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Ivy League tour, Harvard, Yale and Columbia

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Apr 3rd, 2012, 11:41 PM
  #1
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Ivy League tour, Harvard, Yale and Columbia

My son and I would like to visit Harvard, Yale and Columbia to get a feel for the schools prior to accepting admissions. We will be flying in from CA and are interested in the best way to travel between the schools. I would like to travel via public transportation if that makes time/fncl sense because as I read in another post, that is the way he will be traveling when he gets there. The thing is we live in So Cal and there is no public transportation, so I really have no idea of how to plan this trip. Ultimately we will be at Harvard April 21-23 and Yale April 16-18th and perhaps Columbia either prior or in between. Any tips you have on making this an enjoyable, memorable trip will be greatly appreciated. Lastly, we are on a somewhat tight budget but we waited to see if he was admitted prior to making travel arrangements and now of course we don't have the luxury of the most advance purchase tickets.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 12:31 AM
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The best way is to fly into NYC and leave from Boston. Take AMTRAK between cities since New Haven is on the route. If you want to drive, do not rent until you leave NYC. While in NYC The subway will take you directly to Columbia. There are hotels on the Upper West Side that others can recommned. You can spend the extra days exploring Boston and Cambridge

When you are at Harvard, be sure to see the glass flower collection at the Narural History Museum, one of the most extraordinary works of craftsmanship I have ever seen.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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Amtrak is the easiest way from NYC to Ne Haven and then on to Boston.. Do not take Acela - which is more expensive - use the regular Amtrak. And if you buy tickets in advance you can often get discounted fares. Do remember that you need official picture ID (license, passport of similar) to pick up tickets,

For NYC have a look at the Newton hotel on the upper west side, which is modestly priced, reliable and a short walk or bus ride to Columbia. Check the web site now for advance discount rates.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 04:34 AM
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You might find it less expensive to fly round trip from either NY or Boston. If that is the case, do the amtrack one way with a stop in New Haven as suggested, then take Bolt bus (or one of the other discount carriers - not a Chinatown bus) back to the starting point. This will give your son an idea about using public transportation. Use the subway in the cities.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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Wow, congratulations! I agree that public transit is the way to go, especially in NYC and Boston/Cambridge. I'm not sure what your local transit options are in New Haven. For travel between cities, another option is bus service, offered by companies including Greyhound, Bolt, and Megabus for a fraction of the cost of the train and with far more scheduled trips.

It is wonderful that you will have time to get the feel of each location, not just a quick campus tour. My daughter was disappointed to find that there "is no there, there" in New Haven, compared to the other cities' social and cultural opportunities. You'll find this out when looking for hotel; in New Haven, the Omni is about it.

As with any college tour, talk to lots of students, eat where they eat, figure out what house style suits him best, etc.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 08:23 AM
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Congrats!! Agree best idea if you can is fly into NYC, see Columbia. Head to New Haven by amtrak.com train from Penn station. Metro North trains (from Grand Central) go there too and are cheaper but take a bit longer. Amtrak.com from New Haven to Boston and then fly home from Boston. Lots of good luck.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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First of all, congratulations to you and your son! Acceptance to those schools is quite an accomplishment in itself. Good luck!

I agree that you should look into the cost of a RT ticket to both NY and Boston, and compare with the cost of an open ended ticket.

Once you decide where you're flying into and out of, and since you seem to have enough time, bus travel is your best bet for a tight budget. Look into Bolt Bus and Megabus, as well as Greyhound, which has reduced fares for online purchases, which are comparable to Bolt and Megabus.

Another option between NY and New Haven is Metro North, not the regular Amtrak service, but the commuter RR, which is a lot cheaper.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 09:45 AM
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<<>>

The Omni is the only large chain hotel in downtown New Haven, so yes, if you will not have a car, it is one of only several choices. The nicest hotel is actually The Study. But if you do have a car in New Haven, there are all the typical chain hotels within a short distance, including a Courtyard in New Haven itself (but not downtown). The Omni and The Study are both pretty pricey.

Is your son going to the "admitted students" weekends, where he'll stay in a dorm and attend classes? If so, what are you going to be doing while he's participating in admitted students activities?

If you arrive in New Haven by Amtrak, you can walk to campus/downtown (a mile) or take a taxi.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 01:53 PM
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Re the area around the Amtrak station in New Haven -- walking between there and downtown should be okay during the day, depending on the route you take. Note that the area around the train station isn't good, though, so I'd personally recommend walking along Union Avenue going north (which becomes State Street after the underpass), then turning left onto Chapel Street to reach downtown and Yale.

And I would not walk between downtown and the train station at night. Take the short cab ride, or the weekday-only loop bus that goes between the green and station at that time.
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Apr 4th, 2012, 02:17 PM
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Agreed.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 07:07 AM
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First let me say Thank You for all of your responses. This is the first time used Fodors and I absolutely love it.
There were some good points made by all. Yes, my son is trying to go to the admitted students weekend for both Yale and Harvard, but Columbia's is the same weekend as Harvard so he is going to call Columbia today to see if he can make arrangements to stay on campus at a different time. As for what I am going to do while he is at campus - I don't know. Ideally he would be able to travel on his own from Yale to Harvard and I would just go for a few days cutting the hotel bill substantially. He has only traveled on his own in the past to visit family and for his Vanderbilt visit - but in those cases he was picked up at the airport and did not have to find his way to where he was going. I am not sure I am comfortable with him traveling alone.
In a perfect world he would fly to New York take a taxi to Columbia where he would stay with a student on campus for a day or two. Take a train to New Haven where he would again take a taxi to Yale and attend the admitted students activities. Finally take the train to Cambridge, a taxi to school and attend the admitted students weekend. And then fly back home from Boston. If only life were perfect. Even if the stars aligned perfectly and he could travel from one school to the next with arrangements for his stay, would it be safe for him to travel alone?
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Apr 5th, 2012, 08:09 AM
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It's completely safe for him to travel alone. These trains are typically packed with students and other young people. No trip is more than 5 hours anyway. He should just try to pack lightly since he'll be dealing with his own luggage on and off the trains.

He could definitely save a lot of money by cutting down on the taxis and using more public transit. Again, all very very safe.

If he's going to go to college in a big city, he really does need to learn to do this kind of stuff on his own.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 09:02 AM
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If he's starting school in September, unless you plan to take him there and pick him up for every vacation, he's going to be traveling on his own in 5 months anyway. Let him go! (P.S. My son went from California to two of the eastern colleges one summer during high school for soccer camps -- it was a PITA to arrange his travel, but he did it (alone) and survived, and was carrying a ton more luggage than your son will need to have with him).
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Apr 5th, 2012, 10:26 AM
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If you do go, please do not give him a brown bag with his lunch in front of the other kids.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Well very shortly he's going to be LIVING alone - with no supervision and only limited help if he seeks it out. And will have to travel everywhere by himself and find new friends and live in a city (small or large).

Frankly - to someone from a city - you seem to be treating him as if he were about 10 years old - not a young adult. I grew up in the suburbs of NYC and we routinely went into the city by bus and subway to go to movies or museums or whatever from the time we were 12 years old (during the day - not at night until we were 16 or so).

I think you need to take this opportunity to throw him in at the deep end if he is to develop some confidence and coping skills. (Yes, a big city is different - and the sooner he recognizes this and learns the differences the esier his life will be.)

A cousin of mine went to Columbia (she grew up in a suburb of Cleveland but had visitied us numerous times) and there were still things that were a surprise to her. It was the first time I had considered my (17 year old - 2 years older) cousin naive - since there were things she just didn't know. She came to stay with us for a week before starting school and I took her to the city several times to help her get her bearings overall in Manhattan - which put her one up on some of her fellow freshmen.

As for safe - mostly it is - but not all, esp in New Haven. He needs to learn the difference now - not later. Don;t do all those taxis. Walk wherever possible. Take the bus and the subway. Live like real people.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 02:24 PM
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There is no need to take a taxi once he arrives in Boston. If he's taking the train, he'll arrive at South Station. Right at the station, he can catch the RED LINE (Our subway system, called the "t") directly from South Station all the way to Harvard Square (6 stops). It should be a 20-min ride or less, and costs $2. Taking a taxi might be longer (due to traffic) and infintely more expensive.
http://www.mbta.com/schedules_and_maps/subway/
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Apr 5th, 2012, 02:45 PM
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Unfortunately, while parts of New Haven around campus and to the east, and many other specific neighborhoods, are very nice, many parts are not and are, in fact, unsafe. Everyone knows, for example, if you live off campus, you don't live "north of Dwight".
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Apr 5th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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I'd hesitate to send him on this trip alone ("throw him in at the deep end") if he is unaccustomed to using public transit. This is not treating him like a young kid. When he arrives at school in the fall there will be peers, orientation, group activities etc. that will help him get acquainted with local transportation options. Sending him to do this first outing alone, on top of trying to absorb the ambience of the schools and their locales, might be just too much. Even for a kid who was able to get into all those schools.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 08:48 PM
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Congratulations on the fabulous acceptances!

And rather than give the OP parenting advice, which she didn't seem to be asking for ("Live like real people" was exceptionally rude, IMHO), here is a 2 for 1 Amtrak discount for high school juniors and seniors who are traveling with an adult looking at colleges:

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...=1246042642393

You need to buy at least 3 days in advance and also have a student ID.

I'm actually of the mindset that as the parent you should go with your child, not because he isn't capable of traveling on his own, but this is a monumental decision and I'm sure you can provide insight and valuable opinions - especially if you are paying for the education.

16 years as a college counselor.....but just my humble opinion. Have a great time.
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Apr 5th, 2012, 08:55 PM
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As someone who started riding the NYC subway at 13, hitch hiking at 14 and riding planes at 16, I think Mom ought to go. Choosing a college is big decision and Mom will pick up things that 18 year will not and vice versa.

I do not know the kid in question except to say that he is smart enough to get into some of the best schools. And we all know there are kids with common sense, world experience, and social skills and kids without. Does he have enough confidence to ask questions or the right questions?

You can push out of the plane without a parachute after you return from your trip.
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