1. Choose a date and time when classes will be in session so that you will be able to sit in on classes, interact with students, and get a thorough view of campus life.
2. Call in advance and arrange for a campus tour. These are generally led by students who are trained to answer questions (as well as to "sell" the university to you). They are also often done in large groups Don’t be put off by that. Sometimes individual tours are offered for students and their parents. Decide if that is a viable option for you.
3. Find out if the school offers a personal interview, and then decide whether that is something you would like to do (See our post on Preparing for the Interview.)
4. Prepare a list of questions to ask the tour guide as well as students that you meet on the campus.
5. Try out the food: Eat in one of the student cafeterias or student union. See what else is available. Ask students if they like the food!
6. Pick up materials in the admissions office and in the student union, etc., including a catalog, viewbook, student publications, etc.
7. Visit several of the housing options on campus (and off campus if appropriate).
8. Check out the library and other facilities: the gym, fields, labs, bookstore, etc.
9. Spend some time in the town or the city nearest to the college.
10. Learn about the transportation on campus, from campus to the town, and to and from home. If you plan to bring a car to school, ask about any restrictions.
11. Talk to people: students, staff, and faculty. That will give you a sense of whether you will feel comfortable in the school community. Walk around the campus. Sit for a while and get "feel" for the ambience.
12. Take pictures when you are on campus and take some notes during and after the tour. You will probably be touring several schools over a short period of time. You want to be able to differentiate among the schools that you have seen.