What Will I Experience on a College Tour?

Visiting a college before you agree to attend is a great way to determine if the school is for you. It’s a chance for students to make the college “real” in their minds and see if they can envision themselves there for the next four years. Many schools offer in-person college tours (or online versions) where students can visit the most important points on campus, ask questions, and determine if the school is for them.

But beyond a simple walk about the campus, what can you expect?

Why Should You Visit Colleges Before Attending?

A college tour is a great way to get a guided experience on your potential future school. Tour guides know the points that students and their parents are most interested in, and these tours are designed to take you to those points.

Visiting a campus also gives you valuable insight into whether or not a school is for you. A college can look amazing on paper and rank extremely high, but that doesn’t answer the question of “Is this the right school for me?” By taking a trip to the college before agreeing to attend the school on May 1st, you can take the opportunity to answer that question for yourself.

You might find that the school is perfect for you. Or you could realize the campus is a lot larger than you expected. Or the campus is poorly designed and it’s a hike from your dorm rooms to your classes. You could be impressed by the library and gym.

Online photographs won’t always do these spots justice, and, like all businesses, college pictures can be manipulated to show what the audience wants to see. Dorm rooms, for instance, can be taken with a wide-angle zoom lens to look bigger than they actually are! Schools aren’t going to show you photographs of litter on their quad or subpar food.

By taking the time out to visit the college or go on a tour, you can see all of these aspects with your own two eyes and judge for yourself.

In-Person Tour vs Online vs Self Guided

There are three ways you can “visit” campuses: an in-person official tour offered by the college, online, or self-guided.

In-Person Tour

An in-person tour is the traditional option of the three. These tours are designed by the college to take you to the important points at the school and nowhere else. While they can be extremely informative and invaluable, the college will only show you the parts you want to see and your tour guide will be someone who is trying to sell you on the school.


Online tours are a great option if you can’t visit a campus due to time or money constraints. Many colleges now offer video or even virtual reality tours that take you around campus with a voice over explaining the things you need to know before attending. Like in-person tours though, these videos will only show you what the school wants you to see and, being online, it’s easier to hide less ideal aspects of the campus.


Students can also opt to take a walk around campus on their own! They can take this opportunity to talk to current students, ask questions, and explore facilities like the library. In addition, you’ll be able to see aspects of the college without the sales pitch.

However, it is extremely important to not go anywhere you’re not allowed. Dorm rooms, while they may be viewable on the guided tour, are generally not accessible to students not living in them. Gaining access without permission could result in serious consequences.

What Can Students Expect on an In-Person College Tour?

A traditional, in-person college tour will take you around to the most important sights and points on campus. In almost all of these visits, you will get:

A Tour Guide

Every college tour is assigned a tour guide, a representative of the school. This could be a member of staff or faculty but is often an upperclassman or alumnus. These tour guides will be there to answer any questions you have and to explain different things along the way.

A Walking Tour

Walking tours at different schools will take you to different points of interest. Some tours may skip the library, for instance, and not all will take you into the dining halls or dorm rooms. Generally, though, you can expect to see these points on your college tour:

  • Admissions buildings
  • Classrooms
  • Health center
  • Library
  • Gym
  • Dorm rooms
  • Dining halls
  • Bookstores
  • Fraternity and sorority houses
  • Community spaces such as the quad
  • Safety features including any security or police departments on campus
  • Career Center
  • Student resource centers

Students on a tour should not wander away or enter a classroom that they are not permitted to enter. Doing so could result in a rejection letter before you even finish the tour.

These walking tours can range from anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.

Q&A Session

Most college tours, after completing the walking portion, will offer a question-and-answer session. Students and their parents or guardians are invited to ask any questions they may have about facilities, attending the college, what to expect while on campus, rules, and anything else they want to know!

There is a possibility that the tour guide will not know the answer to all questions, especially those that have to do with an area of study outside of their expertise. In this case, the student should ask who they should contact at the school instead.

Should You Visit the College on Your Own, Online, or Opt for the Tour?

All three types of college tours have their advantages and disadvantages, but going on all three can actually be the most beneficial. It really depends on your unique situation.

An in-person guided tour can be a great introduction to the college and campus. You’ll be able to ask questions and get a solid understanding of what the school is about.

An online tour is a perfect option if you cannot visit the campus in person right away because of distance, time, or money. If you are in the beginning stages of considering a college, these videos are a good starting point.

A self-guided tour, however, is a strong idea if the school is one of your final choices and May 1st is on the horizon. You can simply sit on a bench, observe the students around you, and just get a feel of whether or not this is the right school for you. And you can take as much time as you would like!

When Should You Visit a College?

The “best time” to visit a college is a debated subject, and it depends on your own needs and wants. Generally, though, you should visit a college as soon as you are able. Colleges only offer in-person guided tours on select dates. Online tours and self-guided tours can be on any day that works for you. Many students opt to visit in the months before they apply to colleges.

However, if you are restricted by distance, time, or money, it may make more sense for you to only visit a college after you’ve been accepted.

College tours can give valuable insight into a school before you agree to attend. They’re a necessity to determine if the college is the right fit for you and can be an eye-opening and inspirational experience for some! We highly recommend opting for a college tour before you decide on May 1st!

However, before you even think about visiting a college campus, you do need to be sure it’s the right school for you outside of the general environment of the campus.

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