The Scoop on NYC School Tours
There are many steps in the school search process, but one of the most important ones is the tour! Looking for a school can definitely be challenging especially for us NYC parents. There are so many factors to consider to make sure that the school is a right fit for our kids. And as schools open up more, the COVID-19 guidelines for tours have also shifted. That’s why, we’re going to focus on the school tour to make.
Looking for a fun activity to do with the family? Check out Family Day Out at the Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum!
Overview of School Tours
You may be wondering why a tour is important in the first place. What can a tour really tell me about the school that I didn’t already read online? The truth is, a lot! Whether virtual or in- person, you get a feel for the environment. A school can seem great online, but once you’re walking through the hallways or seeing inside the classrooms, you could realize that it’s not quite the right fit for your child’s personality. And vice versa — so we recommend not discounting a school just by your online research, because a tour may just change your mind.
A tour is also the perfect opportunity to ask questions. Getting your questions answered through an online portal or via email/phone can be a bit of a back-and-forth process, but on a tour you have plenty of people — whether that be teachers, administrators or tour guides — accessible to get your questions answered on the spot. Finally, tours are often coupled with (or you can register on the same day for) open houses and information sessions, where you can learn even more about the school. These may include topics such as student support, STEM, fine arts and more.
So now that we know why tours and other visits to the schools you’re considering are important, let’s dive into the differences between in-person and virtual tours. During the pandemic, schools quickly shifted to virtual tours, which could mean anything from pre-recorded videos to a more live, 3D tour experience, depending on the school. But as we gradually move into a world of less restrictions, many schools now offer in- person tours again. If you’re debating between virtual vs. in-person tours, here’s a quick breakdown on what they offer:
The obvious benefit of virtual tours is that they’re convenient! No need to schedule a date and time or move around your work schedule to attend. No need to pick the perfect outfit out for the day or stress about prepping your family.
Virtual tours are low pressure and easy to attend, which makes them a much better option for some families. In fact, there are still some schools that are only offering virtual open houses or meetings with admissions. The one caveat is that some schools do host live virtual tours and open houses, in which case you would need to choose a date and time and join your scheduled session. But even still, you can do so from the comfort of your own home!
While you may be concerned about not getting the “feel” of the school if you go with the virtual option, NYC schools have worked hard to ensure that virtual tours feel as real and comparable as in-person. This includes options such as 3D tours, live chats for questions, live sessions and more, all based on the same experience as in-person tours.
Many schools are back to offering in-person tours, so what are the pros here? First, you have more direct access to teachers, administrators, and other families. We all know that virtual encounters can sometimes be awkward — only one person can talk at a time and it can be difficult to get your thoughts or questions in when there’s other people on the call. With an in- person tour, you can chat with other families or pull an administrator aside for a quick question.
In some ways it’s more formal because you’ll be interacting with a lot of different people at the school, but it’s also more casual in the way you can ask questions and chat. The most obvious benefit here is that you’ll physically be in the classroom and facility spaces, so you can see for yourself what the school’s environment is like.
If you’re considering an in-person tour, be sure to check the school’s specific guidelines, as some schools are only offering in-person tours for families who already applied and others have very limited in- person availability. We recommend booking soon if you’re thinking of doing an in-person tour!
School Tour FAQ
Should I bring my kids on the tour?
This is dependent on the school! Some schools specifically ask that you not bring your kids on the tour, while others welcome your whole family. Keep in mind that tours can be long, and you want to make sure you can stay focused and get all your questions answered. We all know how restless kids can get sometimes, so if you the school allows kids on the tour, consider whether your child will benefit from attending and if they can stay engaged for that long.
Will going on a tour increase my chances of getting accepted to the school?
Yes and no. Most tours are not evaluating your family, but it always helps to show interest! Not only are tours and open houses helpful opportunities for you to learn what you can about the school, they also show the school that you did your homework. You’re interested in the school, and you took the time to check it out.
Should we dress up for an in-person tour?
Be yourself! While we recommend dressing nice, it’s also important that you bring your authentic self to the tour. Try not to stress too much about your appearance, because the tour is about you and what you can learn about the school (not vice versa)!
What are good questions to ask on my tour?
First, ask whatever is important to you. Think about your priorities: is financial aid top of mind? Is class size super important? After you come up with questions from there, we also have a few that are always good to ask: Is after/before-care an option? What kind of academic support is available? What extracurricular activities are offered? Will my child have leadership opportunities here? What does the admissions process look like from here? How are families kept up-to- date with what’s happening at school? This is not a comprehensive list, but some questions to get you started!
If I don’t go on a tour, should I still apply for the school?
Sure! While tours are definitely important, if you have a good feel for the school already, it doesn’t hurt to apply. You can also attend an open house, meeting with admissions, or just chat with other families that you know already at the school.