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Help please: planning first college trip to the US (visiting from the UK)

valent2016valent2016 68 replies1 threads Junior Member
HI everyone - I have taken on the ambitious challenge of taking my D & S (rising senior and a rising junior) to visit a medley of different colleges (they have different interests - Econ/Science), while also taking the opportunity to see as much of the US as we practically can. Our trip is in 2 months time and am beginning to panic as not sure where to start re firming up the details..

In Essence, our plan is to:

Day 1: Fly into Chicago
Day 20: Fly out of NYC

The colleges on out visit list are:

- U Chicago
- Bowdoin
- Bates
- Boston College
- Tufts
- Wesleyan
- Haverford
- Vassar

Any input suggestions re the choices/sequencing / where to stay / where to possibly have a break etc would be very welcome. Am okay to drive / take internal flights as required.

Many thanks...

319 replies
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Replies to: Help please: planning first college trip to the US (visiting from the UK)

  • lostaccountlostaccount 5331 replies90 threads Senior Member
    You have not provided enough information for people provide helpful suggestions. Need more info about student credentials, finances, etc. Look at chance me threads to see the level of information that yields helpful suggestions.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43111 replies470 threads Senior Member
    In Chicago, visit Lake Forest and DePaul.
    Near Boston, visit wpi and northeastern.
    In Poughkeepsie visit both Marist and Vassar (start with Marist).
    If visiting haverford, visit Bryn mawr and zither swarthmore or villanova.
    In NYC, visit Fordham.
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  • londondadlondondad 2092 replies61 threads Senior Member
    @MYOS1634 Good suggestions. "In Chicago, visit Lake Forest and DePaul.
    Near Boston, visit wpi and northeastern.
    In Poughkeepsie visit both Marist and Vassar (start with Marist).
    If visiting haverford, visit Bryn mawr and zither swarthmore or villanova.
    In NYC, visit Fordham."

    Also, if you have time, Visit Notre Dame in Indiana
    Boston University

    if you are going from New York to Massachusetts, while in Connecticut, visit Yale, Trinity and Connecticut College. You can also probably fit in Brown.

    Also, Colby College in Maine

    In Pennsylvania, you can probably see Lehigh and Lafayette on the way from Philly to New York.

    Good luck.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43111 replies470 threads Senior Member
    What about adding some tourism? Ithaca has both Cornell and Ithaca College but also the Finger Lakes area! In Pittsburgh, visit Pitt AND the Andy Warhol museum and the Frick house! When crossing Pennsylvania, make a stop in the middle for the night, stay in State College and walk around a college town, in the morning see a gigantic state university and its stadium!
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  • valent2016valent2016 68 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @lostaccount - thanks for the pointer, here's some background info on my D (rising senior):

    - ACT (33)
    - SAT Subjects: Maths II (780); Chemistry (780)
    - IB: She is predicted a score of 41 (which is reasonably good but not outstanding according to her school adviser). She has taken what is considered tough subjects - like Higher level Maths, Chemistry etc.
    - General academics - she has been in the 10% of her class since grade 9 and has
    - Work experience - c.4 internships of 1-2 months duration each (at a start-up online fashion company; a consultancy firm etc)
    - Extra curricular - lots of sports, dance, drama and musicals (meaningful parts as well supporting activities like make-up artist etc)
    - Community service - she has been extremely active with two orphanages across Asia and has spent several holidays volunteering there with meaningful roles
    - Essays - she should have good meaningful things to write about - but her first draft essays were a 5/10 per her adviser (so clearly much more work to be done)

    She is looking to major in Economics..but this keeps changing I have to say. Finances would be a challenge but is not a criteria at this stage.

    Her Uni advisor who is extremely frank - told me that her profile is average for the more selective US universities ...and all the colleges listed above is a high reach for her. The list was drawn up by her her after hours of research (only U Chicago was added by her Brother) ...so it is a bit of a conundrum.
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  • valent2016valent2016 68 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @MYOS1634 ...we would certainly like to add in tourism where we can ...and those are fantastic ideas. Do you think Haverford and Bryn Mawr would doable in a day?
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  • valent2016valent2016 68 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @londondad ...thanks a lot ...I had Notre dame on my list earlier but got taken off by her adviser but can't recall why...will relook / research again ...
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    Yes, they are doable in a day. Be sure to run the net price calculators on schools before visiting. Also, if you don't have a copy of the Fiske Guide to Colleges, get one and read up before choosing where to visit. We made copies of the pages and took them with us when visiting, too (I had kid read them in the car on the way to each college before visiting to refresh their memory on the school, worked well for us).
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  • valent2016valent2016 68 replies1 threads Junior Member
    @GMTplus7 ...wow...Super helpful, and made me realise the level of planning that is required to make most of the trip / get it done smoothly. I will go through and update / finalise the list shortly and revert.... Based on my D profile above, any thoughts on which school (from current list) maybe better to take off/ replace with others.....
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43111 replies470 threads Senior Member
    Yes, Byrn Mawr and Haverford are about 1 mile apart (they're part of a consortium, students can take their classes at either one). Dedicate at least one evening and a full day to Philadelphia, but at that point you'll be at the end of your trip and taking two days "off" may allow everyone to recharge batteries better.
    So, if Day1 = BMC+H, Evening Day1, Day2, Day3 = Philadelphia, Evening Day 3= travel somewhere else. A train will take you from Philly to DC or NYC in about 2H/2H30, and you can eat dinner on the train.

    I second intparent's recommendation: buy a Fiske Guide. I would add a Princeton review's best colleges and/or Insider's guide to the colleges. Try to define "fit" - universities have a "personality" and "fit" means that your profile matches the university's. You could, of course, go against type, but applying to universities with very different "fits" (ie., W&L and Oberlin :D) is a very bad idea.

    It's not that her profile is "average for the universities she's looking at". It's that any college with an admission rate below 30% for Americans is going to be a lucky draw for her. And, as GMT said, DO NOT underestimate the difficulty of getting into some colleges with 40-50% admissions rates - LACs, in particular, have self-selective pools of applicants, so that the acceptance rate may be higher than expected, but the selectivity (ie., stats/profile of admitted students) often makes them very hard to get into.

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  • entertainersmomentertainersmom 1408 replies23 threads Senior Member
    Many of us in the backwaters of Maine, especially the backwaters south of Augusta, take a bus to Boston Logan. I live in Brunswick, and there is a bus station/train station here. The bus will take you to Portland and you can take an Express bus directly to Boston Logan. Not ideal, but an option.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    I don't see any true safeties on that list, and you want to make sure she has a college or two that she is pretty safe to get into and you know you can pay for. Dickinson would be a low match that she might like (but they care about interest, so visiting and applying in their EA round is a good idea). She might get merit there, too.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6926 replies121 threads Super Moderator
    It sounds like you really need to add some match and likely schools. Here's a useful tool for finding schools similar to the ones on your list. The "Colleges selected as peers by this school" lists tend to be aspirational (schools with similar or lower admit rates) so make sure to look at the "Colleges that selected this college as a peer" list as well.


    Some suggestions to match the LACs on your list; I would consider these match schools, with the exception of Hamilton which would be a reach. They are all in upstate NY, CT or PA. We did these schools plus a couple of safer schools (Gettysburg, Muhlenberg, Allegheny) in a 5 day road trip out of Boston. We were surgical about the trip and really focused on schools. You could do a kinder gentler version with Haverford, Wesleyan and Vassar added in and with visits to the Finger Lakes, a side trip to NYC or any other touristing you'd like in a week and a half or two.

    Hobart and William Smith
    St. Lawrence
    Franklin and Marshall
    Connecticut College (close to Wesleyan)

    Hamilton, Conn College and Trinity are all in that same athletic league (NESCAC) as Wesleyan, Tufts, Bates and Bowdoin.

    You may also want to consider all or part of the 6 college tour of schools in Ohio (Denison, Oberlin, C. of Wooster, Wittenberg, Ohio Wesleyan, Kenyon.)


    If the Ohio schools don't interest your daughter you might want to fly from Chicago to Boston.

    Bates and Bowdoin can be done as a long day trip out of Boston. Adding Colby would mean an overnight. Many students do the three schools as a loop (Bates-Colby-Bowdoin or Bowdoin-Colby-Bates.) Maine is really nice in the hot summer months and Portland is an attractive small city so you may want to spend a day or two on the Maine coast. There's also outlet shopping in Kittery and Freeport Maine, so if that's something attractive to you can add a couple of hours in for a little retail therapy.

    When you look at the map consider how your daughter feels about travel times. You can reach the airport from a school like Tufts or BC in no time. Schools like Bowdoin or Wesleyan will mean a longer but still manageable drive. Colby, Union or Skidmore would be longer and St. Lawrence and HWS are a bit of a slog. Most schools have a bus to the airport at the start and finish of major school breaks.

    If I were you I'd shoot your daughter's college counselor an email with a list of "safer" schools you've gotten from this thread and see what she thinks. She may have insight into your daughter's thinking that may help you narrow the list.
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  • MYOS1634MYOS1634 43111 replies470 threads Senior Member
    St Lawrence : fly into Montreal.
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14268 replies297 threads Senior Member
    I'm assuming the OP's safety schools are in the UK.
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  • londondadlondondad 2092 replies61 threads Senior Member
    @valent2016 "Do you think Haverford and Bryn Mawr would doable in a day?"

    Yes, definitely. Haverford and Bryn Mawr are only 1 mile apart on the "Main Line". Villanova is only 2 miles from BM also but in the other direction. Two summers ago we did a one hour self guided tour of Villanova and did the Haverford tour and info session in the morning and were able to make it down to Swarthmore (in South Philly) for the afternoon tour.

    I second an earlier comment on direct flights. We have not considered schools such as Vanderbilt, Tulane, etc as it is just too much of a hassle to have an 18 year old kid navigate an internal flight transfer after flying in from London.

    Also, if you are in Chicago, you should definitely see Northwestern. It is a truly impressive school.

    Good luck.
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  • coolweathercoolweather 5878 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I would drop Chicago from the list and visit Georgetown University and George Washington University in Washington DC. You can see a lot in DC.
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  • bjdkinbjdkin 155 replies8 threads Junior Member
    "Before you start planning the logistics of your trip, eliminate schools that are not financially feasible (i.e. if you need financial aid and the school doesn’t offer it to int’l students, then just don’t bother). "

    This is invaluable advice from @GMTplus7 and cannot be stressed enough.

    It looks like you mentioned further down in the thread that "finances would be a challenge but not a criteria at this stage" . My advice is that if there is a chance that finances would be a challenge, they absolutely should be a criteria. All of the schools on your list are the types that students (depending on their likes/dislikes) fall in love with. This forum is littered with posts from students or parents who gained acceptance to their "dream school" only to face the heartbreaking decision of turning it down or putting a huge strain on family finances.

    Almost every college in the US has plenty of financial info as well as available merit scholarships on their website. (As an aside, it is extremely difficult to get a merit scholarship from a highly selective school--it compares to winning the lottery, IMO). I am not well-versed on International financial aid--but you should look into what international aid is available and/or be comfortable with the full tuition (including room and board) price tag before visiting.

    On the other hand, if 50-60k a year (in American dollars) is do-able,then you are good to go! Good luck with your list--you are smart to come here to start the process.
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14268 replies297 threads Senior Member
    The OP can afford a 3 week family trip to the US to visit potential schools, so the OP's income level is probably too high to qualify for much, if any, need-based financial aid. But it also sounds like the OP is not super wealthy and would prefer not to pay the rack rate for a school, if possible.

    The OP should include schools that give merit money. Merit money is awarded on the basis of academic stats, irrespective of family income. Chicago & Northwestern give merit money. Ivy league schools and the most selective LACs do not.

    Try this list:

    Besides looking at the column for "Avg non need based aid", also look at the adjacent column for "% of non need based aid". Some schools widely distribute merit money to many students, while other schools (e.g., Duke) awards it to very, very few.

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