In an earlier blog post, I highly recommended spending time on your chosen college campus before dedicating at least four years of your life to pursuing an undergraduate degree. Too often I’ve had former students think that a certain college was their “dream school” only to begin the process of transferring by the end of their first semester. Of course a weekend on campus won’t insure that a college is a perfect fit, but at least it will give you a feel for what that institution has to offer you.
But what about before you even apply? Most of my students don’t even know where to begin. With over 5,300 colleges and universities in the United States, I can’t blame them for feeling overwhelmed. And with the average college application costing $41, most of my students only apply to around five schools.
There is no way to physically tour more than a few prospective college campuses during your junior year, but recently I explored over a dozen campuses virtually. This is not science fiction and I didn’t receive an early version of the oculus rift...but it is still pretty cool.
CampusTours.com allows anyone to search colleges based on name or location and then “walk” around the campus using a variety of applications. Of course I started with my alma mater UCLA and was offered 13 in-depth videos on everything from “Residential Life” to “The UCLA Undergraduate Experience”. The virtual tour took me into the quad where I had a 360 degree view featuring Royce Hall and Powell Library. Clicking on the interactive map I was able to virtually tour the UCLA law school and resident halls. A quick fact sheet presented the campus demographics, enrollment costs, admission requirements, majors, and even the admission fee ($70).
In ten minutes, I “walked” the entire campus (much faster than I was able to even bike it back in my prime). And CampusTours.com has thousands of schools to choose from. Going into the advanced search settings I was able to narrow my search based on undergraduate population, cost, what sports programs they offered, and specific major. A quick search of colleges offering a bachelor's degree in anthropology in Colorado brought up ten schools I could virtually tour. Enrollment under 5,000 narrowed my search to three schools.
I’ve never been to Colorado, but from the comfort of my office I took a walk around the University of Colorado in Denver, and liked what I saw. (Application fee: $50)
So take a half an hour and tour campuses across the country based on what you are specifically looking for in a university or college. Or, maybe you’ll discover a major that you didn’t even know was offered and go from there. Either way, this website offers students a free way to virtually explore campuses as they start to decide where they want to apply.
Campustours.com is not a sponsor of THE College Prep Camp.
Bryan Starchman teaches personal statement writing for THE College Prep Camp. He is also an English and Drama teacher at Mariposa County High School and a published playwright.