A lot of people tell me that their college tours are a great bonding experience. But when I sit down and do a cost benefit analysis for college tours in the pre-application phase, the breakdown comes up negative. Pencil this one out. Vacation time is lost, and a lot of money is spent on travel, meals and hotels. At the end of the day, only one college is chosen. In my opinion, this is a colossal waste.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t check out a college before you spend those precious application dollars. It’s free to visit websites and take virtual tours. Invest in books like The College Finder or the Fiske Guide to Colleges. It’s not difficult to get enough information to decide which institutions will be viable options for applying.
Now let’s do a quick recalculation. Now that you’ve saved your travel dollars, you can spend that money on applying to more colleges – thus increasing your options. Once you know which schools have accepted your child, then take the time to go visit. You’ll spend less money while only looking at the colleges that are viable.
Here’s the bonus: You will most likely have left over funds. Why no use the same time and money and plan a trip to your favorite vacation spot; perhaps a journey brings back fond memories from when your child was young. It could be that dream excursion to take before your child is out of the nest. Use the time together to talk with your child about how he or she can make the most of their college experience, how to plan for a rewarding career, what to expect of a life partner, and what it means to live with passion. And while you’re there, step out on a limb and admit that parenting was hard, that you made some mistakes, and you had some regrets along the way.
Reconcile your past, talk about the future, get your acceptance letters, and then go visit campuses. The time and money invested in this kind of college readiness trip will pay life-long dividends.