One of the best ways to get to know any college campus before you decide to attend is by taking a campus tour. At most schools, this means walking around with a student guide, who showcases all of the important and interesting landmarks on campus. While most schools, even the ones on this list, still offer that option, many are creating campus tour experiences that help them stand out from the crowd and make a lasting impression on prospective students. From bikes built for seven to high-tech self-tours, here are just a few of the great colleges and universities out there that are reinventing the campus tour for the better.
- Brigham Young University: Why walk when you can ride? At Brigham Young, tours of the campus are given in a golf cart. The campus of the Provo, Utah, school is so big, administrators felt this was the only way that prospective students would get to see all that it has to offer. Tours still come complete with an expert guide, but those touring the campus will get to ride instead of walk through the 560-acre campus.
- Alfred University: Bicycles built for two are totally passé at Alfred University. Students and their families who visit the school will get to tour in style on a bicycle built for seven, with each person having to help contribute to pedaling around the campus. The ride is apparently quite a workout, but many report that having to work together helps make for a more comfortable and open touring experience.
- Stanford University: This school is in close proximity to Silicon Valley, and a bit of that tech savvy seems to have rubbed off on the school’s campus tours. Prospective students who are visiting Stanford can download an iPhone app that makes touring the school on your own a breeze. Those who want that human touch, however, can sign up for golf cart tours, which take students and their families to parts of the 8,200-acre campus that aren’t covered on the standard walking tours.
- Arizona State University: Those who want to tour ASU’s campus can get some high-tech help. Visitors can check out GPS devices that let prospective students and their parents easily guide themselves around the school’s campus. While visitors can still take a guided tour, the school believes these new GPS devices allow students to personalize their tours, spending more time at the buildings and facilities that interest them the most.
- University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill: Can’t make it to the campus of this North Carolina school? No worries! The school offers several online options for self-guided tours that can be done on campus or off. Prospective students can choose from a guided tour, point-and-click tour, or a text-based tour depending on their needs and interests.
- Eckerd College: Located in St. Petersburg, Fla., this school has a pretty big campus that can be hard to cover with a walking tour alone. To help, the school now offers a campus tour by bike. The bikes can be checked out through the school’s “Yellow Bike” program and used for a leisurely hour-long tour of campus. Even cooler than the bike tours, however, is Eckerd’s boat tours. Visitors can hop aboard a boat and see some of the buildings that lie along the Boca Ciego Bay, learning about the school’s history as well as its marine and environmental science programs.
- West Virginia University: West Virginia University has three campuses, and visitors to the school can see all three in a combo bus and walking tour offered by the visitors center. Prospective students board a bus for a chance to see the main liberal arts campus, the health and science campus, and Evansdale campus, getting to stop for a meal at a residence hall along the way. Students and their families can also tour the campus by WVU’s monorail, which makes transit between the campuses fast and easy. At the end of the tour, visitors will get a WVU logo cookie as a sweet reminder of their time on campus.
Ohio State University: Ohio State University is still holding on to those traditional walking tours, but they’ve reinvented their campus tours in a totally different way by making them personal and memorable. At the end of a tour of OSU, students receive a buckeye candy, in honor of the school’s mascot, and get a chance to have their picture taken with the mascot as well as a memento to take home with them. The photos are printed and framed on the spot, so students don’t have to do a thing. In recent years, the school has also added bike tours for those who’d rather bike than walk through the campus.
Birmingham-Southern College: This small liberal arts college is another school that offers campus tours aboard a golf cart, but their carts are a bit special. Called GEM Cars, or Global Electric Motorcars, the carts are high-tech and environmentally-friendly and allow prospective students to see much more of the school’s 200-acre campus than the usual walking tour.
California Polytechnic State University: You’d expect nothing but the latest technology from a technical school like Cal Poly, and the school has lived up to that reputation when it comes to campus tours. Visitors can download an iPhone app that provides a self-guided tour of campus that prospective students can do at their own pace. There’s also a GPS device, called the GPS Ranger, that can be checked out at the school’s visitors center. The device shows your location on campus in real time and as they approach certain buildings on campus, visitors have the option of playing informational videos narrated by students.
University of South Florida: The University of South Florida has an expansive campus (about 1,700 acres in all), which can make the traditional walking tour a bit of a challenge. To solve this problem, the school now offers tours aboard a tram. Decorated with the school’s gold and green colors, the tram can seat 80 comfortably, and allows prospective students and their parents a chance to see more of the college’s campus without feeling the effects of the hot and humid Florida weather.
University of Texas at Austin: UT Austin has an amazingly creative range of campus tours for prospective students, some of which are pretty unusual. There are the standard walking tours and self-guided tours that visitors can take, but there are also options to do diversity tours and observation deck tours. Even cooler is UT’s Moonlight Prowl, which takes visitors on a tour of the school’s campus at night, providing lots of information on the school’s history and lore. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a huge open house event called Explore UT which offers tours, lectures, performances, demonstrations, and other activities which can make visiting campus an experience to remember.
University of Michigan: Many cities offer Segway tours as a way to see the sights, but only one college does! Students who are considering attending the University of Michigan’s Engineering school can hop onto a Segway while they tour the school’s engineering campus. The tours are guided and the use of the Segway makes it much easier to reach more of the school’s campus in less time and with less effort from visitors.
MIT: MIT is another school embracing smart phone apps as a way to help visitors tour the campus. Download the app before heading to the school, then navigate using it as you head to a variety of important buildings at the school. For those who can’t afford to go to MIT to tour the campus, the school also offers an online virtual tour that can help prospective students get up close and personal with some campus landmarks.
Harvard University: Harvard offers several options for visitors to its Cambridge, Mass., campus. There is a traditional walking tour, but there are also self-guided audio tours (available in nine different languages) and tours that focus on the historical buildings on campus as well. Harvard is another school that’s embracing the smart phone app trend, and prospective students can download a free app online to help them tour the campus at their own pace.
Tulane University: Interested students who can’t travel to Tulane can find some help online. The school has taken its tours and made them digital, creating an amazingly in-depth online virtual map of the campus. Students can click through to see photos and read information about the best and most interesting places on campus, without ever having to leave home.
- Stony Brook University: Stony Brook offers an interactive and fully narrated walking tour that can be done on campus or online, whatever is easiest or more preferable for students. Prospective students and their families will get to see campus step-by-step and there are additional photos, videos, and reference materials available to those who want to get a better idea of what life is like on campus.