There’s no better way to get a feel for the college experience than a campus tour. Take a break from the epic amounts of application paperwork and get out and explore campuses! Sunny Southern California boasts dozens of top-notch universities and colleges in addition to spectacular weather and beautiful beaches.
You’ll want to plan your tour of SoCal’s colleges to be efficient and budget-friendly while maximizing the time you have. Chartering a bus rental from Los Angeles is a great way to stay on-schedule, safe and organized. There are so many expenses when it comes to higher education, so traveling as a group and packing several schools into a single trip will make the experience more enjoyable and affordable.
Here are our tips for planning a bus tour of SoCal’s colleges:
Decide on how many people you’re traveling with
Knowing how many people are in your group is the first step to planning your bus tour. It’ll help you budget for accommodations, transportation and food. Start by approaching your school community to see if anyone else is thinking about college visits. Trust us—they are. Figure out what your group’s size will be and then select the appropriate bus size.
Less than 10 people – A lot of colleges don’t require reservations for groups this small, but it’s always a good idea to call and ask. At this size group, your itinerary will be simpler, so depending on the distances between stops, we recommend the mini-bus or the mini-coach.
10-29 people – Colleges will require you to book an appointment for a group this size, so plan accordingly. You’ll also need to consider what kind of comforts you’ll need, like onboard audio-visual equipment, A/C and comfortable (or not-so-comfortable) seating. Much of this depends upon how long you plan to be on the bus. For a group this size, we recommend a school bus or a mini-coach.
30 people or more – With a group this size, you are going to encounter scheduling hurdles. There are a lot of colleges to see, many of which have specific tour times and regulations. One solution is to split the group up into two tours, each with its own itinerary on a min-coach. If scheduling permits, you could keep the group together on a coach bus.
Decide When to Visit Colleges
With students working on that perfect GPA, you won’t want them to miss too much school for this trip. Plus, some colleges don’t offer weekend tours, so plan to visit during a holiday or in the summer. It should also be noted that some colleges (like the Claremont Colleges) only offer tours during certain times of year. Plan early so you don’t miss your window of opportunity.
Organize your Itinerary
Many colleges have programmed campus tours led by their students, and some of them can be quite long. It’s important not to overbook your schedule. We suggest scheduling a maximum of three colleges per day. You’ll also need to consider the distance between colleges and the most efficient routes. Try to map out the itinerary as a loop to avoid wasting time and having to double back.
Planning a Campus Visit in and around Pasadena
California State University, California Institute of Technology, and the Claremont Colleges are in the northeastern area of the Los Angeles. Start with Cal State’s LA campus. It’s right downtown and a great way to experience the city’s culture. Forty minutes from downtown, the Claremont Colleges are as far as you’ll go on this day trip. After Claremont, head back downtown and stop at Caltech to view one of the most prolific producers of Nobel Laureates in the world.
Planning a School Tour of LA’s North West Coast
Start by visiting the campus that keeps showing up in your favorite TV shows. Episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls and Modern Family have all been filmed at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It’s 40 minutes from downtown and on the way to Pepperdine University just outside of Malibu. Finally, head back to the heart of LA’s Fashion District for a tour of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.
Planning a College Tour of Southern LA
Head south, starting with the University of Southern California. It’s downtown and close to the airport—a great way to kick off the tour if you’re flying into LA. Next, hit up Otis College of Art and Design in Inglewood for a spectacular view of the ocean. Finally, plan the longest trip you’ll need to make in SoCal and head out to UC Irvine. Another option for visiting UCI is to include the University in a San Diego tour, since it is equidistant between SoCal’s two major metro areas.
Planning a Campus Visit to San Diego Colleges
Most of the San Diego colleges are within a 20-minute drive of each other. Split your visit into two days, book on-campus dorm accommodations and decide which colleges to see based more on their tour availability than their proximity. Located right downtown is the NewSchool of Architecture and Design. It’s the perfect first stop no matter which school you pair it with. You could head north to the University of San Diego or southwest to the tip of the peninsula to visit the Christian liberal arts college Point Loma Nazarene University. Twenty minutes north of the downtown core is UC San Diego, home to a rich and storied Greek tradition.
Whatever you do, book everything in advance!
If you’re trying to hit as many colleges as possible in a few days, you’re bound to have scheduling challenges. The more colleges you try to visit, the more complicated the planning is going to be. So start early and rank which campuses you want to see most. Check out their websites (most have simple tour sign-up forms),and begin the great schedule-a-thon. If your trip is more than a single day, consider on-campus dorm accommodations for that real college experience.