IvyWise Resources

Exploring College Options: The Value of Fly-In Programs

By Carolyn, IvyWise College Admissions Counselor

Embarking on the college journey feels like stepping into a world full of unknowns. With tests, essays, and recommendation letters swirling around, one important factor often gets pushed to the side visiting colleges in person. That’s where fly-in programs come in. These on-campus programs are important opportunities for students who might struggle to visit colleges because of money or distance. Let’s take a closer look at fly-in programs, why they’re so important, who they’re for, and how they can make a difference in your college journey. 

What Are Fly-In Programs? 

Fly-in programs are on-campus programs designed by colleges and universities to provide prospective students (particularly those from low-income backgrounds, ethnic minorities, or first-generation families) with the chance to visit their campuses at little to no cost. These programs can range from simple information sessions and campus tours to elaborate multi-day immersion experiences.

While some fly-in programs require a formal application and are highly selective, others simply require students to demonstrate financial need. Regardless of the format, the goal remains the same — to bridge the gap for students who may otherwise be unable to visit colleges due to financial constraints.

Why Are Fly-In Programs Important? 

The importance of on-campus visit experiences cannot be overstated. While virtual tours and online resources offer valuable insights, nothing compares to the richness of exploring a campus in person. From interacting with current students and faculty to exploring campus facilities and the surrounding community, fly-in programs provide a holistic view of college life.

Moreover, attending a fly-in program can enhance a student’s chances of admission. By demonstrating genuine interest and engagement with the institution, applicants showcase their commitment beyond academic achievements and test scores.

Who Are Fly-In Programs for? 

Fly-in programs mainly target juniors and seniors who are deciding where to apply or enroll. They are especially beneficial for students facing obstacles when it comes to visiting colleges — such as financial limitations or geographic distance. Additionally, these programs often prioritize applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, recognizing the unique challenges they may encounter in navigating the college admissions process.

How Do I Find Fly-In Programs? 

Finding fly-in programs requires proactive research and outreach. Start by exploring the admissions websites and social media channels of colleges you’re interested in. Many institutions actively promote their fly-in programs and provide application details online.

Schools that offer fly-in programs include, but are not limited to:


Consulting with school counselors (or your IvyWise counselor) can also yield valuable insights. They may have information about past participants from your school or be able to connect you with resources to aid in your search.

Don’t hesitate to reach out directly to the admissions offices of colleges you’re considering. Inquire about the availability of fly-in programs, eligibility criteria, and the application process. Even if an official program isn’t offered, some colleges may have alternative funding options to support campus visits for prospective students with financial need.

How Do I Choose Which Fly-In Program to Attend?

With numerous fly-in programs available, selecting the right ones can be daunting. Start by identifying the colleges you’re most interested in and those you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet. Focus on programs that align with your academic and extracurricular interests, as well as your financial circumstances.

Given that many fly-in programs have selective application processes, it’s advisable to apply to multiple programs while being mindful of scheduling conflicts. Keep in mind that you may not be able to attend every program you apply to, so prioritize based on feasibility and fit.

How Do I Take Full Advantage of a Fly-In Program? 

Once you’ve secured a spot in a fly-in program, it’s essential to make the most of the experience. Attend all scheduled programming with enthusiasm and an open mind. Take advantage of opportunities to engage with current students, faculty members, and admissions staff. Be proactive in seeking out information about the college’s academic offerings, extracurricular opportunities, and campus culture. Introduce yourself to your admissions counselor, ask insightful questions, and express your genuine interest in the institution.

Following the conclusion of the fly-in program, don’t forget to send a thank you note to express your appreciation for the opportunity. This simple gesture can leave a lasting impression and reinforce your commitment to the college.

Fly-in programs serve as invaluable resources for prospective college students, offering access to campus experiences that may otherwise be out of reach. By providing opportunities for exploration, connection, and engagement, these programs empower students to make informed decisions about their academic futures.

As you navigate the college admissions process, consider the role that fly-in programs can play in shaping your journey. From identifying opportunities to making meaningful connections, embracing the opportunities afforded by fly-in programs can be a pivotal step toward achieving your higher education goals. For additional guidance on college prep and admissions, download our free College Admissions Guide.

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