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How do you afford all those college visits?

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Replies to: How do you afford all those college visits?

  • monydadmonydad 7798 replies158 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Actually choosing a college sight unseen is a big risk, IMO.

    If you wait till acceptances before you do any visits, you only have a short window there to visit schools, not enough time to do many. Plus at that particular time there alre also great demands from kid's schoolwork, maybe extracurriculars too, and parents's work schedule may not cooperate either.

    So if you only have a few acceptances you're evaluating by that time, fine, this can work. But if there are more than a few,typically you will choose one of the ones you actually do manage to visit (per first sentence above); selection by non-visitation.

    So it's "better", and safer, to visit all schools pre-application. Whether it's enough "better" to justify the time and cost involved is a judgement we each have to make, individually.
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  • -Allmusic--Allmusic- 6246 replies104 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    No way, no how, could we have done without the visits. My son's situation, as a musician, is a little different, since our trips have required lessons, ensemble observations, etc. But we started with a list of ten, which as a result of visits was whittled WAAAAY down from that (I am not saying how many, so as not to jinx the process). But there is no way, at least in a specialized area, that we could have avoided this step.

    Now, two visits were part of family vacations, and one part of a summer program, so we actually only did two college "trips", of which only one involved airlines. I don't know how people fly all over the country either, but I think it requires good research before you even step foot in the car/plane/train. You can eliminate a lot that way, and then the visits solidify things.

    For kids in other areas, perhaps waiting until accepted student weekend makes sense. We just couldn't have done that.

    Oh, and the trips alone are priceless. I wouldn't have given up that time with my son, one-on-one, for anything in the world.
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  • 2forcollege2forcollege 715 replies13 postsRegistered User Member
    Like others who have posted, we started college visits when D1 started high school. Anytime we were visiting somewhere, we checked out the interesting colleges nearby...even if it was only a drive by. The girls also went to some schools for debate competitions and summer programs.

    It's helpful to visit before applying, but I don't think it's as important until after you've been accepted. If accepted to a school you can afford, you really should see it in person. Priceline and Lastseconddeals make travel a bit more affordable.
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  • 2forcollege2forcollege 715 replies13 postsRegistered User Member
    "Oh, and the trips alone are priceless. I wouldn't have given up that time with my son, one-on-one, for anything in the world."

    I second that!!! I've had 2 trips alone with my daughter for college interviews that were absolutely wonderful this past month. I feel so lucky to get that time with her!

    Another tip I forgot to mention, use your travel points for airlines and hotel chains.
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  • JHSJHS 18324 replies71 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Child #1 applied to 7 schools, one of them something of a throwaway (absolute safety, no application fee, rolling admission with answer in two weeks). She visited 10 schools in all, four of which she didn't apply to. I took a four-day, three-night trip with her to see six of the schools (one of which she rejected almost instantly, so we didn't spend a lot of time there). It helped that they were all within an hour or two of each other. We spent some gas, some tolls, about $350 on hotels, and some more on meals and entertainment. It was tons of fun, except we shouldn't have bothered with school #6, she was too burnt out by then. She visited one school with her mother during a business trip, flying on frequent-flyer miles and overnighting with a friend on campus, and another school with both of us and some friends as a day-trip in the middle of a family summer vacation. She went to two schools on her own -- one on the train, another driving with two friends -- and stayed with friends there both times.

    Child #2 also applied to 7 schools and visited four of them, plus five others to which he didn't apply. Two were in California; he had seen both campuses in 9th grade on a family vacation, and didn't feel a need for a formal visit unless he got in and was seriously considering going there. He travelled to three schools on his own (w/ cheap airfares and train -- cost about $180) and stayed with friends for several days, then I met him at the last school and we drove to look at two other schools (one night at a nice hotel, one night staying with friends). Two schools were local; one he visited on his own (repeatedly), the other he visited with a family friend who is an engaged alum one Saturday afternoon. He visited one school on a long day trip driving with a friend and her father, and a last school during Christmas vacation staying with a cousin who was a student there while the rest of the family was with the parents about two miles away. (At that point, he knew he wasn't going to apply there, although it had been on his list previously, but he was interested in looking anyway.)

    Obviously, it helped that we are on the East Coast, and most of the schools were within driving distance of us and each other.

    No school was missed. The trips were on weekends, during spring break, and in one case during summer vacation.

    Visiting was fun, but I think it's unnecessary in many ways. The one problem we ran into with Child #2 was that his final choice came down to a school he had visited vs. one he hadn't, and the lack of a visit was a real psychological barrier to choosing the latter. But he had lots of other, better reasons than that for the decision he made.
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  • 99cents99cents 1082 replies6 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    DD only visited 3 local schools within an hour of driving. What we planned to visit did not work out. She is visiting virtually.
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  • momfrommemomfromme 2591 replies78 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    We did almost no campus visits, both because we could not afford to do a lot and because dd was not terribly pleasant to travel with. She is absolutely not a morning person and visits required traveling or touring in the AM. These did not create memories to cherish.

    She applied to 7 schools, one of which she had visited. She got into 6, none of which she visited. She then visited three of them, two without the family.

    Campus visits before applications are a luxury for many people. Yes, fit matters, but there is a great deal one can discern from the web sites and from reports from people (including those who post on this site). Fit and financial aid were key criteria when it came to choose from the schools that had accepted dd.

    Also, a good part of the decision about where to apply included a mix of factors which did not require a visit to generate information. In dd's case she was interested in attending college in a city or college town. There were only certain areas of the country where she wanted to go. Also, we were on the hunt for strong financial aid.

    If you afford full-pay, you probably can also afford lots of college visits before applications. For my family, it was an unnecessary luxury.
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  • condor30condor30 1054 replies29 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    jmho, trips to visit schools, are indeed costly in both time and money.

    there were 2 separate paths as d was recruited by some schools for academics (national merit) and by some schools for athletics (revenue sport). she applied to 15 schools. of the 15, she visited 7. of those 7, she visited a nearby school several times. the multiple visits helped in making the decision to remove the school from her list.

    d didn't truly start visiting schools until the summer prior to senior year because we just didn't know to start earlier (d is oldest child) and summers were generally filled with travel for sports competitions.

    it was VERY difficult to schedule visits during senior year as d's plate was full with participation in multiple varsity sports and ap classes. during varsity sports seasons, there are usually twice weekly games and practices after school on non-games days. we will, hopefully, start the visit process earlier with the younger sibs.

    only one trip was paid for by a school......they were recruiting her because of national merit standing. there were offers of visits to other nmf schools but there just wasn't time for her to do those.

    no trip to visit any schools connected to athletic recruiting were paid for. they were all on our dime.

    what worked best due to time constraints was the one day only trips involving no overnight stay.

    if we had it to do over again, would probably want to spend less $$'s on competition travel and more $$'s on unofficial visits and camps. it's a catch 22. the athletes have to compete against good competition but it's also hard to fund both avenues.......school visits and competitions. sometimes tough choices have to be made about where the $$$'s go.

    what did seem concerning to me was that there were sometimes invitations to apply for academic scholarships at some schools and if selected for a finalist interview, we would have had to foot the cost for the travel to the school for the interview and once again, time to make the trip would have been a factor. knowing that, d just didn't apply for those types of scholarships.

    momfromme - i do agree. "campus visits before applications are a luxury for many people." with additional children in the family, time and money can be tight for many.

    even making time to attend admissions presentations held in other cities can be tough to do.
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  • Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay 19118 replies456 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thanks for the many and varied responses. I especially like the idea of visiting different types of colleges. I don't see him at a tiny LAC since he thinks he wants to pursue something in the sciences, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to visit, just to be sure. We have family all over Texas, so hitting schools in Houston (we've already been to Rice), Austin (UT, St. Ed's, Southwestern) and DFW (TCU, SMU, UNT, UT-D) will be easy. I'm really more concerned about places that interest him that are way out of state. Looks like a road trip in our future!

    And just to clarify, he does play varsity ball at his high school, but he's an avg player on a not-great team, so I don't think he'll be recruited for his athletic prowess!
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 postsRegistered User, ! Senior Member
    YDS, for sciences there are LAC's and then there are LAC's. Unfortunately, your son is highly unlikely to get admitted to Smith, but they have a brand new engineering program, are putting resources into building a new science center, and have a world-class genome expert on faculty. Of course, Smith is a larger LAC, around 2650 students. But the general question is *what* science and *what* LAC. An LAC won't be able to compete with a research university across the board but may very well have the program or programs that your son is most interested in. And there are benefits. The LAC's are less likely to use the "weeder class" approach to trim the number of majors. Moreover, and while I'll stipulate that Math isn't quite the same as the sciences per se, my D is very well known across her department in a way that's not going to happen at a school, like, say, UCLA, an institution with which I have moderate familiarity.

    Researching colleges for "fit" is really more detail-oriented and time-consuming than one, as a parent, might hope.

    Postscript: I'm a proponent of the "Away" to college to syndrome. It's been quite an education for D living in a completely different part of the country than what she's used to and I think there's a value to that, both for the student and ultimately the country.
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13347 replies110 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Another tool DS used to help in the college selection process: Facebook. He has been involved in some ECs where he's gotten to know kids from a variety of schools, and many of the kids are a year or two ahead of him.

    Because many of them share similar interests and are pursuing related majors, they have been most helpful in offering opinions and thoughts on various schools. Last year, a bunch of them wrote up their college visit reports and shared them with one another. (We are talking 3-5 page memos!) Lots of inside info and impressions that they knew the other kids would find important, sometimes with photos. Many had talked to profs, sat in on classes, stayed in the dorms, etc. It definitely saved us some $$$.
    A couple of schools that DS was considering for strength of program went out the window after hearing from students who attend.

    The other instructive part was hearing from his friends who are grad students -- some schools that were panned for UG were lauded for grad school. DS realized this was a good reason not to burn bridges with ANY school.

    Both of my kids's schools have an opportunity for graduated seniors to return and talk about their experiences. This might also be a good way to get info from real people who had similar prep to your own student.

    I went into this college process thinking visits weren't so important. However, I've found that it has been hugely helpful for DS. We sit at the hairy edge of being full pay, have another kid two years behind, and due to my medical issues, am not able to work. DS embraces the poor grad student lifestyle (bless him!), so we work together to make what we can possible.
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  • toledotoledo 4765 replies290 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I want to second the suggestion to use Priceline for hotels. If you've never used it, you can find what people's winning bids are at biddingfortraveldotcom. I usually pay about a third of the listed rate. Our school gives 2 days off junior year and another 2 days off senior year to look. We used President's Day, too. My son visited 9, but only applied to 3 of those schools. He's an example of what he wanted as a junior, is not what he wants as a senior. He applied at another 3, but we've decided no more trips until he knows where he's accepted. Missing school senior year shouldn't be as difficult as junior year.
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  • Dad'o'2Dad'o'2 569 replies16 postsRegistered User Member
    I want to second the suggestion to use Priceline for hotels. If you've never used it, you can find what people's winning bids are at biddingfortraveldotcom.

    also BetterBidding(dot)com
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  • rainmamarainmama 587 replies16 postsRegistered User Member
    We did one trip to 7 New England colleges as a family vacation during spring break of junior year. Kept costs low by staying with family, taking trains on the Amtrak college visit discount (parent goes free with child visiting a college!), and using Priceline for hotels in Manhattan and Boston. The trip was fun and also important, as it helped our son do three things: rule out his previously #1 school, confirm his negative feelings about some popular/high prestige schools, and discover 2 schools that he wanted to apply to ED. The trip was critical to the entire process of selecting a type of school, even though he will apply to only 3 of the 7 schools at the most (only 1 if he is admitted ED). If ED doesn't work out, he will apply to other schools that are closer to home or are financially attractive because of NMSF benefits, but won't visit those until later. We actually cancelled a California trip this fall, because senior year is demanding, and he needed the time to work on the ED application.

    While the trip was important for us, I think they are less important if the student is highly motivated to research colleges on her own.

    The diversity weekends are a great opportunity for the OP's son. The kids get a much more in-depth look than they do on the single-day type visits we did. A boy we know went to one at Amherst during spring break of junior year, so don't wait too long before jumping on that one.
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  • hudsonvalley51hudsonvalley51 2386 replies96 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My D visited 10 schools she had an interest in over the course of 14 months. We tried to combine college visits with family vacations or business travel. Her first college visit to the University of Rochester was combined with a business trip I had to make to western NY. Same with her first of two visits to Wesleyan University. During her February break in her junior year we spent a few days touring New England combining college visits with pleasure. We did the same thing during the April break vacation to Virginia. She made her last two visits -- to Kenyon and Ohio Wesleyan -- this September, which we combined with a business trip I was planning.

    She has just wrapped up her end of the application process to 6 schools; all were ones she had visited. I'm not sure what we might have done if she was seriously interested in colleges on the West Coast or in the Deep South. Maybe we'll find out when D #2 starts looking at colleges in a couple years.
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  • curmudgeoncurmudgeon 11830 replies298 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    D and I visited an embarrassingly large number of schools across the Midwest, South, New York, and Vermont. 4 road trips over 3,500 each. Some well over that mark. Then D and I used frequent flyer miles to New York, and she had paid trips to scholarship weekends.

    We saved cash by finding cheap hotels, eating frugally, canceling all family vacations 10,11,12th grades.

    The experience was invaluable. My D would say that as a result of all the vists that she knew there was no one perfect school for her. She saw warts on all of them, and great things about all of them. It was a healthy attitude to take since she knew finances might rule out a school after acceptance.
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  • CalreaderCalreader 987 replies42 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    My daughter is applying to nine schools and has visited one. I can see how it might be useful to see the schools, especially to spend time in a dorm and attend classes, but we didn't think it would work for us logistically or financially. We did tour some local colleges, even though my daughter is not applying to any of those schools. This was unexpectedly helpful, since it gave her an idea of the kinds of things to look for and pay attention to when she was researching colleges online.
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  • 99cents99cents 1082 replies6 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Some schools don't let visitors see the inside of their dorms like UCLA and USC for example. My daughter never wanted to apply to any LAC. But after one visit to the local prestigious LAC she was suprised how well she like LAC and ended up applying to 2 LACs.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 28746 replies56 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Youdontsay, once you narrow down the type of school your kid seems to like and best serves his needs and wants, you can start get an enlargening circle of like schools by reading and talking to those with experience with the schools. Your child should be getting info from internet, books, friends, college materials as well. If money is an issue, you want to focus on schools that are farther away that have a decent chance of coughing up some money. That's what we are doing. No sense looking at an Lac in Texas when we are on the eastcoast, if it is not apt to give much since the additional travel expense will multiply if the student ends up there. It would have to give something truly extra not available closer by to be worth the app. With our son, we found, to all of our surprises, that he likes the Catholic colleges. So we are looking at smaller Catholic schools in or near a big city which has taken us out of area in a few cases.
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  • bethievtbethievt 6591 replies168 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP

    I haven't read every single post, so pardon me. We visited 20 because we could and had a lot of fun with it, but I think others are correct in saying it's very helpful, but a luxury, not a necessity. Visit as many as you realistically can, even if only after acceptances. We focused on finding a couple of safety schools he'd be happy with. The A list schools were all so good it didn't matter as much.

    As far as your son studying the sciences, some small LACs are INCREDIBLE places to study sciences. Three that we visited are Carleton, Grinnell and Oberlin. I think Pomona is probably top-notch too. Grinnell has a new science building and they are adding faculty to make even intro lab courses small. I think I read that students graduating from Juniata, a small LAC, have a near 100% acceptance rate for med school. Reed is also great in almost all areas--and has its own student-run nuclear reactor.
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