Jun 22 2022

Virtual Tours Expand Opportunities for Future Higher Ed Students

The high cost of travel presents a financial barrier for many college prospects, but online resources make campus visits possible without leaving home.

For many prospective college and university students, touring campuses in person is a rite of passage. For others, it’s a practical impossibility.

U.S. News and World Report estimates that families spend between $1,000 and $3,000 per college visit, depending on the proximity of the institution.

These days, however, an in-person tour isn’t the only option for incoming higher ed students. Many colleges and universities offer virtual tours, giving students, their families and high school counselors another tool to help make decisions. In most cases, these tours require only a device and an internet connection, which most of today’s students can access.

Virtual Tours Make More Colleges Accessible to Students

Even with a return to in-person classes and experiences, many colleges and universities are keeping their virtual tour options online for students. These visits are more accessible for low-income students, who may not have the time or budget to travel for tours. They expand students’ school options as well by giving would-be attendees a chance to experience institutions outside their localities.

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When creating a virtual tour, the University of Montana built the experience with the institution’s first-generation students (40 percent of attendees) and Native American students (7 percent) in mind, Mary Kreta, vice president for enrollment management and strategic initiatives at the university, shares in an Inside Higher Ed article.

“Students don’t want to hear from admissions officers; they want to hear from other students,” the article continues.

Counselors working with high schoolers can use these perspectives to help students decide whether a particular college or university would be a good fit.

LEARN MORE: How to ensure quality virtual campus tours for everyone.

The Popularity of Virtual College Tours Continues to Grow

Prospective higher education students and staff don’t need to look far for these virtual tours. In addition to checking individual institutions’ websites, there are also curated sources of virtual visits.

Organizations such as YouVisit and CampusTours have built websites aggregating college and university tours from around the country. CampusTours has been helping students visualize themselves in higher education for 25 years, according to a press release. It offers virtual reality tour options for students as well as a standard device experience.

Students can also tune in to The College Tour television series as a resource. Executive producer and host Alex Boylan pitched the show, which is free on Tubi and Amazon Prime Video, after he witnessed his niece’s college search.

“Trying to help my niece navigate higher education was overwhelming,” Boylan says. “I went to my producing partners and told them, ‘Higher education needs its own television show.’”

“We want to make that college search fun, exciting and real,” he adds. “We do that through the authentic lens of real students going to school and by telling their authentic stories and bringing them to the world.”

Irina Shatilova/Getty Images

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