Checking Out Colleges, Costless

By Curran Gilster, Managing Editor

For the past year, Josh Ho (12) has been flying around the country to tour colleges on their dime. While these programs are made available by colleges to increase applications, they are widely unknown by students.

One reason that these programs often avoid notice is because most of the schools that offer them are small, with student bodies that number around 2,000. Also, the programs are not applied for through school counselors. “All of them can be applied for online, but sometimes they need stuff like a transcript or a letter of recommendation,” said Josh.

Without the help of a counselor, interested students must take initiative and explore these opportunities on their own. “I was bored one day and Googled ‘free flights for high school students,’” said Josh. “I then found out that there are actual programs that let students fly for free.”

Josh has visited four schools: Middlebury, Amherst, Haverford, and Oberlin college. While visiting, Josh stayed in a dorm with a host student. “They were really chill and helped me with stuff like finding my way around campus,” he said.

During the day, Josh went on campus tours, attended events, explored the town, and learned more about what the college had to offer — including classes that interested him. “I went to neuroscience, computer science, machine learning, and Japanese,” he said. He was also provided with free breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the dining halls.

These fly-for-free college programs are quite selective. “They evaluate everything from your GPA to your SAT to your extracurriculars,” said Josh. “They are also usually geared towards underrepresented groups or students who might not have the financial means to go on college visits.”

Those who are chosen can get a taste of college life. “From my trips I learned a lot about each college I visited and got to experience life as a college student,” said Josh. “There really aren’t any drawbacks besides missing a few days of school. It puzzles me how little-known these programs are.”