If you know anything about the advice I give for students who are knee deep in trying to decide which colleges are the best fit, you know that I believe that visiting college campuses is one of the most important items on the to-do list.
But, let’s be honest – these trips can get expensive, especially if your teen is gung-ho on attending college in a different state.
So first, download my free College Visit Checklist to be sure your teen’s getting the most from those college visits. Then, check out these simple strategies that will help you keep those costs down.
1| Visit schools within driving distance.
One of the best ways your teen can learn personal preferences in what he’s looking for in a college is to visit local schools. Even if the college isn’t on his list, it’ll help him understand the type of college that appeals most to him. Large, public schools and small, private liberal arts colleges have a completely different feel, for example. Your teen will learn which might interest him more…without the extra initial travel expense. It’s a great place to start.
2| Take advantage of planned vacations or family visits.
Many of us visit family who live out-of-state or take trips to different areas of the country throughout the year. Why not throw a college visit or two into the fold? You’re already paying those travel expenses, so bring your teen along to see what colleges in the region are like. Or, visit schools that are on the way if you’re taking a road trip. My daughter’s volleyball tournaments are all over the Pacific Northwest, so we make it a point to visit at least one college per tournament.
3| Narrow the list of schools
When your teen is determining where he’d like to attend, it’s best to drill down to his top 5-or-so schools on his list. Have him rank his preferences and plan from there.
4| Visit colleges with a good chance of acceptance
While it may be exciting for your teen to visit prestigious schools like Stanford or Yale, it doesn’t make financial sense to travel there just to say he did it. Unless he’s got close-to-perfect ACT scores and a killer GPA, stick to visiting schools where your teen has a more likely chance of being accepted.
5| Take a virtual tour of campus
If you’re unable to bring your teen to one of the schools on his list, another option is for him to take a virtual, online tour. You can find virtual tours on many colleges’ websites – just Google the school name and “virtual tour.” This is also a great option if your teen really wants to check out Harvard, but may not have a statistical chance-in-heck of being admitted. Sites like You Visit have a trove of colleges to choose from for a 360 degree experience, or even an option to view campus in virtual reality!
6| Wait until acceptance before visiting
It’s true that I regard visiting college campuses as an integral part of the college search process. But if money is tight, it’s also entirely acceptable to wait until you know for sure that your teen’s been admitted before making the trek out to tour the school. That visit will help your teen determine for sure whether it’s the right fit before deciding to attend there.
You don’t want to spend so much money on college visits that you’re taking from the money you’re saving for school. But remember – investing in college visits is a worthy expense given that your teen should feel at home there for the next four years in order to have the best learning and growing experience.
Remember to download and print the College Visit Checklist, and then get touring!
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