Visiting a Campus Without Leaving Home

As upcoming generations become more and more tech oriented, colleges are scrambling to find innovative ways to connect with prospective students. While the old ways of recruiting, like college fairs, mailings and high school visits are still going strong, a variety of new options are popping up, giving today’s teens some cool new ways to check out colleges.

One of the most intriguing is YouVisit, a website that offers virtual tours of college campuses across the country. At each stop, a recorded voice or video talks to the viewer about the college. Users can see 360 panoramic views of interesting areas on campus, as well as photos and videos. Some colleges even offer several specialized tours in addition to the campus tour.

What I like best about YouVisit is that (as of this posting) it’s completely free, with no account or login required. And unlike many other college info sites, YouVisit is not clogged with excessive information. It’s clean and simple, allowing the user to focus on the thing they are there to see – the college campus.

Should you cancel your college visit plans and save yourself some money? NO! A virtual tour is no real substitute for an in-person campus visit – I can’t stress this enough. The virtual world is not the real world. What you see in these videos is a higher tech version of the slick brochures that colleges send in the mail. It’s another form of marketing, and should never replace your own in-person research.

Even the most detailed video and photos still cannot recreate the feeling of actually being on a campus. In most YouVisit videos, there aren’t many students walking around.   You can’t hear the sounds of the campus. You can’t smell the smells. You can’t experience the overall “vibe.” You can’t ask questions, sit in on a class, or eat at the dining hall. You only see what the college has decided to show you and there is no option to wander on your own or just hang out after the tour.

My advice – use YouVisit the same way you’d use other websites – as a helpful tool for familiarizing yourself with a prospective college. But when it comes to the colleges you are seriously considering, take the time to visit in person whenever possible. You will be spending at least four years of your life, not to mention a lot of money, at whichever college you choose, and that deserves so much more than a virtual tour.

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