College visits can be time-consuming, so it's wise to narrow down your choices ahead of time to the schools you're most interested in. It's impossible to visit every school, and you don't want to waste your time traveling to a school that you have no real interest in. Doing some legwork in advance can save you both time and money.
Begin by checking out some colleges you're interested in online. It's easy. Browse their Web sites, explore the pages for the different departments and become familiar with their admissions processes. Request an information packet in the mail -- they're free, so order away.
Start asking yourself questions about what you're looking for. Get a feel for whether you prefer a large school or a small school, a school in a rural area or in a city (if you can't decide, plan to visit colleges in different places to see which you like better).
Spend some time thinking about what your deal-makers and deal-breakers are. Is there anything that a school absolutely must have, such as Greek life or a pre-med program? Is there anything you absolutely don't want, such as being too far away from home? You don't have to know the answers to all these questions, but if you can answer a few of them beforehand, it can really help to narrow down your options.
You also should start thinking about the questions you would like to ask during your visit, parts of the campus you would like to see and any special tours or sessions you would like to attend.
If you're planning on doing an interview, make sure you prepare yourself for that as well. Read up on the school and don't ask questions that could be answered on their Web site or in a brochure. Practice articulating your goals and interests. Prepare a list of questions you'd like to ask. Bring appropriate clothes -- you don't necessarily need to wear a suit or a dress, but you should look presentable and be comfortable for your interview.
Now that you're fully prepared, what will it be like to visit a college campus? What can you expect from tours and interviews? We'll examine the ins and outs of your visit in the next sections.