The Common Application allows for a maximum of 20 colleges on a student’s dashboard. Add to the mix the Coalition Application, specific state schools’ applications and a few colleges that prefer their own applications, and the possibilities are mind-boggling. I am not surprised when students present me with a preliminary list of as many as 40 colleges.
However, eventually, cooler heads prevail and ultimately the average list is between 10 and 20 schools with a good balance of reach, target and safe choices. Reading about the schools in which you are interested, perusing their websites, speaking with graduates and current students, and actually visiting the colleges certainly are valuable ways to create a viable list.
It’s wonderful if you have the time and the resources to drive or fly all over the country with your parents to tour colleges and universities. However, once the school year starts, that’s easier said than done. Of course, it’s a good idea to start visiting schools during junior year, but if you are now a senior, you’ll have to approach the process sensibly and economically. With all of your coursework as well as obligations to activities with mandatory attendance rules, college visits may not even be possible.
But in the fall of each school year, a large number of colleges and universities literally come to you. In addition to attending college fairs, many college representatives schedule information sessions through your guidance departments during the school day. Although this sometimes will coincide with a class, your school should have a process that allows an in-school session with a representative to be an excused absence. Without abusing the privilege, of course, you can sign up for an info session which also provides you with the opportunity to ask questions and to meet the admissions representative face to face.
Sometimes, these sessions will be very crowded, and all you might be able to do is introduce yourself after the session, thank the representative, ask a quick question, and take a business card. Other times, you may find yourself to be alone or in a small group, with lots of time to interact with the representative. So, make sure that you do the following to make the most of this opportunity:
1. Research the college and bring your notes to the session
2. Prepare a few questions to ask the representative
3. Dress nicely as if you are attending a personal interview
4. Silence your phone and do not use it during the presentation
5. Take notes during the presentation
6. Make eye contact with the representative; be attentive and respectful
7. Thank the representative for coming and indicate your interest in the school
8. Ask if you would be permitted to reach out to him or her with follow-up questions by email
9. Give the representative your contact information on a card or a prepared resume if possible
10. Do follow-up research about the school and prepare additional questions
And don’t forget to send a thank you email to the representative about your application and visiting plans!
Most of the time, these college admissions officers spend many weeks on the road of their own geographic area of responsibility, so the likelihood is that the person you meet may be reading your application! In addition to promoting the benefits of attending their colleges, they are also canvassing the students in attendance who might be good candidates. So, make sure that you are your own best representative!