Virtual Campus Tours Aid Prospective College Students

More students are turning to virtual tours of college campuses to cut down on the time and money spent visiting college campuses in person

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

College Campus Virtual Tours
College Campus Virtual Tours

The campus visiting season is in high gear as families with college-bound teens plan to squeeze in campus visits before the winter break or are starting early preparations to hit prospective schools in the spring.

For seniors, winter visits are best to help narrow lists of potential colleges, according to the website. Spring is the best time for campus visits if you’re a high school junior, a student who plays fall sports or anyone who needs to apply early.

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Spring is also popular for students who have been accepted at a school that may let them visit the campus before making a decision.

While nothing can replace a campus visit for a true, tactile feeling of the school – its students, environment or the taste of a dining hall lunch – such visits can prove costly.

Spending $3,000 for travel, food and other costs of a college visit isn’t unusual for families before a school is selected, according to USA Today.

Families can shave some of those costs by staying closer to home or lumping colleges that are close to each other into one trip, teaming with other students interested in the same school and possibly staying on campus at least one night.

It also makes sense to utilize an expanding universe of online resources for as much information as possible before you visit so you can narrow your search and delve as deeply as you can into the school, even going online to research its course catalog and library.

Online resources can also let you examine a syllabus for a course that interests you or see what services the campus provides, such as career planning. It’s also possible to see campus housing online.

It’s difficult to find a large school that doesn’t have a virtual tour on its website or an interactive campus map that lets you take an online traipse around the college. While virtual tours are becoming more detailed and interactive, they typically can’t replace a campus visit. But the two can work together.

Save Time and Money With College Campus Virtual Tours

You can find websites that produce and house virtual campus tours or interactive maps from a number of schools and let prospective students select colleges for online tours from the site.

Many will let you search the site by school or location, although you may be required to register to see the virtual tours or access the site’s full offering of universities. The sites typically also provide information on admissions, contacts and financial aid advice for prospective students as well as links to the schools.

One of the larger sites,, said it has 1,200 campus tours available that are done in 360-degree panorama views. You can control the view on a horizontal or vertical axis, getting a look at an entire room from walls and floors to ceiling. The site wants you to register before viewing the tours.

Another,, lists nearly 130 colleges on its page with the online resources including interactive walking tours of the campus that let you chose your pace and explore areas that grab your attention.

Some let you pause and take 360-degree views of locations, watch additional videos and see photos of specific campus locations. Others offer descriptions of a school’s features.

The site lists more than 500 schools you can search by location or individual college. Most of the virtual tours are about five to six minutes long.

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An example of an extensive virtual college tour is the one for Stony Brook University. The tour is guided by a woman named Jenn who describes each stop on the tour. You can follow the tour’s path or pick places on campus from an interactive map in the corner and get more details about it from Jenn.

You can also select panoramic 360-degree views of more than 50 places around the campus.

YouTube is another source for campus tours, though not all are the school’s officially-produced packages.

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