A campus visit can teach you so much about a college. You can see the neighborhood that surrounds it, you can talk to current students, you can check how far the football field is from the freshman dorm. Choosing a college without visiting it is kind of like marrying someone without ever meeting them. Sure, you might fall in love, but it’s a major risk.
So putting your feet on an actual college campus is a very good thing. Visiting colleges can be very expensive, however, especially if you’re looking at schools that are far away from home. You’ll have to pay for a tank of gas or an airplane ticket, reserve a hotel room or find a friend to stay with, and bring snacks or find yourself a real restaurant while you’re there. So what’s a good alternative?
You could talk to people who’ve been there. Maybe your neighbor knows someone who goes there. Maybe your guidance counselor at school can give you more information.
There’s also a fairly new way to learn about a certain college: the virtual tour.
Some colleges have their own virtual tours that you can usually find on their admissions page. These vary in quality from still photographs to interviews with current students to virtual reality tours that you can customize according to your interests. There are also several companies that produce virtual college tours for a large number of universities. Not every school in the country is covered, and you might find the same video/tour for one school on more than one of these third-party groups. But if you can’t hop on a plane, it just might be the next best thing.