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"Tours help students visit a variety of colleges
Company organizes trips for students, who want to see schools before choosing"
STRICTLY BUSINESS

By Jonathan Maze of the Post and Courier Staff

Monday, September 9, 2002

Robert Rummerfield sounds like a travel agent. He's not. He's the owner of College Visits, which is something like a travel agency, only its vacationers are mostly high school juniors (with a few seniors and sophomores scattered here and there) and their destinations are colleges they may be interested in attending after graduation.

Not surprisingly, Rummerfield's background is in college admissions. He was the assistant director of admissions at Johns Hopkins University. Rummerfield was in charge of on-campus programs, and he would spend a lot of time traveling the country, recruiting students at high schools and college fairs. Much of that time he spent trying to convince prospective students to visit campus. "I just knew that it was hard for them to make the trip," Rummerfield said. So, in 1991, Rummerfield packed his bags and moved to Charleston - where he had visited previously and "fell in love with the city" - and began College Visits.

The first years were tough, as it is when anybody starts a small business, Rummerfield said. He said it took a couple of years working through high school students and guidance counselors to get some trips going. "As with starting any business, you have to put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into all of it," Rummerfield said. "It's challenging. In the early stages, it's a baby, needs a lot of love and nurturing." The business has since grown, and these days Rummerfield said the company has some schools for which it has been organizing tours for nine years. Students from across the country, even other parts of the globe, take tours.

The concept of College Visits is simple. The company organizes tours of colleges in a geographic region. The three-employee company does all the legwork to arrange the visits.

For instance, in October, the company has scheduled a college tour in the Northeast. It begins with a weekend in Washington, D.C., and gives students a chance to visit some 28 colleges before the tour ends in Boston a week later. Students can visit two schools a day. Among the schools are Georgetown, the University of Maryland, the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, Columbia University, Yale, Brown, MIT, Boston University and, of course, Harvard. The visitors get a campus tour with a student, participate in a question-and-answer session and visit with admissions. Evenings are filled with dinner around the campus and activities in the city.

The cost of the trips range from $450 to more than $2,000, which includes transportation, meals, lodging and activities. High school guidance counselors or college counselors typically lead the tours. Students' parents pay their own way.

The cost of the trips range from $450 to more than $2,000, which includes transportation, meals, lodging and activities. High school guidance counselors or college counselors typically lead the tours. Students' parents pay their own way.

The company does about 20 tours a year, Rummerfield said. Most of them are scheduled through a particular high school or another type of group. An individual student not from the particular school can join a tour, and the company does have open tours.

College Visits depends largely on word-of-mouth advertising through schools, counselors and students. While the company has been around for a decade now, Rummerfield said he gets many parents asking him, "why weren't you here last year," though he said business is going well.

Rummerfield said the visits go to all sorts of schools. "It's getting the students out there," he said. "Often, they don't know what they want to do. We try to visit large and small, public and private, to get them a sense of what's out there so they can focus on where they want to go."

Jonathan Maze covers the health care and technology industries. Reach him at 937-5719 or jmaze@postandcourier.com.

 

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COLLEGE VISITS, Inc.

215 East Bay Street, Suite 401

Charleston, SC 29401 USA

843-853-8149

800-944-2798

Fax: 843-577-2813

info@college-visits.com