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Spring break is a good time for campus visits

Spring break is coming and for any family with a high school junior, that means it's time for a road trip. This is part two of my suggestions on how to make the most of campus visits:

Let them know you're there -- make sure you register in the admissions office so they have a record of your visit. Collect the business card of the admissions representative from your geographic area.

Suggest that your son or daughter be bold and ask a small group of students these questions:

*Where else did you apply?

*Which schools were you choosing between?

*Why did you choose to come here?

*What's your favorite part of your college experience thus far?

*What one thing would you change about this college, if you could?

*What do they do on weekends?

*Are most students happy there?

*Are they studying more or less than they anticipated?

Responses will be very revealing.

Take an "unofficial" tour. Check out the freshman dormitories and visit the fitness facilities if they weren't on the tour. There might be a reason why they didn't take you there.

Visit a class and/or meet with a coach or professor. Make sure to schedule these options separately, and notify the admissions office of your plans. The opportunity to sit in on a class is the best reason to arrange your trips during spring break. Most colleges will be impressed with your initiative for going above and beyond the typical visit.

Consider an overnight visit. Having students spend time with other students without parents and admissions officials hovering is the best way for a student to truthfully evaluate college-fit.

Prospective students will be able to check out the vibe in the dorms, dining halls, classrooms and on campus overall. Most students walk away from an overnight visit with a much more defined opinion.

Pack a camera and a notebook. I know it sounds a little lame, but you really need to take notes and snap photos. This is especially true if you are seeing multiple colleges during the week.

Send a thank-you note. If you had an opportunity to introduce yourself to someone in admissions, follow up with a handwritten note.

The big question in the end is whether or not the student feels comfortable on that specific campus. When they close their eyes, can they see themselves there?

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Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.

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