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What To Do When You Can’t Tour Colleges In Person

The campus tour is often heralded as an essential part of the college search process. Many view tours as opportunities to get a true feel for the university, to see if you really fit there—but the fact remains that in-person visits can be inaccessible for a variety of reasons. Long-distance travel, for instance, is expensive and time-consuming. Parents or guardians may have work schedules that prevent them from accompanying you. And, of course, the presence of a global pandemic means that many campuses are closed to visitors.


The good news is that in-person visits aren’t the only way to gauge fit! In our increasingly digital world, there are plenty of alternatives available to help you ‘explore’ campus. Read on to discover them:


Go on a virtual tour.


Many university websites now offer virtual campus tours, commonly hosted through YouVisit or CampusTours. (You can also visit either website directly and search for colleges that interest you.) These tours are interactive, allowing you to use your keyboard to navigate campus with 360-degree visibility. Campus itself may also appear in 3D, making the experience as real as possible.


While on your tour, you’ll be able to click on important buildings and read more about them. Some university tours may even feature real student tour guides. They will appear on the screen to ‘guide’ you across campus with pre-recorded voiceovers to provide more information.


Attend virtual open houses or information sessions.


Most colleges are currently hosting live, interactive information sessions through their admissions offices—visit the admissions page on your college of choice’s website to find out more. At these sessions, you will be able to hear a representative speak, and you may also be able to submit questions to be answered in real time. Dartmouth, for example, hosts three live information sessions per week. These 45-minute virtual visits include presentations “featuring a member of the admissions office, current students, and live Q&A.”

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Talk to current students.


If you happen to know a current student at a college you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to reach out to them via text or email. Most students love talking about their experiences and are happy to answer your questions—after all, they remember what it feels like to be in your position, too. (We’ll be listing some good questions to ask in future blog posts!)


Watch Zoom panels or day-in-the-life vlogs.


YouTube is a fantastic resource for finding everyday footage—you’ll get a glimpse of what colleges really look like from student perspectives. A simple search for the name of a school and “vlog” should elicit good results. Day-in-the-life vlogs will typically introduce you to what dorm living and classroom learning look like, and may also show you spaces used for socializing and extracurricular activities.


If you’re seeking more informational content, CollegeSide Chats could be a good option for you. CSC is a YouTube channel that uploads student Zoom sessions for so many schools. In these videos, groups of four to eight students answer questions and talk about their college experiences. If you can’t fit a live session into your schedule, these pre-recorded student panels are available online to watch anytime.


Follow colleges on social media.


Instagram can be a great platform for college exploration. Not only do you have access to beautiful pictures of campus, but you may also be able to watch Instagram Lives with current students, participate in Q&A sessions with admissions staff, or connect with other prospective applicants. Follow schools you like and keep an eye on their Stories, where they may notify you of these events!


There are so many affordable ways to tour colleges from the comfort of your own home. Now that you’ve read a little more about them, keep an eye out for “How to Make the Most of Your Virtual College Visits” for tips on what kinds of questions to ask! 

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Author: Julianna Chen

Julianna Chen is currently in her second year at Emory University, where she studies creative writing and Chinese. She is the managing editor of Lithium Magazine and a contributing writer for When not writing, she is watching a movie or eating a stroopwafel, sometimes both at the same time.