We don't have time or money to visit some schools I'm really interested in. What can I do?

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Our counselors answered:

We don't have time or money to visit some schools I'm really interested in. What can I do?

James Long
Educational Consultant Long Range Success

Start visiting colleges early...

One step in choosing a college should involve a visit to the college. A student should utilize online tours located on the college website, contact admission personnel to see if they can provide a list of students that they can speak to, and call local chambers of commerce in order to ask specific questions about the college and surrounding area. Also start planning early – 8th or 9th grade – and visit colleges during family travels, even if you don’t plan on going to the college. The more campuses you see, the easier it is to make comparisons.

Carol Stack
Principal Hardwick Day Inc.

Make sure you're a viable candidate first...

Yes visits are great – but – you need to be aware that sometimes visiting means falling in love – not a good idea before you know if you are a realistic candidate academically and financially.  My suggestion:  do a few local and easily done visits to have some basis for your decision making.  Then, when you have narrowed it down to 2 or 3 schools to which you have been admitted and know you can handle financially, arrange a visit. If necessary ask the school about any program they may have to assist families with the cost of a visit.

Gael Casner
Founder CollegeFindEdu.com

Valuable knowledge might be cheaper than you think...

Unbeknownst to most families, many colleges offer fly-in programs for students with need.   It’s worth a call to the admissions office to see if they can give you a free flight.  Be aware, though, that some of these programs are offered after you’ve been accepted –to help you make a decision. Meanwhile, consider purchasing a handful of college tour videos from Collegiate Choice Walking Tours.  Filmed by independent college advisors, these no-frill DVDs follow student-guides across campuses as they comment on the college and the student culture.  It’s an inexpensive way to gather valuable information.

Robin Groelle
Founder CollegeCounselling.com

Begin by visiting colleges closer to home ...

Start by visiting a few colleges close to home–one in the city, one in a smaller town, a large campus, and a smaller campus.  These preliminary college visits will help you discover the type of campus culture that will best suit you.  Many students don’t have the opportunity to visit all the colleges that interest them.  Fortunately, virtual tours are available on a number of websites including most college sites.  Many colleges will have a student call, skype, or email you if you’re interested in learning more about campus life.  It’s a great idea to visit a college before you commit to attending, if at all possible

Jeannie Borin
Founder & President College Connections

Gather information on colleges if you can’t visit...

College officers understand that not everyone can visit colleges. Between plane fare, rental cars and hotel stays, it can get costly. Students can visit colleges in their area to get an idea of college life and what they would like. Many college representatives travel and provide needed information during college nights. Attend college fairs to meet college reps and get questions answered. Do research on the internet as most colleges have thorough websites with information. Speak to other students and know that social media is active at colleges with online chats, interviews and webinars. Lots of information will make your eventual decision that much easier.

Nancy Griesemer
Founder College Explorations LLC

Short of visiting a campus you can investigate and demonstrate interest...

With the cost of gas, it’s no wonder families are begging off tours.  Yet, admissions deans are increasingly adamant that if you’re within reasonable distance, you must visit or risk being rejected for lack of “demonstrated interest.”  So what can you do?  Visit virtually.  And don’t limit these visits to large umbrella websites with ads.   Take advantage of online resources but also be aware of places to show interest:  get on mailing lists, “Like” Facebook pages and comment sometimes, attend college fairs and regional or school-based events, or follow admissions blogs. Be a wise consumer and understand that colleges tightly control their images. 

Joan Koven
Founder & Director Academic Access

College visiting through your cell phone...

Absolutely nothing can replace a visit to a college campus for a prospective student. Experiencing the student culture, academic compatibility, and true match can best help determine your interest level. If you are unable to get on a campus then try pulling out your mobile device for your college searches.  More campuses are setting up apps where students can get a tour and information right at the touch of a smart phone screen. Colleges are catering to students that use their mobile devices as a source of information and connection.

Jane Shropshire
Founder Shropshire Educational Consulting LLC

Visits are for information gathering AND demonstration of interest...

If you can’t visit, you can gather plenty of information through the college’s website, its Facebook page, comments on Unigo and College Prowler, and traditional guidebooks.  Also, talk with family, friends, teachers and employers to find out what they may know about the college.  Let the admissions office know all that you’re doing to gather information and if cost is a significant deterrent to your visit, ask if there are any opportunities for assistance with travel cost.  If not, ask the admissions office if it’s possible to arrange a Skype conversation or interview with someone on staff.  You’ll learn more and you’ll convey initiative!

Lynda McGee
College Counselor Downtown Magnets High School

Tour schools from your computer!...

Yes, it is ideal if you can visit each college in person, but through the power of the internet, you can still “see” each campus and meet some of the people there. To get a quick overview, go to www.youniversitytv.com. They have professional videos of hundreds of schools, and many also have student videos posted. Another site to consider is www.collegeweeklive.com. They have virtual college tours, college fairs, and ways to connect with current students at the schools you find appealing. Sign up and start touring!

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Would you buy a car you didn’t test drive?...

While you are exploring colleges, do your research online—virtual tours, online forums, and social media all will help you check out each school’s vibe. But before you commit four years and many thousands of dollars to a school, you need to experience the campus and people in person.  Schedule visits to your top picks, taking advantage of discount travel website deals. Schools may help you economize with shuttles from the airport and meals in cafeterias. Many colleges will allow you to stay in a dorm overnight, and some even provide a transportation allowance for students with financial need…be sure to ask!