College fly-in programs just might be the ultimate campus visit. Here’s a closer look at what they are and how you can make the most of them. Campus visits are an integral part of the college search process for high school seniors. But what if you can’t travel half way across the country for one school, let alone all of your top choices? Well, college fly-in programs might be just what you are looking for!
“Fly-in” programs are when colleges—often top-tier schools—cover the cost of flying a student to their campus, plus a one- to three-night stay. They’re generally for students who might not otherwise be able to visit, usually due to cost. (They’re especially beneficial for low-income students.) Fly-in programs generally take place during the fall or spring—prime campus visit time. This special visit also usually includes free food, housing, and maybe some awesome college merch! Where do I find college fly-in opportunities, you may ask? Hours of research should turn up a few results, but a quick call to a college admission office can’t hurt either! However, before you do either of those things, check out this list of some existing college fly-in programs to give you an idea of what you are looking for. Now that you know that the college fly-in option is out there, here are a few tips to get the most out of your experience!
Apply for a fly-in program
First things first: just try to get yourself there! You won’t be able to fit every fly-in program into your hectic senior year schedule, or your top schools may not be able to accommodate you, but there’s no reason not to at least give it a shot! If any of your intended colleges offer a fly-in program, plan on attending a few that interest you. Make it a priority to contact the schools and/or apply for the program. Even if your schools don’t advertise a program, it doesn’t hurt to ask the admission office and share your interest. And if you are unsure about whether or not the college is right for you, that’s an even better reason to do a fly in! It might end up as one of your favorites after visiting.
See everything you possibly can
And I mean everything. The best parts of visiting colleges (whether you’re flying in or not) will be the random, quirky encounters you stumble upon. Whether it’s crawling into a secret campus organization hideout, staying up until 3:00 am playing hide-and-seek tag with your new college friends, or just visiting shops in an airport before your first plane ride ever, remember that you only have a few days to truly capture this experience. If at all possible, make sure you visit the area surrounding the college too, so you get a good idea of what it would mean to make this place your home. It’s worth losing an extra hour of sleep over.
Talk to as many college staff and students as possible
During a fly-in program, there will be a plethora of speakers and opportunities to meet with current students at the college. Don’t take them for granted! Not until after I left my first fly in program did it truly sink in that professors and admission officers took the time to eat dinner and have stimulating conversations with us—sleep-deprived, inquisitive high school students—every night. How crazy is that? Make connections with your fellow attendees too. They will help you know that you are not the only one terrified of the college admission process, and their encouragement will stick with you far after you have parted ways. If you can stay connected, even better; what’s one more giant group chat, right?
Tiffany Wong, a college fly-in pro, came to a similar conclusion during her visits whe she went to Pomona College and Tufts University. "My fly-ins were the highlight of my fall. Many of them were specifically diversity-oriented, and what I gained out of it was an even greater appreciation of diversity, because you meet incredible and passionate high school students around the country from various backgrounds and cultures. When you go to a fly-in, make sure you make the effort to not only get to know the school, admissions officers, but also the people you are with, because it makes your overall experience so much greater."
Be prepared with research and questions
Although this seems like a no-brainer, make sure you’ve done your research on the college or university beforehand. Have an idea of what questions you want to ask and what parts of campus you’d like to visit. That way, when your host offers to take you and some of your fellow prospective students on a midnight tour, you can see those specific spots or learn about things you didn’t get the chance to ask about at dinner. Also know that you probably won’t get any homework done while you’re there, so finish it ahead of time or you will suffer the consequences. Who can fit textbooks in their suitcase anyway?
Be respectful and appreciative
If a college paid for your flight, stay, and meals just so you could come visit, don’t forget to say an extra thank you or two to everyone who made the trip possible. Carve out time to send a handwritten thank-you note—it’s a nice reminder that their investment in you was worth it. How you present yourself during the fly-in campus visit also makes an impression on the very people who will review your essays just a few short months after your departure. Even if you don’t decide to attend the college or university, it never hurts to make a good impression! (And what if you decide to transfer?!)
College visits can be the make-or-break factor when deciding where you want to spend the next four years of your life, so they’re worth spending time on. And, thanks to college fly-in programs, you might get the perfect opportunity to make such a difficult decision that much easier! So fly in—before you watch your senior year fly by.