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How do you afford all those college visits?


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

  • 3Ks3Ks Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member
    Visited more schools than S eventually applied to. Visits were great to separate the firsthand impressions from the marketing gloss. Some academic programs seemed like perfect fits on paper, but were less so in actuality.

    California schools were easy to fit in with various car trips. East coast not as easy.

    As for affordability, we were traveling when JetBlue had those $99.00 flights. We clustered visits to get in as many as possible. Finding reasonably priced lodging was easy enough.

    As for timing, S and H went in the middle of winter Jr. year at the end of his semester after finals to minimize impact on class work. Happened to be a huge snowstorm in NE and that was a fantastic experience for our California S.

    At the beginning of the Sr. year, after additional research to finalize his list, he did a second trip to see a few new schools. In addition to sitting in on classes, he scheduled an on campus interview and overnight at one and made department appointments at others. It was a more in-depth trip as he had experienced quite a bit of growth from Jr-Sr year with his summer activities.

    There was a new confidence that came from the process of finalizing his list—seemed to go from “I hope I’m selected” to “I’m selecting.” He understood he could maximize his visit experience and go beyond the info session/tour type visit to really search out departments and programs.

    Later fall, as a result of one of his ECs he wanted to add a few schools to accommodate a growing interest in another major. He had long standing interests and ambitions that could be achieved in a couple of different ways. He wanted to make sure he had his bases covered. He felt like his final trip was all about selecting match schools, and this seemed essential in our minds. We cashed in frequent flyer miles, and S and I scheduled a trip around Veteran’s day to new schools with overnights, interviews and class visits. Plus, I hadn’t yet gone on his visits, and I wanted the bonding experience. Great fun.

    Now with second S, a HS Jr, we are more concerned about the time and expense as the schools he is interested in so far are not easily clustered. He is in the research stage and attended one college fair so far. We’ll figure it out one way or another.
  • TheDadTheDad Registered User, ! Posts: 10,228 Senior Member
    a) We started freshman year: Northwestern
    b) Sophomore year: Georgetown/GW/American/Gettysburg
    c) Junior year: the Boston to NYC death march, seven schools
    d) Senior year: up and back to Stanford, two finalists on East Coast.

    e) Affording it: with some pain but a necessary expense, imo. In the context of four years of college education, it wasn't that much and we combined all trips with some vacation time.

    f) Missed no school, tripped during hs spring breaks when colleges were in session. Seeing colleges when not in session is of very limited utility.

    g) Not visiting until accepted also misses a major point; visiting schools changed the shape of schools applied to and priorities within, e.g., universities down, LAC's up, womens colleges an acceptable option, based on experience and info not obtainable without visiting.

    I agree with MHC...the trips were priceless.
  • momrathmomrath Registered User Posts: 5,976 Senior Member
    Youdon'tsay, Welcome! It's hard to quantify the value of visiting and of course it is relative to your personal situation.

    My son visited 14 and would have applied to 8 had he not been accepted to his ED choice. We made one intensive whirlwind tour the summer before senior year, mostly by road, but including a few airplane legs as well. It was pricy, yes, but it was also priceless, both personally and practically.

    His pre-visit #1 fell off the list and his eventual ED choice was a spur of the moment addendum. Had we not been in the neighborhood and visited he never would have chosen this school for ED. After four wonderful years, I am so grateful that things turned out as they did.

    If your son is considering ED then a visit is absolutely necessary.

    If ED isn't in the cards, then I'd still strongly suggest that you figure out a way to expose him to different types of colleges -- large/small/medium, urban/suburban/rural etc. Once the "personality type" is established it's easier to select others in the same ambience.

    I'd also second the advice to visit as many safeties as you can. These are a little harder to love and sometimes require a wider process of elimination. Actually walking around campus and talking to students and faculty can make a less-selective a lot more palatable.

    Lastly, many colleges -- even the most selective -- will fund visits for low income students who fit their desired demographic. Write to the admissions office and inquire.
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    I wanted to pipe up with a different viewpoint, borne of necessity. Although I enjoyed making trips with my two older kids, it was impossible to do for our youngest S. A combination of factors, including dad's work, my health and work schedule, and the fact that youngest S figured out how to skip 11th grade, made the whole thing rushed. Nonetheless, with the tools available, including CC, websites, emails to people in departments, he got enough of a picture of each school on his list of 8 to know what to do when was accepted to 3, rejected by 5. The one he wanted most was in California, just amazed to get in, so we had no tickets set aside. Without the chance to buy tix in advance, the cost of going to "approve" his near-top choice would have been nearly $1K for us both to fly, stay in a motel, rent a car...for what? He was keen on the program, confirmed what was important to him by email and phone with key faculty, looked at the shiny pictures on the web. When he packed up in August, we joked he was going to meet his mail-order bride. Nobody there could believe he'd accepted it sight-unseen, but circumstances just made it so. Then, my H, he and I made it our 25th wedding anniversary to travel there, with advance notice on the tix we did great. That thousand really was a great value for all 3 of us (Freshman Orientation and our first foot on campus!) And he is exceptionally happy there as a freshman. I don't recommend this path for an oldest child, however. It just happened.

    I don't think I could have managed to be comfortable with that for our eldest, because we were just learning about colleges then. Basically, we made every trip occur with one overnight in a budget motel, getting two double beds, using the bathroom as a dressing room for me. I spent LOTS of time on the 'net to find someplace reasonable within driving distance of the college. The admissions sites list places, and sometimes you have to go 5 or l0 miles away, but on a trip like this it's not crucial to sleep at the Olde Campus Inne if it's beyond budget.

    Two places he visited himself by greyhound, staying overnight in the dorm (sponsored and hosted by the Admissions department), took the college tour, and we discussed it at home together. Once there was a friend driving that way, and he got a ride quite close to a school he was curious to explore. Once H had a business trip and since that motel room was paid for, S went along and took the other bed in the motel room.

    I pulled all the usual economy tricks, driving with food made at home in a
    thermos box, figuring if I could microwave our dinners at the motel, we'd save a lot, and just sample campus food at lunchtime. We actually never flew anywhere, so it was all car travel. NOBODY is watching you (the mom) so you don't have to impress anyone, eat at a fancy restaurant, and all of that. Dress for comfort and walking!

    The h.s. excuses the absences if it's to go visit a college, so just write a note (check policy). We watched the calendar carefully so if a paper or exam was on the horizon, he'd check with a teacher and even arrange to hand something in early. Sometimes they excused him from quizzies if his grades were already solid. All can be discussed, but only in advance of the trip, obviously!

    We sometimes found good travel times on those 3-day weekends, like MLK or Veterans Day, when the colleges meet but the h.s. does not. Often they can just miss one day or a half-day, if it's Friday or Monday, so most of your driving time is on the weekend. Many schools have Saturday morning tours, which helps a lot.

    It is certainly interesting to visit, but I wanted to add that it's also possible to attend a school that was never visited! For personal interviews, there are also alumni who interview in the regions, but I tend to prefer on-campus interview whenever feasible.
  • katliamomkatliamom Registered User Posts: 12,879 Senior Member
    If finances are a consideration, you could limit the campus visits only to a specific region and only to the schools that accepted the student already.
  • 3Ks3Ks Registered User Posts: 190 Junior Member

    Financial considerations do make these luxuries. The URM status and perhaps athletic status may open doors for your son though.

    Riverrunner’s suggestion to research athletic recruiting is excellent. D1 schools offer paid official visits. Some D3 schools have athletic open houses where they might pay for a diversity recruit to visit as part of their diversity outreach program.

    Also, try researching diversity recruitment or diversity weekends. In my CC reading, I’ve come across Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore as offering them early in the Fall. While it doesn’t apply to our family, S’s friend was recruited for diversity weekends based on his Hispanic ethnicity checked on PSATs.

    Okay, so here is what I found on CC: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/390010-diversity-visiting-weekends.html?highlight=diversity+weekends

    There are quite a few colleges that offer them. Happy searching.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    we are gonna do more looking after acceptances come in
    Of course applications have to go out first ;)

    If it is too hard to afford a visit- ( too far away etc) , keep in mind how expensive that will be if they attend.

    However- there isn't anything etched in stone that says they have to visit before freshman orientation.
    Rumour has it, that 30 years ago, many students signed on the dotted line before they had even visited a web site !
  • UnivMomUnivMom Registered User Posts: 187 Junior Member
    We visited all of the locals or D went to a short summer program. We are centrally located (Texas) so everyplace is expensive to get to and inconvenient, but some places are ok. Like OK and AR. They are just not being considered.

    Visited Columbia and NYU when we went up to NYC to pick D up from Europe trip (just before Jr yr). We turned it into the summer family vacation and we spent 5 days and 4 nights at a lovely hotel near Carnegie Hall. (Travel company booked us into a Hotel originally that was being torn down, they called to tell me two days before-they gave us two rooms in Le Parker Meridien for the same price as 1 in this lower level hotel for the 'inconvenience it caused us).

    Visited Michigan and Michigan State through Debate camps in bet freshman and sophmore year, she is very familiar with their dorms after 6 weeks. My parents and brother live in Det suburbs so they picked up my little darling (she was 14) from the airport and transported her to the colleges and helped her move into the dorm. She has wanted to go to U Mich ever since.

    Went out to Cal to visit Berkeley and Stanford (top schools - but what a contrast- loved Stanford and thought Berkeley wasn't worth the money - chem lecture had 700 students and 600 seats), I wanted to do the full burn and go to LA for CalTech and USC, but D was wiped from all the travel during spring break. We also visited with family while there. She subsequently didn't like eitherCalTech or USC on paper. CalTech - intense. USC, felt she couldn't afford enough Gucci.

    Cornell is so difficult to get to, 9 hours flight each way plus wait at airports etc., that we will have to wait to visit if she is admitted. Their Red Carpet program doesn't mesh with her school schedule, and it is difficult to justify that length of a trip to visit a school, stay in a hotel, and visit classes for one day.Not to mention that the cheapest early airfair for each of us is bet $450-700. This would be the $3,000 day. No frequent flyer miles to this location!

    She spent 2 lovely days with a student at WashU and did the full tour. Went to class and was interviewed. From our home it takes less time and costs about the same to fly to St. Louis than to go to Austin or Houston. Ironic, but Texas has miles and miles of miles and miles [Red Skelton]

    Hasn't visited Tufts or Georgia Tech yet. Was interviewed by Tufts (45 min interview went for two hours - I drove with her to go shopping and ended up waiting at a different coffee shop a block away, those seats were really hard)

    We are are not poor enough or rich enough...
  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions Registered User Posts: 13,330 Senior Member
    From the Oberlin College admissions website:
    The Multicultural Visit Program is an all-expenses-paid campus visit program for students of color. To qualify, a student must be of color (African American, Asian/Pacific American, Latino/a, Native American) and interested in a liberal arts education.
  • UnivMomUnivMom Registered User Posts: 187 Junior Member
    Emerald. Speaking from someone who entered college in 1973 . . . that was true. Most of us only applied to one or two schools. I was from Michigan. My counselor looked at my grades (lets not discuss those) and my SATs, even impressive today and I applied at U of M. Most of the kinda smart kids from my HS went to Michigan, we also had a couple who went to HYP and MIT. One of my classmates who went to Harvard was a Rhodes Scholar.

    Those who got a low draft # matriculated to Viet Nam those who didn't go to college with high draft #s matriculated to the Ford or GM factory.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,931 Senior Member
    There are schools like Oberlin that will pay expenses for Multi cultural open houses or other programs. Also if you qualify for waiver of admissions fee or SAT fee waivers, you can ask for help in visiting costs. The schools that tend to do that are LACs that count the visit very heavily for admissions consideration. For the larger schools, it is not necessary to visit until you are accepted and are considering the school.

    We started looking at nearby colleges at first. From those visits, we got an idea of what he wanted and did not want. We then visited a few schools that could be done in a day. As we honed in on what kind of schools we wanted, we came up with a list. For some visits he went with other kids who were visiting which cut the cost a lot. Also if he knew someone at a school, he stayed with that student. So I did not go to some of the visits.

    Now that he has applied, we visited and interviewed only 5 schools which are the ones where this is important for admissions consideration. The state schools, we did not bother,because they don't care. He has looked at some of them earlier, but did not interview or go this year. When he has his acceptances, he will go to the school most heavily considered and spend a day shadowing a student taking courses that are like what he may be taking as a freshman there. Also most of his schools are nearby. We only have 3 schools that are any distance away, and one is a state school that we have not visited.
  • calmomcalmom Registered User Posts: 20,525 Senior Member
    Visits are nice.

    They are not absolutely necessary.

    My son (the older kid) did not visit any colleges he was applying to until spring of senior year, long after the apps were in. He then decided to visit his top choice college; it happened to be in the same town as one of his safeties, so he decided to visit both. He had an airline voucher from when he had been bumped from a flight the previous summer, so he applied that to the cost of a round trip ticket and flew on his own to visit; arranging successive overnights at each. His reasoning was that he felt reasonably sure of admission to his top choice, and so that was the only one he really needed to see.

    He was indeed admitted to the top choice college, but unfortunately they did not offer any financial aid. He then received a suprisingly generous financial aid offer from his 2nd choice college, on the east coast -- so he flew out east in April -- it was short notice, booked less than 2 weeks out, but I don't remember having to pay too much. In any case, he came home, said he had found the college acceptable, and that is where he went.

    My daughter did visit more colleges, but she also visited on her own. She took two separate week-long trips to the east coast; the second one was with a free roundtrip airline ticket she had won in a contest the previous spring - I paid for the other trip. (If she hadn't had the free ticket, then there simply would have been one trip rather than 2 -- the 2nd trip was not really necessary, it was more to visit her bf than schools -- in fact it rained most of the time and she cancelled several planned visits anyway).

    I do think my daughter learned some things about herself and what she wanted on college visits -- but it happened that way only because she was traveling alone. So if anything, I think parental presence at a visit can be counterproductive in terms of the overall decision making process. (I know I certainly will get flamed for this -- but especially for a kid contemplating a distant college, there's a lot of value to the dry run experience of doing it solo).
  • TheDadTheDad Registered User, ! Posts: 10,228 Senior Member
    CM, I think it depends on dynamic between parents & student. We didn't ask embarrassing questions and often we split up during a visit but we were, as a trio, very business-like on comparing notes and cross-checking impressions.

    Okay, so we laughed when D started counting how many times one person said "Ummm" during an info session (and decided to bail on the tour) and then there was the one college of "please don't even park the car" experience that should be obligatory for everyone to tell as a story years later.
  • garrr!garrr! Registered User Posts: 267 Junior Member
    I applied to...a lot.

    I visited just over half, but only a few of those (the 3 I was considering applying early to) before I applied. A few others, such as my sister's college, one very near to my house, etc., I was familiar with but did not specifically go visit before applying.

    I only did one overnight visit before applications, it was to one of the schools I was seriously considering applying early to.

    Between applying and official acceptances, I did overnight programs at two schools where I was being considered for scholarships, but those visits were paid for by the schools themselves, not by me.

    I only did overnight visits after acceptances to the three schools I was most seriously considering, and did a day visit to one other.

    My mother's opinion was that I should apply to a lot of schools, and then visit the ones I was serious about attending after they accepted me, because it is cheaper to pay a $50-70 application fee than to visit that many schools when I might not even be accepted in the end.

    ETA: Some of the schools are mentioned more than once above (example: both the school near my house and my sister's school eventually got overnight visits) - I didn't apply to like 30 places.
  • MomOf3StarsMomOf3Stars Registered User Posts: 822 Member
    We are dealing with this too. D is audition at 5 different music schools. We are trying to get Eastman and Fredonia on the same weekend as then we can at least go from one to the other (Fri and Sat). Crane/Potsdam we are driving back and forth in one day (about 3 hours each way) bc they have no decent motels up there (I have issues w. mom and pop type motels).

    The worst $$$ is the NYU audition. We are wanting to make the most of a trip to NYC and ofc, there are many decisions to be made as to how we want to go about this. Do we take the train down or drive? Stay in NYC or NJ? Lots of people have told us to skip staying in Manhattan and stay in Jersey, in that case we would drive down for sure but if we stay in Manhattan we will probably take the train at least for some portion of the trip.

    Has anyone had any experience with Priceline for getting a hotel in Manhattan?
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