The payoff. Nope, even after all of that, it's not naptime yet. There's still the pesky part of actually applying to school. But the work you've already done is going to make it feel a whole lot easier (and cheaper, since you'll have fewer application fees to dole out). In those supplemental essays, you can note the discussion you had with that economics professor on your visit, the fascinating op-ed you saw in the school's daily paper, or the powerful reaction you had to the mural in the library. And during interviews, when you're asked about why you're applying here? "You'll give an answer with substance to it other than my friends are going here and the lawn is gorgeous," Fonash says.
Those details indicate "demonstrated interest," which is something admissions officers say gives students' acceptance chances a boost. And that will definitely come in handy when senior spring rolls around.
So a good hunt takes detours away from the Ivy League, out of your state (and even region), and certainly to at least a few places you'd never heard of before you started (you can begin with the 12 colleges that are profiled in this year's road trips).