When to go
The sooner the better. A visit as early as 10th grade can give a student "a sense of how fun and cool it is to be a college student. It gets people really excited." Plan a few more trips (or virtual tours) once a student has narrowed down his or her search, to rule out the obvious "Nos." Then you might schedule final visits when a student is making a choice between two or three colleges.
How long to stay
A good visit will take three to four hours. A student-led tour lasts about 60 minutes, then you may want to stay for an info session with an admissions counselor. Start or finish with lunch on campus to soak up the atmosphere.
What type of tour
If you're visiting several campuses in a few days, it may not be practical to take a guided tour at each. Self-guided walks are also an option, and admissions offices will often provide maps and guidebooks. But be aware that the depth of information you get on a student-led tour far surpasses what you'll get from a quick drop-in. Reserve a spot on a tour for your top picks and save the drive-throughs for the "Maybes."
What to look for
"Look and feel" is very important. Do you like the culture on campus and in surrounding areas? You have to be able to picture yourself living on or around the campus. Not everyone is meant to live in Seattle for four years. Or in Pullman [WA]. They're very different. There is no right answer except what's right for you.
The right stuff
Students should look for "a good match." Even the so-called best school might not be the best one for you.
Ask yourself: Is this the right fit for you — academically, socially, financially? Students need to consider all three before finding a campus they can call home.