College Tour

Maybe because it’s unlucky Friday the 13th or perhaps it’s because Daniel Green is such a nice guy, but this week he’s giving his column space over to a friend Rachel Anderson who has some very practical and timely advice on how to organize the best, most effective, less stressful College Tour. Moms and Dads take note.

I recently took a trip that  affectionately called the ‘i95 death march’.  It is generally taken in either your child’s spring of junior or fall of senior year of high school.  It’s purpose is multi faceted; exposing your child to a variety of colleges ( large, small, rural, urban, public, private), learning a bit about each school through an information session and tour and finally demonstrating interest in schools that pique your child’s interest.

Lets begin with location.  The east coast is perfect for college exploration.  There are schools in every variety very near one another.  There are great hotels and easy transportation. I personally suggest starting in D.C. Where you can tour George Washington and Georgetown eventually ending in New York.  Alternatively, I suggest starting in New York and ending in Boston.  If your tour consists of upstate schools like Cornell University, Hamilton, Amherst or Williams, Albany has an absolutely beautiful airport located a short drive to so many colleges and universities.  

Budget:  I’m happy to report that this trip can be affordable!  

Flights: With airports from Maine to Washington, D.C. You should be able to find discount flights.  Do not disregard lesser known airports like Albany or New Haven where you may find low mileage seats.

Hotels: Most colleges post hotels that offer special rates.  These rates can be very affordable.  On my recent stay the going rate was $289 on the major web sites, the college rate was $119.  

Local transportation:  For those of us who are unfamiliar with rail, this is the real jack pot!  Most schools are near trains or at least within a $10 uber.   For schools not so close,  I suggest mega bus ( comfort plus wifi) .  Finally, rent a car for only a portion of your journey for those more remote schools.

Lastly,  remember this is stressful for your child.  Have fun!  Get off campus, get in line for rush seating on Broadway ($25 seat) after, watch a Phillies game ( $20), stop at the Smithsonian or National Zoo ( free), hike through Balboa Park ( free).  Let the evenings be fun!  Your child will soon be off to school, enjoy this time.

Practical Tips:

Transferring American Express points to British air I was able to find seats on American Airlines for 7500 points each way into LGA.  Be flexible.

Homewood Suites have a separated bedroom, kitchen/living room with pull out sofa ( you won’t have to share a bedroom) and offers a nice evening snack of soup, salad or something similar.  If college rates are unavailable, use Hilton honors points.  

I found the newly decorated double tree suite in Manhattan my BEST VALUE.  Located in Time Square this location was perfect for touring NYU, Columbia and Cooper Union (3 school tours with only 1 night of hotel expense).  This hotel has 1 bedroom suites for as low as $159.  Easy access to subway, Amtrak and many schools.

Dining: Food on campus is amazingly good and cheap.  Eat in the dining halls for about $10.  Dining will be a major part of your child’s living experience while away at school, the quality of food and atmosphere are good to see first hand.  

Pack light: You will be on the move.  If it doesn’t fit into a backpack, don’t bring it.

Plan light: 1-2 colleges a day and don’t exceed 5 in a week.

Do not bring siblings unless absolutely necessary!  Information sessions are approx.  1 hour followed by a 1 hour tour and can be quite boring for younger kids.

Take notes and photos.  

By Rachel Anderson