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Planning a college tour? Choose your moment carefully

Avoid the frenzied times on campus, and take advantage of transit ticket discounts.

October 08, 2006|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

EVERY year, hundreds of thousands of American parents tour college campuses around the country with their high-school-age children. But beware: There's a right and a wrong way to do it.

The trip's goal is to determine whether the school is right for the child. Therefore, it's important that the visit take place when the school is engaged in normal activities -- not when exams are being given, between sessions when many students are gone or during the frenzy of a big sporting event.

Ask the registrar's office about the best date for a visit and see whether the office can arrange for a student guide.

It's important to leave enough time for a thorough visit, one that will enable your child to sit in on a class or meet a professor.

Take time to read bulletin boards. Some high school students also like to meet students or faculty because they want to include references to such meetings in the application essay that most schools require.

As for transportation to the campuses, Amtrak and Greyhound Bus Lines offer college-visit discounts that reduce the cost of the trip. Amtrak provides a free ticket to a parent or guardian accompanying a high school junior or senior to a campus.

And though Amtrak's offer is scheduled to expire Dec. 8, it's probable that the discount will be resumed starting early in 2007. Go to, click on "hot deals" and enter the words "campus visit" for more details. You will also obtain information on some conditions: The discount is not good for Acela or Metroliner tickets; tickets must be purchased seven days in advance and online. For further information or assistance, call (781) 431-7755.

Reduced-price bus transportation is available through Greyhound's companion-fare discount, which must be purchased at least three days in advance and is not available in New York state. Go to, click on "travel deals," then "companion fares," and you'll be able to obtain a 50% discount for the ticket used by a parent accompanying his or her child on a campus visit.

Last, provides several helpful services for parents and their children visiting the numerous college campuses in six Northeast locations: Boston; Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Lancaster and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; and northeast Ohio. Among those offers are special hotel discounts in the six locations, free maps of campus locations and instructions for reaching them, and incidental data that might ease your way. Phone numbers are also included for free advice on scheduling campus visits to those colleges.

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