How to participate in a “virtual campus visit”

Before students decide on which university they want to attend, it’s important to know as much about the university as possible—and not just its academic offerings. Finding the right “fit” involves knowing a lot about a university’s campus, social life, students, and things to do near or off campus.

The best way to gain knowledge about a university is to personally visit the campus, experiencing everything it has to offer. However, if the campus is a long distance from home, or students just want to sample what the university offers, we recommend they take a “virtual campus visit” online. Most universities provide lots of information on their websites for potential or incoming students. Use this information to research potential schools and make an informed choice.

Here are some tips on how to use the internet to learn more about a university.

Check out the homepage. It seems simple, but a university’s homepage often highlights the areas in which it excels—whether it’s sports, certain academic areas, or campus living. If students don’t have time to really investigate, scan the information and note the parts you are most interested in discovering. Then bookmark the website so students can review it later.

Follow their social channels. Most universities have some kind of social media presence. Follow the schools you are interested in applying to to get brief updates on the happenings around campus. This is a good way to let the university tell students their story!

Read the student newspaper. The newspaper is written by students, which means the articles cover stories from the student perspective. Look at some recent articles to learn about events, issues, and opinions written by potential peers.

Take a virtual tour. Many universities have a photo or video tour of campus on their website. These can help you get a better feel for the classrooms, dorms, dining halls, and “hot spots” on campus.

View the campus using online maps. Maps can do more than get you from place to place. Use them to look at the campus from a bird’s-eye view to better understand the size of the campus and its place within its host city. Or, try mapping the distance between common places, like the library and the dining hall. You can also use maps to check out restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, sports arenas, and other interesting venues that are within walking distance of the campus.

Read the “events” section of the website. Universities often host an array of events, from musical artists and comedians to free movies and game nights. Seeing a calendar of events can give students a better understanding of the activities available to them.

Research the surrounding city. The community will have an impact on your university experience. Do some online research to better understand where students will be living, and learn about the benefits available outside of the campus.

Remember, a “virtual visit” does not compare to the experience students get from actually visiting a campus in person. However, a “virtual visit” can be the right start if students are choosing to study abroad or a long distance from home.

Are you interested in learning more about campus visits? Download a free eBook from ACT to help your students make the most out of researching potential universities.