Get Your University to Pay You To Travel

One month ago, I graduated from Arizona State University. During my undergraduate college experience, I traveled on the school’s dime six times on three domestic and international trips.

They included:

  1. A fully paid (flights included) three-day trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend a student housing conference.
  2. A fully paid (flights included) three-day trip to Boise, Idaho, to present at a leadership conference.
  3. A heavily subsidized ($500 total with flights) four-day spring break trip to Seattle, Washington, to conduct informational interviews.
  4. A fully paid (flights excluded) six-week study abroad program in Sydney, Australia.
  5. A fully paid (flights excluded) six-week study abroad program in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
  6. A fully paid (flights included) ten-day fellowship in Israel.

I did not receive federal aid, nor were these expensive trips put on by the school but paid for by my parents. I’m not wicked smart, a child prodigy, well connected, or an influencer.

I was an ordinary student who took the time to learn about my campus’s resources and positioned myself in such a way to take full advantage of them.

You might point out that I had responsibilities or events to attend for each opportunity. And that is true, but sometimes the structure makes the experience more rewarding — travel is not always sitting on a beach all day with a drink in hand. Meeting others, developing skills, and expanding my network was always a rewarding experience and made me more appreciative of the liberal free time given during these travel opportunities.

My ability to travel on my universities dime is a result of one thing:

  1. Becoming a Leader on Campus

Researching and becoming aware of my campus’ resources allowed me to be knowledgeable about the travel opportunities offered to students. However, getting involved on campus allowed me to get accepted to participate in these travel opportunities.

So how can you do it?

Sign Up For Newsletters

The most important thing I did during my first year of college was sign up for countless club newsletters. Every day I received emails from dozens of clubs and organizations around campus. These newsletters would have internship listings, speaker series, scholarships, resource spotlights, travel opportunities, and more.

By signing up for a handful of newsletters, I was exponentially more aware of opportunities than my of my peers. Especially early on in your college “career,” when you lack experience, it’s vital to have a high volume of opportunities to get your foot in the door.

Monitor Your Email Daily

I taught a freshman introductory seminar for four semesters. One of the easiest predictors of a student’s success was how often they checked their email. Students who checked their email daily performed dramatically better than those who left it untouched for days at a time.

Getting dozens of opportunities sent to your inbox every week does no good if you’re unaware of your email contents. And because most opportunities have deadlines, it’s crucial to stay consistent in checking your email. Make checking your email a daily habit you don’t have to think about twice.

I would check email at the start of the workday and a few hours after the workday had ended. This approach worked well for me and my schedule — find what works well for you.

Get Involved

Now that you’re aware of all these opportunities, it’s time to take advantage of them. Begin applying in mass. Seriously, apply to everything that looks even remotely interesting. Especially as an underclassman, you may not have the necessary experience. Hence, volume and variety of applications are your two friends.

Once you land your first position, you’re set. Take it seriously, make an impact, and use the experience to land the subsequent involvement.

Diversify Your Leadership

This is arguably the most critical step in getting accepted for travel experiences at little to no cost.

Although most don’t, anyone can sign up for newsletters and monitor their email closely. Similarly, most average students can land a volunteer or minimal leadership position if they apply to enough openings.

Setting yourself apart means not stopping at one involvement and diversifying your leadership. For example, start by passing out flyers for the basketball team. Use that 2-hour-per-week commitment to land the communications chair position for the Sports Business Association (SBA). Then use that 5-hour-per-week position to earn a spot as a student senator for the business school. Now you have three unique experiences and three distinctive networks of friends and connections.

Thus, when it comes time to apply for the highly selective annual SBA trip to meet with Sports Execs, you have a wide range of experiences to showcase and connections that can offer application advice, interview prep, and letters of recommendation.

Start Over

Once you’ve become aware of the opportunities and resources around you and gained the experience to stand out as a leader, you’ve reached the sweet spot.

With an influx of opportunities spilling into your inbox and some experience to stand on, you can hand-select the few options that interest you rather than applying in mass. You’re essentially starting the process over, but now you’ve earned the right to apply for the more selective opportunities.

And when the school is paying for you to travel, they want to ensure that you’re bringing value back to campus somehow. A proven track record helps you land and continue to land these travel opportunities as each experience builds off the other.

As you can guess, more has to happen between the lines to participate in travel opportunities on the school’s dime. Still, this outline is a good starting place. Every university is different, and each student operates differently — that being said, this is what worked for me. I attempted to make it generally applicable and customizable.

If you got some value from this, feel free to follow me for more college advice and travel tips. Let me know in the comments if there are any topics you’d like me to cover!

Pro Tip #1: Keep an exhaustive list of all the opportunities you apply to and the applications you create. This list will come in handy when you’ve earned the ability to be more selective with what you apply for, and you’ll be able to see where past applications fell short or hit the mark.

Pro Tip #2: Follow up and ask where you could improve if rejected for an opportunity. Doing so will give you actionable items to improve upon for the next application cycle or similar opportunities.

Pro Tip #3: Start early! I didn’t land my first “foot-in-the-door” opportunity until the start of second semester. It took me a full semester of trail and error to figure out what I was doing when it came to getting involved — and I was still a semester or two ahead of many of my peers. Do yourself a favor and start early to maximize the value of your college experience.

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Tanner Hauck

Tanner Hauck

Here to learn and connect. I write about business, self-mastery, and travel. Interested in technology, financial literacy, and education.