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Campus Visits on a Tight Budget

campus visits

The college process is rife with major decisions. Deciding which school your child will attend is easily one of the most important. Conceivably, you have your ideas on where they should go; they likely have their own, and you might even be fortunate enough that both are in line with each other. Either way, it is not a decision to be made lightly, or without as much information on your options as possible. This is what makes campus visits so important. The common deterrent for families wanting to make campus visits is usually not one of inclination, but rather budgetary constraints.

How Campus Visits Factor into A College Budget Plan

Campus visits and tours in and of themselves are typically free (not including any standardized testing or application fees that will likely accompany the process). However, unless you already live in the immediate vicinity of the college you and your child wish to visit, there will be costs for which to budget.

Transportation

There is a real possibility that the best school for your child is going to be on the other side of the country. You could make a road trip out of it, or take a train, but the most efficient means of transportation is likely to be a flight. This alone is enough to discourage many families, but in some cases it might not be a burden that falls upon you.

Lodging

Again, if the campus is far enough away from home you’ll likely have to put yourself up somewhere. There’s usually no shortage of options in college towns, a fact that can work both for and against you.

Food

They may say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and when you consider all of the other things you’re expected to pay for, the sentiment is definitely confirmed. Incidentally though, lunch is often one of the things the school will provide without any prompting. If it is a multi-day visit or if you are out of town, you will usually be on your own for the rest of your meals.

Time

The world will not stand still for you or your child. As is the case across the board, the farther away the school the more commitment it will require to visit. Though your child is probably getting more time off for minor holidays and spring, summer, and now even fall breaks, you will likely have to take a few days off of work to make the trip.

How to Cut Down On the Cost of Campus Visits

What a lot of families don’t know is that there are ways of covering these costs without them coming out of pocket in some cases, and with reimbursements in others. Implementing some of these tips can save you thousands over the course of the college selection process.

Narrow Down the Choices

It’s an exciting time! Letters are flowing in each day from schools all over the country. While you want to make sure every opportunity is open to your child, there are still going to be some schools that are more realistic than others. Research with your daughter or son, see which schools they’re most interested in and plan to only visit those. Campus hopping is too expensive to do on a whim.

Start in The Area

Visiting a campus near you is going to be exponentially cheaper. Consider visiting schools in the area as a sort of low stakes practice round. After you’ve experienced the basic structure of a visit you will know what to expect and what to ask, in order to get more out of the trip when you take on the bigger commitment of visiting schools your child might be more interested in.

Subsidized Campus Visits

Some schools will go as far as to absorb some of the costs of the trip. The school may provide anything from reimbursement for a portion of airline or train fees to campus lodging and meals. The lengths they are willing to go obviously differ from school to school; but if your student is already accepted, the college is likely to be more accommodating.

Look for Discounts

Many travel and lodging companies offer special discounts for traveling students. AMTRAK for example offers a deal for traveling high school Juniors and Seniors going on college visits will receive 50% off of the price of their parent’s ticket. There are many other deals like this, you just have to look for them.

Travel Efficiently

There are areas where you can find more than one school fairly close to each other, try to target these areas to get as many visits out of one trip as possible. Also try to do as much in a day as you can. The school may plan for a more laid back pace, stretching the trip out to two days. Ask if you can hit everything the visit is meant to encompass in one day. The longer you’re there the more money you’re likely to spend.

These are just a few of the money saving methods you can use to better fit multiple visits into your college budget plan.

Communicate With the Schools

The best thing to do is to ask the schools you’re interested in directly: What are they are willing to offer? It’s unlikely they will volunteer the information, but if y u call and ask if they offer any travel, housing, or other perks for families visiting their college you can end up saving yourself quite a bit of money.

Have any of the schools you’ve visited offered to cover any of your expenses? Let us hear about it in the comments section!

Jim Slowik

Jim Slowik strategizes for families of all incomes to leave no stone unturned to reduce college costs. Jim has worked for over 30 years in marketing and management with 20 of those years in financially related industries. As a parent of college students, Jim understands the challenges of navigating the college process. He holds a Bachelors of Marketing from North Central College.

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