Virtual Campus Tours vs. Real Campus Visits

January 06, 2017

Virtual campus tours let prospective students experience college life from the comfort of their home. You can see which college amenities are available with just a computer and an Internet connection, and immerse yourself in 360-degree panoramas of lecture halls, classrooms and dorms. But do these interactive tools provide the same experience as actually visiting a college?

The Benefits of Virtual Campus Tours

Virtual campus tours have become popular with college applicants in recent years and provide prospective students with an alternative to visiting a school in person. Most colleges now offer interactive tours, from Harvard University to Penn State. These virtual simulations let you explore multiple locations on campus with a click of a mouse. You can zoom into points of special interest and see college buildings at street-level.

Virtual tours help you visualize what it would be like if you attended a particular school. You can familiarize yourself with the college environment — student accommodation, sports facilities, local landmarks and so on — without visiting the school. Virtual tours, therefore, are perfect if you are an international student or college applicant who lacks the resources or time to travel.

Even if you are able to travel to a school in person, virtual campus tours let your friends and family experience a college environment from wherever they are in the world. They can check out dorm rooms and dining rooms and classrooms. They can view sports clubs and student bars. They can help you choose the right college and give you an opinion about a school before you make your final decision about where to study.

The Benefits of Visiting a School

For many college applicants, nothing beats visiting a school in person. More than 40 percent of first-year college students say touring a campus influenced them when they chose their school, according to one study. When you visit a college, you can discover things that you won’t always find in a college admissions brochure. You will be able to ask staff questions, for example, or talk with current students about college life.

Visiting a school in person might be difficult if you are on a budget. You’ll likely need to pay for travel and accommodation, and costs could spiral if you are visiting an institution on the other side of the country. To save money on campus tours, experts recommend you look into subsidized visits, consider a tour company and team up with other families to share travel costs.

However, the expenses associated with college tours could pay off. Three out of four colleges say that students who show a demonstrated interest in the school — such as attending a campus event — are more likely to get into the institution, according to the 2013 National Association for College Admission Counseling survey.

Virtual tours have long been used in various industries. In real estate, property listings with interactive walk-throughs get clicked on 40 percent more than listings without this option. In a college context, virtual tours let applicants look around a school without physically being on campus. While many soon-to-be students prefer to visit a school in person — for example, more than 70,000 students attended tours and information sessions at Boston University in 2014, which was 33 percent more than in 2009 — these tours offer the next best thing, allowing users to explore college grounds without leaving home.


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About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.

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Stanford ‘19

Accepted to Stanford, Williams, Brown, Pomona, Duke, Bard, Kenyon

Stanford 2019, creative writing and education. Full essays! "Lopsided," less-than-stellar numbers.
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Student in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business dual enrolled in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton School.
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