By Joel Thomas CBS 11 News | CBSDFW.COM

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – Tuesday afternoon, parents and their prospective college students strolled among the buildings and green spaces of TCU’s campus enjoying the sunny spring day. They looked at the dormitories, commons and classrooms wondering if the school would be the right fit for their students.

“Its a pretty campus,” said one mother from Missouri who was walking along with her daughter.

But there was just one problem. Parents might have enjoyed the splashing sounds of Frog Fountain but they were missing the sounds of student life. Its the university’s spring break too. And visitors here and at colleges around the country are only seeing the campuses, not the schools’ culture.

“Its kind of like going car shopping on a Sunday,” said Kevin Campbell college adviser and president of College Planning Authority. “You can go and look at the outside of the cars and stick your head to the glass and see what it looks like inside. But you can’t test drive it because the car dealership is closed.”

Campbell teaches students that picking a school is more than just a campus tour and a brochure. He suggests talking to students, visiting the departments where the student will likely study and even looking at shopping and restaurants in the area.

Campbell said nearly half of college students drop out. One of the main reasons? They don’t feel like they fit in on campus.

Sometimes its the little things students don’t think about, like regional differences, that can turn them off of a school.

(credit: Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News)

(credit: Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News)

A trip to an Ohio school saved Rebecca Craft from what could have been a big mistake and is a good example of what getting a feel for a campus and its culture can.

“I think just the experience overall told me I don’t want to go to Ohio because they said ‘pop’ instead of ‘soda’ which was — it would’ve drove me insane,” Craft laughed. “Their whole culture up there, I didn’t feel like I would fit in.”

The visits work for parents too.

Twilia Craft, Rebecca’s mother, met some teachers while searching for her son’s college she knew when the school was right, too.

“She felt like a friend almost from the get-go,” Twilia said about one of the music instructors who they befriended on their visit to what would become her son’s university. “I thought, you know, I could see her mothering him. And that made me feel comfortable.”

They’re lessons in college planning that can only be learned when school is in session.

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