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Using Virtual College Tours as a Planning Tool for In-Person Visits 


a young teenager looking at a virtual tour on mobile phone

Preparing to go to college is expensive. The tests, application fees, and campus visits all add up.

We know you care about college affordability and minimizing debt, so this article will be especially helpful. In it, we’ll tell you how to use virtual tours to get a feel of school campus experiences so you can shortlist your top schools for in-person visits. That will save you both time and money.

How Does a Virtual College Tour Work?

If you haven’t played around with virtual tours for colleges yet, you really should. These engaging 3D experiences are created with layered motion graphics and full-color panoramic video and animation to give you an authentic experience like you’re there on campus.

With each virtual college campus tour, you control the journey and can manipulate your video for a full 360 view of the spaces. Audio guides provide added context and critical information, with text that replaces sound when the audio is muted. (Tours are ADA-compliant and available in 130+ languages)

Go where you’re interested in going. Access places you can’t see during an in-person tour, like residence halls, classrooms, or sporting events while they’re taking place.

Hear the marching band play the school’s song as the crowd cheers and see the school’s mascot take the field. These tours are the absolute best way to get a vibe-check on a school and see if you’d feel at home on the campus.

See Campus Life Through Virtual College Tours

As we alluded to above, touring colleges virtually gives you an idea of what you’ll experience as a student without traveling to visit the school in person. You can immerse yourself in campus life and learn quickly if the school is a good fit for you.

We recommend using virtual tours to shortlist your top schools before planning your in-person visits. Using virtual to narrow down your full college list helps you save both time and money. But there are some other specific reasons to take some virtual campus tours.

  • You can see areas not included on the standard tour

There’s only so much you get to see when touring in person. But virtual tours take you behind the scenes and show you spaces and places you can’t access in an in-person tour.

  • Get a bird’s eye view of the campus

See a sprawling, overhead view of the campus, including walking paths, courtyards, and green open spaces throughout the campus. Get a feel for the entire campus by manipulating your view 360 degrees. With this drone capture view, you’ll see every corner of the school.

  • You can return again and again

You can also return to places on campus where you’ll spend the most time, again and again. Go back and listen to some of the student's stories. Home in on the dorms, community spaces, and gym as often as needed to see if you can envision yourself as a student there.

  • You can show it to your family & friends

Need help making your decision? Want to share your excitement with your family? That’s easy to do with a virtual campus visit. The tour is always available to you, 24/7, in the convenience of your home.

  • You save time and money

The average virtual tour takes less than 10 minutes and costs nothing. Compare that to an in-person visit, which can take a long weekend and well over a thousand dollars. And why travel to schools you’re unsure of when you’re busy with extracurriculars and keeping your grades up?

How to Use Virtual College Tours to Short List In-Person Visits

Review these steps below before you start your virtual campus tours. Then, when you have your list of essential areas to review, you can watch your virtual college tours and take notes. 

Step 1: List things you want to learn or see

Here are some of the most popular points of interest:

  • Dining halls and food options
  • Recreation and outdoor space
  • Distance from the dorms to your program building
  • Accessibility
  • Gym or other athletic facilities
  • Greek life
  • Labs

Step 2: Rank your list in order of importance

You might want to know if the schools have an indoor track, but it also might not be a make-or-break decision point for you. So be sure to evaluate how important each of the items on your list is before you take any virtual tours.

Step 3: Take your virtual college tours, making notes as you go

Use your list of ranked areas to make notes on what you see and notice. You can even assign each area points using a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. That would allow you to tally up each school on total points. 

Step 4: Assess each school based on your observations

After you’ve taken all your tours, it’s time to decide which of the schools to see with an in-person campus tour or if you’ve gained enough information from the virtual visits and you don't need to travel to any of them.

You might know going into the process that you can only visit 2-3 schools in person, and this evaluation will help you narrow your list down. Or, you might go into the process without a set number of schools to visit in person, but after viewing a handful of virtual tours, you have a better idea of how many you absolutely need to visit in person. 

Either way, you'll have significantly more information after viewing the virtual tours than you did before you started. 

FAQs About Touring Colleges Virtually

Now that you have a good idea of what a virtual tour can give you, we’ll walk through some of the most common questions we hear about virtual campus tours.

Q: What should I expect at a virtual college tour?

A: With a virtual tour, you can expect to see a large portion of the campus and the most important landmarks, spaces, and academic and athletic program areas. These tours are designed to give prospective students a complete overview of the campus and life at the college or university, including a taste for the culture and vibe of the school.

You can control your movement through the tour, focusing on areas of interest and skipping over less relevant things. You can also come back to the tour later to rewatch it. Listen to students talk about their experiences and hear the University President’s welcome message.

Q: How effective are virtual tours?

Virtual campus tours effectively give you a feel for the school and what it offers you. They’re also great for saving you time and money while you narrow down your college list.

In a recent study, 45% of students ranked virtual campus visits as one of the most helpful sources in their college search.

Q: Do I prepare for a virtual college tour?

We recommend creating a list of everything you want to see and know to prepare for a virtual college tour. Think about what’s important to you and where you’ll spend most of your time. Then, you can take notes as you watch the tour, checking off every area and space on your list.

Many students prefer to watch virtual tours on a desktop or laptop, although you could view them on your mobile device if needed.

Q: What are the benefits of a virtual tour?

Virtual tours save you time and money. You can see an entire college campus, hear from current students, and attend a football game- all from the comfort of home. You can also rewatch them when you think of new things you want to see. All for free.

Q: Are virtual college visits good?

Yes! Virtual visits are convenient, helpful, and free. They’re also highly engaging. Appily's virtual college tours are the most advanced available. They are high-quality, fully immersive 360-degree experiences.  

Q: How do I find virtual college tours online? 

You can visit colleges virtually right here on Appily

Q: Are there free virtual college tours?

Yes. They all are. You should never be charged for attending a virtual college tour.

Q: Do colleges see when you take virtual tours?

It depends. If you watch a tour without inputting any information, the school will probably not know that you accessed it. But if you sign in to view a tour, then the school will receive your information. 

Sure, you can watch videos on YouTube from students who’ve attended colleges, and you should. The only problem with stopping there is that the perspective is limited, and colleges won’t know you accessed their materials.

Demonstrated interest is a part of the college application process, and it's worthwhile to take advantage of. Virtual campus tours are just one more option for demonstrating interest. 

Looking for Colleges With Virtual Tours?

Now that you know how helpful virtual campus tours can be, you're probably ready to check some of them out.

You can just click on the link below to see colleges and universities with virtual tours. Then save your favorites and get curated recommendations of other schools you might be interested in. 

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