Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall Is Campus Visit Season - Lucky You Heading Back to School!

Is your family interested in a fall weekend getaway but not sure where to take a sullen teen? Does the thought of a pricey urban weekend sound overwhelming?

Head to a college town, the place for one-on-one time with your high school junior or senior or an all-in-the-family multigenerational affair. There are lots of fun things to do whether you are heading to a small college town or a major university hub.

View of Harvard Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Planning Your College Visits

Resources like UniGo help kids find the right school by providing directories that give each school a personality they can relate to. Let them network with friends, guidance counselors and social media buddies to develop a list of potential schools.Then suggest some destinations.

If you can get to your destination by one of the cheap Chinatown buses (no longer Chinese run but still referred to as such by most students), go ahead and leave the driving to them. Once you have dates and tickets, start booking campus tours online, then do your homework about fun local events.

Trip organizing tools like TripIt are great for this -- it's a simple app or desktop computer program that allows you to forward emails with flight, hotel, attraction tickets or other information which get automatically uploaded into your personal calendar.  Tweak the details, add some contact info, and voila - send your friends your family vacation itinerary and keep all the critical info on your phone. It's not quite that simple as not every email format is compatible with the app, but you can modify any entry and it's a good way to stay organized.

Tour the Capital of New York State

Did you know more than a quarter of New York State tourism occurs during the fall? That's because the state's wide variety of microclimates provide great leaf peeking and harvest activities. If you go to the 42nd floor observatory at the Corning Tower in Albany, you can see the fall foliage in four states, as well as the campuses of nine colleges and Rennselaer Polytech - easily toured with a simple what's-near-this-college online tool.

Base yourselves in Albany, where the New York State Museum has permanent displays on the New York City subway, 9/11, and a historic carousel; the comprehensive show, "Shakers, America's Quiet Revolutionaries" arrives in November. Albany boasts the historic Jack's Oyster House (order Lobster Newburg) in the center of downtown's renaissance, and is a great base to explore the Adirondacks and Cooperstown when you're done with the college business at hand.

Boston Has More Students than Any Town in America

At least it appears that way.  With more than 50 colleges and universities, there’s no better city to spend a week than Boston. Mornings take the college tour; afternoons you can literally walk in the footsteps of the Revolutionary War Patriots on the Freedom Trail, re-enact the Boston Tea Party at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum or tour the oldest warship afloat -- the USS Constitution.

Eat clam chowder at historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace where street entertainers perform on the spot that Patriots rallied the citizens of Boston to their cause.  Keeping your teens engaged is easy; you’ll find plenty for family and friends of any age in Boston.

Who Are the Hoosiers? Find Out in Indiana
If school spirit is important to your kids, nothing beats a big university.

We like Bloomington, where Indiana University has 45,000 students tucked into an 1,800-acre campus. There's always a local arts event like the Lotus World Arts & Music Festival (September 18-21), when artists from all over come to town to share free live performances or shows at the Artists Village.

At any time, bundle up your teens and hop the great public transit system to visit Kirkwood Avenue and the Entertainment District so they get a sense of the extra-curricular scene. Stay in the heart of campus at the charming Biddle Hotel in the Indiana Memorial Union, a huge student center with shops, theaters and restaurants. Economy doubles start at $95 per night, but there are many chain motels from $45.

Boomers Love Ann Arbor as Much as College Kids

Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, is also a great town to visit at any time of year. If your family is drawn to arts and culture, Ann Arbor is home to several terrific museums (two on the university campus are excellent and free of charge), dozens of galleries plus a rich offering of performing arts. If you are a sports enthusiast, you can watch a football game at "the Big House," the largest college stadium in the country. Not to mention dining at Blimpy Burger or touring the Jiffy Mix plant in Chelsea, nearby.

There's Always a Good Fit for Your Child

Remember, don't try to cram too many schools in to one visit;  certainly no more than two a day.

Ask your teen to keep notes or shoot some video on their phone or tablet; otherwise, they all start to look the same.

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