What’s the Deal with Self-Guided Campus Tours?

Posted on September 3rd, 2020 to College Admission by

Imagine, for a moment, that you are taking a family road trip. It’s a beautiful Saturday with the sun shining brightly. As you’re cruisin’ down the highway you see a huge sign for “X College next exit”. With the college admission journey on the horizon you rashly decide to pull off the highway so you can visit “X College”. Arriving on campus, you excitedly follow the signs for the admission office. Pulling into the visitor parking-lot panic sets in; you suddenly realize its the weekend and the offices are closed. Your heart races. Your mind jumps from one idea to the next to try and save your decision. You think about how disappointing it would be to lose out on this serendipitous moment to visit “X College”. It’s as if the Universe willed it to happen.

What do you do?

Believe it or not, situations like these (and many others) arise more often than you think. Circumstances where students and families are trying to visit college campuses, but nothing seems to align for them to have the typical on-campus visit experience–the kind of visits that are touted and encouraged by admission officers, secondary school counselors, and educational consultants alike. Let me be one of the first to assure you that admission offices are prepared for this very issue. See, just as much as you don’t want to miss out on visiting a school, they don’t want you to miss out either. That’s why admission offices offer the self-guided tour. While a self-guided tour may seem self explanatory, there is a bit more to understand about what it is, how it works, and how it fits into your journey. So let’s, as Julie Andrews advises, start at the very beginning.

What is it?

Well, we all know that schools offer an array of campus visit options. Everything from information sessions, to tours, to open houses, to shadowing a current student. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to participate in those experiences. So in addition to those programs, schools also offer self-guided tours. Frankly, the self-guided tour has been around for as long as I have been working in the field of college admission, and well before that. Simply put, visitors are given a detailed campus map and instructed to go explore. The campus map will outline the same path that the student led tours take, but you also have the flexibility to deviate. It has considerable detail about the buildings, history, and student experience.

How does it work?

As you arrive on campus follow signs for the admission office or visitors center. When you get there, look around and you should see a station labeled self-guided tour. If the office is open, feel free to walk in and ask the receptionist about taking a self-guided tour. Either way, you will get a printed campus map and an inquiry card. Fill out the inquiry card, orient yourself to the map, and off you go! Now, while the inquiry card may look different from one campus to the next (meaning it might be an actual paper card, or a piece of paper, or you may be asked to submit it electronically) it is a crucial step. This is how the school records that you visited campus. More on that in a moment!

How does it fit into your college search?*

There are a lot of situations where the self-guided tour could be a helpful tool for you. For instance, you are just passing through as in the example of the road trip. Perhaps unexpected travel challenges prevent you from attending the information session and tour you pre-registered for. Or perhaps visiting campus, large groups, and/or the college visit experience in general is causing you considerable anxiety. Regardless of why you take a self-guided tour, the important thing to know is that it can count as an official visit. Why is that important? Because many schools use a student’s “expressed interest” when they are reviewing an applicant’s candidacy for admission. Meaning, if you have shown interest in the school be visiting the campus, meeting a representative at a college fair, participating in an interview, or any other visit option it is included as part of your application. Schools don’t admit on that factor alone of course, but it will give you an edge!

Looking for more?

Knowing how to approach the college research process can feel daunting. Please contact me today so we can discuss the best path forward for you!


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*NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic college campuses have a lot different policies about students and families visiting campuses. Please be sure you contact the admission office or campus security before visiting.

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