My son is a senior in high school, relishing his final year of public school before embarking on his college journey. Over the last two years, his email and our physical mail box has been inundated with brochures and advertisements from colleges all around the country.
Together, we’ve looked at many colleges on paper and online. We visited four different colleges. This past weekend, my son and I took a last-minute trip to re-visit one of his top choices. He’s made his decision, and in the end, one thing was the deciding factor.
The thing that sealed the deal for him was the vibe of the college. And by vibe, I mean the feeling he had when he was on campus. The atmosphere, how the students interacted with each other, the sense of being somewhere he could call home for the next four years. My son felt it on his first visit, but this second visit solidified his feelings, and he is 100% sure this is where he wants to go.
Now I’m a firm believe in the motto “Bloom where you’re planted.” I think kids can be successful no matter where they go to college. However, some places are just a better fit than others. And, I feel that if my son is more excited about where he’s going to college, he will have an easier time.
On paper, I’m not sure this particular college would be #1 on his list. A few other choices are a bit less expensive (although all of the schools he applied to were within our budget after running the Net Price Calculator on each college’s site). But, visiting each campus brought a whole new dimension to each college. The in-person visits were so important.
Miles and Points
So, how did my miles and points hobby help him pick the right college? (And by “right”, I mean the right fit for him.)
Thanks to miles and points from credit card bonuses, we didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars to visit multiple colleges. We used Southwest Rapid Rewards points and American Airlines miles (Web Special Awards) for flights. In addition, we used some IHG and Hyatt free night certificates and points to help offset the cost of hotels. Our college visit trips weren’t 100% free, but our miles and points stash helped defray the cost significantly.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to actually visit college campuses during the application and decision process. Take the tour, talk to current students and professors. Explore the town, eat in local restaurants, check out the local movie theatre.
If you’re interested in learning how to earn miles and points for free travel, check out my post Travel Hacking 101. A few credit cards I recommend for beginners are:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred: Current sign-up bonus is 60k points that can be transferred to Southwest, United, Hyatt and more.
- Capital One Venture Rewards: Current sign-up bonus is 75k that is worth $750 in statement credits for travel
Or refer to our entire list of credit cards here. Offers subject to change. See bank guidelines for applications here.
PS–My son has chosen to keep his college decision under wraps until the spring, so my lips are sealed.