ABOVE: TFS students on a college visit to Westminster College in Fulton, MO. They are shown here by the monument, "Breakthrough," at the Winston Churchill Memorial on campus. "Breakthrough" was constructed of enormous sections of the Berlin Wall - complete with graffiti on the side of the wall that once faced West Germany.
TFS strongly encourages juniors and seniors to visit as many colleges as possible, beginning in the summer between the sophomore and junior years. Take the time to visit colleges locally and wherever you travel, even colleges you don't imagine you'll be interested in. Visits don't have to be long or formal; just walking around an unfamiliar campus for twenty minutes during the school year can tell you a lot. Eventually, of course, you'll want to have longer, more detailed visits, about which more below. Seeing many colleges when you're only picking one is a very important element of making a good choice in the end, because picking a college is too important a choice to make without many points of reference. Think about it: you're choosing a home for four years, a neighborhood, and group of teachers and companions to share one of the most important periods of your life. This is not a choice you want to make based on impressions gathered under pressure. Waiting to visit colleges until spring of senior year is like going on a series of first dates a few weeks before the wedding.
Generally, the true measure of a college is not the buildings, the professors, the admissions staff, or the reputation; it's the students. Talk to the students as much as you can. Then trust your gut feeling about whether the school is a place you'd like to live and work and play for four years.
More detail information on these topics can be found in the Fulton School College Counseling Handbook.