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07/29/2013 05:11 pm ET

The 5 Biggest Misconceptions About College Visits

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If you're not working -- or checking off all the fun things on your summer bucket list -- it's not a bad idea to use summer months to visit college campuses. Before you do, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind to get the most out of your trip.

Here are 5 common misconceptions about college visits:

1. The school will always be exactly the same as when you go on your visit. This probably goes without saying, but college visits are usually carefully planned by admissions staff to give you a particular view of campus life. This doesn't mean it's a totally false representation of what to expect, but know that your college experience will be defined by so much more than what you can learn in one day. (Namely: the friends you make!) Think of the visit as a great way to potentially meet some new people before you arrive and to familiarize yourself with the campus -- but don't let it be the end-all-and-be-all of your decisions.

2. You can trust every single thing they say on your visit. We hate to say it, but they're ultimately still trying to sell a product -- college admissions is as much a business as anything else. One way get the inside scoop beyond the memorized blurbs is to ask your tour guide personal questions: What is your favorite and least favorite thing about campus life? How long does it really take to walk to class? etc.

3. Your guide is the ultimate resource and knows everything. Yes, they will know a lot of important facts about the school that you should pay attention to, but it's always worth talking to a few other students if you're having doubts about the campus culture. Don't be afraid to pull a current student aside while you're touring the dining hall and ask them how they like the food -- more often than not, they're happy to tell you!

4. It's not that important to visit before you apply or make your decision. If you can, try to make time to see your top-choice colleges. That said, we get that it's not always financially feasible to see the out-of-state school of your dreams in the flesh. Try to see if there are any video or photo-tours of the campuses online, or even better, see if you can Skype with a real-life student whose dorm room looks like an actual human lives there.

5. Summer is the best -- or only -- time you can visit colleges. A lot of students check out different campuses over the summer because of the convenience factor, but don't rule out a weekend visit during the year when classes are actually in session! Some schools even offer overnight visits during the school year, where you're paired up with a current student and do everything from eat in the dining hall with them to sleeping over in their dorm room.

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