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collegeshopping Dec 21st, 2010 10:36 AM

New England college tour
Hi everyone! We are taking our teenage daughter on a college tour "up North" this spring, the last week of March. We would like to look at Harvard and Tufts in Boston, Dartmouth, Brown, Yale, and hopefully Princeton, although NJ may be too far. She is skeptical about small LACs but if you have any suggestions of schools to change her mind, that would be great, too. We would like to do some touring along the way (look around Providence while visiting Brown, etc.) so we were planning on budgeting one day per school. I think flying into Boston will be our best bet, right? Expert Fodorites, what is the best order to see these school in? Hotel advice in these cities and what you wish you had known to do on college tours would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

yk Dec 21st, 2010 10:42 AM

Where are you coming from?

You can also look into flying into or out of Providence and/or Manchester NH.

You will not need a car while you're IN Boston, but you'd need a car to tour the other places in a time-efficient manner. Will you have a full week to do this?

cw Dec 21st, 2010 11:45 AM

If you leave off Princeton (and it is out of the way) you can do a circle route: Boston, Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown--starting and ending in Boston, Manchester, or Providence.

Williams and Amherst are two small liberal arts colleges that come to mind--they'd fit in between Dartmouth and Yale.

In Boston, use public transportation to get to the schools. That will give your daughter a sense of what getting around and in and out of Boston would be like.

I'm sure if you give your hotel budget, people will have a lot of suggestions. And you can do a search here on hotels in the various cities.

collegeshopping Dec 21st, 2010 11:47 AM

Oops, I'm new at this: Yes, we were planning on renting a car. We're coming from North Carolina. Yes, full week. Should we do a round trip and come back to (Boston?)? Or would a line from, say Dartmouth to Boston to Providence to New Haven to Princeton be better? Thank you!

collegeshopping Dec 21st, 2010 11:52 AM

Whoops, I replied before I saw cw's response. Thank you. Hotel budget - we'd like to keep it under 200 a night for the three of us.

emalloy Dec 21st, 2010 12:00 PM

If you are going to go to Princeton, then one way car rental makes sense, as driving past NY city is no fun and doing it twice is worse. You might even consider doing the New England Schools and then taking the train or flying to New Jersey for Princeton. The drop off costs on a one way rental might make that worth doing in any case.

There are lots of very nice smaller LACs in New England. Have your daughter investigate Bates, Bowdoin and Colby in Maine, Middlebury in Vermont, Williams, Amherst, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke in Massachusetts, Trinity, Wesleyan and Conn College in Connecticut to name a few. Let her figure out what she wants for programs, location, size, majors, school culture and atmosphere, etc.

collegeshopping Dec 21st, 2010 12:06 PM

A separate trip to Princeton may be the answer. Thanks; I don't know the traffic up there very well.
She is determinedly against small schools (and therefore all the LAC's) - I guess this is where you let the kids know their own minds? :( Thanks.

yk Dec 21st, 2010 01:06 PM

I agree that you should visit Princeton on a separate trip.

Southwest flies to both Manchester and Providence. If SW serves your home city, it may be cheaper to fly into those. Otherwise, just fly r/t to Boston.

One possibility - fly into Manchester NH, rent a car and drive to Dartmouth. Stay overnight/tour Dartmouth. Drive to Boston to return rental car. Stay in Boston for 3-4 days to tour Harvard & Tufts, and do some sightseeing. Rent a car and drive to Providence and tour Brown. Stay overnight in Providence, then continue south to Yale. Fly home from Providence or Boston.

With regards to where you should fly into/out of, it depends on which airlines serve your home airport that will get you here with the lowest airfare and preferably a nonstop flight.

Centralparkgirl Dec 21st, 2010 02:59 PM

NY to Princeton is one hour on NJ Transit (and inexpensive as compared to Amtrak).

Jaya Dec 21st, 2010 03:18 PM

One point to consider. Dartmouth (Hanover, NH) is sort of in the middle of nowhere geographically compared to the other colleges you've mentioned which are in or close to large cities. One of the redeeming qualities of Dartmouth is if your daughter is into winter sports, it is close to good skiing.

Hanover is a 1.5 hour drive from Manchester (MHT) airport for planning purposes.

gail Dec 21st, 2010 04:30 PM

Day 1: Fly into Boston. If you arrive early enough do a little sightseeing. Plan to see Harvard the next day (Day 2).

Day 3: Rent a car. See Tufts in AM. Then head north to Dartmouth.

Day 4: See Dartmouth in the AM. Start driving south - perhaps swinging by some other New England school in a slightly less elite category.

Day 5: See Brown. Tour a little around Providence (which, when I was at Brown was a horrible and dangerous city but is now quite nice). Stay overnight.

Day 6: Drive to New Haven (maybe an hour south). See Yale. Stay overnight.

Day 7: Drive back to Boston, return rental car - fly out late in the day or the next AM.

Skip Princeton on this trip. Not sure where in NC you are, but there are cheap non-stop flights from RDU to NY.

That is how I would plan the trip based on colleges you mentioned. Unsolicited advice - I tend to think seeing only Ivy League schools is a bit of overkill. I am familiar with all these campuses, and not sure there is a real benefit in doing the standard college tour - a classroom, the library, a dorm - and watching the inevitable powerpoint presentation of why that school is the most wonderful in the world. And, even though your daughter must be high achiever to apply to these schools, she should consider a couple down perhaps a notch in selectivity. I do alumni interviewing for Brown and each year some incredibly accomplished young people that I interview are not offered admission - no guarantees here anymore.

And I can't help laughing that your NC daughter wants to go to school in New England - since my daughter is a junior in college in North Carolina.

Enjoy your trip - it is a bittersweet rite of passage. I cherish the trips we took college shopping - which seemed to include trips to every college east of the Mississippi -but my daugher always did like to shop.

hawksbill Dec 21st, 2010 06:26 PM

These schools cover a pretty wide range. Why waste time doing a round trip? I'd say you should see them all in a straight line (well, a curved line). The trip works best if you can fly out of Charlotte:

-Fly to Manchester, NH (nonstop from Charlotte to MHT on US Air), and rent a car at MHT
-Drive from MHT to Dartmouth: 1:28
-Drive from Dartmouth to Boston: 2:07 (this is unavoidable backtracking, unfortunately)
-Drive from Boston to Brown: 1:11
-Drive from Brown to Yale: 1:49
-Drive from Yale to Princeton (via Tappan Zee Bridge): 2:59
-Drive from Princeton to Newark Airport: 0:56
-Drop off the car at EWR and fly back to Charlotte (nonstop on US Air)

You could totally do this in a week. Clearly the two schools that add the most time to the trip are the ones at the northern and southern ends of the Ivy League: Dartmouth and Princeton. But I think adding Dartmouth adds almost as much time as adding Princeton does.

If you do decide to cut out Princeton, then you would see Yale last, and fly back from Hartford, CT (again, nonstop on US Air, if you can fly back to Charlotte)

sobster Dec 21st, 2010 06:34 PM

UConn! UConn! UConn! Oh, wait. Oops. Sorry.

Ackislander Dec 23rd, 2010 04:07 AM

I would add Mt Holyoke and Smith for a woman, perhaps Amherst in the same general area. These, like Dartmouth, are all "town" rather than city schools. Williams is pretty far from anywhere (see below) unless your daughter is into winter sports, in which case she should also consider Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby.

If you follow Hawksbill's suggestion, you could add Vassar on your way to the Tappan Zee and Princeton.

There is a certain amount of irony here in that my kids (graduating from high school in Massachusetts) were admitted to some of these schools but chose to go as out of state students to UN Chapel Hill.

The note below: as you drive around, parent, consider how your child is going to get to and from their university for vacations etc. This will make a huge difference in your lives. A student parking permit for an off campus Harvard-owned lot was $2580 for 2010, for example, so having a car may not be the answer.

gail Dec 23rd, 2010 06:44 AM

Ackislander gives excellent advice about transportation home. Our daughter is also in NC, an hour from RDU - which has plenty of cheap non-stop flights to Boston. However, other than college vacation times when the school runs a shuttle, it costs more to get from campus to RDU than the flight (not kidding).

College is a great time to experience another part of the country.

If you drive south of NYC, do not follow directions given on GPS, most mapping programs - you do not want to go over the George Washington Bridge - while this route is shorter in mileage it is longer in time. You want the Tappan Zee Bridge - search, check back here, or map it if you want more details.

capxxx Dec 23rd, 2010 08:05 AM

If DH is not interested in small LC's, I wouldn't suggest wasting your time dragging all the way out to see them -- cross Amherst, MtHolyoke, Smith, Williams off the list. (I am a big fan of LCs, and I work at Amherst, but really, what's the point if she doesn't want to.)

Your original list is fine. Spend 4 days in Boston (also consider Brandeis, Boston College, Wellesley as backups, since your list is pretty darn elite) with a day-trip out to Dartmouth.

Then make your way south -- spend the day visiting Brown (Providence is about an hour from Boston), then drive on and spend the night in New Haven.

Visit Yale the next morning, then either drive (via tappan zee as suggested) or take the train New Haven to Princeton. Next morning visiting Princeton, then home that nighe.

hawksbill Dec 23rd, 2010 02:26 PM

collegeshopping, here's another consideration: if you are planning this trip for March 26 through April 3, you will be seeing Brown during their spring break, which is suboptimal. And if you're following the straight-line itinerary that I suggested, you should actually do it from south to north, rather than from north to south as I proposed. Otherwise, you'd be seeing Dartmouth during their intersession break too. Here's a list of when each school takes its break:

Dartmouth March 17 (Thursday) – March 27 (Sunday)
Harvard March 12-20
Tufts March 19-March 27
Brown March 26-April 3
Yale March 5-13
Princeton March 12-20

I got most of these dates from this cheesy site, so they may or may not be correct:

Yet another thing to think about: I cannot claim to be an expert on college visits, because I've only participated in my own, and they were many years ago. That said, it seems to me that your daughter will get the most out of these visits if she's able to spend the night in a dorm in each school. That may be difficult to arrange, depending on whether she has friends at every school. I seem to recall from my college-visiting days that, in case kids would like to do an overnight visit, but don't have friends who can host them, most schools kept lists of students who were willing to host prospective applicants in their rooms. I never made use of those services, and not everyone would feel great about spending the night on a stranger's couch. But it's probably an option.

irishswampyankee Dec 23rd, 2010 07:50 PM

If your daughter wants a big city school, Dartmouth isn't it. You might suggest she research the school and its location more. It is in a very small NH town, far from any city. If she decides she isn't interested in it after all, that would save you lots of time and miles.
Has she considered Boston University? While not Ivy League, it is a good school with competitive admission and is certainly big and urban.

rizzo0904 Dec 26th, 2010 05:34 AM

What about BC or BU?

What is she looking to major in? What does she want for extracurricular activities? Is she looking to play sports?

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