How to Save Money on College Tours
Travel expenses while visiting colleges can run into the thousands, but there are ways to keep them under control
By Cheryl Winokur Munk
Wall Street Journal
May 31, 2018
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Parents of college-bound children tend to focus on the most obvious, biggest expenses—tuition, room and board. But there are additional expenses that not everyone thinks about.

One of the biggest: the cost to visit schools while deciding which to choose.

College-visitation costs can easily add up to thousands of dollars. The good news is that unlike fixed costs such as application fees, visitation costs can be managed with some clever maneuvering. Experts offer several tips to help families accomplish their visitation goals without breaking the bank.

1. Start with virtual tours
Some families feel they have to visit every school their student is interested in. But there are other options, says Casey Near, senior director of Collegewise, a company that counsels students on choosing colleges. For instance, families can take advantage of online research to help them weed out colleges that may not suit their needs, without ever setting foot on campus, Ms. Near says.

Many colleges offer virtual tours on their websites. There are also aggregator sites like YouVisit that may offer even more in-depth virtual tours or a tour that doesn’t exist on a particular school’s website—so it’s worth checking out both options, says Kat Cohen, chief executive and founder of IvyWise, a college-admissions counseling and tutoring provider. Other options include eCampusTours, which provides sets of 360-degree photos of various campuses, and CollegeWeekLive, a free, online event held several times a year that is designed to connect prospective students with colleges and universities in a live, interactive environment.

Dr. Cohen says students and families should also explore university-related social-media channels such as Facebook , Instagram and Snapchat. They can help students get a comprehensive picture of a school, student perspectives and the opportunities available on campus.

2. Visit a near ‘proxy’ school
Ms. Near recommends students start visiting local colleges as high-school sophomores to get a taste of similar schools they might be interested in.

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3. Research flyout programs
Some schools do so-called flyout programs—covering some or all of the expenses of a student’s visit—in the fall for low-income applicants, and schools may extend the opportunity in the spring to admitted students from all financial backgrounds,

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4. Budget creatively
Families can also use StudentUniverse, a platform that caters specifically to students planning various trips. The platform can also be used to find low-cost accommodations for families planning on staying overnight.