When 'road trip' means the hunt for a college home

Early 20th-century custom called on well-heeled Americans to take the grand tour of Europe when they came of age. They would broaden their cultural knowledge traveling from Parliament to Versailles to the Pantheon.

A century later, the grand tour has taken on new meaning, as young Americans venture away from home on a multicity journey in search of the perfect college.

These trips aren't easy to plan. Students often must pack multiple interviews, campus tours, family obligations, and lingering high school homework all into a few days.

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But students and parents are not alone. Experts are responding to their call for a little bit of organizational help.

Todd Hoffman, president of Campus Visit, a company in Wellesley, Mass., that promotes regional higher education, has specific advice for those planning college campus tours:

* It's OK to combine family vacations with campus visits for the first visit only. While having the family along can be fun, it can distract students from getting the most out of their visit.

*Plan ahead. When combining the family vacation with the campus visit you need to schedule what you want to see so neither the student nor the family is shortchanged by the experience.

*The first campus visit should be in the spring of your junior year or summer before your senior year.

*Give each campus visit half a day.

*Take notes during your visits.

In general, Mr. Hoffman urges touring students to take the trip more seriously.

"According to surveys, these kids mostly notice what others students are wearing," he says. "But they need to get beyond that sort of fluff. They should try interviewing around six students on campus, and ask them serious questions about what they like and don't like."

But Hoffman recognizes that planning a series of campus tours can be a logistical challenge. Perhaps that's why a number of companies, such as College Visits in Charleston, S.C., have begun offering organized tours across the country to assist groups of prospective students conduct their hunt.

The tours are led by high school and college guidance counselors and include hotel accommodations and scheduled information sessions.

The online site for College Visits is www.college-visits.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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