Virtual or In Person, Students Say Campus Tours Could Achieve More

  • Three in 10 respondents who went through admissions during COVID did not take any type of campus tour; that’s the case for only about one in five students who were already in college when COVID hit.
  • Eleven percent of students whose admissions were impacted by COVID took a virtual campus tour only, compared to 3 percent of students in college before March 2020.
  • The percentage of students who took either type of tour and strongly agree that the tour accurately depicted campus life is about one in four — both for those already in college at COVID’s start and those who went through admissions during the pandemic.

Touring During COVID

When a virtual tour is the only option, prospective students may be more critical of that experience. One survey respondent at a public university in Texas, who couldn’t tour the institution in person during the pandemic, lamented that the virtual tour website was difficult to navigate. “I would need to go to 10 different pages, each saying variations on the same thing,” the student wrote.

Impressions Made

The ultimate goal during COVID, says Fox Troilo of Hanover Research, has been finding safe ways to hold in-person tours. “It’s very powerful for a student to envision themselves at that institution. There’s something about creating that bond by literally having your feet in the grass or walking through a classroom and touching the seat.”

Virtual and Equitable

Ffiona Rees, chair of the board at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, explains that the draw toward virtual — in tours and other admissions events — is not just about COVID safety but also about equity. “Providing more online programming is a huge benefit to equity — it really opens the doors,” says Rees, who is also deputy director for undergraduate admission at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Authenticity and Specificity

Of the 1,687 Student Voice respondents who took an in-person and/or virtual campus tour of their college or university, about eight in 10 agree at least somewhat that it offered an accurate depiction of what it would like to be a student there. Students at private institutions and first-generation students, however, are less likely to agree.

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