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Touring Colleges, Without Ever Leaving Home

Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Students who want an easy way to get information about a large number of colleges in the United States can visit a website like It brings together virtual campus tours and interactive maps of more than twelve hundred colleges and universities. The site plans to add an international database for schools in other countries.

CampusTours recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary. The president of the company, Chris Carson, was one of the people who started the site. He says more than one hundred twenty thousand foreign students use the site each year. They make up more than fifteen percent of the traffic on the site.

The virtual tours allow students to get a sense of how a college looks. There are also links to official websites and online applications. And there are details like price, number of students, admission requirements and sports programs.

But Chris Carson says students should never depend on a third-party website like CampusTours to choose a college. He advises parents and students to contact a school directly. If they plan to visit, they should call the school and talk about the visit and where to stay locally. In fact, he says contacting a school might even lead to a free visit.

CHRIS CARSON: "In some cases, if the student is a good enough student or is a special case, they will sometimes pay for travel to get the student to come to campus. That's a little known fact."

He says showing real interest in a school can increase the chances of being admitted.

CHRIS CARSON: "One thing in the United States is that they often use something called 'demonstrated interest' as a factor in your admission. They write this stuff in your file, believe it or not. If you've engaged them in conversation about the institution, they're actually more likely to offer you admission."

Chris Carson and several of his friends started CampusTours in nineteen ninety-seven. They noticed that many websites with campus tours were heavy with text and lacked much visual material.

At first, colleges worried that online tours would compete with the tradition of a personal visit to the campus. But today schools work with sites like CampusTours or its competitors, or build their own virtual tours and maps.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. You can improve your English and learn more about higher education in the United States at our website, I'm Dave DeForest.

Contributing: Matthew Hilburn, Ira Mellman and Jerilyn Watson