The college tour is about to undergo a virtual makeover

Oculus Rift, an emerging virtual reality headset platform, is taking developer YouVisit’s virtual campus tours to the next dimension, raising questions about the evolution of traditional college recruitment and selection techniques.

collegeOculus Rift might sound like the name of an old, campy sci-fi movie, but this emerging technology is positioning itself to be no joke when it comes to the future of recruitment in higher education.

The implications of Oculus Rift’s technology are far greater than the possibility that students may spend their time playing video games in a virtual world rather than completing their homework.

Instead, thanks to leading third party developer YouVisit, Oculus Rift could present a technological shift  in college recruitment and the selection process.

YouVisit was founded in 2009 by three former roommates from international backgrounds who once had trouble figuring out what colleges in the United States had to offer. YouVisit co-founder and CEO Abi Mandelbaum explained that the team approached several top universities about building virtual walking tours for their campuses in order to “help international students find out what schools would be the perfect fit for them.”

YouVisit, since that time, has gained traction, now having designed more than 1,000 virtual tours for top universities not only in the United States, but around Europe, North America, South America, Asia, and Africa.

The company partners directly with colleges and universities to ensure the tours are representative of the university’s mission, and then sends YouVisit crews to map out the campuses in detail.

From start to finish, YouVisit will have a tour up and running on both the college’s and the company’s website within a month, on average.

YouVisit also released an app optimizing their tours for viewing on mobile devices.

(Next Page: How Oculus Rift takes YouVisit to the next level and enhances college recruitment)

 Once members of the YouVisit team got the chance to see a video game taking place in a fully functional virtual world on the Oculus Rift — a leading virtual reality headset that is on track to be released to the public in the near future — Mandelbaum said they knew Oculus Rift has to be the next step for their company.

“The experience was overwhelming,” Mandelbaum recounts. “You put the headset on and you just knew this is it.”

In August 2013, well before Facebook purchased Oculus Rift for $2 billion, YouVisit immediately began developing their tours for compatibility with the virtual reality platform.

Many colleges have invested in Oculus Rift headsets of their own, planning to share their virtual YouVisit tours with prospective students at more than 1,500 college fairs and other recruitment events this fall.

“We are helping schools reach and attract students that are far away, and providing those students a better feel of what it’s like to live and study [at a college they’re interested in],” said Mandelbaum. “It’s a win-win for both the school and the student.”

Even though the tours are already online, adding Oculus Rift to the equation gives students the chance to feel like they are actually on the campus, providing them with an immersive experience that officials say can be superior to the in-person campus walking tours.

Mandelbaum said YouVisit’s tours are “providing access to areas that not even campus tours can go in regularly due to liability,” allowing schools to show off some of their most high-tech assets safely.

Mandelbaum contends that purchasing Oculus Rift headsets in order to show off campuses to students who are far away is a worthy investment, even as many institutions struggle with stagnating budgets.

“Schools today need to be more efficient in recruitment and marketing,” he said. “Oculus Rift can help schools recruit more effectively and efficiently, providing a measurable reallocation of money away from expensive and ineffective literature about the school.”

Oculus Rift began as a Kickstarter idea for a new virtual reality video game platform and the consumer version of the Oculus Rift will not be available until late 2014 or early 2015.