The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


The student news site of Jones College Prep High School


Opinion: The virtues of virtual

Is it worth it to travel for in-person college tours?
Credit to Noah Barbas 24 at Duke University
Credit to Noah Barbas ’24 at Duke University

Paying for a higher-level education is arguably the most expensive investment teenagers and their families make. But if $90,000 annual tuition isn’t enough, $50-$75 application fees, along with flights, hotels, and tour fees quickly pile up for students and their families. Thus, the question becomes: is traveling to visit colleges during the college admissions process really worth it? 

In-person college tours have many benefits such as allowing prospective students to hear about current student’s experiences first-hand. From surveying a school’s architecture to exploring its dining hall, visiting a school can allow prospective students to picture themselves attending that college in the future. Having direct access can also allow prospective students to ask faculty and students questions and even gather information about programs within their area of interest.

“You can learn about the academics, see faculty bios, and browse the sports they have through the website, but the overall tone and what the community is like is what you can get when you’re there,” said Ryan Swanson, school counselor.

Proponents of in-person tours will also say that they express your vested interest in a school, showing that you are passionate about attending said university. Showing your investment in a school is important because it may increase your chances of being accepted. 

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However, if you lack a connection with your tour guide or visit campus on a day with poor weather, it may paint the school in a negative light. Not only that, but tours are often filled with unneeded historical information. By the time you pay for flights, hotels, and food during your visit, you are often breaking the bank just to gain information that you can find online. 

“Depending on how you’re seeing the campus, you are getting a biased view of it. If an admissions rep is leading you around, you’re in a living commercial [of the school],” said Swanson.

The best balance is to visit a small number of schools you are interested in (if financially able) during late junior year or early senior year. This allows you to discover what you value and dislike in a university experience, regardless of whether you end up applying to that school. When considering visiting schools on your list that you have never toured, the best rule of thumb is to see if you would be spending more money on your application fee or touring the school. If the fee is less expensive than a trip to see the school, go ahead and apply without visiting! If it’s cheap and easily accessible to tour, consider taking a look before putting in the money and effort to apply. Especially if the school you are thinking of applying to is highly selective, it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money to visit before being accepted.

“It’s one thing to go and visit a college that’s in Chicago where you can take the CTA there, but it’s very different to go to California,” said Swanson.

Although COVID–19 brought about many challenges to the college admissions process, it did lead to colleges increasing their virtual marketing. Most universities now offer virtual tours, information sessions, and interviews. These resources provide prospective students with lots of valuable information, all for free and from the comfort of their own homes. Many schools also send regional admissions representatives to Chicago to host local information sessions and student panels. If a school is not easily accessible, participating in one of these events is a great way to learn more about the institution and show vested interest.

“I think that calling your admissions rep and having a conversation or Google Meet with them is a good way to get someone to respond to your questions and get a sense of how that person speaks because it says something about the work culture of that college,” said Swanson.

In my experience, the best way to see if a school is a good fit for you is to get connected with a current student. Whether in-person or online, gaining a truthful perspective about an institution provides some very insightful, personal, and slightly less biased information.

When it comes to watching your wallet throughout the college admissions process, it’s all about balance. Making sure you weigh the pros and cons of a pricey trip is important for saving money in the long run.

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Samantha Dombar ‘24
Samantha Dombar ‘24, Journalism I

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