Asian girl with pink hair, white headphones, and notepad looking at laptop

5 Helpful Things to Look for on a Virtual Campus Tour

Virtual tours are a great alternative if you can't physically visit campus. Here's what to look for and questions to ask to make the most of your experience.

Virtual campus tours are undoubtedly a unique experience for prospective college students. They offer a great opportunity to learn more about a school if you can’t physically visit, but unfortunately, beautiful, sensorial moments—like the smell of lemon poppyseed muffins wafting from the cafeteria, the sight of academic buildings soaring into the sky, or the sound of laughter as students walk across campus—can’t be experienced through a computer screen. With this new way of learning about colleges, it’s important to understand what to look for when evaluating whether a college is the right fit for you. Here are a few things to look for and questions to prepare for your next virtual campus experience or information session.

1. A feel for the campus environment

A campus’s environment is one of the most important factors in deciding whether to attend a particular college. If you don’t see yourself fitting in on the campus that the virtual tour is presenting to the public, that may be a sign that this college does not meet your needs. But how can you decide whether you see yourself there if you can only see the grounds on a screen? It’s important to place yourself in the shoes of a student already attending that college. As the virtual tour takes you around campus, do you see the surroundings as a welcoming environment? As the student ambassadors speak about their school, do they sound genuine? What are some specific things they enjoy about this college? Every college is different, and the students on the virtual tour should relay the feel of the school since you can’t experience it for yourself at the moment.

There are many different aspects of campus life—like sororities and fraternities, special-interest clubs, and other student organizations—that add to a school’s environment. If you’re able to have a question-and-answer session with a real student, ask them how they get involved at this school (now and pre-COVID-19): What weekend activities are there? What campus events do students participate in? What’s the school spirit like? Dive deep into these meaningful questions, because they allow you to get a broader perspective of the campus environment and everything that makes up the community. 

Related: College Organizations and Activities Worth Getting Excited Over

2. Classes and academic life

Although every adult says that college is for the experience—to meet new people, join clubs, make new friends, and just have fun—most importantly, you’re there to receive a good education. When evaluating a college’s academics, you should look at everything from class size to unique programs and internships available at a school. In terms of class size, do you want a more one-on-one learning setting that gives you increased attention? Or do you see yourself at a big university with hundreds of people in each class? In addition to class size, you should also ask student representatives about professor availability. Are the professors easily accessible at the college after class or during office hours? Lastly, in terms of the course load, ask yourself what type of challenge you’re looking to receive academically. What are the most rigorous courses like when you enroll in them, and is the coursework manageable? A student, professor, or department head may be available to connect with to answer these questions, so be sure to inquire as you explore a college’s website.

3. Campus services and resources

Pay attention to the facilities highlighted by each student ambassador on your virtual tour. There are many different questions you can ask that won’t have obvious answers on a school’s website. In terms of academics, are there writing and math centers to help you with essays and homework? Are there nice, quiet study spots? Beyond academics, what other services does the school offer? Does the school have counselors if you need one? What are the health facilities like to those injured or sick on campus? You’ll be living at this college for four or more years, so it’s important to check off all these boxes, even if it may seem like an insignificant factor in your final decision. 

Related: Make the Most of Campus Services During the Pandemic 

4. Location and climate

Outside of the actual campus, it’s vital to consider the location of the college itself. There may be a myriad of opportunities offered on campus, but beyond these, you want to look at what there is off campus as well. Researching the local area can help you narrow down whether you want to attend that school. Take into consideration whether there are nearby cities or towns, or if the school is located in a more rural area. Do you want a quiet place that’s more remote, or do you want to be smack-dab in the middle of a bustling city with new sights and sounds around every corner? Ask students where they like to go off campus to help place yourself in their shoes and see if this is an environment that interests you.

The weather is a component as well: if you’re from sunny SoCal looking at East Coast schools, you want to consider the vastly different climates. Do you like the snow? Rain? Sunshine? Consider each season and ask students what they really experience. The virtual tour may show a beautiful campus green and fall foliage, but the campus might be covered in two feet of snow for most of the year!

5. Above everything else: Food! 

I’m partly kidding when I say this, but food is actually a big factor when considering a college. Although you may not be able to physically taste those lemon poppyseed muffins on a virtual tour, Brown University students will make it known that they have the best muffins there are to offer. In addition, some campuses may be located further from cities with endless restaurant options, so the on-campus food may be your only choice. It’s definitely worth asking what dining is like during your virtual tour—inquire about cafeteria options, campus specialties, dietary accommodations, and more.

Related: What You Need to Know About College Meal Plans 

While virtual campus visits are certainly helpful, they can’t outline the entire experience at a college. These questions and considerations will help you get a broader sense of a school, but it’s important to not base your opinion solely on these tours. Use them to learn more about your options and narrow down your college list, and hopefully you’ll be able to physically visit before you make your final college decision. Good luck!

Looking for more questions and advice to help you navigate your virtual or in-person college tours? Explore our Campus Visits section! 

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Maggie Chiappetta-Uberti

Maggie Chiappetta-Uberti

Although she's been able to embrace her love of writing as an editor of her school newspaper, Maggie Chiappetta-Uberti still jumps at every opportunity to write and is thrilled to share valuable information about the college process on CollegeXpress. Aside from her passion for writing, Maggie is a movie fanatic and loves the beach, listening to music, attempting to learn new languages, and baking with her sister (although she does more taste-testing than baking). Maggie is interested in going pre-med in college with hopes to work in the medical field someday.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Rose Kearsley

Rose Kearsley

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has seriously helped me out a lot, especially when it comes to scholarships and studying for tests like the ACT. I also really love the financial help. It’s a little harder to pay because I live with a family of eight, so any help is appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity!

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Chris Bell

Chris Bell

Bell College Consulting

The college lists on CollegeXpress are indispensable for sussing out creative additions to a student’s list, and the college-specific pages provide terrific commentary and suggestions for related schools. CollegeXpress is among the most trusted sources I use for information for my students.

Lorena Bacallao

Lorena Bacallao

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress was the foundation of my college search process. Because of CollegeXpress, I was able to make a more informed and confident decision as to where it was best to pursue my higher education. I have recommended this website to fellow peers and for first-generation students like me. It’s a website I will continue to promote because of how simple it was to use and how many opportunities were offered to me at my fingertips!



High School Class of 2019

CollegeXpress has helped me by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I learned about such easy ways to get financial help to achieve my dreams while also learning about myself and who I truly am. I know this isn't a very long explanation of what CollegeXpress has done for me, but nonetheless, I believe it's crucial to how I developed as a person throughout my time as a college student.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Whitman College

Walla Walla, WA

Allegheny College

Meadville, PA