College Visit Guide: Boston
Tips for families to maximize their college visit to Boston, which is the college-visit capital of the country.
Boston: home of the Red Sox, clam chowder and what would appear to be a college or university on every corner. In the Greater Boston Area, there are more than 100 schools. While this figure may be overwhelming for those interested in a Beantown education, here’s a guide to help you plan a visit to several campuses on one trip with ease.
When to go
In the fall, September and October are the best months to visit. School is in session, the leaves are changing color, the weather is cool and mild. If possible, try to avoid busy holidays like Columbus Day and Veterans Day. In the spring, April is an excellent time to visit, but check each school's spring break calendar and avoid the hotel reservation hassle of the Boston Marathon.
Where to stay
If you stay in the heart of the city you can get a feeling for the community surrounding each campus and utilize the subway (the T) to quickly get around. Centrally located hotels, with access to both the subway and the turnpike (if you’d like to include schools in neighboring suburbs), include the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel and the more affordable Midtown Hotel (rates start at $89). When you make your reservation, inquire about a campus visit discount. Many hotels offer them.
What to see—sample itinerary
Here’s a travel plan for a two- to three-day tour of the major schools in the Boston/Cambridge metropolitan area; with travel times, distances and points of interest for each.
Start at Northeastern University, in the heart of the city. Enjoy the unusual abundance of green space on the urban campus, explore the underground tunnels linking campus building or take a walk through the surrounding Fenway Cultural District.
Afterward, head north to Boston University, about 15 minutes away (1.7 miles). If it’s warm, join students hanging out at the “BU Beach” behind Marsh Plaza. The Allston neighborhood near campus, nicknamed “Allston Rock City” for the many resident artists and musicians, has a wide selection of cafes and music venues. Or, head south of campus to the Brookline neighborhood for an independent film screening or book reading.
Go across the Charles River, about 10 minutes (1.3 miles) north of Boston University to reach Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While MIT is renowned for academic achievements, the campus itself has not been given much credit. However, Frank Gehry’s Stata Center, Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall or Charles Correa’s Building 46 are all interesting architectural additions worthy of a look.
Staying in Cambridge, head 10 to 15 minutes (2.1 miles) north to Harvard University. The world-renowned institution centers on Harvard Yard, full of academic buildings, administrative offices, main libraries and most of the freshman dorms. The adjacent Harvard Square offers an array of shops and restaurants. Visit the Grolier Poetry Bookshop or the Harvard Coop (now run by Barnes and Noble).
Drive out to one or two of the schools in the surrounding suburbs. Boston College is six miles from downtown Boston in Chestnut Hill; simply enjoy a walk around this campus known as “Oxford in America.” Brandeis University is nine miles outside of Boston in Waltham; while there, be sure to visit Usen Castle, a national historic landmark that features quirks like staircases to nowhere. Tufts University is six miles north in Medford; visit the Aidekman Arts Center here.
Themes: College Visits
As a Boston area hotel salesperson (full disclosure) I would recommend trying to plan your trip not in Sept/Oct when demand and rates are at their highest and the same for May (graduation time) Early-March -April or the Summer or November to early December are all lower-rated times. Besides college tours there is so much to see and do make it a vacation and bring the family.