While attending college out of state could reap a better financial aid package, just the cost of visiting schools away from home can be burdensome. However, using online services can easily whittle down a list of a dozen schools across the country to just two or three.
The cost of a weekend trip for a parent and prospective student -- including airfare, car rental, parking, hotels, meals, gas and tolls -- can easily top $1,000.
Many of those who can bear the financial burden of the trip may not be able to spare the time.
Cliff Kramon, an independent college advisor who operates CollegiateChoice.com, once asked a high-school student why he hadn't visited the nearby Ivy League university he wanted to attend.
"Both my parents work; I run the school newspaper; and I play soccer," Kramon recalls the student saying. "When do you think I have time to go visit?"
Kramon's site offers $15 walking-tour videos of 368 schools in the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia. He says the one-to-two hour videos offer a chance for students and parents to view the campus in a less costly and less time consuming way. Kramon asks the important questions that first-time students and parents may not think of, as well as "indelicate" questions that they might be uncomfortable uttering.
Kramon says he has asked matriculated students and university staff whether bathrooms are co-ed or whether all-female schools make students aware that "there are men in the outside world," as well as other basic questions about class size, amenities and student life.