What’s the Budget for College Touring Travel?

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Is there a budget for college touring travel? 

I often wonder how the rest of the world seems to cruise through these expensive times, seemingly without a care.  How is it everyone else appears to have so much more money?  We work hard at professional jobs, and are pretty conservative with saving and planning.  But, I’ll say it, there is still a budget!  So, when I listen to the really sweet, intelligent father whom I’m speaking with at a cocktail party, and he is describing the next three summer weekends with his rising senior daughter — one to Miami, one to Colorado, and one to New Orleans — I think, “Jeez, I wish I were your daughter!”

It begs the question, is there a budget for college touring travel, or should there be?  Is the college investment just so huge that a few grand on the front end for sightseeing trips is just insignificant?  Nothing more than a rounding error?  Will we take our children wherever they want to go, no matter how far or how many schools are on the list?  Truth is, I just don’t know.  So far, we have taken two road trips to New England.  And stayed with family at most of our stops.  Cheap.  But this is our first child, and she is making it easy.  No interest in the West Coast, or the deep South.  Her first filter for the college search is geography – “New England, please.”

So, even though we know we’ll travel a relatively easy road with this child in terms of college touring, we can still find something to worry about.  She has siblings!  What makes sense?  What is reasonable?  Should we refuse to fly or drive to the really unlikely “reach” schools?  Or does that telegraph that we don’t have any confidence in our child’s ability to get in there?  Should we tell him/her it doesn’t make sense to spend time and money (both finite resources in our lives) going to the schools that are utter “safeties”, where they are unlikely to attend?  Or does that telegraph the message that that school isn’t good enough?

I’m working myself into a pitch!  Perhaps I should just take a deep breath, and remember it will all be okay.  Perhaps I should accept that there need not be a formula for everything in life, and maybe we’ll wing it, child by child.  Perhaps the answer will be driven by the disposable income at any given time.  If you have an answer, please, comment.    

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I think a better way to do this is to travel to the colleges AFTER the child has been accepted. What’s the point of traveling to Harvard, having the child fall in love with the place and then not get in??!!
    It’s a waste of money and emotional energy!

  2. The college inspection travel tour seems a recent invention in my view. A couple decades ago, even before high school kids could make virtual visits to check out campuses on-line, it was rare for the students in my classes to make long trips to inspect the stone & ivy walls. They would more often seek out an older student from the high school who had attended the college in question, and get their information from that perspective. It did lead to a certain self-selection for schools who had already accepted students from this HS, but the info was valid and inexpensive.
    We would all look forward to Thanksgiving week, when last year’s seniors would routinely come home to visit, and could be found roaming the halls of their alma mater, chatting with the current students and catching up on hometown news (gossip). But that was pre-Twitter.

  3. Point taken. It’s a lot to spend (financially and emotionally) to travel the continent chasing dreams. My practical side is nodding its head, in agreement with your sensibilities. There is a side, though, that must acknowledge that some scouting is useful, helpful, instructive. We were utterly shocked when Emily, who had, before touring, proclaimed she would never attend a “small” school, fell in love with the feel of a certain campus of 2,000 undergrads. So we have accepted the principle of balance, once again, as a guiding light. Travel? Yes. To 40 campuses? I don’t think so.

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