A Guide to Virtual College Visits
So, you want to explore colleges, but don’t have the time to physically visit the campus. Or maybe you don’t want to break quarantine or lockdown! No matter what your reasoning, virtual college visits are a great idea. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Allow your imagination to run wild! There are no limits except where your imagination takes you.
The earlier you can start this process, the more relaxed you will be. Touring campuses does not have to be stressful! Think of it like online shopping for colleges. These tours are created to be fun and informative, so it shouldn’t feel like work.
Relax. Any amount of research you can do will be helpful, even if it isn’t perfect or if it isn’t the most thorough. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of choices out there, so please don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
As always, if you need help organizing your search, let us know. Strive to Learn college counselors are very experienced in creating a plan to get all your research done.
Below, find a few of my favorite resources, as well as planning advice customized to students in each year of high school. Let's start with a basic question:
Where do I go to visit colleges online?
My favorite website for virtual tours is YouVisit. It is easy to find colleges you’re already interested in but it is also easy to discover colleges you may not have thought of before. This website was in the virtual tours game way before it was cool! Or rather, way before COVID-19 made virtual tours necessary.
If you are curious about a particular campus, a lot of university websites have their own virtual tours. While you’re on the website, you can also peruse other information, too, like major choices! It is also really great to see what kind of branding and overall “vibe” a campus wants to convey through their website.
If you want a raw look at a campus, check out Google Maps. A “DIY Campus Tour” will give you a feel for walking through campus, and how the areas surrounding a particular campus feel. To start, plot yourself at the university library, walk from there! It can give you a real-time view of a campus, including the more boring parts of a walk that a virtual tour online may skip over.
If you want a real insight into college life at a particular college, I also recommend searching “A Day in the life at ______ University” on Youtube or go to a particular university’s Youtube channel. You won’t always get the highest quality videos, but if you stick to the official videos from the colleges themselves, it can be a great resource.
Check out the spreadsheets, which are compiled with lists of colleges' virtual tour links, as well as a ton of other helpful info.
When should I take virtual tours?
Since you are starting your journey of discovery early, there is no deadline or “perfect time” to do a virtual tour. I would recommend looking at a few campuses per month and taking great notes to refer back to when it is time to apply!
This year, you will start building your list and narrowing down your applications. Starting your more intensive research in January or February of your junior year is a great time! That way, by the time summer break rolls around, hopefully you have a list and are ready to start writing your essays. Definitely have a dedicated place to take notes so you can refer back to them when it comes time to make a decision about which offer to accept.
In the summer before senior year and the fall of senior year, you will be writing your essays and beginning your applications, so it’s a great time to circle back to places you researched in years prior. In the spring of senior year, when you have your acceptances, feel free to take another virtual tour of the campuses you are considering just to narrow it down.
What is the best strategy for maximizing benefit from my college tour?
As a freshman or sophomore, you have hopefully been focusing on challenging yourself academically as much as possible, and plotting out your extracurriculars. However, taking some time to remind yourself of your motivation behind your efforts in school is a great way to stay motivated and have some fun. Now is the time to have some fun with your college search without the pressure of impending applications or any serious decisions to make. You won’t have to do a deep dive into majors at this stage, if you are still exploring what you want to study.
I am sure you have been thinking about your college options for a while now, even if only in the back of your mind. Maybe you’re even ready to begin applications because you’ve got a couple of “for sure” college application candidates. However, no college list is complete without thorough research! Take the time to consider seriously what kind of campus would suit you best, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Some colleges you have yet to hear of could be your dream campus.
If you are just beginning your research senior year, don’t worry. I recommend you make a list of college criteria and start looking for campuses that way. As you do your research, don’t be afraid to change your mind about colleges you previously liked, or add schools that you had not thought of previously. After all, you learn more about yourself every day! The timeline is a little tighter starting in the fall of senior year, but with a little organization you will have enough time to explore your criteria.
What are the final takeaways?
No matter when you are starting your college tours, try not to stress. There is enough time to find the right place for you! Some of my happiest students are those who did not find their perfect match until the last minute. That being said, the more time you give yourself, the less stressed and more motivated you will be. Virtual tours make this process even easier, because you can research colleges on your own terms.
Stay tuned for more tips on college tours! Happy visiting!