The Internet makes lots of things easier, but in the college decision-making process, nothing compares to actually stepping foot on a campus.

From beginning to end, a visit can tell you more than any website or brochure about the college or university you or your student may want to attend. Facts and figures lay an informative foundation, but a tour truly paints a picture of that institution.

Both students and parents benefit from visits. Students can make more informed decisions after experiencing a school firsthand, and parents can feel more comfortable with sending their children to that institution.

Each campus visit is unique, like the colleges themselves, but they generally include a campus tour led by a student, a chance to talk with an admission counselor and the possibility of meeting faculty in your intended area of study.

One of my biggest regrets was not going on more campus tours of schools I was interested in.

When I did my college search, I sometimes took a more informal route to campus visits. I walked around by myself, visited an older friend who went there or even attended a week-long conference at the schools I wanted to learn more about.

I got a feel for the atmosphere and the lay of land, but I missed talking to future professors and receiving more information at those schools.

I liked colleges better when I scheduled a formal visit, and I ended up attending an institution I visited twice, both before and after I was accepted.

It is a good idea to have a wish list during the college search, with personal requirements like being in a city or not, offering small class sizes, or having an active student government and lots of school spirit. But just because those are things you think you might want, it’s important to keep an open mind. You could visit a school and fall in love, despite not having one or any of the things on your list. Determine what is a must have and what is negotiable.

Having these priorities in line will help you ask good questions on your visit. Do not ask the tour guides for information you can find on a school’s website.

Ask about the guide’s experiences on campus, their relationships with professors and other opportunities. Having a current student in front of you is a chance to start a real conversation about the school, which will give you a better picture of what it would be like to go there.

Every school you want to visit will have a tab on their website for admissions, and you will be able to find a page with all the details to plan a visit.

Take advantage of every opportunity to visit schools. For example, Indiana Private College Week is coming up from July 18 to 22.

All 31 private schools will have free campus visits and informational sessions during the week, and students who visit are eligible to win an Apple iPad Mini or a Microsoft Surface from the organizer, the Independent Colleges of Indiana.

You are about to invest in your education –and your future career. Don’t you want to check out that investment for yourself?

Katie Goodrich is a strategic communications intern with Independent Colleges of Indiana.

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