Save Money on College Visits With These Tips




Planning college visits this summer or fall? College visit costs can add up quickly, especially if students have many schools they’d like to visit as they narrow down their balanced college lists. However, there are a number of ways that families can save some money on college tours.

Campus visits are an important part of the college decision process, not only because college tours can help students determine what kind of campus might be best for them, but because they also provide applicants with the opportunity to make meaningful connections with university officials. Additionally, many schools track “demonstrated interest,” or the likelihood that a prospective applicant will choose to enroll upon acceptance, and visiting a school is one way students can highlight their interest in the university – and learn some valuable information that can help improve their supplemental essays.

Unfortunately, touring every campus on a student’s balanced college list can come with a hefty price tag. However, there are a number of steps that families can take to reduce the cost of college visits without sacrificing the value of the overall experience.

Plan Ahead
Avoid high travel costs or unexpected expenses by planning your college visits well in advance. Planning travel accommodations ahead of time can help families reduce transportation fees. Take time to research flights and set up alerts for cheap fares. Also, consider using travel points to cut costs, especially for trips during peak travel or holiday times. It's also important to plan early by signing up for information sessions well ahead-of time, as well as arranging to sit in on lectures if possible. Some of these opportunities can fill up quickly during peak times, so register at least 3-4 weeks in advance.

Use Digitalization to Your Advantage
Research is a key part of planning for college visits, and online and social media tools can help you learn more about the places you plan to visit. Narrow down the list of schools you want to visit by taking virtual tours, which are available on many college’s websites. Additionally, YouVisit offers over 600 college tours for free, each with their own virtual tour guide, who will share information about the university. Students and families should also explore a variety of university-related social media channels such as Facebook groups, Instagram accounts, and Snapchat stories to get a comprehensive picture of the school, various student perspectives, and the opportunities available on campus.

Start Local
After using research to streamline a college visit list, try touring a local school first. This can help students and parents minimize travel costs, and it gives students the chance to re-evaluate their college lists based on impressions from this initial tour. Students will learn a lot about what they are looking for in a university from visiting a variety of schools; just being on a campus provides applicants with the ability to get a sense of environmental, social, and academic preferences. So start local to get a baseline impression of a college campus and build from there.

Stick to a Strict "Swag" Budget
A lot of families will get excited during the college tour and hit up the bookstore on a college visit and buy a lot of expensive stuff like t-shirts, sweatshirts, lanyards, coffee mugs, etc. – which can add up quickly. Hold off on buying anything or stick to a strict one-item limit (that's under $20).

Consider Going Car-Free
Many colleges do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus, so consider using alternate transpiration to gain a more realistic sense of travel options while minimizing spending. Explore what public transportation options are available on and near campus and research the cost of buses to and from the college. You might be surprised to find that options such as Megabus are generally far less expensive than trains.

Don’t Forget About Dining
Meals out can add up quickly, especially if a school is located in an area with a high cost of living. Eating at a dining hall is a great way to evaluate local dining options, but it can be pricey without a meal plan, especially for several people. Plan to have one small meal on campus and also research nearby affordable dining options. Check discount sites such as Groupon to see if any local restaurants are offering menu deals. If possible, bring snacks and water bottles from home to cut down on food-related spending while on campus. 

Get Creative with Overnight Accommodations
Visiting several schools in the same region can help reduce travel costs, but may also require extending the length of your trip. Many schools provide applicants with the option of spending a night in a dorm with a current student, which can be a great opportunity to get a firsthand look into campus life, free of charge. If a student is touring colleges with family, Airbnb and VRBO can be a cost-effective alternative to hotels near campus. Some larger cities also offer hostels with private rooms for families, which is another is another lower-price alternative.

Before scheduling your campus tours, it’s important to have an idea of the costs associated with visits and what to expect once you get there. Doing thorough research beforehand will help families better budget for college tours, allowing them to enjoy the experience without worrying about finances.

It’s also important for students to have an idea about the kinds of schools they are interested in. At IvyWise, our team of expert admissions counselors works with students to help them create a list of best-fit schools that align with their academic profile, passions, and social interests. For more information on how IvyWise can help you with your college search process, contact us today!

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