications

Most campuses produce a student newspaper or a student magazine, which can give insight into particular issues at the college and what’s important to folks on campus. Check out the types of topics written about and read the opinion column and letters to the editor to see what’s on students’ minds.

Follow Social Media Accounts

Many colleges use X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and even Facebook Live to share what’s going on around campus. Besides the school’s general accounts, you can also follow specific clubs or student groups to get a sense of their culture and events.

Check Out a Local Campus

If you haven’t set foot on a college campus before, consider visiting a nearby college. Even if it’s not on your application list, visiting a school gives you a window into what it might feel like to live and learn on a campus. You might also get a sense for whether you like a more rural or urban campus. 

The student vibe might be different from the colleges you’re looking at, particularly if it’s much bigger or smaller. But you can still check out the campus buzz to see what makes it different from high school. 

And it might help you figure out what you don’t want. That’s just as important as what you do want.

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