I have always been a pretty organized person. I recall the joy I found in my high school Spanish classes, where teachers required you to have tabbed sections for your binder and to have numbered all of your assignments. Mine was flawless. Planning my college classes was enjoyable, as was plotting my four day drive home from Nashville to Los Angeles post college. Little did I know that these were all casual preparations for planning fall travel.
When I first got my territory, there was a list of schools we had previously visited and I was told to add a few. Once I had an approved list, it took a day or so for me to look up and plot on a Google Map every school I planned to visit. We are asked to visit four schools a day, when possible, so I had to start to cluster them together.
You have to take lots of things into consideration when planning. In smaller cities like San Antonio, most college representatives come the same week. This means you are competing for presentation times. Texas is unique in that many schools will only let you visit during lunch and, not shockingly, lunches are around the same time. The central coast is challenging because I only spend a day or so in each city. With drive times and bell schedules, it is a puzzle to fit everything in.
I have spreadsheets and saved lists and maps (as pictured) of contact information and previous travel schedules; but PSAT day, pep rally schedules, school in-services, and other school policies always get thrown into the mix. I am in the middle of planning travel now. Today, when I went to book a Houston and San Antonio flight, I saw that prices have shot up and there is only one outgoing flight available for each trip. I am telling myself the issue will resolve itself tomorrow. This may or may not be effective. It is not uncommon to drive to a suburb for just one visit because that school couldn’t fit you in when you were in the area. The visit schedule I initially plan is more of a cousin than identical twin to the actual visit schedule that happens once counselors get back to me.
Once things are scheduled, we send visit posters and confirmation letters to schools. We hand make our posters, so I ALWAYS looks for them when I’m visiting a school. I also make a travel binder that is broken up by day with the time, address, contact info, and drive time between schools. I have an envelope for my daily receipts in addition to extra pens, rubber bands, and post-its. I also take notes after each visit that might be helpful for next year.
I spend a lot of time in high school parking lots being early for visits (I’m pretty skeptical of Google Maps drive times) so this is where I will write notes, tally up how many students attended my visit, and maybe catch up on some email on my phone. Or play iPad games. There is often time to get food for lunch, but not eat it. You might find yourself eating in your car, hoping that you don’t spill mustard on your skirt. The alternative: you wait and eat at 2:30pm.
My big fear during my first year was that I would book a hotel and check out on a Monday and then not have booked the next hotel until Tuesday. I’ve also tried to convince an Enterprise representative that they lost my reservation when, in reality, I had booked with Hertz. There are also multiple high schools in Texas named Stephen F. Austin…I still have issues with this. Students will often will ask me which school I visit next or the next
day and I literally cannot tell them without checking my binder. Pictured are all of my confirmation emails for Fall with one trip left to book. And other people hit far more cities than I do.
I’m anxious about everything falling into place this season. I know that they always do. Until then, Google maps, my contact sheet, and calendar are all I will see. Suffice to say I’ll be relieved when my travel binder is made and I’m boarding that first flight!
By Sam Schreiber