As spring break approaches, families everywhere will be heading out to visit college campuses across the country.

Visiting a school’s campus is one of the best ways for your child to hone in on exactly what they want and need in a school. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to help your child get the most out of their limited time on campus and also squeeze in addressing your questions and concerns about the college. Here are five tips to ensure your campus tour is as helpful to your child’s college decision process as possible.

1. Prepare in Advance

Your time on a college tour is limited, so of course you want to make the most of it. Zaragoza Guerra, a college admissions consultant at College Coach, suggests doing research ahead of time. You can get a lot of the basic information from the school’s website. After you research, “collaborate with your child on a list of questions you both think should be asked on the tour,” says Guerra. In your discussion, divvy up the questions to make sure you cover all of them and nothing falls through the cracks.  

2. Make Your Questions Specific

When compiling your list of questions, keep in mind that you will have access to current students who are leading the tours, so take advantage of that. Shavali Reddy, an intern at Edmit, says, “The most important questions to ask start with, ‘Can you tell me your experiences with ….’ Ask pinpointed questions about their experience with, for example, a major that your child is contemplating.”

Some other questions that Reddy recommends asking:

  • What do you wish you knew when you were looking at this school as a high school student?
  • What do you think sets this college apart from the others you considered?
  • How do you think the college has helped you grow since you were a freshman?
  • What’s the most significant thing the college has helped you achieve?

3. Stick Around After the Tour

As prepared as you may be, you still might not have the opportunity to ask everything you want. Don’t panic. Tour guides are usually happy to stick around afterward and answer any remaining questions you might have. This is a good time to ask any questions you weren’t comfortable asking in front of the group or dive a little deeper into any specific concerns. If the guide doesn’t have an answer, they should be able to point you in the direction of someone who can address them, such as a financial aid officer or a department head.

4. Write It All Down

It’s important to assess all of the information you’ve received while it’s still fresh in your mind. Guerra advises, “As soon as the tour ends, ask your child for the big takeaways. What were three things they liked most about the school? What were three things they hated?” Write the answers down and anything else of note you two discuss, and create a file for all of your college tours. “It’s amazing how many students can’t remember why they liked or disliked a school — info that can be critically helpful later on when refining their college search,” Guerra says.

5. Create Your Own Tour

This is your chance to see what the school doesn’t show you. Get the school newspaper to see what’s going on locally and get a sense of hot political and social issues being debated on campus. Eat lunch at the dining hall if you can and talk to other students on campus. College essay coach at In Other Words and parent Jill Margaret Shulman makes an important point: “If your child’s planning to spend a lot of time playing a sport or [joining] the theater, take a little extra time to check out the relevant facilities.” Once you’ve maxed out the campus, check out the surrounding area to get an idea of what everyday life will be like and what amenities are available, including public transportation options.

Visiting a college campus is an important part of your child’s college selection process. Make the most of these visits so you can help your child make the best application and enrollment decisions possible.