A campus tour is a tour of a college or university's campus. Prospective students, their family members and other visitors take campus tours to learn about the college or university's facilities, as well as student life, culture on campus, academics, and programs offered by the institution. During these tours, prospective students are able to learn about the built environment and the overall look and feel of the institution.
Campus tours are usually free, as they promote the institution and encourage prospective students to attend the school. Often, schools may give visitors T-shirts or other gifts for taking a tour.
These tours are normally walking tours for groups of 10 to 30 visitors, led by a tour guide. Campus tours are often preceded by an information session, presented by a member of the admissions staff. Many campus tours include a visit to a residence hall room and a classroom or lecture hall. At most schools, tours are led by students, although admissions office staff or other representatives of the school may also be tour guides. Most universities offer accommodations for students with disabilities, such as alternatives to walking for someone who cannot walk easily.
For prospective students, the tour may be part of a larger campus visitation program. Some schools provide overnight accommodation and meals, and students may sit-in on a class during their visit. Some programs pair a prospective student with a current student and allow the prospective student to shadow the current student for a day.
Like similar sales techniques that rely on the unconscious saliency bias, a pleasant campus tour – perhaps taken in good weather and with a gift presented at the end – is effective at making students want to enroll, and an unpleasant experience – such as a chance encounter with a grumpy staff member – can have the opposite effect.
The tours tend to emphasize peripheral things, such as the quality of the physical plant, and do not give students a full and accurate idea of either what the school's educational qualities are or what it would be like to live in that community, rather than merely visiting it.
As a result, a tour can cause a student to make choices that are not aligned with their long-term educational goals.