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With virtual campus tours, applicants explore colleges

July 07, 2012|By Ryan Faughnder

Another virtual visit company, CampusTours Inc., makes detailed electronic maps and videos so prospective students and parents can check out campuses from their Web browsers and smartphones. The Maine company has built tours for Pepperdine University, the University of Miami, Sweet Briar College and others.

Some of the multi-layered maps include details for those who want to know about places to hike or see historical features. For Sweet Briar College, this includes a map of the places on campus where ghost sightings have been reported.

CampusTours President Chris Carson said this is an improvement on the usual online school marketing materials. “There are still schools out there that treat the tour as a laundry list of their facilities, Carson said. “But recently, schools are saying these are not giving a good impression of what the school is about.”

CampusTours’ videos, which include interviews with current students, have become much more useful to applicants looking for individualized perspectives on things like sports, clubs and Greek life, Carson said. Universities use these materials to set themselves apart, he said. “Instead of being all things to all people, here’s a way to deal with things that appeal to different populations. It allows people to self-select.”

However, IvyWise’s Cohen said, virtual tours are not a replacement for the real thing. “It’s good for families because tours today are no longer just slide shows of images,” Cohen said. “But I believe nothing beats the sense of stepping on the college campus.”

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