Many students and families will want to take advantage of all of the latest technology regarding the college search. Learning about and experimenting with virtual college tours will be a part of this process. Many virtual tour sites are available, as well as tours posted on Youtube. Here are some examples of virtual tour sites for you to consider: Collegedata.com, Campustours.com, and youvisit.com, all of which you can find links to on the resources page of this site. These resources can give an excellent overview of schools you might be considering, as well the ability to begin to develop a sense of the personality of the college or university.
The virtual tours provide helpful information to begin a search for the best school fit. However, it is important to keep in mind that virtual tours are still developing, and are therefore not able to provide the prospective student with the level of detail they might need to choose a school. This is particularly true for students on the autism spectrum. Using a virtual tour is a great way to begin the search process, but nothing will replace an in-person visit to a school that is being strongly considered for a student with autism.
Each student who is on the autism spectrum is unique, and each college or university has their own unique approach in serving students with autism. It will only be through personal contact with the disabilities office at a college or university for a student and his or her family to really know what they can expect regarding support services. For example, a school might state on their web page that they provide resources to support a student with organization or executive functioning challenges. This can mean many things, and it is very important for a student to know that the school will actually be able to support him or her in a meaningful way.
In my work, I have come across many families who did not understand the need to visit a college or university, and they were therefore not able to ensure that the services provided met the needs of the student. The use of the virtual tour websites should be one piece of data for a student to consider, and for some students it can save time and money by avoiding a trip to the school. But in the case of students on the autism spectrum, virtual tours should not replace a personal visit to a school.