How do you afford all those college visits?

<p>Visits are nice.</p>

<p>They are not absolutely necessary.</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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). </p>

<p>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).</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>I applied to...a lot.</p>

<p>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. </p>

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

<p>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.</p>

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

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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). </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Has anyone had any experience with Priceline for getting a hotel in Manhattan?</p>

<p>We've been embroiled in this process for the past 8 years with three kids spaced out so that we're never really "done" - it's always time to gear up for the next one. In that time, all vacation funds have gone to pay for either college visits or getting kids back and forth to school. It's been money well spent - despite the stress and aggravation of never quite knowing where we're going and being unable to manage our time so that we can have an actual sit-down meal somewhere. (On one memorable journey, d2 and I went 36 hours subsisting on Diet Coke, hotel-room coffee, gummi worms, and crackers.)</p>

<p>With our current senior, we've visited 8 schools over 3 trips (2 schools have been seen twice, to permit interviews). She eliminated 2 schools from her list after visiting, and there are 2 schools on her final list that she hasn't seen yet.</p>

<p>I think the question of affordability is a smart one, and I hope that admissions departments are aware that it is a concern for many parents, not just those below a middle-class income. Our travel funds are not, um, inexhaustible. It's fine for schools to look for expressed interest, but sometimes even a very low-cost trip is just not possible.</p>

<p>We made college visits part of our vacation planning. Because they wanted to avoid the flying at Thanksgiving scene, our kids preferred colleges within a day's drive from our Mid-Atlantic home (D ended up 5+ hours away) so it was not tough to do it that way. I enjoy visiting campuses the way some people enjoy malls, so it was fairly pain-free.</p>

<p>Now h.s. senior son is going through the process and he has visited all but two of the six schools to which he applied. If those two are in the final mix he will visit them during his spring break (which fortunately is not the colleges' spring break time), and I am hoping he does an overnight at any school he is considering saying "yes" to. </p>

<p>Wow, in the future we will be able to plan vacations without college locations factored in! :)</p>

<p>As far as athletic recruiting goes, it's important to remember the difference between official (they pay) and unofficial (you pay) visits. </p>

<p>One school that recruited my S wanted him to come for an unofficial (summer) visit. Several time zones away -- I thought maybe on their dime in September. They dropped out. Another school, this one in an <em>adjacent</em> time zone, offered an unofficial summer visit, and we did fly out to check it out. Yes, it cost about $1000 for the trip -- airfare, rental car, hotel, meals. I might have done it for a few hundred less, but I wanted S to really see the area. That school eventually did make an offer -- and it would have included some athletic scholarship dollars -- but at that point he had already committed to his first choice.</p>

<p>I should note that he committed in JULY to his first choice school and had a verbal acceptance in AUGUST before his final year. For his sport, at that level, it happens <em>that</em> early.</p>

<ol>
<li><p>DD applied to 10 schools</p></li>
<li><p>Visited 8 prior to application</p></li>
<li><p>We visited about 15 schools starting when DD was a freshman. Not all were tour/info sessions, we may have been in the area for sports or vacation, just getting a feel for the school and spreading out the process (and the outlay of money). In the beginning I think it served as a weeding out or elimination process and helped all of us figure out what types of schools appealed to her. At that early stage we hadn't even asked her whether she wanted to be at a big school/small school, urban/rural, liberal arts/science technical. Without even talking about those things it became clear that she was looking for a broad education, not one directed to the sciences. It also allowed for return visits to schools she really liked. </p></li>
</ol>

<p>Starting the summer after sophomore year, we bunched visits by location and that was our vacation for the summer - not the most relaxing, but memorable. We tried to be frugal, stayed in some sketchy hotels and still laugh about the accommodations. </p>

<p>Two tips given by prior posters are important - Make sure you visit and find a safety that you love. Find one they would be really happy to attend and you can afford. I sometimes think we spend too much time focused on the dream schools. </p>

<p>While we visited a lot of schools, DD didn't do any overnights until after she was accepted. By then it was late in her senior year and missing school wasn't as critical as it would have been earlier. We also didn't want her to become too attached to her dream schools or the kids who went there because she knew they were long shots. </p>

<p>Good luck, pack lots of cheap & healthy snacks, and enjoy the experience. </p>

<p>PS - One thing all the tours did for me is make me realize how many truly outstanding kids there are in this country. We hear all this talk about how we are falling behind in education, but when I looked around the campuses I realized that our kids are amazingly bright, organized, ambitious, and ready to take on the world.</p>

<p>If you are interested in a certain area of the country, some colleges band together to make multiple visits easier. Last summer some Virginia private colleges offered up to free applications for visiting at least three of the schools: Council</a> of Independent Colleges in Virginia [CICV] </p>

<p>Working with the school calendar was also key. Starting at the summer after sophmore year, we took every in-service day available when we could or days like Presidents day weekend or Martin Luther King Day when colleges were open and our kids public hs was closed. Granted, this is very difficult when kids are involved in a time-sucking ec, but that's all the more reason to start a bit early.</p>

<p>kathiep,
Yes, we use the in-service days and holidays, too. DS's school only offers a VERY limited number of days for college visits, but we learned the summer after soph year that it is best to visit when schools are in session. DS likes to talk to profs and sit in on classes while we 'rents do the tour. Eat on campus -- it's cheaper than restaurants. We also make lunch the main meal of the day. Alternatively, we find a loaf of fresh bread and cheese and picnic.</p>

<p>DS has three days off in February (different weeks), so he might take an overnight or two and shack up with some friends at one or two schools on his list. </p>

<p>Depending on your kid, you might consider letting them take a trip or two alone. (Saves $$, too.) Since DS is looking at schools both near and far, we thought this would be a good way to see if he really could tolerate the hassles of travel. (He flew for one trip, took Amtrak for another.) He then used public transit on the ground. He has been a traveler all his life, though, and airports, delays, etc. don't bother him, so this might not work for every kid.</p>

<p>We combined it with summer vacation - drove 3200 miles and stopped to visit and stay with relatives and friends, went to amusement parks and national monuments. This broke things up a lot, and didn't cost as much, since we only had to pay for about a week's worth of hotels even though we were on the road for 3 weeks. D wound up at a school we didn't visit. Sigh! Amherst paid for her visit, but as an accepted diversity student - geographic white and poor. They made all the arrangments, picked her up at the airport and took her back. All I had to do was drop her off and pick her up here.</p>

<p>Good point Countingdown. Our son did three college visits by himself. One of them, Juniata, has a travel deal for accepted students if they travel by themselves and attend an accepted students event. Housing and food costs are free. Our son flew via Southwest airlines and the whole trip was less then $100 out of pocket. He also drove to Rochester (RIT) for an interesting weekend during the summer after junior year for an overnight where kids explored different majors and slept in the dorms. </p>

<p>I think it's key to explore each colleges website and look for unique offerings for visits. I just realized that I mispoke about son's out of state college visits. I went with him on two oos visits, Vermont and Virginia, but he went by himself to two others.</p>

<p>Hotel $ saving tip: Priceline name-your-own-price</p>

<p>DW and I stayed in Priceline hotels in 3 different cities while DS overnighted in dorms. Got pretty nice hotels for around $50 per night.</p>

<p>We visited 7 colleges, three in one three day roadtrip over Presidents Day weekend. Another three he visited on his own in a second three day roadtrip and the 7th was an afternoon visit to our state flagship U.</p>

<p>If the colleges had been scattered across the country I doubt that we would have visited them all prior to admissions/finaid decisions. In that case some prioritization would have been done and visits to the top 2 or three scheduled.</p>

<p>Actually choosing a college sight unseen is a big risk, IMO.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

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

<p>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.</p>

<p>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. </p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>"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."</p>

<p>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!</p>

<p>Another tip I forgot to mention, use your travel points for airlines and hotel chains.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.)</p>

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

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

<p>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.</p>

<p>DD only visited 3 local schools within an hour of driving. What we planned to visit did not work out. She is visiting virtually.</p>