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3 ways to tour an online college

student sitting outside with laptop

When you tour a college campus, you don't just get to see how the buildings look, how nice the school's quad is, or how many lawns and benches there are. You also get an idea of the atmosphere, the types of students who go there, the attitudes of some of the faculty and possibly even the rigor of the academics. Inevitably, prospective online students miss out on many traditional experiences when it comes to selecting a school, but they don't need to miss them all. Here are three ways to "tour" an online college.

1. Use the school's website and a couple of college resource websites

An online college's website is a great place to start your tour. You can look at Walden University, for an example. On this online school's site, interested students can click several useful links to obtain the type of information they might learn during a campus tour. This ranges from types of degrees to the school's history and admissions process. College websites have pretty much all the information you'll need on the schools you're interested in, apart from those fun facts that tour guides tend to throw in.

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During a good campus tour, you may also hear from current students about their experiences there. There's a way to do that online, too. Perhaps the best way is through Unigo, a website where students rank the colleges they go to. Not only academically, either. You can read reviews that these students give about the college, just like you may hear if you did a physical campus tour and met students.

Another type of website that may give you the kind of useful or fun information you may learn during a campus tour are college ranking lists. Princeton Review, Forbes and College Confidential are just a few of the many rankings options out there, but at the moment, U.S. News & World Report is the only renowned college ranker offering information specifically on online colleges. Not only will you find college rankings, but you'll also find a lot of useful information about academics, admissions, and faculty all in one place — which is sometimes more convenient than clicking around on the school's website.

2. Follow the school's social media pages

Many colleges maintain a social media presence, especially on Facebook and Twitter. This is a great place to go during your virtual tour, aside from checking out visuals on Pinterest and Instagram.

If you look at the Facebook page for Liberty University Online, for instance, you'll notice that it's basically an ongoing discussion between the college and current or prospective students. The school posts announcements and interacts with its students. For example, a student recently posted on Liberty's Facebook page that she was having problems with her email. Liberty replied within minutes to help.

3. Talk to staff over the phone and meet local alumni

Just because it's an online school doesn't mean that the school doesn't have a physical office, with real people working in it, that you can contact.

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Online schools often have contact pages similar to, for instance, the one run by the Colorado State University Global Campus. On the CSU-Global contact page, it shows different offices you can contact, ranging from student advising to admissions. Here, you can talk to a real person — the same kind of person you may have connected with during a campus tour or visit. You can call them or email them, though a phone call will give you that personable experience that meeting with them in person during a tour or visit would've given you.

Some campus tours allow you to meet alumni from that school. This, too, is possible for the online student. Online colleges may have their own alumni associations and events. If you're able to attend one of these events, you can potentially meet alumni and ask them about their experiences at the school, which can help solidify your decision about whether to attend that school.

While you do miss out on seeing beautiful architecture, meeting students and staff in person — and being told fun facts by a tour guide — you can still have a campus tour as an online student. You'll still get a feel for the school, students, faculty and staff by visiting different websites and social media pages, and talking to staff over the phone.

Sources:

Campus Directory, Colorado State University Global Campus,
http://csuglobal.edu/about-us/campus-directory/

Liberty University Online Facebook Page,
https://www.facebook.com/LibertyUniversityOnline

College Search, Unigo,
http://www.unigo.com/Colleges

"Get to Know Walden," Walden University,
http://www.waldenu.edu/about