Visiting a college and touring the campus and surrounding community is a great way to get a feel for a college. The brochures and viewbooks students receive from colleges are great, but they cannot tell students if the college is a good fit. Many times, students need to step on campus to see how they feel while they are there. However, the cost of visiting colleges can really start to add up. Luckily there are ways to lower the cost of your college visit:
- Fly-in programs. Some colleges offer fly-in programs for underserved students. Students must apply for these programs and it can be competitive. However, if students are selected, they receive an all-expenses paid trip to the campus. Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University are just a few of the institutions that offer fly-in programs. Check out the large list of 2016 College Fly-In Programs here.
- College visit reimbursement. Some colleges offer reimbursements to students who visit their campuses. The rules of the reimbursements are different at each school, so students should check with the admissions office for full details. Some will cover only flight and hotel expenses, while others will also cover driving expenses. Some will reimburse the full cost, while others have a maximum they will reimburse. Lastly, some will reimburse after the visit, while some will reimburse after the student enrolls at the college. All visit reimbursement programs will expect students to save receipts and submit them to the college for reimbursement consideration. Bryant University, Houghton College and Whitman College are just a few of the colleges that offer college visit reimbursements.
- Travel discounts. Travel costs can add up if students have to travel far distances to visit colleges. Amtrak offers a buy-one-get-one 50% off for college visits. Student Universe and STA Travel offer discounted airfare for students.
- Spend the night in the dorm. Many colleges offer students the opportunity to spend the night in the residence halls during their stay. Typically staying in the dorms is free for prospective students. Some colleges make it easy to find information about overnight visits. If students cannot find information about overnight visits, they should contact the admissions office for information.
- Hotel discounts. Numerous colleges have worked with hotels in their areas to offer discounts for prospective students and their families. The information can usually be found on the institutional website. However, if the information is not as easy to find, visitors should check with the admissions office for a list of local hotels. Some colleges even have hotel accommodations on their campuses. For example, UCLA and the University of Utah have accommodations for visitors.
- Free or discounted cafeteria food. Something students should check out when visiting colleges is the food in the dining halls. Students should check with the admissions office if they can get free or discounted meal passes for the dining hall while they visit campus.
- Plan college visits in same geographic areas together. If there are multiple colleges in the same geographical area, plan to visit them on the same trip. To ensure the timing works, check with each admission office to make sure the dates that are being considered will work for the institution.
- Visit with high school group. Many high schools take their students to visit college campuses at little or no cost to the student. If the high school is visiting a college the student is interested, they should sign up for the visit. Group visits to college campuses are typically well organized, and at the very least, students will get an information session and a campus tour.
- Share the cost with friends. If multiple students are considering the same college or colleges, they should take a road trip together to visit the colleges. The students or families can share the cost of gas and hotels.
In addition to getting a feel for the college campuses, some colleges offer incentives for prospective students to visit:
- Application fee waiver. Many colleges offer application fee waivers to students who visit their campuses. Visits usually must happen before the student applies to the institution.
- Visit scholarship. There is a growing list of colleges and universities that offer a scholarship to students who visit their campuses. Typically, the visit must be setup with the admissions office. The scholarship is usually small, but is a nice discount for the student’s first year of attendance. The scholarship is only given to the student if they ultimately attend the institution. Corban University, Northwest University, and The University of Mobile are just a few of the colleges offering college visit scholarships.
College visits can be expensive, but there are many ways to offset the cost. In addition, many colleges are now offering incentives to visit their campuses because they know students who visit are more likely to enroll. Lastly, many colleges offer virtual tours. Virtual tours are a great way to get a feel for a campus and to narrow down the college list before making the actual college visit. The cost of the college visit should not stop students from visiting until they research their options to offset the cost.