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Articles / Applying to College / How to Get the Most Out of Virtual College Tours

April 16, 2020

How to Get the Most Out of Virtual College Tours

How to Get the Most Out of Virtual College Tours

Xavi Casanovas/Unsplash

Whether you've been talking to your school counselor, your parents, friends, parents' friends, friends' parents, or any other combination thereof, you've probably been told that it's a good idea to visit the campuses of the colleges you're strongly considering before committing to go there. After all, what seems like a dream college on paper to other students can sometimes feel like a nightmare to others. Trust me — any time you might save now is going right out the window if you have to transfer to another school later on!

 Take Notes and Screenshots

The one advantage to an online tour is that it's much easier to record your thoughts than when you're trying to keep pace with a group of other people. Feel free to take a screenshot of any image that catches your fancy, or bookmark the page if it has a direct URL. Also make sure you interact with images as much as you can. Some may be static photos, but you may encounter some panoramic views that you can rotate around.

  • Tip 1: Write down your first impressions and then, later on, revisit them and see if you still feel the same way.
  • Tip 2: Always come up with at least one question to ask. This ensures that you're more actively looking at these images than you would be otherwise.

Maintain the Big Picture

Many online tours will show you both a street-level view and a bird's-eye map of the location. This helps you to get perspective that is missing from a remote tour, where you're not physically walking between locations.

  • Tip 3: Record the distance between common places on campus and replicate that walk in your own neighborhood. It's important that you know what that distance feels like — small things like the hike from your prospective dorm to the dining hall can add up when you have to do them multiple times each day.
  • Tip 4: For extra credit here, check the weather listings for that campus, or try to find the average highs and lows over each semester. If at all possible, try to take your walks at different times of the year. If you're not normally a cold-weather person but you're set on a northern college, you might be looking for a smaller, more centrally located campus.

Get a Second Opinion

When you're on an actual tour, you don't have to assume that everything you're being told is accurate. That's because you can ask other students on the campus what they think and ask follow-up questions of your in-person tour guide (as opposed to a virtual host). But guess what? You can still do that with these online, remote tours. It just means that you're going to have to reach out to students, alumni, and admissions officers through email.

  • Tip 5: Always reach out to an admissions officer with specific questions. Not only will this get you some much needed clarity on the things that the virtual tour cannot show you, but will also help you make an impression with the school. It may seem like nothing to send an email, but that one little action can go a long way in helping to set you apart from other students, especially if you ask specific questions that can't simply be answered on their website.
  • Tip 6: Though it may be a little more difficult, try to reach out directly to current students or, barring that, alumni. (This is what we've done with our book The Best 385 Colleges, which is filled with insider observations from current students.) While this sort of outreach won't win you any points with the admissions officials, it will provide you with the sort of firsthand knowledge about the unseen pros and cons of the school and the curriculum that you can't get from simply browsing pictures online.

Written by

Rob Franek

Rob Franek

College Admissions and Test Prep Expert

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