A Guide to Virtual College Tours

Padya Paramita

A Guide to Virtual College Tours

The college visit road trip: a longtime rite of passage where rising sophomores and juniors pile in the car with their parents  and visit prospective college campuses. This year, with the outbreak of COVID-19, that tradition is now in jeopardy. So how do future college students  get a feel for college campuses, and know where to apply? The answer is virtual college tours, which help you understand the campus  culture while maintaining social distancing standards. 

Virtual college tours help you decide which universities you want to apply to when it’s time. They also allow you to eliminate schools which might not be as good of a fit. To guide you through the journey, we’ve  provided more information on where to find campus e-visits,, and how to make the most of your online tour.

Why Are Virtual College Tours Important?

It’s crucial to attend an online tour because deciding where you’ll spend the next four years is a big deal. To make sure you don’t make a rash decision and apply to a college that won’t support your interests and goals, you need to get a sense of a campus’ setting, its resources, faculty, major offerings and more. Through a virtual visit, you can not only see the different parts of campus and its academic and recreational facilities, you can also learn from a virtual tour guide — usually a current student — about what makes each of the resources unique, and why their school might be the one for you.

Virtual college tours are not new to COVID-19. Students who are unable to travel due to distance or financial constraints have long used virtual college tours to get a sense of what campuses offer. Now, with the Coronavirus putting a halt to travel as well as campus visits, more and more students are turning to sites that allow them to e-visit so that they can get a sense of what a school provides. 

Websites That Offer Virtual College Tours

If you’ve decided that you do want to attend virtual college tours but you aren’t familiar with how to get started with attending a campus visit, don’t panic. You don’t have to contact every single school’s admissions office and ask them how to arrange for one. There are several websites that allow you to tour and compare multiple schools, including almost every top college and university in the United States. These tour sites provide you with interactive maps, photos, videos, and testimonials so that you don’t miss out on any of the experience of a real life tour. Some of the most effective and popular places for virtual college tours are:

  • YouVisit: Arguably the most popular virtual tour site, YouVisit is easy on the eyes, user friendly, as well as stacked with 600 possible campuses for you to visit. Each campus has a current student as your online guide, talking you through what makes the different parts of campus special, and unique to that particular college. YouVisit tours also offer prompts that pop up asking students for any input or questions that are then sent to college officials as feedback. This helps the website improve and add more information on what students would like to know or be added to the tours. 
  • CampusTours: CampusTours is one of the most popular sites for visiting a campus from the comfort of your home as its advanced search feature allows students to specify exactly what they’re looking for out of the college experience, such as their desired tuition amount or location. About 100 of the 1,800 campuses you can visit through this sight also give you access to insights from current undergraduates. Due to the rise in prominence of virtual campus tours, the website is currently developing a feature that enables visitors to ask questions while they are on the tour that directly go to college officials.
  • eCampusTours: eCampusTours is not just a website for virtual college tours. Alongside 360 degree views of over 1300 campuses, this website contains a lot of informational sections highlighting questions that come to students’ and parents’ minds when visiting a campus. Once you’ve toured campuses you want, you can visit their sections such as “extracurricular activity” or “choosing a major” to further understand how different schools can help you reach your aspirations.
  • YoUniversity: If you have a list of specific criteria that you want the schools on your list to match, YoUniversity offers a useful tool. The site allows you to narrow your searches according to different categories that students look for out of their college experience such as “most beautiful campuses,” “safest campuses,” “most active Greek life,” or “in-state tuition.” The entries for each category have been compiled with past and present student feedback so you can count on it to be accurate and up-to-date!
  • CampusReel: Although not exactly a virtual tour site, CampusReel is a good place to check out for insights on campuses as its database contains over 15,000 student-generated videos offering you multiple perspectives on college campuses. Each college’s page is divided into different categories, such as “dorms” or “campus.” While you won’t be controlling the visit with the click of your own mouse, these students will take you on  personal tours of their residence halls and academic buildings in order to give you a picture of what campus life is like. 

How to Take Advantage of Your Online Visit

  • Make the most of technology at hand: E-visits come with technological benefits that are not available during in-person tours. . So, be sure to use these resources to your advantage, and screenshot, bookmark, and screen record different parts of the tour. Doing so can help keep your memory fresh, especially if you’re attending multiple virtual tours. Instead of trying to jog your memory during interview prep, you can easily revisit a screenshot and remember a campus building that stood out.
  • Take notes: As you attend virtual college tours, it’s extremely important that you take notes. Not only will knowing what stood out about different colleges help you during your selection process, admissions officers will appreciate concrete details about what appeals to you about their school when reading your supplemental essays. For example, the sentence “I was excited to learn about NYU Stern’s Program for Undergraduate Research on my campus tour as it can help me reach my goal of XYZ” gives the reader a far clearer picture of who you are and why you’re interested rather than just saying “I want to attend a business school in New York.” Taking notes can help you achieve this!
  • Remember what you’d notice on a physical tour: There are many things that you can get a better sense of on an in-person tour that you can’t on virtual college tours such as the weather or the distance between certain buildings. However, most campus visit websites have both a street-view as well as a bird’s eye view. You can play with these settings to figure out the distance between different parts of campus and try walking the same number of miles from your own home to get an idea of how much you might have to walk. As for weather, you can always check your phone for the temperature at any place on a given day. These factors can make a difference in your decision of where to attend, so don’t forget to take them into account. 
  • Write down questions that come to mind: As admissions officers might take time to get back to you on a site such as YouVisit, you might not get all your questions answered in real time. So, it’s extra important that jot down any points or questions that arise while you’re attending virtual college tours so that you can bring them up when you’re contacting a representative of the university.
  • Reach out with the questions: Going off of the points above, once you’ve finished touring a campus, you’re going to have questions. Whether it’s about course selection, or on-campus facilities, you’ll want to reach out to someone. Emailing the admissions offices can be beneficial as they can guide you towards student representatives who can answer these for you. Or, if you meet up or video chat with an alum of the college, you can refer to your notes and ask them different questions about their experience. 

While it’s undoubtedly disheartening that you can’t travel to actual campuses, virtual college tours are a unique opportunity. They provide you with highly useful methods of understanding what a campus has to offer you while still maintaining social distance. As you build your college list, make sure you take notes of what stands out to you, as well as ask questions to campus representatives so that you can gain a better understanding of whether the school is right for you. Happy touring!

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