Long before the first tuition bill comes due, prospective college students will have to figure out how to pay the costs associated with campus visits. For those considering a college outside of easy driving distance, the costs can quickly add up to four figures and beyond.
Prospective students and their parents often spend a bundle visiting the colleges they're considering. Here are a few ways to cut those costs.
1. Get subsidized college visits and discounts
Some colleges offer fly-in reimbursement. For example, Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I., reimburses half the cost of airfare up to $150 for prospective students. Enroll, and the school will pay for the other half of the cost.
Many schools also will offer free or discounted passes to the dining hall, a list of hotels that offer discounts for prospective students, and a free shuttle to and from campus. Call the admissions office at schools you're considering to see what's available.
While you've got them on the line, schedule everything for one trip so you won't have to make a return visit, says Regina Schawaroch, associate director of admissions at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
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"We suggest that parents call ahead to make arrangements to get everything done at once -- the tour and admissions interview, meeting with faculty and sitting in on a class, watching an athletics practice or trying out for a team," she says.
2. Reduce your travel costs
If you're traveling by train or plane, you may be able to snare a discount by booking through specific Web sites. StudentUniverse.com and STATravel.com offer discount airline tickets for students.
Considering a train? Amtrak has partnered with CampusVisit.com to offer a deal for high school juniors and seniors traveling with a parent or guardian. Buy a full-fare ticket and the companion ticket is 50 percent off. Check the Campus Visit Web site for details and restrictions.
3. Cull your list
The glossy brochures and books that fill the mailbox of every high school junior and senior may make it difficult to narrow down the choices. But sophisticated Web sites can help trim choices, says Brittany Burton, campus representative coordinator for the Web site CampusCompare.com.
"Sites allow you to check out the campus virtually, and student reviews give you a perspective you can't find in an average guidebook," Burton says. Sites including CampusCompare, CampusExplorer.com and YOUniversityTV.com offer an array of tools to help.