In Washington state, colleges offering virtual tours include Whitman College, Seattle University and Washington State University.

Share story

Maybe you missed the boat on summer college visits or were just too busy for the traditional weeklong tour de campus. Perhaps finances are tight and you can’t afford to traipse around the country, even if those schools do look really cool — on paper, at least. Here are ways to visit schools, without even setting foot inside a building.

Take a virtual tour
Now, students can tour Harvard right from their living room, via a virtual tour on the college’s website. Students act as guides, giving 360-degree, panoramic views of freshman dorms, dining halls, classrooms, Widener Library and the statue of founder John Harvard.

In Washington state, colleges offering virtual tours include Whitman College, Seattle University and Washington State University, among others.

“Our virtual tour allows students a chance to have a guided walk around campus any time of day, without the cost or time required to actually visit campus,” says Katie O’Brien, who works in undergraduate admissions at Seattle University.

In August, Seattle University’s online tour at youvisit.com/tour/seattleu had more than 800 visitors from 43 countries and 45 states touring virtually, she says.

“Virtual tours are great for getting a sense of the campus environment for students who aren’t able to visit due to time, distance or cost constraints,” says Adam Miller, admissions director at Whitman College in Walla Walla.

These tours also “include spaces that might not fit into a typical campus tour — for instance, a variety of student rooms in different residence halls or special facilities such as our art or theater buildings that aren’t part of our standard tour route,” he says.

This year, Seattle University’s social media team also offered campus tours and student panels via Instagram Live; prospective students could tune in and submit questions, which were shared and answered.

“The [Instagram] Live tours are a neat example of the ways the traditional college experience, in this case, the college visit, is evolving for new generations,” O’Brien says.

The website Collegeweeklive.com even offers a virtual college fair, complete with live presentations (on topics like writing a great college essay) and live chats with representatives from universities from around the nation and world.

Review ratings
The website Ratemyprofessors.com is much like Yelp for college profs — students can review instructors and classes on scales that include quality and difficulty. Some students leave longer reviews, where you can discover whether the professor is known for dropping pop quizzes or frequently runs late, among other things.

Search by school name to discover the site’s listing of top professors, along with more general school ratings on 10 qualities, including reputation, clubs, food and safety. And if you’re interested in anthropology, for example, check out the reviews of the department’s teachers.

Of course, as with Yelp, a disgruntled or disillusioned anonymous student can leave unfairly harsh feedback or bash a teacher due to a disappointing grade. Take these reviews with a grain of salt.

Go on YouTube
Several schools offer YouTube channels, where it’s possible to watch lectures like an in-class student, learn about recent university research or get a cam-eye view of what’s going on right now. Many university YouTube channels offer information for prospective students about campus life, sports, financial aid and interviews with students and professors.

For example, the University of Washington’s UWTV offers a live stream from Red Square and a prerecorded engineering lecture on DNA data storage. Central Washington University’s channel includes geology lectures on gold mines, and a presentation on “Great Earthquakes of the Pacific Northwest.”

Chat with counselors
“If a student is not able to visit campus prior to applying but would like to speak with someone in person, there is a good chance one of our counselors will be visiting their area at some point in the fall,” O’Brien says.

After all, Seattle University (like many others) has 11 admissions counselors spending a collective 50 weeks on the road during peak school-research season, from September to mid-November.

“If not, we are always happy to connect students with alumni in their area, or arrange a chance to speak with a current student or admissions counselor over the phone,” O’Brien says.