When looking at potential colleges and universities, you, as a perspective student will have a lot on your plate. To find a school that you can succeed in, you need to find the right fit.
The best piece of advice that I can give you is to make sure you visit each school you are interested in attending. Once you have decided which schools you want to visit, make sure you set aside at least a full day for each school. Do not rush to visit two separate schools in one day because they are close in proximity. Schools will try to keep you on campus for as long as possible to derail your visit to the second school.
Once you arrive on campus, you will meet with a representative from the admissions office. This appointment should be set up in advance. You need to speak with the admissions office to make sure you meet the requirements to qualify for school. Make sure that the admissions visit includes a tour of the campus. Most schools include a tour in the initial visit, but a lot of them set these tours up as group tours. If possible, you should try to schedule an individual tour of the campus. This will give you a more intimate experience and you will feel more comfortable asking questions. Most schools will tailor your visit to your requests, so make sure to ask if an individual tour is not offered.
Once you have set up a tour and an admissions visit, the next step is to set up a meeting with the program director of the program you are interested in pursuing. This is often overlooked. The program director will be able to answer any specific questions regarding class scheduling and other academic opportunities you may have. This will need to be scheduled ahead of time, as most program directors will also have classroom hours. Make sure the program director is going to be available before you visit a campus.
The next few agenda items I list are optional, but may be the deciding factor if you find yourself having a tough time deciding between schools. These are to help you find the right fit for your education. This decision is going to affect your entire future so invest time in making the right choice.
Ask to sit in on a class and a lab if that is part of the curriculum. The class will give you a feel for the size of the lecture halls and the lab will give you a feel for the type of work you will be doing in your program. If you are interested in computer science, make sure you sit in on a computer science course. Always sit in on a class in your anticipated major. This can also help you decide which major to pursue if you cannot decide.
Ask to speak with current students. By talking with students currently in your program, you can get an idea of what the course workload will be and if the campus is conductive to learning. You also get a chance to ask more personal questions that the school might not have a direct answer to, such as the quality of the food on the meal plan. Most students will be more than willing to talk about the things they are not happy with regarding their decision to attend a school.
Ask to stay overnight in a resident hall. This will give you a feel for the student environment. This really helps if you are considering playing a sport at your school, because most of your teammates will probably hang out together at night. You can really get a feel for the camaraderie of the team if they are spending their free time together.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding if a school is the right fit for you. At an absolute minimum, make sure to take an official visit to the school of your choice to meet with your program director and the admissions office. To make sure the school is the right fit, sit in on a few classes and meet some of the students who are currently in your program. Ask them questions to get a feel for the school. If you still cannot decide, try to set up an overnight visit to experience campus life for a night. Most important of all, do not rush into a decision or feel pressured to make a choice on the day of your visit. Take your time and make sure you find the right fit.