Planning a summer road trip? Don’t forget to make a college visit.

Summer is the perfect time to travel, explore new places and visit friends and family. But before you get too busy planning your next vacation destination, make time to schedule a pit stop at one of your top college choices.

A buffet of college options

When making a college decision, it’s important to determine what school will be the best fit for your individual interests, wants and needs. Try to spend time on several college campuses before making a final decision on where you’d like to attend. During your visit, picture yourself attending the school and imagine what life as a student there might look like. Tour the facilities, meet current students and professors and get a glimpse of campus life.

Scheduling a visit

Once you’ve decided where you would like to visit, contact the school’s admissions office and schedule a tour. Keep in mind that campus is usually quieter during the summer months, so be sure to schedule your visit when you can meet with someone from your major of interest. While you’re there, check out the college cafeteria and see what food options are available. This is especially important if you have food allergies. Some colleges even provide students with the opportunity to stay overnight in a residence hall. This is the perfect way to get a sense of where you might live and helps prepare you for the transition to dorm life.

Packing your bags

To get the most out of your college visit, you should prepare a few things ahead of time:

  • Needs and wants list: This list should include items you feel are important to your college success. If small class sizes and certain extracurricular options are important, ask about them. Assistance programs for special learning needs may be important to inquire about, too.
  • Your list of questions: What do you want to learn during your visit? Ask questions about the majors available, work-study opportunities, scholarships and extracurricular options.
  • A friend or family member: Ask a friend or family member to go with you. They can offer another perspective and may ask questions that you didn’t think to ask.
  • A journal or notebook: After the tour, be sure to jot down your impressions of the school. What were the highlights? Were the students and professors friendly? Does the school offer a major that interests you? The more colleges you visit, the harder it is to keep track of the details, so journaling about your experiences can be a great way to process each visit and decide whether the college is a good fit.
  • A comparison tool: This can help you determine which colleges are your top choices. The tool allows you to rate each college on items such as affordability, choice of majors and class size.

Choosing where you want to receive a college education is a big decision. Fortunately, setting foot on a college campus can sometimes make that decision a little easier. Be conscious of how your visit makes you feel – can you envision yourself becoming part of this college community? If so, you may have just discovered your home for the next chapter of your educational career.