Checking out college campuses allows students to “try on a college to see if it fits”. Websites, guidebooks and online forums only offer a glimpse into the true character and personality of a college. By walking through classrooms, residence halls, libraries and sports areas, students can get a feel for what they do, and don’t, want in a college.
Ideally, the best time to visit is when college is in session. For many high school students, though, this also means they are in school. Visiting during the summer may work better for families, and summer road trips can be a great time to see a college.
Campuses are quieter during the summer months (easier parking is a plus!), but you can expect the Admissions Office, and other buildings to be open. Summer visitors can get a feel for the layout of the campus, the style and condition of the buildings, and can get a glimpse at the surrounding community. If you know that you’ll be in the vicinity of a college your student wants to see, call the Admissions Office and ask to schedule an informational session and a tour. If that's not available, Campus Sherpa and PEER offer personal tours (for a fee) at hundreds of campuses. If you have younger students, or are not quite ready for this level of commitment, use the campus as a rest stop and explore on your own. Daytripper University is a great resource for where to eat, stay and what to do near campuses.
If you plan visits for the end of August or the beginning of September, many colleges will be back in session, giving you the opportunity to talk to current students, sit in on a class, or eat in the dining hall. Visiting campuses any time of year offers clues for students seeking a right-fit college.