Decide if Virtual Campus Tours Are Worth It – or Worthless
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The college or university you choose to attend is more than a place of learning, it is your home for four years. Beyond its academic aspects, a school is a community of professors, staff and students. Even the city, town or village surrounding your college can alter your experience significantly.
The best means of evaluating the "feel" of a school is by physically visiting campus. However, traveling to distant colleges and universities can be very expensive, especially if you must visit several locations. Virtual tours offer a potentially useful alternative to a physical campus tour, albeit with a number of key drawbacks. The following are three things to consider while exploring schools from afar.
1. Virtual tours provide one point of view: Virtual tours are perhaps most pertinent when gathering a sense of the school environment, such as its architecture and landscaping. Virtual tours may not shed light on all parts of a college or university, such as outdated science laboratories or less desirable dormitories.
Rather, you will gain a picture of the school as it wishes to be seen: clean and neat, with newly built and well-maintained buildings surrounded by beautifully landscaped plants.
Consider the inner workings of a virtual tour website. The tours offer more than common-domain photographs of a campus. There is a human tour guide who narrates each major feature of the college or university, accompanied by high-quality images. This content is available to prospective students and teachers free of charge, despite the evident cost of creating such well-produced content. If students do not pay for the tour material, it is likely that advertisers do, which can bring up concerns about how objective the tour really is if the school itself is sponsoring it.
2. Virtual tours enable further research: Another purpose for virtual tours is to provide an entry point for Internet research. Virtual tours provide potential students with a list of prominent landmarks on campus, as well as the roles of various buildings in campus life.
You can use Google Images, Google Maps, and other similar tools to search for other photographs that balance or complete the perspective you receive. Message boards, subgroups on the website Reddit and YouTube channels that focus on particular schools can enable you to see what students are discussing and participating in at an individual college or university. Again, none of these options will provide you with a holistic picture, but you will be able to gather additional information on a given campus.
Even if you visit a school in summer, there will be professors, staff and students with whom you can speak. You can still take a tour with a trained guide, and you can also explore the campus independently.
For example, the virtual tour of Ohio State University, a school which I love and with which I am intimately familiar, does not offer interior views of dormitories. The tour also does not visit the off-campus locations near the campus where the vast majority of students live.
Prospective science majors are not able to view the interior of the student laboratories. Prospective art or theater students do not gain a close glimpse of the performance or studio spaces. The virtual tour also does not convey the vast scale of the campus and the widespread classrooms that necessitate a bicycle or significant planning of transportation time.
3. Virtual tours do not introduce you to the student body: Beyond facilities, visiting a college or university allows you to meet the students who go there. Returning to Ohio State University as an example, there is no virtual tour that can adequately capture the feeling of being on campus for a football game. More than 100,000 people in the stadium and thousands more tailgating nearby is a unique experience. You may find said experience exciting or off-putting, but the Internet cannot substitute for seeing it in person.
When positioned as an initial scouting trip, a virtual tour can be a wonderful tool. If a school shows you its best side and you still find it unappealing, you can eliminate it. The virtual tour can also be a strong start for more extensive investigation. However, when possible, in-person visits are typically superior.
Last Updated June 13, 2018