There are 3,026 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Narrowing down that list to the one school you attend can be daunting.
Everything from weather and distance from home to academics and football culture can affect your decision. The best way to decide on a school is to do college visits, but if you cast too wide of a net, you can go broke touring schools.
With airfare, car rentals, and hotel accommodations, visiting colleges can be expensive — but it’s necessary to see the campus to find a good fit. With these six college visit tips, you can tour schools and find the right choice for you without blowing your budget.
1. Narrow down the list
If you have a list of schools you’re considering, slim it down by thinking about what is most important to you.
Consider the difference between public and private schools, especially since private schools can be more expensive. Some other factors that may impact your decision may be climate, location, size, athletics, Greek life, and major.
If you love the beach and the tropics, checking out Syracuse University, which often gets feet of snow, is likely a bad idea, no matter how good the school is. Similarly, if you want to live in a bustling city, going to Elizabethtown College in the middle of the country is not smart, either.
Create a profile of what your must-haves are and which areas you are flexible about. That approach can whittle down your list to five to ten schools.
2. Check out virtual tours first
More and more schools are offering virtual tours of their campuses and classrooms. eCampus Tours is a site that provides online tours of over 1,300 schools. While it’s not the same as seeing the campus in person, going through the virtual tour can help you get a feel for the school and its culture.
For example, if you plan on majoring in science and technology and the online tour features an outdated lab, you can write that school off your list.
3. Talk to local alumni
Before booking trips to your smaller list of schools, talk with local alumni, ideally those who graduated with your major. The colleges and universities on your list can often put you in contact with alumni for phone conversations or in-person meetings. You can also look for people who graduated from that school on LinkedIn or Facebook.
The colleges and universities on your list can often put you in contact with alumni for phone conversations or in-person meetings. You can also look for people who graduated from that school on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Having an honest conversation about their experiences at school, both personally and academically, can help your decision. Alumni might tell you they had a great experience, had an easy job search after school, and took on minimal debt. Others may tell you they felt ill prepared for employment and had thousands in student loans.
Their experience can give you unique insight that can help inform your decision. Aim to talk to a few different alumni from each school before touring to give you a well-rounded perspective.
4. Work around your vacation plans
Have a family vacation coming up? Try to combine your college visits with the trip.
If you’re flying to Florida and are considering the University of Central Florida, you can spend a day at the school in the middle of your vacation. That will save you money, since you won’t have to go on a separate flight and book another hotel for more college visits.
If your vacation includes a road trip, make a small detour here and there to include schools on your list. While it may add a day or two to your trip, it will save you money in the long run since you’re already on the road.
5. Plan your flights and accommodations carefully
When you book your flight can greatly affect your costs. If you book mid-week and get an early flight, you can save hundreds on airfare. When possible, avoid flying on the weekends, as those flights tend to be much more expensive.
Also, check out pricing on one-way visits rather than round-trip. You may be able to save money by flying one airline to your destination and using another carrier on the way home.
When it comes to accommodations, be creative. Many schools will let you stay on campus overnight for free as part of your college tour. If that’s not an option, or if you have family with you, check out discount hotel sites like Hotels.com. You may be able to snag a cheap room on Airbnb as well.
6. See some schools on your own
If you’re comfortable traveling alone, try visiting schools without your family. While they can provide helpful advice, bringing relatives along can greatly add to the cost of college visits.
Seeing the school on your own can also help you evaluate the school objectively, without someone else’s opinion affecting your own.
Controlling the cost of college visits
Visiting schools can cost thousands if you’re not careful. Plan ahead to tour only colleges you are seriously considering attending.
Narrow your list so you can focus on the schools that make the most sense for you. With some homework and research, you can cut down on costs while choosing the perfect school.
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.50% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.49% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 17, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/17/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
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3 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.48% effective April 10, 2019.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.49% – 7.27%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 6.65%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.41%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.50% – 6.65%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.49% – 7.11%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.98% – 9.72%6||Undergrad & Graduate|