May 12 2022

Virtual College Tours Continue Expanding Opportunities for K–12 Students

High school counselors can guide students with these online resources, which give all applicants the chance to find the right higher education experience, even when it’s located across the country.

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

U.S. News and World Report estimated 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 prospective students. High school counselors can help students decide on a school through virtual tours. 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 and minority students, who may not have the time or budget to travel for a tour. They expand students’ school options as well by giving would-be attendees a chance to experience institutions outside their locality.

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When creating their virtual tour, the University of Montana built the experience with the institution’s 40 percent first-generation and 7 percent Native American student populations in mind, Mary Kreta, vice president for enrollment management and strategic initiatives at the University of Montana, shared in an Inside Higher Ed article.

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

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

The Popularity of Virtual College Tours Continues to Grow

K–12 students and staff needn’t 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, and the latter isn’t new to virtual tours: CampusTours has been helping high school 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.

Counselors can also tune in to The College Tour TV 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.”

LEARN MORE: How do high school students feel about college after the pandemic?

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