Parents: Here’s How Your Student Could Visit a College For Free
Want personalized (and free) advice while applying to college?
We’re building a free college guidance platform for high school students like you! This means we’ll let you know exactly what and when you should be focusing on things like extracurriculars, college essays, standardized tests, and more. Sign up now to get early access to our platform and get guidance applying to college!
Most students and their parents anticipate the costs of college applications, standardized tests, and college tuition, but many overlook one key expense that can be critical to choosing the right college. Visiting colleges, while not actually required as a part of the application process, is undoubtedly a very important part of selecting the college that’s right for your student. The associated expenses, though, can really add up.
When visiting a college, families typically need to pay travel expenses, buy meals, and sometimes even book local accommodations. If your student is deciding between three or four top choice schools, these costs accumulate quickly.
Many families aren’t aware, though, that some colleges offer free college visits to qualifying students. To learn if your student could qualify for a free college visit, don’t miss this post!
What Types of Programs Provide Free College Visits?
Different colleges frame these programs in different ways. Some provide travel reimbursement, others provide grants for specific travel-related costs, and still more sponsor scholarships for college visits.
One reason that these programs are difficult to research is because they don’t go by one universal name. Some colleges call them Fly-In Weekends. Others call them the Diversity Overnight Program or the Weekend Immersion. The lack of a single name designating the sponsored college visit program can make these types of programs difficult to research or access.
We recommend that your student contacts the colleges he or she is most interested in visiting to learn more about sponsored visits, if you suspect he or she may qualify for one. This can be done through an email to the admissions office, requesting information about any travel grants or sponsored campus visit programs.
Who Is Eligible For Free College Visits?
Typically, free college visits are available to high school seniors who would otherwise find the cost of a campus visit prohibitive, or to those students who are underrepresented on campus, such as first-generation, minority, or low-income students.
These programs tend to be competitive, so your student may only qualify if he or she meets one of the criteria above and is also a top applicant. Often, students are required to submit an application for the program that might include test scores, transcripts, GPA, or even an essay. At some colleges, grants might be restricted to students applying to a specific major or program or study.
Usually, these types of grants cover travel costs from the student’s home city, meals (most often in the dining hall), and accommodation (usually in residence halls).
These grants only cover the applicant—no additional family members are sponsored under them. While the prospect of putting your teen on a plane and sending him or her halfway across the country to explore a possible future home and educational opportunity can seem intimidating, it’s actually great practice in independence and maturity. Remember, after all, if your student were to attend this school, this travel would become the norm.
What Do Free Campus Visits Typically Entail?
These campus visits generally provide funds for travel and provide meals and accommodation upon arrival. During the visit, prospective students generally stay with a student host in a college residence hall and attend meals at the college dining hall.
Students are typically welcome to attend classes while they visit, go on a campus tour, and participate in an information session. At many schools, an admissions interview is also required of students who attend a free campus visit. Because the college has already invested in the applicant, he or she can expect to receive more individualized attention than the typical visiting student.
While students aren’t required to attend a college that sponsors their free visit, they can expect to receive special attention during the application process. Sometimes, application fees are waived for students who have attended a fly-in weekend. In addition, his or her application might receive more attention or be handled differently than the typical applicant’s. In many cases, the acceptance rate for students who have attended a free campus visit is significantly higher than the normal acceptance rate.
What If We Can’t Afford to Visit Colleges But Don’t Qualify For a Free Visit?
While free campus visits are an enormous benefit, they are also in high demand. This is why colleges typically don’t need to advertise them very much and is also why many qualifying families aren’t aware that they exist. Most college that offer free visits have far more interested applicants than they’re able to accommodate.
If your student isn’t offered a free campus visit, you might feel disappointed or frustrated. Luckily, there are many other ways for your student to learn about a college campus without visiting it. Technology now makes it easy to explore a college, its campus, and its student resources.
A great place to start is the CollegeBoard’s extremely comprehensive college planning site called BigFuture. It contains search features that allow your student to filter by SAT score, GPA, geographic location, and school size among many other choices. Another useful online resource includes virtual campus tours. One popular site providing this service is eCampus Tours. Here, you and your student will find virtual tours of over 1,300 colleges searchable by state.
Finally, don’t forget about the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.
For more tips on how to help your student through the college application process, check out these CollegeVine posts, written specially for parents:
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.