You already know how important college campus visits are for making the final decision about what school to attend, but with so many options, visiting each one can put a serious dent in your wallet. Especially when considering colleges far from home, the cost of airfare, rental car, meals, and more can add up. However, there are some things you can do to save money on college visits; there are even some colleges that will pay you to come visit!
Tips to save money on college visits
Reduce travel costs
Though most people know to check Kayak or Priceline for good deals on flights, there are actually some websites that offer discounts specifically for students. Check out STA Travel and Student Universe. You should also start asking around and connect with friends or other students interested in similar schools. Having a few more people to split the cost of gas and hotel rooms with can help lower your travel costs.
Combining work and play
It is a good idea to start planning ahead. For students in their freshmen year of high school, look ahead to family vacations that are coming up. If you’re on your way to a family reunion in Northern Georgia, you may as well take a day to visit the University of Georgia or Emory University along the way. If you’re traveling during the summer, you may not be able to get a real feel for the culture of campus as classes are not in session. Nevertheless, it is still a good way to rule out colleges that may not be right for you.
Travel assistance from colleges
Numerous colleges are now offering to pay for students to come visit. Most programs offer between $100 and $300 to reimburse travel expenses such as food, gas, hotel stay and airfare. Even if the college doesn’t pay for travel, they will often have discount prices for local hotels and meals on-campus. There are also some colleges that waive application fees (which also start to add up to considerable amounts of money) if you go for a campus visit. All you have to do is call the admissions office and see what is available.
Some colleges have fall programs that pay for all airfare, a stay on campus, and even meals. These weekend sessions are mostly provided for students with low socioeconomic status or multicultural backgrounds, but are sometimes offered for all students through an application process. Many liberal arts colleges, such as Bowdoin, Amherst and Davidson, have fly-in programs, but Lehigh, Dartmouth, Columbia, and a few other research universities offer them as well.
Other ways to save money on college visits:
- Do your research – Colleges now have virtual tours and student reviews online. Thoroughly research your list of schools to see if you can eliminate a few campus visits.
- Also research the town and any major local cities. You may love the college, but the location might not be right for you.
- Plan your trip effectively, so you won’t have to come back. Include admissions interviews, campus tours, try outs for a sports team, and an overnight in a dorm all in one visit.
- College Week Live is a great resource that allows you to chat with admissions representatives along with current students.
- Book it up! Plan visits geographically by combining multiple college campus visits into one trip. Even if a college is not on your top list of schools, visiting a campus that is on your way to another college can be a great way to get the most for your money. Who knows, you may even fall in love with that campus!
- Include friends in your trips to visit colleges. The price of transportation and hotel costs can drop considerably when splitting the price among more people.
Cost vs. benefit
Some families are considering cutting out college campus visits due to the decline in the economy and increasing cost of gas and other travel expenses. Not visiting colleges can easily save hundreds or thousands of dollars. With virtual tours and skype calls with students, you can still get the same experience without the costs, right? Not quite…
Information available online and conversations with current students are a great way to get an initial feel for what the campus and school has to offer. However, they only give a partial and often one-sided view of the school. These are the materials the school puts together, the students they choose and the picturesque images they decide on. Stepping on to a campus is the ultimate test to see what the next four years of your life will be like.
There is the option to hold off on visiting colleges until you are admitted, but not visiting at all increases the nerves of seniors during move in time and the likelihood of switching colleges after just a year.
College summer programs for high school students
Attending a summer program, like the Blueprint programs at one of our eight college campuses, also offers a way to get a real feel for the campus. By staying in a dorm, eating in the cafeteria and attending classes in the college classrooms gives you an entire week (or two) to understand what life will be like on campus. To learn more, call us today at 877-415-1111.