What if I Can't Afford College Visits?

There are other ways to connect with a campus, but you should try to see a few schools on your list.

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If the thought of paying for college is stressful, you're not alone! For many, the financial burden of college is a very real concern, let alone all of the things leading up to it. College visits, especially those more than a plane ride away, can be too expensive for some. Jennifer R. in Tampa Bay, Fla., wants to know what students can do to still get a good feel for a campus without actually setting foot on it:

Q: I know that college visits are a great idea but my family doesn't have the time or money to visit some of the schools I'm really interested in. What else can I do?

A: Think globally; act locally.

James Montoya, vice president of higher education, The College Board Visiting a few local colleges, even if they are not on the top of your list, will provide you with a better understanding of what's important to you, as well as what questions to ask. Such insight will serve you well as you investigate colleges located further away from home by visiting college websites, meeting with college alumni representatives and/or current students home on break, or reading college guidebooks. Save up your money for a few spring visits once you have your acceptance letters in hand.

[Get a list of questions to ask on a campus tour.]

A: Take advantage of "virtual" and local opportunities.

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admissions and financial aid, Wesleyan University Get on the mailing list (or today's equivalent) so you'll be notified of nearby alumni and admission office-sponsored events in your area. Visit websites of the schools you are most interested in often. Look for announcements of online chats or other opportunities to connect with students and faculty. Find out who in your community attends schools that might be a good fit and meet with them when they are home on breaks.

[Learn more about finding the right school.]

A: Use the web, join the conversation, and connect on Facebook.

Daniel Parish, director of recruitment and communication, Dartmouth College Visiting a campus in person is one way to experience how a community operates. Some colleges and universities offer funding to help students visit campus, either before you apply or after you are admitted. You might want to contact colleges to see if you'll qualify for one of these programs. However, visiting is not the only way to connect with a campus; social media can help you "visit" a campus without actually traveling there. Webinars, video chats, Facebook groups, and YouTube channels can all help you experience the community and start a conversation with people on campus.

[Read about how colleges bring campuses to Facebook.]

A: If you can't visit campus, it's not the end of the world.

Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Many colleges have virtual tours on their websites, and there are also sites like YOUniversityTV where you can "tour" other college campuses. Additionally, CollegeWeek Live allows you to connect with college students and hear from admissions officers and even professors about life at a particular college. Of course, for the student perspective, there is no better site than Unigo.

Remember: applying does not mean going. After you are accepted to a college, you still have time to visit the campus (and you should) in order to make a final decision, and colleges may be able to provide some financial assistance to make that happen. Little-known fact: Amtrak offers discounted rates for college visits!

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for virtual campus visit advice from 30 more experts, and to have your own questions answered.