'Leave the driving to us' say campus tourguides

''When you're talking about spending $14,000 a year, it's worth seeing the place a few times,'' says Craig Kallman, a high school senior. ''It's a great idea.''

The ''place'' is a college he plans to attend in the fall. The ''idea'' is a college-scouting tour arranged by a New York City company called Ides of April Inc., which takes small groups of high school juniors and seniors on one- to six-day tours of numerous Eastern campuses for $65 to $475, including meals, dorm lodging, transportation, and interviews with admissions officers.

''Besides being convenient for parents, especially single parents, who can't get away with their kids to visit schools, it's another way for a young adult to be serious about one of the first major decisions in his life,'' says Andrew Kapit, president of the five-year-old company.

Rosalind Esakof, whose son Robin went on an Ides of April tour, agrees. ''The major strength is that young adults are given an opportunity to make their own choice. Parents may have their own requirements or preference, but it's the child that finally has to go to school. A parent can feel more comfortable if the final choice of college is not the school the parent would have picked. The child saw the school on his own, with a supervised and informed group and with peers.''

Mrs. Esakof found the cost for her son with Ides of April to be 40 percent less than when she and her husband accompanied him.

''We don't try to sell a school, we just share what we know about these schools' strengths and weaknesses,'' Mr. Kapit says. ''Obviously, if somebody is coming from the West Coast and wants to see schools in New England, it's less expensive to do it with us than if both parents come along.''

A number of admissions officers contacted by the Monitor admit that going on a paid tour is a novel idea but concede it is an easy way to get around to a number of campuses. Their advice to students is to to formulate clear goals on why a particular college is chosen, and not to make that decison solely on the basis of one visit but to consider many other factors.

Ides of April is at 251 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10024; (212) 265- 5343.

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