Free Planning-for-College Resources Help Families Make the Most of College Visits

college visits

Campus visits are now a year-round activity, and millions of high school students will tour college campuses this summer considering everything from campus culture to costs. Most students will visit more than one college before deciding what’s the best fit.

To make the most of college visits, Sallie Mae – the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company – has five essential tips for families to keep in mind before, during, and after they hit the road:

  1. Start with a Game Plan. Prioritize your interests before you head out the door. Check out the virtual tours offered by many colleges and universities. You can also get a head start with Sallie Mae’s free, online College Planning Toolbox and College Planning CalculatorSM, which lets you estimate the current and future cost of any school.
  2. Step off the Campus Tour. While you’re there, explore parts of the campus that aren’t on the tour, talk to current students who aren’t tour guides, and get a sense of the area surrounding the campus. Imagine living there, and think about whether you would be comfortable there on weekends.
  3. Get to Class! Ask to sit in on a class. Talk to professors and students to learn about campus culture. And remember: tuition will not be your only classroom expense. Visit the campus bookstore to get an idea of what additional supplies might cost.
  4. Keep Your Options Open. When you combine estimated expenses with other factors like school size, degree programs, and location, the end results may be intimidating – but the sticker price isn’t necessarily what you’ll end up paying. There are many free tools and resources to help meet college costs, like Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae, which provides free access to 3 million scholarships worth more than $18 billion.
  5. Keep Track of Your Progress. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the information you gather. Keep track of it with Sallie Mae’s College AheadSM Mobile App, which features a College Scorecard that lets you compare and rank colleges you visit; a calendar to keep track of important milestones and application deadlines; and a road map to help families file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Here’s how Sallie Mae’s College Ahead Mobile App works:

For more free planning-for-college tips, tools, calculators, interactive exercises, and ways to make college happen, visit


Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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