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As attached as your child is to the idea of attending UCLA, UT Austin or NYU, reality may be that a college on your student’s list may not actually be the right fit. Most schools look awfully good on paper, but in order to make the right personal decision, your student needs to get exposed to what everyday life at his or her chosen schools is like.
If you’re thinking there is no way to make all these visits in the current economy–think again. Here are some ideas to help your child get the exposure he or she needs without dipping in to your holiday gift fund.
Investigate the Local Scene
One of the best ways to save while making college visits is to stay close to home. Last month I suggested visiting nearby schools similar to those to which your student has applied. This is a tip I give to clients all the time, because it really works.
Spend a little time researching schools within a reasonable driving distance from home. Find colleges that reflect the same size, student-faculty ratio, public/private setting, and living environment offered by your child’s top choice schools. Then make a couple of quick trips to compare/contrast.
This strategy can be extremely telling–your child can get a feel for the environment, teaching style, and day-to-day expectations of a given type of school without your having to come up with the cash for cross-country airfare at this point.
If you’re already planning to make a trip to one of your child’s long distance college choices, why not visit surrounding colleges as well? You can cut costs by renting a car instead of plane-hopping to each school. A road trip could be a great time to get to know more about the schools and surrounding areas (and get some one-on-one time with your child) without over-spending.
Another option is to visit schools near your holiday destinations or vacations. Heading out to your sister’s house for Thanksgiving? Tour the local university campuses, converse with some of the students, and if you arrive early enough, see if your student can sit in on a class. Just having your child make a more final choice on an urban, suburban or rural setting or small, medium or large student body can really help in whittling down the college list.
If you’re committed to making the trip–by train, bus, plane, or car–no matter what, don’t simply type in your dates on Expedia and click BUY. Using a pricing strategy can go a long way.
All the best,