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How do you afford all those college visits?

Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay 19416 replies462 threads Senior Member
edited December 2007 in Parents Forum
After reading these forums for months, I've decided I have to ask:

1) How many different colleges did your kids apply to?

2) Did they vist all of them?

3) How did you afford all those trips?

I know of one kid who got an all-expense-paid trip to Amherst. Is there a trick to getting the college to pick up the tab? Other than being a mega-genius?

Thanks in advance.
edited December 2007
79 replies
Post edited by Youdon'tsay on
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Replies to: How do you afford all those college visits?

  • BunsenBurnerBunsenBurner 39791 replies472 threads Senior Member
    Being a URM is the trick ;) or an athlete (helmet sport).

    D is applying to 8 or 9 schools. D visited some of her target schools. We drove to a bunch of schools within 500 miles, and made one trip to the East Coast just to get a feel for what it is to be on the East Coast. I believe that it is most important to visit your safeties (to make sure those are the schools you'd be comfortable with going to in case of the worst admissions scenario) and your ED school (to be 120% sure with your choice).
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  • walkinghomewalkinghome 7509 replies298 threads Senior Member
    Many of our college visits were daytrips. I took both of my kids on two out of state visits each but we made them into quasi vacations and they were on the very short list by that time. My son didn't visit the college he is now attending until he had been accepted and we had the financial package. My daughters college picked up most of the tab for the flight and her stay and meals were free. My son visited about 9-10 schools and my daughter visited 5-6. My son changed his mind about type of school and possible major mid-stream so he needed to see more choices. I think part of it was that I loved college visits. I think that was my favorite part of the process.
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  • chaucers_palchaucers_pal 240 replies23 threads Junior Member
    ;-) Being a mega genius doesn't hurt.

    One thing is that you probably won't visit all the college your kid applies to. We're from New England, and my D is very interested in several schools in Southern California. If she gets in, we'll go visit. College Confidential, and other sources give the sense that these are good matches, and so we're taking the chance.

    Batch visits up. If you are going to an area, look at several schools. The New England area has a lot of schools, so if you are in that area you can probably drive to them.

    Be creative - do you have friends or family you can stay with, or can you combine with a family vacation?

    But the whole tour thing is both a lot of time, a lot of energy, and potentially a lot of money.
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  • Wneckid99Wneckid99 864 replies61 threads Member
    we afford the trips because parents in my town work on wall street and for hedge funds, thus making it fairly easy to pay for trips like this
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  • cmbmomcmbmom 696 replies22 threads Member
    Daughter applied to 8, visited 12. Four were in NC (8 hours down to the first school and worked our way back toward home), so we took a 2 night 3 day trip and saw all 4 in 2 days. The ones in VA and PA we did as day trips (1 school per day), some days were 12 hours long for a 3 hour visit. My husband went to NC and on 2 other day trips with us, the rest were just daughter and me.
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2607 replies32 threads Senior Member
    I agree with Kathie - it was definitely my favorite part of the process with D, and we're having fun so far doing Round II with S1.

    One thing that can help is to do the calibrating kinds of visits very close to home, seeing schools that might not even really be on your kid's serious list, just so you can get a feel for which kinds of schools are going to be worth the time and $$ to travel off to. In other words, go see a big state school, a mid-size school, and a small private school close to home, if you can; see an urban school, suburban school, and rural school if that's possible. You may have a child who can see him- or herself at any one of these - in which case I haven't helped at all! :) - or you may find that you get a very strong read on what kinds of schools you can rule out.

    There are definitely some great get-to-know-our-school programs offered by selective LACs for URMs. Swarthmore's Discovery Weekend is one. Kids who are admitted to these programs get a weekend at the school, with a lot of interesting programs, at the school's expense. There may well be similar programs at bigger schools and at public ones - I'm sure other CCers will post about them.
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  • HarrietMWelschHarrietMWelsch 2607 replies32 threads Senior Member
    Sorry - I forgot to answer the rest of your questions: My D applied, in the end, to only one; she went ED.

    We visited about twelve, and she did overnight stays on her own at three of those. It was the overnights that clinched her ED choice.

    There wasn't a lot of $$ involved; we live within driving distance of all of the schools she wanted to see, though a couple of them were far enough that we stayed nearby overnight. Whether by conscious choice or not, all of her schools were within a five-hour radius of home.

    (I don't think we'll be so lucky w S1.)
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  • Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay 19416 replies462 threads Senior Member
    Bunsen, the kid I know is, in fact, a URM. As is my son, so maybe we'll have some luck. And my son wears a batting helmet. We've hit the jackpot! j/k

    Harriet, how do you find out which schools offer these, or do they find you?

    Another question for everyone: Did your kids miss a lot of school to do these visits? Did everyone wait until the senior year, or start these in the junior year?
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  • thisoldmanthisoldman 1026 replies19 threads Senior Member
    for those in the PNW or West of the Mississippi have a greater problem in visiting schools selected East of Miss. Son visited all 8 via 56K bps. He was interested in engineering schools.
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  • mathmommathmom 32787 replies160 threads Senior Member
    We visited three school in CA spring break junior year - missed no school. Stayed with friends and relatives. My son said they all looked fine and he didn't care that one was tiny, one was huge, one was country-club like, one was in the city, two were in very different suburbs. So I decided to believe him that the feel of the school didn't matter that much to him and we visited the rest (four) in the spring when we knew where he was accepted. Turned out he didn't get into any of those CA schools and the ones he did get into were easier to get to for us. As a computer science geek though it was easy to pinpoint good matches based on programs. For the senior year visits he missed a day of school each I think, but by then they were all in senioritis mode anyway - though it was a bit close to AP exam time.
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  • notre dame ALnotre dame AL 1638 replies36 threads Senior Member
    We tried to take advantage of every op w/regard to visiting. When we took vacations (beginning of freshman year) we visited colleges as a side trip when possible. It helped to eliminate a lot. Also, son's school took advantage of the same process--when they took trips, they often visited colleges, once again eliminating schools for son. By the time he applied, he had pretty much visited the campus. And yes, at least one school-the school he finally selected after admittance, flew him up for a visit! No, he is not a URM or recruited athlete. Just a bright kid! He was not even going to go on the trip, but we reminded him that this was the school's op to "wine and dine" him into making a final decision. I will say that I feel that son was very fortunate indeed to have had the many ops of visiting different schools. He ended up applying to about 7 schools-very carefully. He knew that he would be happy at any of them, from the reach school to the safety school. I will also agree with a previous poster that it was perhaps one of the most pleasant parts of the whole college admissions process. As hubby and I have been out of college for 30+ years, it was refreshing to visit college campuses again and to gain perspective on what son was indeed looking for in a college. He absolutely did not go into the admissions process blind about the the schools he applied to, unlike his dad and I 30+ years ago!
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  • CountingDownCountingDown 13570 replies113 threads Senior Member
    We tried to make most of our college visiting part of family vacations, so we would stop in while we were in town, and stayed with friends whenever possible. We also tend to get groceries while we travel to keep the food expenditures down to a dull roar. The big exception to the vacation rule was that DS and DH did a five-day, 2,200 mile drive over Spring Break to see five colleges. In all, DS considered 16 and we visited 13; DS had 8 on his list, has dropped one, and might drop another.

    He and I did lots of research on the web before going for a look-see. In many cases, looking through the online catalog was enough to convince DS whether or not we should take a look. He has done overnights at two schools and hangs out at with friends at the flagship on a regular basis.

    I fear there will be one more round to the top choices come April, and he will have hard questions to ask of the profs at the schools.
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  • APOLAPOL 1752 replies30 threads Senior Member
    A parent gave us this advice, and it seemed to work well for my DD. We visited the schools AFTER she received her acceptance letters-and in some cases her waitlist letters. We had heard horror stories of students that had visited schools-fell in "love" with a school, and then had been rejected. DD picked her schools based on brochures, books, internet sites, interviewing with alums. The latter was helpful, in that she dropped one school after her interview. It saved $$$ and hardache. I hope this helps-a Mom
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  • mhc48mhc48 1221 replies74 threads Senior Member
    First kid we took a long driving trip over a week and several states. Second kid, three years later, wanted to go further away and I substituted a college visit trip 1200 miles away by plane for a short vacation.

    They'll be gone soon and out of your life. The day you leave them at the dorm is their first big step out of your life and into one that is totally theirs. They'll pick the person they marry without you. Their first job and possibly where they go to live for it will be one you'll have very little input to as well.

    These trips with them visiting colleges is as much for you as it is for them. Savour them, they're priceless.
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  • riverrunnerriverrunner 2663 replies52 threads Senior Member
    One EA application and 5 RD apps are in the mill.

    She visited all of them. Some were visits connected with sports competitions over the last few years, a couple were visits to friends already in college. She flew with the parents of one of the students, who were visiting for the weekend. That worked well! Also, we did the NE road trip last spring break, and, as others have said, it was such a sweet time to be alone with my daughter! She's a recruited athlete and went on three official visits this fall (no cost to her). (search "recruited athlete" for threads on this topic)

    How to afford: Compared to the cost of the education, the trips are a drop in the bucket, in my book, and a very important part of the process. Also, I think her visit will likely help her be admitted to the school she finally chose to send an EA. In March of this year we spent a wonderful day on the campus. The head coach for her sport was available, and we sat on a bench in front of the gym for at least two hours, talking about all sorts of things. When my D went back for her official visit, 5 months later, she was so comfortable and able to connect with the coach and the team, and to speak compellingly about her wish to attend there. Looking back, without that earlier visit, I don't know if she would have had the courage to go after this reach school.

    My best wishes to you!
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  • 3Ks3Ks 190 replies0 threads 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.
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  • TheDadTheDad 9905 replies323 threads! 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.
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  • momrathmomrath 5997 replies39 threads 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.
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  • paying3tuitionspaying3tuitions 12571 replies759 threads 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.
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  • katliamomkatliamom 13003 replies169 threads 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.
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