9 Ways to Save on College Visits

February 23, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ga-(WTVM)-It's that time of year again when high school seniors and their families are busy preparing for college.  With rising costs of tuition and fees, paying for college can certainly get expensive.  However, many families end up spending cash on college before the student even gets to campus.

"The cost of tuition and books is just one aspect of it," says Central High School Guidance Counselor Jenny Kite.

In some cases, parents can shell out hundreds, even thousands of dollars, just on college visits.

So how can you save?

According to bankrate.com, the first step is to get subsidized college visits and discounts.

Some schools offer fly-in reimbursement, others have discounts to the dining halls and free shuttle service.

"They can usually go to the basketball game or football game for free, so they have some perks to get the parents out there, to get the students out there, says another CHS Counselor Angie Anderson.

Next, reduce travel costs.  Websites like statravel.com and studentuniverse.com offer discounts for students and their families.

Campusvisit.com even has a deal with Amtrak for 50% off of a second ticket.  Kite says it's also much easier for families who visit schools close to home.

"We have a lot of families that are looking more into local community colleges, and four year schools instead of sending their students far away," says Kite.

Next, cull your list.

Campuscompare.com and campusexplorer.com are sites that help students narrow down their selections by offering virtual tours.

Also, check out college town websites.  Many urban areas have several colleges and universities within miles of one another, these sites put information all in one place.

Another idea, use visits to eliminate application fees.

"They'll ask them bring your transcripts, bring everything, so you know, they'll get a lot done in one session," adds Anderson.

Prospectives can also share costs with other students.  Plus, many high schools like Central will often take a busload of students for a site visit.

"We try to provide opportunities for students you know, with our local colleges, try to inform them of college fairs that are available, also we just took a trip to CVCC and invited pretty much the entire senior class to go," Kite says.

There are also websites like CEtours.com that help families plan as part of a tour group.

And of course, visit efficiently. Hit two schools in one day, or even more over a long, weekend.

Finally, check with local alumni associations about options they may offer.  We spoke to a counselor at Carver High School who says the local alumni chapter of Albany State University just recently sponsored a trip to the school for several local students.

All the students paid was $5.00 to help offset costs of transportation.