Fall break is college visit season

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Your Fall break may be filled with visits to college campuses. And the cost of sending your child to college starts to add up long before they are accepted.

The average family will spend about $3500 just applying to college, and a big part of that cost is the campus visit, because visiting a potential school is important for a student to get a "feel" for the place and probably visit with other students or professors.

But experts say, just make sure you have a purpose to the visit.  At Butler, they get about 8000 visitors a year, some from families considering sending their children there.

The man who oversees the admissions process has some suggestions to cutting some costs - Tom Weede of Butler University.

"Often you can work with the school if you don't think you can pay the application fee," Weede said. "More and more schools these days are finding ways to get that out of the way."

Prospective students should look for other discounts from the school. Some will pay a portion of airfare for students who are accepted to the school.

Start close to home. That gives families an idea of what size school works, and what they want from a school before investing in a road trip.

Travel with other families.  Classmates or friends considering the same school, or a school in the area, allows for carpooling and shared costs.

Students apply on average to 7 to 10 different schools. But you can cut the number of visits by visiting only those where the student is accepted, especially if it's a school out of state.

So how do you get that acceptance letter?

Weede said at Butler, "Students should know their application will be read in full by at least two people. First thing we'll look at is what is their curriculum? Have you taken advanced math, calculus? Then we look to see how have you performed, your grades. After that, it's test scores.  After that, the rest of the stuff - essay, recommendations, activities."

Nationwide, about 80% of students go to school about two hours from home.

Use these helpful links:

Colleges with free applications 

Side by side comparisons of schools 

Discounts on student travel