It's perhaps the most stressful time of year for me, and other seniors who are making their college choices. Most have taken their SAT and ACT tests, applied to schools, and are now waiting for acceptance letters.

We're increasingly now looking at more out-of-state schools and I just don't mean in the Mid-East. More and more kids are exploring colleges in the south like Florida or the west like California. For many, when it comes to applying it's not really just academics. Student life, sports, tuition, and LOCATION (as do other things) play a huge role. For me, academics and location were forefront.

I wanted a school with a great journalism program and in a good location. I don't need to tell you, times are tough. But surprisingly, many students are simply looking up their "dreams schools" online and basing their college choice on what they see. Some students dream of going to schools in other places but simply can't visit because of the high costs associated with visiting an out-of-state school. Airfare, hotel, and taxi costs all add up.

Most of the time, mom and dad also come along--increasing the costs. My sister, who is a freshmen at Rutgers New Brunswick said she knows someone from California who never visited Rutgers but choose to attend after looking at videos, pictures, and 360 tours online. He said he couldn't afford to pay the travel costs.

That meant, he walked onto the campus for the first time in August without ever visiting. The next day he started classes. He said that he was going to try out a semester and if he didn't like it, would transfer.

Fortunately, he did like it and decided to stay. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out like that. There are many students in the same position, who don't find a school fit for them. Then they have to start out all over again midway in a new school.

However, as times goes, and technology advances, those 360 tours arr looking a lot more like reality than a dream. Colleges and Universities understand that some students can't visit and are sprucing up their online virtual tours. For example, look at Stony Brook University's online tour at http://bit.ly/3gS5oC. You'll probably feel like you're on the campus.

There are student profiles, virtual tours, pictures, and maps of basically everything on campus--complete with a tour guide. You can explore the residence halls, dining halls, clubs, athletic centers, all without leaving the comforts of your home and most importantly, FREE. I took the tour, and I feel like I've already been on a campus.

There are still many schools that don't have this kind of technology, but it's become more and more common. I'm hoping to attend the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, and will finalize my decision after visiting real soon. Indubitably, it won't do justice for an actual visit but for some this may be the prime and cheapest option to making your college dreams a reality.