Also sometimes referred to as a college tour, a campus tour is an exploration, usually guided, of the postsecondary institution’s campus.
Depending on the arrangement, it can be anything from a quick one-hour tour or an overnight stay.
A campus tour is usually facilitated by the current college students being visited.
A campus tour can be a casual activity where the students, usually with their families, check out the school grounds and the different structures, facilities, and even ongoing activities such as classes and traditional events.
There’s also the so-called open house, which usually consists of programs and presentations for a few days.
The itineraries of a campus tour can vary from college to college and from program to program.
For instance, some may come with overnight accommodations and meals, while others may involve prospective students shadowing current students.
How Important is a Campus Tour?
A campus tour is important in the college selection process because it gives the college-bound high schooler a first-hand view of the institution and a personal experience of its campus culture.
Sometimes, a campus tour is a critical factor college admissions officers consider in the review process.
Before anything else, it’s important to point out that a college visit is not a requirement.
So, in other words, it’s an optional activity that you may or may not choose to participate in.
However, if the goal is to ensure that you will choose nothing but the best-fit school, touring the campus can be extremely beneficial.
Admissions officers at some colleges find a campus tour important because it demonstrates an applicant’s interest in attending if given an offer to enroll.
Needless to say, visiting the college can help increase your chances of getting accepted if demonstrated interest is one of the various admissions factors.
But please take note that a campus tour alone isn’t enough to get you in.
What to Expect
Most campus tours are about an hour long.
As the activity’s name suggests, it involves exploring various areas and facilities of the campus, usually with current students serving as tour guides.
During a campus tour, guests are given a chance, too, to ask admissions officers, teachers and even students questions.
A typical college campus visit involves a lot of listening, talking and walking.
Usually, a campus tour begins with the admissions officers talking about the college.
It’s then followed by the main part, the tour, where visiting students and their parents check out the campus’s main parts.
Some of the places visited during a campus tour include classrooms, residence halls, dining areas, libraries, fitness centers, and bookstores.
In some instances, guests, in particular high schoolers, may sit in classes, especially those that are associated with their intended majors, and even spend the night in freshmen on-campus residences.
The itineraries of a campus visit can vary from school to school, so check a college’s tour program beforehand.
How to Prepare
Establishing a budget and budgeting time is important when gearing up for a campus tour.
When planning to visit multiple colleges, students and parents must work on a strategy to maximize resources.
For instance, when traveling to Chicago, we made a list of colleges to check and even had a schedule – in the morning, we would visit Northwestern, and afternoon U of Chicago.
Researching about the college/s to be visited is also an essential preparatory stage.
Before heading to the college you will tour, read some of the most important things you need to know about the institution, from available programs and extracurriculars to student life.
Get a map of the campus and take note of places of interest.
As mentioned earlier, a school day is usually the best day to pay the campus a visit.
However, while contacting the admissions office to obtain a schedule, don’t be too shy to ask when is the best time to set foot on the campus — witnessing a traditional event or important student activity may help you decide better whether or not to attend it.
When it comes to packing your bags, remember the essentials, from the right clothes to your preferred note-taking tool and from light snacks to the list of questions to ask college admissions officers, teachers and current students.
What is a Virtual Campus Tour?
A virtual campus tour is an online alternative to a traditional or in-person college visit.
It uses digital technology to explore a college’s various structures and facilities via innovations such as VR or 360° walkthroughs.
The primary perk of an online campus tour is that it’s free of charge.
The campus tour itself is usually cost-free.
However, there are costs associated with getting to and from the college to explore, which can make a college visit less favorable for students from low-income backgrounds.
According to US News, you should save at least $1,000 for a single college campus tour!
Due to the steep cost of a traditional campus tour, a virtual campus tour is popular and even favored by many these days.
As the name explains, it’s the digital counterpart of a campus visit where you get to check out anything from the quad, dorms to the classrooms in the comfort of your own home and without breaking the bank.
Additionally, a virtual campus tour offered by a college or a third-party provider is usually available 24/7, which means that you can take it at any given time so that you and your family can share the experience whenever possible.
When to Take a Physical Campus Tour and When to Take a Virtual Campus Tour
A physical campus tour is a wonderful option for students who can afford to take one and those who reside just a few cities away.
On the other hand, a virtual campus tour is suitable for college-bound teens whose families do not have the time and finances for the in-person and more traditional type of college visit.
Living less than, say, 100 miles from the campus of your dreams?
It only takes anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 hours to cover 100 miles, depending on the speed of the car, volume of traffic and state of the roads.
Still, it’s cheaper and less time-consuming than flying to get to the campus and tour it.
Because of this, in many instances, it’s a plus to make the effort to have an in-person campus visit, especially if the college takes demonstrated interest into account.
Choosing to go for a virtual tour even when you and the university are in practically neighboring cities isn’t particularly telling of your commitment to attend if accepted.
College admissions officers won’t mind you opting to check out the campus via the Internet if your family cannot afford to pay for the associated costs of a physical campus tour, especially if you are living several states away.
How to Get the Most From a College Visit Experience
To get the most from a campus tour, prospective college applicants should prepare some questions to ask admissions officers, faculty members and current students.
It’s also a wonderful idea to schedule a visit during a regular weekday when classes and other typical campus activities are taking place.
Prior to embarking on a college visit, read about the institution and the program you are interested in.
Doing so will allow you to formulate the best questions to ask, which you will be given the chance to do at some point during the tour.
Other than asking questions, it also pays to take down notes throughout the event.
Do your best to schedule a campus visit in advance and pick a day when classes are being held — it will allow you to experience what it’s like there when everything is in full swing and not when the campus seems like a ghost town.
Of course, it will also enable you to see the professors and students in action.
If permitted, request an on-campus interview may also be considered when scheduling your visit to make the most out of the time and money you and your parents will invest in the activity.
How Do You Schedule
A campus tour can be arranged either by visiting the college’s website or getting in touch with the admissions office.
A campus visit coordinator is someone who schedules the visit of prospective applicants and their parents.
It’s a good idea to get a schedule several weeks in advance to ensure having a spot on the student and parents’ preferred date.
What Should You Wear
It’s recommended for students to dress in casual attire that prioritizes their comfort when taking a college campus tour.
The importance of putting on comfortable footwear cannot be stressed enough as there will be a lot of walking involved.
It’s also a must to consider the season or weather when deciding which attire is the most appropriate for a campus visit.
How Do You Take Notes During a Tour
During a college campus tour, students should take notes, whether in the traditional manner or using a smartphone app, when engaging with admissions officers, faculty members and current students.
They should also pick up brochures, pamphlets and catalogs, all of which they can use as references during the college selection process.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.