|By CAMom on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 11:57 am: Edit|
My daughter, a junior, wants to travel east to look at 8 campuses (Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Brown, Northwestern, Amherst) -we live in California. Does anyone have any experience doing this without spending gobs of money? Also, is there any value in visiting during the summer months - I would like to avoid pulling her out of classes during this important year if at all possible.
|By Doubting Thomas on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 03:10 pm: Edit|
The value of visiting during summer is minimal - she will see the campus firsthand and may meet admissions staffers but she certainly won't get an accurate taste of the campus' flavor for obvious reasons.
I'm not sure what you mean by gobs of money - those schools are all over the map, quite literally, (Northwestern isn't even east) so obviously this endeavor will entail an expenditure that is not insignificant.
She can save money on overnights; by advance arrangement they will put her up in a dorm with a host, for free, and they may throw in a meal or two. The logistics covering that amount of territory will be complex and time consuming. You really should check out a map before this undertaking. Sorry I can't be more encouraging about your plan.
|By CAMom on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 07:24 pm: Edit|
Hey, last time I checked, Northwestern is indeed east(and north)- as is much of the country from California as the starting point! I know the geography and the complexity of this undertaking (which has grown from a simple trip to four campuses to what it is today). This is why I am asking for suggestions from those parents who've been through it.
Traditional flying and ground transportation costs will quickly add up when factoring in the number of legs on this trip. There will not be the benefit of Saturday stays and round trip deals. There will be many flights, one way, from campus to campus. So I'm looking for suggestions on how to cuts some costs, if possible. Perhaps someone has found there are deals with regional airlines to take these short, one way flights from location to location within short amounts of time. Or, maybe it's best to utilize a combination of planes, trains and rental cars. Are there any West Coast parents on the boards whose kids have done this type of college tour and have info to share?
|By Roger (Roger) on Tuesday, November 26, 2002 - 07:44 pm: Edit|
Hi, CAMom. We did a driving trip through the Northeast and caught many of those campuses in one trip. The purpose of a trip like this is a quick look, a guided tour, and perhaps a few conversations. To really visit a campus, I'd try to combine some class visits with an overnight stay. This is hard to accomplish in a blitz through a batch of campuses. You could always try to single out one or two for extra time. A short visit can still be useful, though, to get an impression of the campus, its size, maintenance, and surrounding area.
Are you sure you want to fly from stop to stop? I'd recommend finding a good rental car deal, perhaps out of NYC, Boston, or other hub, and doing most of your travel by car. This will give you a lot more flexibility to cut short or extend a visit depending on what you find, and will be cheaper and less stressful. None of those campuses (except, of course, for Northwestern) are very far apart, and you'll probably find the drive time is shorter than the time needed to go through the air travel process.
I don't know how the car deals are in those areas, but elsewhere I've found unlimited mileage rentals with a comparatively low weekly rate. I know NYC can be an expensive place to rent a car, so if you can't find a good rate you might check rates at some of your less urban stops. (If you are lucky, you will find a cheap flight to the location with the cheap car!) Good luck!
|By Calmom (Calmom) on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 02:07 am: Edit|
Actually, you can get some good deals on car rental via the internet - you just have to shop a little.
Jet Blue flies from SFO to JFK 4 times daily; they also fly out of Long Beach but I don't know the frequency. Anyway, it's a cheap flight if you reserve in advance.
We didn't do any college visiting, by the way. My son felt he could get enough information from the catalogs and internet to figure out where he wanted to apply, and that he could wait to visit until after he was accepted. He is attending college in NY (which is why I have the Jet Blue schedule memorized); he flew out on his own after being admitted.
I'm just mentioning this so you don't feel that you have to see every single college on your daughter's wish list. You might also take some time to visit schools that are good matches or safeties for your daughter. Unless your daughter simply wants to use the UC system as her backups, it's valuable to look beyond the most selective colleges.
|By Roger (Roger) on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 05:44 am: Edit|
One other point to echo what Calmom said - if some of the schools, like Harvard, Princeton, & Columbia, are low probability reaches visiting after acceptance might make sense. Of course, trying to cram a bunch of visits into April (with no advance notice) is difficult, but doing two or three good visits on "accepted students weekend" or similar is not a bad way to help make the final choice.
|By CAMom on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 01:23 pm: Edit|
Wonderful - thank you all for your tips - great advice! Yes, the UC's are her backups and we'll be doing a weekend drive up to visit Stanford as well. I'm so glad to hear that driving will be feasible over flying to each location - it will make it much easier and give a clearer picture of the communities surrounding the campus. We'll probably look at all of the campuses since we're making the trip anyway - you know, once we're there we might as well do it all!
We can't really get a handle on which schools are reaches and which are not. She won't know her rank until the end of the school year in June 03, but her test scores, awards and grades are tops and well inline with the highly selective schools. She has the numbers, however, her EC's may not be as impressive as some. She's involved in things that interest her - math club, key club, steering, CSF, alpha gamma sigma -where she has a leadership role, phi theta kappa, she's a chemistry and calculus tutor at her high school and volunteers for habitat, a children's charity and at an animal shelter every week. We all know that some of her competition have started charities of their own or small businesses or are national champs at this or that and are competing for the same few freshman spots.
She has attended a local college during her off time from high school and will receive an AA degree with honors in Liberal Arts at the end of her junior year (June 03). Of course she knows that this will not help her much as far as credits transfering to these types of schools (except for the UC's), but it was her goal to complete this and it should show her ability to excel with a really demanding course load (and may make up for the EC's??).
She's a junior and has already had 4 different school counselors. When one of them encouraged her to take typing instead of accounting and pushed her to consider a major "more traditionally female - like psychology" over her chosen math, we knew we were kind of on our own in planning out her road. From what I can surmise, her chances are good, but acceptance or rejection will probably come down to the weight the admissions officers give her EC's and college work.
|By Doubting Thomas on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 02:03 pm: Edit|
CAMom, what makes you think I am NOT a parent who has been through this? Sorry if you don't like my suggestions, consider anything I say hereafter as general comments not directed to you specifically.
Roger, I have to disagree with you on "None of those campuses (except...Northwestern) are very far apart" and think you were closer to the mark with "This (to really visit a campus) is hard to accomplish in a blitz through a batch of campuses."
While it's true that individual perceptions of distance can vary, it's fair to say no 2 from that list can be combined in 1 day for any meaningful visit. Also, regardless of what mode of travel is chosen, covering all of those campuses in one trip will be very hard especially for someone who has already said that money is an object. Any way you slice it, travel between those schools will eat a lot of precious time and time is money.
|By Jkazoo (Jkazoo) on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 03:48 pm: Edit|
Assuming you fly into Philadelphia, you could do this itinerary:
1. Princeton; then 60 miles to New York for
2. Columbia; then 75 miles to New Haven for
3. Yale; then 102 miles to Providence for
4. Brown; then 54 miles to Cambridge for
5. Harvard; then 93 miles to Amherst for
6. Amherst; then 262 miles to Ithaca for
Northwestern would be way too far for you to drive given your time constraints (nearly 700 miles), but from Cornell it's 60 miles to Syracuse where you can get a flight to Chicago.
I tend to agree with Doubting Thomas, that this is a real whirlwind trip that, if rushed, may not give time for meaningful visits at some of the campuses. Keep in mind, too, that most of these schools are in the very congested Northeast Corridor, and you might very well miss an afternoon appointment if you get caught in bad traffic or get lost. But it can be done. Good luck to you and your daughter!
|By CAMom on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 05:36 pm: Edit|
JKazoo - very nice suggestion, thank you very much. The Chicago leg is definitely worth a flight, and perhaps Ithaca too, but I think otherwise it seems perfectly do-able by car- thanks again! Mapquest.com here we go!
Yes, this will be a good, fast, introductory trip - knowing that down the line we'll have to do a second visit of more substance and length (likely after she receives her acceptances and rejections) so she can make an informed decision.
DThomas - I don't recall stating one way or another my opinion as to whether or not you personally happen to be a parent who has been through this. Your parental status had no bearing on my asking for advice outside the "get a map" variety. I simply responded that I was aware of the magnitude of the undertaking, which is precisely why I was looking for advice from parents who had done this.
This is also why I am so thankful to those of you who've given me some great ideas, airline tips and a good starting point. Thanks again & have a happy holiday!
|By Roger (Roger) on Wednesday, November 27, 2002 - 10:23 pm: Edit|
DT, I guess "very far apart" is relative... One could easily hit one per day without difficulty. Even Cornell could be reached in an evening's drive, depending on the starting point. When I was doing this tour a few years ago, there was a bus group from some prep school that was trying to do two per day - kind of tough, although they were probably able to schedule special sessions with no waiting.
Nice itinerary, jkazoo!
|By Calmom (Calmom) on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 12:14 am: Edit|
CAMom, you said, "We can't really get a handle on which schools are reaches and which are not."
ALL the east coast schools on your list are reaches. They are reaches for everyone, unless you are a famous celebrity or your daughter is a recruited athlete. High test scores and grades are meaningless for those schools - EVERY applicant has top grades, top scores, and is ranked well in their class. For a student like your daughter -- strong on academics, good but not amazing on the ECs - the odds are against getting in. That doesn't mean that she shouldn't plan to apply -- it's not impossible, it just that it is not a sure thing and there is nothing your daughter could do to make it a sure thing.
I would highly recommend that you read the book A is for Admission for a quick dose of reality.
You have plenty of time to plan for a summer trip, but I'm concerned that you might be missing the opportunity to visit some excellent East Coast colleges with a plan to visit only the elites. For example, if you are looking at Columbia, then you should really also be looking at Barnard, which is easier to get into and offers the same education in a somewhat more supportive environment. (It's the same education because Barnard is fully integrated into the Columbia campus). That's easy - would require no advance planning - because Barnard also shares the campus.
But there are a number of other excellent colleges you could be looking at along the way -- Wellesley, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Brandeis, Tufts, for example. If you are going to visit Amherst, then you should spend time in the area checking out Smith, Mt. Holyoke, and Hampshire as well. I mean, the other colleges have so much to offer, and it sounds from your daughter's list that she really hasn't thought much about what she wants beyond coming up with a list of the colleges that are the most well known and prestigious.
I appreciate that your school's college advising hasn't been very helpful -- as a fellow Californian I know that most school guidance counselors do not seem to be aware of anything outside the UC system. In addition to the book I mentioned above, I would suggest that you also get a copy of the Fiske Guide and give your daughter a chance to read about other colleges as well.
It's a nice vacation to get to visit all the famous, elite colleges, but you might be passing up the places where your daughter would be happiest. Also, even if your daughter has her heart set on an Ivy, it is worthwhile as part of the process of visiting colleges to visit others schools for the sake of comparison. You never know; sometimes seeing what is wrong or deficient about one college helps a student to get a better idea of what she wants, or doesn't want, in another.
Anyway, it's up to you, I'm just suggesting that you pick one region, and spend the next few months reading about the colleges. Plan your itinerary as to specific campuses to visit after you have a better idea of what is there - and then don't go crazy trying to take it all in. You'll come back and it will all run together in your mind, you won't remember which college was which, you'll be under stress in the car with a 17 year old and you'll just end up fighting.
You can't tell anything, really, on a summer tour other than aesthetics. There really isn't a need to see EVERY college she might apply to in advance - it's better to prioritize and also get a good sampling of different types of colleges, and to visit in a more relaxed and flexible state of mind.
|By Clockwatcher on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 06:58 am: Edit|
Roger, one school per day leaves how much time at each campus? Don't forget that tours and info sessions, probably the most important element of these visits, are scheduled at fixed times. Hitting one campus per day has to allow for activities like these that are pre-set to a time that likely falls in the middle of the day.
|By Roger (Roger) on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 08:27 am: Edit|
one school per day leaves how much time at each campus?
If one does most of the driving in the late afternoon or evening, and the last hour or two in the morning if necessary, there should be plenty of time for each campus.
One thing that is pretty much essential in mapping a tour out is to contact each admissions office (or check their web site) to find out about the time and availability of tours, info sessions, and group or individual interviews. Also, if there is any area of particular interest to the student, e.g., visiting a particular facility, seeing a class, etc., that needs to be figured in, too.
I don't see any problem with the one-per-day schedule if the trip is done by car, and if the participants are motivated. What it won't allow for very well are overnight visits. Some clever scheduling might work in one or two of these, but it really will compress things. In the summer, though, such visits are usually not possible anyway.
|By hoping to help on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 11:45 am: Edit|
CAmom, here in the East flying doesn't necessarily save a lot of time because airports are not all that convenient and these schools (except for Cornell and Northwestern) are not all that far apart. We did Brown, Yale, Penn, and Princeton in a week, driving. This way our son got to overnight at each one, we experienced each campus for a bit of time, and we all still liked one another by the end of the trip. ;-) You might do well to narrow down your trip to a few fewer colleges, so you can spend a tad more time at each. It seems unlikely to me that a student would feel comfortable at, say, Amherst or Columbia, given the differences in size and setting; why not have her do some thinking -- or visit large and small, urban and rural institutions closer to home -- to see which she prefers, before you plan your trip.
I wouldn't wait until after admission to visit, because we are continually told that these colleges gauge a student's interest when they are considering an application, and that one important measure of interest is whether or not he or she has made a campus visit.
|By Sally R. on Thursday, November 28, 2002 - 12:41 pm: Edit|
CAMom-If you want to consider putting your daughter in the hands of some pros, check out College Visits (phone: 800-944-2798). Run by a former Johns Hopkins admission staffer, this well-recommended outfit offers a range of campus-visit itineraries, practically all over the country. The prices are reasonable when compared to what it costs to take a whole family on a college trek far from home (don't forget the kennel for Fido, etc.).
Your daughter will travel with other high school juniors and receive admissions tips along the way.
The down side, of course, is that you don't get the see the campuses that she does and help take part in the initial decisions (which might be a blessing in disguise--for your daughter, anyway!). However, once she's narrowed her list (or once you've seen where she's been admitted), then you can make that trip east from the Golden State and have fewer stops to worry about (and pay for!) when you do.
BTW, I don't have any personal experience with College Visits, but I did check them out pretty carefully when I was revising Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions last spring. Another company with a good reputation that does college trips is College Impressions (ph:781-828-6227). Their operation is much smaller and limited to Northeast and Middle Atlantic schools.
|By Parent on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 04:40 am: Edit|
I don't understand exactly what it is these outfits do that someone can't do themself, ("offers a range of campus-visit itineraries", "does college trips"). Essentially, is it to set the order of visits, provide driving directions and make hotel reservations or something more than that? Do they arrange interview appointments at each college? Do they actually accompany and escort the student? Please elaborate.
|By Calmom (Calmom) on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 06:01 am: Edit|
The outfit at http://www.college-visits.com/ provides lodging and transportation for the tour. According to the website: Cost includes: ground transportation, hotel and college residence hall lodging (double occupancy), meals, student led tours, meetings with admission representatives, materials for evaluating schools, and activities; tours are led and supervised by COLLEGE VISITS staff and high school counselors.
One advantage of that tour is it provides a way for a parent to send a student alone for the visits, which might be more cost effective in the long run, although the tour isn't cheap. Basically, it's a way for kids to go visit colleges without their parents doing the driving.
I looked at their current schedule - a typical tour is this 5-day trip in March:
Yale University or Fairfield University; Trinity College or Wesleyan University; Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, UMASS at Amherst, or Hampshire College (CHOOSE TWO); Boston University or Harvard University; MIT, Northeastern University, or Emerson College; Boston College, Brandeis University, or Wellesley College; Tufts University or Babson College; Wheaton College or Stonehill College; Brown University or Providence College
Cost: $985 **
I don't know anything about that organization other than what is on their website - as a parent, I would want to check them out, but assuming that they deliver what they promise, it looks like it could be a good deal. I think that if my daughter wanted to visit colleges, I would seriously consider using a group like that.
To Sally R. - my son visited all the colleges he was seriously considering on his own, and I really felt that was better. I felt that he really could make his decision unimpeded by the observations or feelings of his parents, and certainly being on his own meant that he had to be more engaged with the staff and students while he was there. (He couldn't simply hang back let a parent do all of the talking).
To "hoping to help" -- Interest in a college does not have to be shown by visiting if there is a great distance; colleges understand that not everyone can make the trip. My son did not visit any colleges before applying except some on the west coast. He was accepted to all the colleges he applied to except for one, where he was waitlisted -- and that was one of the two colleges he actually had visited.
|By Rotary on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 11:13 am: Edit|
It sounds like an idea that definitely fills a niche. Interesting that "student led tours, meetings with admission representatives," are listed as included in the cost when, in fact, these events are free. I wonder what "materials for evaluating schools" means.
To be clear, Sally, do you know if "tours are led and supervised by...staff and high school counselors" means they are accompanied full time? It sounds like a travel group like any other where size depends on enrollment, is it? Is there a maximum or minimum on size?
|By Linda on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 04:41 pm: Edit|
I would recommend using Priceline.com for really cheap hotels in the areas you want to visit. My son and I stayed in SanFrancisco at a 5 star hotel for $80.00. I stayed at a Marriott in Ann Arbor Michigan for $40.00/night. You must know the specific date (you lose all money if you cancel). I think it was a great deal. We looked at Columbia, and spent $200/night in NYC (before I knew about priceline.com. Pick a ridulously low price and they usually accept it.
|By hoping to help on Friday, November 29, 2002 - 10:52 pm: Edit|
In Boston, DC, and NY, try Club Quarters; these are corporate hotels that are very cheap on weekends, like under $100.
|By Sally R. on Saturday, November 30, 2002 - 05:08 pm: Edit|
I don't want to speak for any of the tour companies, since I've not been on any of their tours and wouldn't feel comfortable saying what transpires unless I'd seen it with my own eyes. My guess would be that each tour might allow high school students some free time to explore campuses on their own, but that would be just a guess. I would also imagine that the bulk of the trip is spent with the group, under the watchful eye of chaperones. I certainly would advise any parent considering using a professional tour service to contact that service directly and ask questions such as those that "Rotary" poses. I would also request references.
As I said above, I interviewed the directors of both College Visits and College Impressions and found them to be very committed and knowledgeable, but I still would want to know more before I sent my son off in a bus with strangers (of course, my son is only five ).
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