Also consider online college fairs such as CollegeWeekLive to get information directly from the colleges themselves. The events allow prospective students to log in at a specific time to talk to any of dozens of college admissions officials via instant messaging and video chats. Trim the list and you'll also trim your travel costs.
4. Check out college town Web sites. Some urban areas have more than a dozen colleges within driving distance, and an array of sites can help you make the most of your visit to these towns. Sites such as Onebigcampus.com for Philadelphia colleges, Thecollegecity.com for Pittsburgh schools and Bostonvisit.com for universities in Boston have discounts for travel and hotels.
All of these sites offer a helpful "miles and minutes" feature that shows the distance between area colleges so you can build an appropriate amount of time into your schedule to travel from one school to another.
5. Use your visit to eliminate application fees. College application fees can be steep --often more than $50. But many colleges such as Albright College in Reading, Pa., waive fees if you visit.
The Minnesota Private College Council, an umbrella organization for 17 schools, offers a Private College Week every year -- June 22 to 26 in 2009 -- when students and their parents can visit. The colleges coordinate tour schedules, and students pick up "passports" that are stamped after visiting and can be redeemed for up to four application fee waivers.
Several other states, including Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky, offer similar programs for their private colleges. Call the admissions office of any school you plan to visit to see what discounts and fee waivers are available.
6. Share costs with other students. Connect with other high school students planning to visit the same colleges and share transportation and hotel costs. Some high schools will help arrange visits for groups of students to area colleges as well.
7. Join a tour group. Students with some stamina might consider tours offered by Web sites such as College Visits and Collegiate Explorations. Students visit up to three colleges a day over five to seven days to get an overview of many colleges within a limited geographic area. While costs can approach $2,000, they may ultimately be less expensive than individual tours.
8. Visit efficiently. As long as the colleges are in fairly close proximity, it usually isn't difficult to manage two visits in a day. If you're traveling long distances, consider visiting the schools you're interested in during a single long weekend.
Many colleges, including Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.; the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho; and the University of Oregon in Eugene, offer half-day campus visits. They generally include a brief tour, information session, class visit and student-hosted meal or reception. Such tours can give prospective students a good sense of the school and can be helpful in ruling out schools that aren’t a good fit.
"If you plan early, you can do it all in one trip. Or, if you're on a family vacation, it might be something where you can stop by a college on the way," CampusCompare’s Burton says.