College Fly-In Programs


This is the time of year when high school seniors are visiting campuses that they hope will help them determine, once and for all, where they will be attending college in the fall.

Many schools have accepted student weekends geared towards influencing teenagers’ decisions. These schools will often put visiting teenagers in dorms for the weekend and host special events for them. These trips can be invaluable, but they can also be expensive.

And that reality brings me to a subject that I’ve never written about before — college fly-in programs.

Colleges and universities don’t advertise it, but some schools (all the ones I am aware of are private), will pay for some accepted students who are low income and/or a minority to pay a visit. The schools that offer fly-in programs typically cover the airfare or a portion of the airfare.

I know a couple of teenagers who have been lucky enough to get fly-in invitations in the past week or so.

The first is a poor African-American teenager from St. Louis (my hometown), who I have been helping off and on for a few months. I suggested that Jay apply to St. Olaf College, which is a wonderful liberal arts college in Minnesota with excellent financial aid. (Here are a couple of posts that I’ve written about St. Olaf:

I was keeping my fingers crossed that Jay would get into St. Olaf and he did. When Jay shared the fantastic news with me, I told him he should contact St. Olaf and see if the school would fly him in for a visit. I was delighted to hear that someone in the admission office had already extended an invitation.

The other teenager is a family friend who received an invitation from Skidmore College to visit the school in a couple of weeks. James, who is a bright, artistic teenager who happens to be Hispanic, said the school sent him his acceptance letter early because it wanted him to be able to arrange a flight to New York.

I saw all of James’ acceptance letters yesterday when he and his parents came over for my family’s annual Easter brunch. It’s clear from the personal note on the Skidmore acceptance letter and the fly-in invitation that this excellent liberal arts college really wants him to attend. And this college also meets 100% of financial need.

Inquiring About Fly-In Programs

If you think your child might qualify for a fly-in program, contact the school.

If your child isn’t a high school senior, some highly selective institutions sponsor diversity fly-in programs in the fall for prospective students. Sometimes these visits are sponsored to coincide with special diversity open houses. To qualify, student may have to fill out a scholarship application. I’d suggest Googling “diversity fly-in programs” to hunt for programs.

I found two websites- and – that have lists of previous diversity fly-in programs. Those are good places 51mfKeGHH0L._SL500_AA300_12-150x1503 to start.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.








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  1. The photo above is the golden dome from the UNIVERSITY of Notre Dame..Notre Dame, Indiana…not saint Olaf and not Notre Dame University…the building with the spires is the Bascilca and golden dome is Admissions

  2. Hi Lynn,

    I stumbled across your blog this afternoon and enjoyed reading your comments about college fly-in programs. At Luther College we view fly-in days as excellent opportunities to assist families with the cost of travel to our campus. Ideally, we don’t want travel expenses to keep young people from visiting our campus.

    ​You’re right in that most colleges target students from diverse backgrounds for fly-in programs. However, at Luther, we offer all of our first-year applicants this opportunity with the exception of those students living in states contiguous to Iowa. In case you are interested, here is a link to our website that outlines our fly-in day policies:

    Scot Schaeffer
    Vice President for Enrollment Management
    Luther College ​

  3. We just got back from a fly-in to Case Western, where the wrestling coach recruited my son. We have been thrilled with the great offer he received from them – almost $31,000 per year in merit aid and we have a low EFC. We are really stuck trying to decide between their program which is so practical (engineering) and so far from home, and St. John’s College in Santa Fe, which has also offered both merit and school grant aid and is the “Great Books” program my son had already chosen. Very different educations!! Any comments?? We have until April 30 to decide!

  4. Many state universities have programs too for diversity fly-ins. Ohio State paid for my son to visit and also offered a $500 travel allowance to visit a second time after he was admitted. There are many others out there and as you suggest you have to hunt for them.

    GetMeToCollege is a wonderful website. Dr. Joseph who runs it usually updates her list each year. She usually does it in the summer. Diversity fly-in invites are just now starting to appear in student’s mailboxes. My daughter received one from Bates College this week asking her to visit as a junior which is the earliest I have heard.

    I also suggest students sign up for the newsletter by the Center for Student Opportunity. I receive it each month and they sometimes list fly-ins by colleges not listed anywhere else. CSO has recently changed its name to The website is undergoing changes so it might be difficult to navigate. However many college partners have their diversity visit programs listed.

    Also diversity visit programs for admitted students are advertised by some colleges. Vanderbilt’s Mosaic program and UNC’s are well known. Here is Pitzer’s as an example. As you suggested; you just need to know the right terminology for your search.

    1. Thanks Itsv! It’s great to know that many state universities have fly-in programs too. And thanks for the tip about the newsletter and website. I will sign up.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

    1. University of Minnesota at Morris is a hidden gem. Nonresidents pay in-state tuition!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  5. Hi Lynn,

    I was surprised to learn that my son’s tiny first choice school (College of the Atlantic, in Maine) had a fly-in program. Considering the school’s off-the-beaten-path locale, extremely small student body (350), and non-traditional curriculum, it gave him the perfect chance to “test drive” COA and see if it was right for him (which it was, he’s finishing up his sophomore year and couldn’t be happier). I’m not sure the role finances or diversity plays in the selection process (I believe the program is primarily merit-based), but I just wanted to say that even small schools that don’t necessarily have the resources of larger universities sometimes offer high school seniors some sort of subsidized visit option. So it never hurts to inquire!


  6. Lynn, I have two different types of experiences. First, my son qualified for a fly-in reimbursement of airfare (we’re in the LA area) at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont — so you can add that to your list.

    Second, he applied for a diversity weekend at Kalamazoo College but did not get in. I was going to advise him to give up on applying to Kalamazoo. But his counselor said that sometimes the diversity programs are more difficult to get in than regular college admission, and he encouraged my son to apply. Smart man! My son did apply to Kalamazoo and he was accepted.


    1. Hi Denise,

      Thanks for sharing. That’s fascinating to hear about Kalamazoo! Congratulations on the acceptance!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  7. Hi Lynn,

    Our son was recently accepted to the new Yale-National University of Singapore (NUS) program, and they are flying him out to Singapore to visit the campus:
    They are giving an annual $5600 merit scholarship to cover room and board. In addition the Singapore government will subsidize ~$13k/year of tuition x 4 yrs, but if you accept any of it (even one year), you are bonded to work for 3 years with a Singapore-registered company after graduation (not necessarily in Singapore I think).
    Apparently this is quite common for Singapore college students, can be deferred for graduate work, and the subsidy can also be paid back with interest to release the bond ($51k+). Annual tuition without the Singapore subsidy is about $37k/year.

    Our son is thinking about international relations/business, and we think Yale-NUS could be an exciting program with a lot of unique features. Have you ever run across it and had a chance to review it? And in particular, what do you think of the subsidy and the subsequent 3 year bond? Would you compare it to some of the military program paybacks, medical school/research grant paybacks (as I did for my PhD program)? Obviously we have a lot of questions – could you suggest other pros/cons we should consider and points to ask about?

    1. My son also was offered admission to Yale-NUS, and flew there to see it earlier this year. He was VERY impressed with the other foreign students accepted.

      My big question — and maybe you’ve come upon this too — is whether we can use Sallie Mae loans for this program, as last time I checked it was not yet on the US Dept. of Education list of qualifying schools.

  8. Thanks for addressing this topic. I have been looking for fly-in information recently for some of my students (low income, first generation). However, both of the links you include are for 2012 (college path) and 2011 (get me to college) programs. I happened upon those same sites in my search and I think the information is not yet available unless you call schools directly. If you get updated information, please repost! Thank you.

    1. Lauren — I don’t think you will ever see fly-in programs for accepted seniors advertised. You just have to know to ask. The lists you saw via my links are valuable in that they let families know at least some of the schools that provide fly-in programs during the fall. Families will have to call to find out dates for the fall of 2013 if they aren’t on a school’s website.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy