How to Tour Colleges with Your Kids–And Stay on Budget

Beginning to look into colleges can be overwhelming for both you and your teen. It can be even more overwhelming if your child’s dream schools are far away, cost an arm and a leg to stay nearby, and come with hefty price tags if she does get in. But there are ways to get to, tour, and learn more about colleges without breaking the bank. Ashley Boucher, a representative for Sallie Mae, is here with tips for touring your child’s dream schools on a budget.

Tour schools with friends. If your child and his friends are interested in similar colleges, they can consider traveling and booking shared rooms together. By traveling with others, families can save on gas, lodging, and food.

Schedule a tour. While it may be tempting to explore the campus grounds on your own, consider booking a free tour through the school for at least a portion of your visit. These tours provide insight into the admissions process and tuition fees. If you’re trying to prepare for financial decisions down the road, it’s good to have a tour guide as a resource to ask any and all questions that you may have.

Talk with current students: Speaking with current students (and we promise you they aren’t scary) gives you the opportunity to ask questions you forgot to ask your tour guide and learn more about the average student’s life. Ask about the most affordable places to eat, park and shop around campus. Find out more about work-study programs and any scholarships they think your child should be aware of, especially as an incoming freshman.

Create a swag budget. After finishing a tour, most students want a t-shirt, PopSocket or water bottle to commemorate their trip and bring them luck during application season. To avoid overspending on souvenirs, create a swag budget ahead of time. List out exactly how much money you want to spend and stick to that budget no matter what. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t get everything she wants the first time around–there will be plenty of opportunities to stock up on college wear during her first year on campus.

Look to save money down the road. After touring your dream school, make sure you have a plan to pay for your child’s education. While on your college tour make sure to ask about the basics: tuition, scholarships, dining plan options, free events on campus, etc. Feel free to stop by the financial aid office and get any information that a tour guide may not have. Be informed and set yourself up for financial success. That foresight will allow you to have the best college experience possible.

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