It’s that time of year—the weather is warmer and spring breaks are occurring soon; who doesn’t look forward to spring break!

Visiting colleges that you are most interested in is the absolute BEST way to get a feel for a college’s community and campus. Many colleges allow you to sit in on classes, eat in the cafeteria and view residence halls. If there are events being held while you are visiting, you can attend—sports, music and theater are all popular choices.

If you have a chance, try to include everything; after all, this is where you will spend the next few years of your life and you want to make sure that it is your best fit. This is how I chose my college– I went on several college tours as groups and this removed some from competition. When my family and I went to my future college, I LOVED IT! I knew immediately that it was the best fit for me.

You can coordinate with the admissions office for more tour information. On the college’s website, there should be a link to request a tour—whether you book online, call to make an appointment or send an email. If you don’t see a link, be persistent– call the office

Another option is to attend an open house. These events are held throughout the year and bring all of the campus together to showcase what they offer to you, the prospective student. But…the downside is that these are staged events. You are not seeing the everyday experience of students, student life and the classroom experience. Try one to find what works best for you—the solo tour or the open house group.

So what tips can assist you that you may not think about immediately?

* If you’re flying, be sure to book your flights early. A tip that I have always followed is to book your flights Thursday morning as this produces cheaper rates. Bundling flights with rental cars is a great way to save on travel expenses too.

* Check out the entire area beyond the college. Is it in the type of area that you want– big city, suburbs, small town or rural? If you love outdoors as much as I do and the closest green space is an hour away because the school is in the middle of the city, this may not be a good fit. You are looking for what will fit you.

* Take an impartial friend or family member. The person may notice things about the college that you don’t see because you want to love the college. The person, on the other hand, wants you to be happy.

* Use your phone effectively. Video, snap chat, take notes, whatever works for you– just record your impression of the tour while you are visiting. You can compare your visits later to help you decide.

* Hang out where students are. At one of my former colleges, there was a coffee shop in a building next to where the admissions office was housed. Except for early morning when I arrived for work, the coffee shop always had students talking, hanging out– just a normal part of student life.

* While there, talk to other students who are in the major and ask tons of questions; do the same with the professors! Perhaps your tour guide can be within your intended major or from your city or state.

More than anything, enjoy yourself! This is one of the best experiences that you will have. Colleges are looking for students like you—ones who research, do the work and come prepared. Best of luck!

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