College visits are expensive. Flights, hotels and rental cars add up. It can cost more than $2,000 for a family to check out five schools for one child. Even local trips can easily cost $500 between gas, meals and hotels. While in-person college visits shouldn’t be eliminated, they can be pared down to the schools that match your child’s admission, financial and career needs with a variety of online tools. Plus, phone calls.
1. Start with Phone Calls
I chose my college over the phone. And I stayed there to complete two master’s degrees. It all came down to the answer to one question: Why should I attend your school? I asked three state schools’ journalism departments. One was too busy to answer. One said all state schools are the same. The third said our school has had 7 Pulitzer Prize winners and our students are now working at major newspapers. Sold. Every student should include a department phone call in their college search.
2. Request Written Information
Always request syllabi from professors of first-year courses in your major. Syllabi detail what classes are actually like. Are there a lot of projects? Does the actual coursework appeal to the student?
3. Participate in Live Chats
I do presentations about paying for college and career exploration several times a year at CollegeWeekLive‘s free college fairs. More than 500 schools participate in CollegeWeekLive free online college fairs throughout the year and 156 schools have permanent, interactive college fair booths. The events offers students from all over the world a chance to text-chat with admissions representatives and video chat with current college students. Students can also web-chat with financial aid and admissions experts, including myself, at various dates through the year. Events are recorded and can be watched later.
4. Complete Online Tours
Many schools have virtual tours of their campus or a variety of pictures on their website. This gives you a chance to look at the campus well before you visit. The best part? When you tour a campus on an arranged tour, you may never see the buildings where classes for your major are held. But you can see these buildings online. While you’re on the school’s website, don’t forget to click on the net price calculator, which gives you an estimate of financial assistance available based on your family’s income.
5. Plan Smart College Visits
By now, you’ve reviewed schools based on a variety of tools without stepping foot on campus. Once you’ve narrowed done your school choices to a maximum of three regions, plan college visits smartly: Compare hotel, rental car and airfare rates. Look up restaurants ahead of time. Most importantly, arrange appointments with the department in which you plan to major. By following these steps, you won’t dip into your college savings to pay for college visits.
For more tips, checkout the new edition of my audio book How Smart Students Pay for School: The Best Way to Save for College, Get the Right Loans and Repay Debt.
Reyna Gobel, frequently quoted as an expert on student loans and college costs, speaks regularly at CollegeWeekLive, and is a regular education contributor to U.S. News. She also created a video course How to Repay Federal Student Loans. Her website is www.graduationdebt.org.
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