USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities and play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois and went on to play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

College visits can get expensive. Sure, if you’re fortunate enough to get invited on an official visit, the college can potentially pay for your airfare, room, meals and even provide complimentary tickets to an athletic event. But unofficial visits can have significant expenses and that’s why we previously wrote about money-saving tips for your college visits. But what if there was a way to take college campus tours at dozens of colleges without paying a single dollar? That’s essentially what virtual college tours can offer.

While you should not make your college decision exclusively on taking a virtual tour, it can definitely be a helpful tool for figuring out whether you find a campus appealing. Virtual tours can cut back on your travel costs by eliminating some less-appealing schools on your list and hopefully give you a better idea of college fit. But there are obviously other, very important factors to consider, like academics and cost. Use these virtual college campus tour options to help you make an informed decision.

Google Maps

Sort of an obvious choice, but Google Maps nonetheless offers a handy and trusted tool that can let users check out almost any campus they would like. In addition to virtually cruising around campus, users can use Street View to check out the areas around campus from the comfort of their computer or smartphone. Additionally, Google Maps has even begun offering glimpses into on-campus buildings, potentially letting you peek into the library or student center. You’ll also often spot little Street View bubbles around the campus in Google Maps, which offer 360-degree views from off-street locations.

YouTube

Most college these days actually have pretty robust YouTube channels, with lots of good content that can answer many of your questions. YouTube also happens to be the obvious choice for finding helpful videos that showcase different campuses, as evidenced by the campus walkthroughs offered by schools such as the University of Georgia, University of Chicago and Stanford University. You can even dig around YouTube a bit to find multi-campus tour videos, like this one that visits nine universities in Boston.

YouVisit

Offering higher-quality tours than Google Maps, YouVisit has a wide range of surprisingly immersive virtual tours in its database. To kick things off, many tours are compatible with a VR headset, which can help make you feel like you’re right there on a specific campus. The tours are also available with virtual tour guides that pop up in the lower-right corner of your screen and share highlights about each college’s campus. While you’re virtually strolling through campus, you can check out various videos that share background information about campus highlights and college history. YouVisit may not be available on as many campuses as Google Maps is, but it’s a quality option for virtual tours.

College Websites

There are a lot of colleges that take part in virtual tour platforms like YouVisit, but there are also quite a few that put together their own tour experiences and make them available through their websites. George Washington University has an impressive three-dimensional, interactive map that is fun to use and Iona College made its own virtual-tour interface. Meanwhile, colleges like the University of Florida and Baylor University have compiled a video section to offer a virtual experience of sorts. Keep an eye out on college websites to see if they also offer something similar.

Nothing can replace actually visiting a college and experiencing firsthand how you feel on campus, but a virtual tour can at least help you cross some “on the fence” schools off your list. Give it a try, and don’t forget to check out the NCSA College Recruiting Guide for more tips on finding the right school.



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