College visits are an important step in the college selection process. Visiting potential schools can be very exciting, but unfortunately, these trips can also be expensive. Luckily, there are ways to make the most of your experience while not emptying your wallet.
Sophomore year is not too early to start looking at schools. If you start looking early, you can spread out the time and expenses involved in touring multiple campuses. With a few college visits under your belt, you will get a feel for what is important to you as a prospective student and you will get better at asking questions. Consider saving your top choices for later in your college search.
Think ahead. Talk to your family about vacation schedules and where friends or other family members may live and then research the nearby colleges, so that you can work in a campus tour on your next trip. When possible, travel by car, train or public transportation as opposed to flying. However, if the college you most want to visit is all the way across the country, you will likely have to fly. If that’s the case, there are still ways you can save money on your trip. Book your domestic flight 4 – 6 weeks in advance and shop around for the best price. Consider using reward points and book on “off days.” That means try to avoid flying on weekends and holidays. Instead consider making your trip on a week day. Finally, consider using a college visit as a vacation. Many students and families say that some of their favorite memories were the one-on-one times spent with their high school student during college visits.
Bring a Buddy
If you are able to drive to your college visitation, consider carpooling. State schools or colleges that are relatively close to your hometown tend to be popular choices for high school students. If you are headed to visit such a school, get together with like-minded students and split the cost of gas and even a hotel room or rental house. If you get several students and their parents to all chip in, it may be relatively inexpensive to cover lodging for your visit.
Finally, if money is a concern, it may be a good idea to keep your in-person college visits to just your top few schools. By minimizing the travel, you will obviously save money. If you aren’t sure where to start on your college selection journey, the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a great resource. The College Search Tool can help you narrow down your choices by applying filters such as school size, location, student activities/clubs, cost and much more!
Once you’ve narrowed it down to your favorite schools, it’s time to select your top choices. Unfortunately, visiting even your top five or ten colleges can be costly. Luckily, many schools now offer online, virtual tours. You can experience student life, get a feel for the campus layout and have many of your questions answered all from the comfort of your own home – completely for free! By thoroughly researching schools ahead of time you will save yourself unnecessary trips to colleges that aren’t a good fit for you.
CFNC is a great resource for students as they plan, apply and pay for college. For more helpful tips, visit CFNC.org.