Going to college is expensive enough. Picking a college can also be costly.
Beyond the application fees that can cost upwards of $100 per college, there are the costs of visiting college campuses to see which is right for you or your student: flights, hotels, meals, and, of course, a college sweatshirt. They can add up.
To keep the costs of college visits down, here are some tips:
Colleges don’t expect families to fly across the country when applying. Mix in a variety of college types, such as an urban college, large public university and a small liberal arts college—all within driving distance of your home, if possible—to give your student a feel for what each school offers.
If you can drive within a day to a college from home, do it. That can cut out the need to spend the night at a hotel, though you might want to anyway after a day of driving.
Some colleges offer a “virtual” tour online. If you’re traveling out of state for business or a family vacation, take your student for a side trip to the local college. Or, if a friend’s family is driving to a college, have your child tag along.
Save on Hotels
If you’re going to stay in a hotel, find one near the campus. It will give you a feel for the campus and will reduce the need for a rental car. Hotels near campus often offer discounted rates for visiting students.
College admissions websites may even have hotels they recommend for potential applicants and their families.
Choose a Faraway Visit Carefully
If you’re going to fly for a college visit, make it one of your top choices that considers “demonstrated interest” for admission. Take the official tour and let school admission officials know you’re there. Students can also call an admission representative to show their interest.
Don’t stop in at the college bookstore during a visit. It can be an expensive stop and is something that can be done after you’re accepted as a student. Collecting T-shirts and sweatshirts is a fun way to document and remember your visits, but a notebook full of details about what you liked and didn’t like will serve you better over the long term.
An acceptance letter will often come with discount coupons for the campus store. That’s the time to bust your budget on school swag, instead of having a closet full of sweaters from schools you’ll never attend.