Byline: Karen Goldberg Goff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Planning to make some campus visits this fall? Parents and teens should keep some basic ideas in mind as they tour campus, says Cliff Kramon, an independent college adviser in Teaneck, N.J.
* Let the school know you are coming. Call ahead and find out when tours will be available. Make an appointment to meet with an admissions counselor and attend an information session. This will not only make your visit thorough, it can help you at decision time.
"Colleges keep tabs on who visits," says David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a Virginia-based professional organization for high school and college guidance counselors. "Letting them know you are there can help them know you are serious about attending the school."
* Summer might be convenient for you to visit, but it is the worst time to really experience a school, says Cliff Kramon, an independent college consultant. Going during the school year will give you a better idea of whether students are happy, what professors are teaching and what is going on at the university.
* Learn about the college before you visit. This is where books, brochures and Web sites will help give background on the size, location and academic environment.
* Take a student-led tour. Students can give you a more up-to-date vision of the campus today (compared to an alumni's view of 25 years ago). However, keep in mind that a student tour guide's opinions will be overwhelmingly positive since they are selected representatives of the school, Mr. Kramon says.
* If prospective students want to know more, ask the school if they can sit in on a class in their intended major or spend the night in a dorm.
* Do some of your own legwork. Good ways to get a feel for the place include reading the student newspaper (even the ads), eating in the cafeteria, browsing the student bookstore, reading kiosks and bulletin boards, and simply walking around.
"Doing this will tell you what students are excited about," says Risa Nye, associate director of college counseling at the Head-Royce School in Oakland, Calif. She's also the author of "Road Scholar," a journal for teens to take to prospective colleges in order to organize …