1. Learn about the school before you visit.
Each school's image is beautifully displayed in brochures, videos, web sites or CD-ROMs, but how do you uncover the school's true profile? Use the information you have to formulate questions that can be answered during your visit. Review the materials and questions you wish to ask just before you arrive.

2. Evaluate the look and feel of the campus
Does the campus feel too big or too small? Are the students friendly and happy?

3. Visit the admissions office and participate in the information session.
Ask questions that help you clarify the type of student who is most comfortable and successful there. Dress nicely, but not out of character.

4. Tour the campus, with and without a guide.
Take a student-led tour and take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions about campus life from a peer. Recognize, however, that tour guides are not necessarily typical of all students since they formally represent the school. Give yourself a few minutes to wander the campus alone. Jot down your impressions.

5. Check out the dorms.
Picture yourself living in the dorms. Find out the specific rules concerning such things as guests and study hours.

6. Arrange for campus meetings with department heads in the subjects that interest you, coaches in sports where you excel, and sponsors for extracurricular activities.

7. Sit in on classes and check out the library.
How is the rapport between students and faculty in the classroom? Look through books at the library in your areas of interest. Look for quiet places to study.

8. Look into live beyond academics.
Check out athletic facilities, theater, and student center. Are there regularly scheduled field trips off campus? Read notices up on bulletin boards. Can you see yourself joining in?

9. Have lunch in the student dining room.
Talk with students all over campus about their impressions of the school. Do you feel comfortable among the students?

10. After each visit, write down your impressions of that school.
The visions of different schools start to blur if you donÍt immediately stop to record your thoughts. Keep a list of pros and cons for comparison.

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is a professional association of full-time experienced independent educational consultants who work with families on school placement issues. 3251 Old Lee Highway, Suite 510, Fairfax, VA 22030, 703/591-4850