What Is the Purpose of a College Tour?

Written by College Cliffs Team At, our team, comprising seasoned educators and counselors, is committed to supporting students on their journey through graduate studies. Our advisors, holding advanced degrees in diverse fields, provide tailored guidance, current program details, and pragmatic tips on navigating application procedures.

Reviewed by Linda Weems I got started researching colleges and universities about 10 years ago while exploring a second career. While my second career ended up being exactly what I’m doing now, and I didn’t end up going to college, I try to put myself in your shoes every step of the way as I build out College Cliffs as a user-friendly resource for prospective students.

Updated: April 1, 2024, Reading time: 19 minutes

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Going through college tours or visiting colleges is one of the most attributed factors for choosing a college that best fits you. You learn about the school and the environment that you’ll be in for the next four years or so.

However, this may not be possible for all students, especially if you live far from the college. Furthermore, it would not be easy to have an on-campus visit due to the current pandemic situation. 

As you choose your undergraduate school, check out the alternatives for college tours. They have taken care of productive approaches to understand and take a comprehensive look at their campus and systems. 

College Cliffs is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What Are College Visits or College Tours?

There is more to a college tour than merely visiting the campus. College tours enable you to discover answers to your questions, concerns, and curiosity about your incoming college life. You also get an opportunity to meet other prospective students and meet new friends way before school starts.

Importantly, it gives you a head start to prepare for your higher education experience. You can further understand college on a deeper level, and in some cases, it even helps you come up with a decision on what major to take up.

You will have a clearer sense of direction for your college search as well as the application process.

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With the advancement of technology, online resources are accessible in just a few clicks. Hence, students can easily acquire information about colleges through websites and online data.

Statista shows the frequency of high school students’ visits to college websites using their mobile devices, and it shows that 18% of the surveyed students visit college websites once a day. 

The University of California Los Angeles published a 2019 American Freshman Survey, which shows that 51.7% of the 97,000 respondents consider a campus visit a “significant” indicator when selecting their university. So please take advantage of joining a campus tour, whether it’s on-campus or online.

Different Types of College Tours

Doing your fair share of researching colleges and universities is not a bad idea. It will enhance your knowledge and understanding of what type of school you would want to belong to. As you gather more information, you also understand your preferences.

However, having an in-person visit seems to be the most favored option for many people because you can have an actual physical experience.

Here, we will discuss the three types of college tours that were common before the pandemic started.

1. Traditional Campus Tour

Campus visits typically entail planning and scheduling. You go on a group tour, which could mean as little as two families or as large as the tour guide can accommodate. Your activities will include visiting the building’s facilities and learning more about the campus highlights.

You will meet with counselors or even have an opportunity to shadow an actual class. If you have already started on your college search, this type of college tour will help you assess and evaluate if the school fits your needs. 

2. Open House 

This type of college tour includes a pool of visitors and prospective students gathering around, sharing the same purpose and intention as you. If you would instead opt for a one-on-one meeting, this might not be an excellent option for you to conduct your thorough college search.

However, if you don’t mind joining the crowd, attending an open house has its perks. Primarily, the best advantage is that a school holds an open place to share and distribute useful information to all future applicants. Different school departments and organizations participated together to make this event successful.

Thus, they have a very organized and systematic way of communicating and handling inquiries. During such an event, you will have a chance to speak to admissions office staff, financial aid advisers, members of organizations, department staff, and even current students. 

3. Overnight College Visits

This last kind of campus tour is the least common one. Although it is perceived as the most informative method, not many students choose this option. If you apply for an overnight college visit, you will have many tours of your own major’s buildings and facilities.

You will attend real-time classes by ongoing students and socialize with other prospective students like you. You will also spend the night in a residence hall so that you can take full advantage of the college experience.

In these times, you will better understand what you want about the college and eventually be able to decide whether the school is right for you or not.

Not all universities and colleges offer this kind of campus visit, so you will have to inquire first about it. Moreover, this would be a better option if you have already narrowed your list of preferred colleges to attend.

Alternative Ways for College Tours in this Covid-19 Situation

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many school systems and procedures have been altered, and the new normal has been implemented. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released different considerations for higher education institutions to ensure students, schools, and faculty staff are safe and healthy. 

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The twinge of coronavirus has taken its toll on many incoming college students. In light of the schools and universities closing, many prospective college students are confused about going over and proceeding with their enrollments, college searches, and campus visits.

Fortunately, many higher education organizations have come up with alternative methods right away, making off-campus a useful variable for selecting the best college. 

Here are the improvised alternative ways for your college search without an on-site campus visit:

1. Most of the schools now offer virtual tours. 

If you already have a list of schools you are most likely to attend, search them online for their virtual school tours. Many schools have structured a virtual tour that is quite similar to gathering enough information. You may also use Google Maps if you would want to consider the geographical aspect.

Since you can’t pay the school an actual visit, research its nearby areas, restaurants, and stores to see if it has everything you need. Schools also offer virtual tours of their housing options so that you can look at them online, too.

2. College consultants are available for online communications.

Aside from the online information sessions and tools provided by colleges, some have assigned college consultants or faculty staff with whom you can speak online.

You can set up an appointment and communicate through their online platform, and you can ask all your questions and explain your concerns directly. This is when you can evaluate the responsiveness of the school and admissions staff, too.

3. Rely on as many resources as you can find online, including social media.

Despite not being able to visit on-campus, you will have unlimited resources online through the school’s website. However, suppose you want to have more in-depth information not provided by the admissions or any school representative.

In that case, you can opt to dig more data organically, and these may be found in many social media accounts. You will notice the real feedback, opinions, culture, and practices of a university. 

4. Ask around and utilize the word-of-mouth approach.

Another effective way to hear and collect more views toward a school is by asking ideas from your friends, acquaintances, relatives, family, or anyone you know who has or knows someone who attended the school that you are interested in.

Chances are their advice is realistic, and you will be able to ask more about the school’s offerings and your interests. 

5. Join different online education seminars and offerings.

Many universities and colleges have adapted to online student interactions and webinars. Q&A panels and virtual information sessions are being conducted to replace the face-to-face orientation of prospective students. These online means allow students to ask anything about the school during the Q&A session.

If it’s any consolation, students would feel more comfortable asking online due to limited physical exposure compared to standing and speaking in front of everyone during an on-site orientation. 

College Tours: Post-pandemic

There have been many changes in the higher education approaches in America. Car campus tours, drive-through style, or a tour guide connected via Zoom software are just among the creative ways that some colleges and schools have applied in response to the COVID-19 restrictions.

However, this will limit the exploration of other areas like dorm rooms and libraries, which can only be toured during a physical visit. Although these approaches have worked effectively for others, they won’t apply to all universities and colleges.  

One of the noticeable changes that have been implemented by many schools is the admission process. Conventionally, one requirement for getting admitted to college is taking the SAT exam. An article released by CNBC mentions that SAT and ACT exams have been stalled due to the coronavirus situation.

Many schools have disregarded these scores as part of their requirements and have gone test-optional, at least for a specified amount of time. It has even led to some schools permanently eliminating such conditions.

They realized how other variables effectively evaluate a student applicant’s academic capability and skills way beyond their test score performances. This has been just one of the permanent impacts that have resulted from the pandemic.

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Digital learning systems and more practical methods have been implemented instead of other on-site and face-to-face systems for classes, admissions, and enrollments.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling Executive Director David Hawkins wrote an email to Education Dive stating that even when things gradually get back to normal, there will still be impactful financial implications for the education industry, quite like the 2008 recession. 

Most schools’ recruiting conditions have grown to be more competitive due to the pandemic, and the emotional connection of students has been a defining factor recently.

Innovative approaches to digital platforms and methods will be retained by many higher education organizations. Versatility, diversity, and a creative spirit will continue to be considered crucial components for many schools, even in the years to come.

With these forecasts and estimates, and although it’s too early to predict the aftermath effects of the COVID-19 situation, one thing is for sure: there will be changes in the usual college search, campus tours, and college admissions. 

Tips for Your Next On-campus or Virtual College Tour

Make sure your visits are meaningful and experience the feel of college by applying these helpful tips once you go for an on-site campus tour or a virtual one. 

1. Do your research.

Research the college or university right before you schedule a campus visit. This will help you prepare questions about programs and majors that you are interested in. Get the most out of it by knowing what to ask and knowing what their specialties are.

2. Don’t be late for the tour.

You’ll realize how important it is to arrive earlier than the scheduled time once you experience at least one campus tour. Exploring the grounds and campus facilities indeed takes much of your time and energy, so plan out your schedule ahead and anticipate the walking and touring time, as well as attending information sessions. 

3. Check the weather and know what to wear.

Check the weather and be ready for what temperature the day will bring. You will be spending some hours both indoors and outdoors, so make sure to wear appropriate clothing. However, if you have an interview during a campus visit, you will also need to look professional.

Consider such situations when finding the right clothes for your campus tour. This tip does not apply to a virtual campus tour, though. 

4. Don’t let your parents take over.

It would be preferable to go on campus tours alone, independently, without your parents. It’s you who will start your college journey anyway, so own up to your obligation by learning a lot of information about the school. This will help you understand your preferences better and decide on the best school fit for you. 

5. Take advantage of all the information provided by the Admissions Office.

Although you might feel like all the information provided by many schools’ informative sessions is similar and repetitive, take advantage of listening clearly to what makes a school different than the rest. Feel free to ask specific questions that will suit your needs as a future student at the school.

6. Explore the nearby and local area.

If you are physically going for a campus tour, you should consider knowing and learning what the nearby stores and establishments are. This will help you have a fun time while enrolled on the campus. Roam around and discover if the area is suitable for your lifestyle and needs.

For virtual tours, you may replace this advice with a geographical research method instead. You can still check the areas of the school through Google Maps.

7. Be open-minded.

Don’t be quick to judge. Even if you’ve heard many opinions and advice from friends and family, enjoy your campus tour with an open mind. Write your thoughts and ideas about the school so that you can review them later when you’re ready to make a decision.

Always have a positive mindset, whether you go for a virtual campus tour or a virtual tour.

10 Best College or Virtual Tours

Below is a list of schools and universities presenting organized processes for in-person or virtual campus tours:

Boston College

Offering everything virtually, you can explore Boston College and connect with its community through its online platform. They understand that nothing beats the feeling of physically visiting their campus, so they spent much of their efforts sustaining a reliable virtual tour for prospective students like you. 

They have designed two virtual visits: the Virtual Eagle Eye Information Session and the Live Virtual Campus Tour. The first one is a live informational program that an admission counselor conducts. It covers and entails the admission process, provides details about financial aid, and lets you participate and contact current students.

The latter is a live campus tour session where you will experience a live virtual tour, which feels like visiting the campus in real life. This tour will also allow you to join the interactive Q&A session with their student tour guides.

Yale University

Enjoy a virtual tour with a 3D tour guide representative on the right side of the website page.

Their virtual tour is designed similarly to a VR model, which enables you to take a 360-degree look at many pictures and images of the different buildings, campuses, and facilities of their university. With high-definition photos, you’ll get to feel like you’re visiting the school physically.

Yale University is currently not accepting on-campus visitors due to the COVID-19 situation, but you will be able to access different resources online. You will have a lot of information even by browsing through their website. Everything you need to know about their application process for freshmen students is provided on their Apply Online page

Northeastern University

Northeastern University currently accepts limited visitors for their on-site campus tour. However, if you’re a state visitor, you have to check and comply with Massachusetts’s Current Travel Order, as this is a pre-requisite and is strictly implemented by the local government.

The Northeastern Visitor Center is equipped with staff and student guides who can assist you with your inquiries, and they are ready to serve from Mondays until Fridays, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Northeastern University also designed and prepared an interactive virtual tour that hosts live and recorded video content if you want to experience a similar-to-an-up-close campus visit.

You can have a view of the rich history of their academic rigor while catching a glimpse of their campus, facilities, student housing, and elegant green spaces. A current student ambassador will conduct this virtual tour guide.

Besides the virtual tour, you will have access to their online resources like the Virtual Admissions and College Sessions and Virtual Prospect Events.

Bentley University

Visit Bentley University either on-campus or virtually. They will start a limited physical campus tour beginning January 2022, but you have to check and comply with Massachusetts’s Current Travel Order, as reinforced by the local government.

A current student will guide you and help you understand a real college experience at Bentley University.

Another way to enjoy an on-site campus visit is by registering for their Self-Guided Tour. If you select this option, you will be given a pre-determined route guide and essential information about the campus and the facilities. Register to get the directions and available schedule slots for your self-guided tour.  

Bentley University also holds a live Virtual Information Session that runs for about 30 minutes and allows you to interact with their admission counselor.

They also offer Live Remote Campus Tours, which are dynamic and designed to provide a one-on-one session with a student tour guide who can assist you with all your inquiries.

Another interesting virtual event is their Virtual Interview, where you can connect with an admission representative. You will be able to share why you’ll be a suitable prospective student while gathering information about the admission process. 

Penn State University

Due to the suspended on-campus tours and visits, Penn State University has restructured its virtual systems to offer a broader scope of resources and online tour opportunities to interested applicants.

There are many online visits, programs, and events to explore and discover for you as you browse through their website.

The Penn State University Park Virtual Visits is the perfect program for you if you would like to network with other incoming students. You can share valuable information, like the admission process, program and major options, and the anticipated experience as a Penn State community member.

As for virtual appointments, you can also directly speak to an admissions representative so you can be thoroughly guided through your enrollment and application steps.

University of Notre Dame

Having a temporary suspension for their physical campus tours, the University of Notre Dame joins other colleges and universities in their pursuit of creating sustainable college virtual tours for incoming college students.

An admissions counselor is in charge of hosting video webcasts that can support all the information needed by a prospective student.

They will share topics about academics, community, extracurriculars, and religious activities offered by the school. These webinars also tackle the admissions process and the financial aid process more. If you are interested in joining, there are slots available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

As for a virtual campus tour, there are student tour guides available who can manage to give you a brief tour of their buildings, spaces, and locations of the university. They will go right into detailed areas like residence halls, classrooms, library, dining halls, and other sites.

You can ask your tour guides direct questions in real time. The schedule for these virtual tours starts every Thursday at 8:00 p.m.

University of California: Los Angeles

Join the online webinars hosted by current students of UCLA. They deliver different kinds of virtual tours intended for first-year students and transferees. You can even have house tours and visit a class since they have started utilizing online learning platforms.

Another exciting tour offered by UCLA is their Cub Tours, which is intended for students in Kindergarten until their 8th grade. You can schedule your online tours according to their available time. 

University of Houston

Actual campus visits have been canceled until further notice due to the pandemic situation. However, to maximize and prioritize health measures, you will be able to experience a thorough campus tour using their alternative online platform.

Register and schedule a Virtual Campus Visit with the University of Houston and receive a live campus tour from a current student ambassador. Please take advantage of the brief information session that will be hosted by their admissions representative.

Once you register for their information session, you will have more knowledge about the university, its academic opportunities, admissions processes, and campus life. They have different offerings that are suitable based on various student’s needs. 

The live guided tour will be hosted by a student ambassador who will take you across 600 acres of the campus area. You can conveniently follow and browse their building’s facilities and discuss on-campus activities through your gadget. 

Florida State University

Visit and explore Florida State University using its different campus tour services. They have stopped their in-person campus visits for the rest of the year 2020, so please be guided with their virtual alternatives.

Like other schools, you will have a chance to interact with their student ambassadors and admissions counselors should you have any inquiries or questions about their FSU community and campus life. 

They hold many virtual events every day, so you will have many opportunities to attend information sessions, tours, and Q&A panels as you wish. They also offer videos and podcasts to help you understand what options you can find when studying at FSU.

Browse through their Visit Us page, and you’ll be delighted with their organized manner of virtual campus visits and housing tours, too. 

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Become a Cavalier and discover more about their community and school values. Although they do not offer Grounds visits for now due to the COVID-19 situation, they provide intensive resources for you to explore more about their majors, programs, admissions, and learning systems.

They have also structured a Virtual Visit program, where they bring their campus to you instead. They highly recommend you participate in their information session.

Whether you are a transferee or an incoming freshman student, you will have many opportunities to subscribe to their informative sessions, virtual tours of their grounds and campus, and chat sessions with administrators and representatives. Get started now and join their contact list