In the last column, I may have guilted a few people into changing their vacation plans. They will now be visiting college campuses over spring break instead of basking on the beach. I’m OK with that.
If you’re going to invest the time, energy and money, you need to know how to make the most of your campus visits.
Make your arrangements ahead of time. Book your college tours and information sessions and make arrangements for your hotels now. Spring break is the most popular time for campus visits and some schools limit their numbers. If you think you’ll have time to experience sitting in on a class, make sure you coordinate that through the admissions office.
Do your homework before you arrive on campus. Take a look at the academic majors and minors as well as the clubs, organizations and student activities. Read about each of the colleges in a college guidebook and online at a few review sites. Here are some of my favorites: www.unigo.com, www.collegeprowler.com, www.collegeboard.com, www.studentsreview.com and www.collegeconfidential.com.
Let them know you’re there. It won’t matter at most of the large universities, but many colleges are pleased to know you’ve made the effort to visit.
Colleges are looking to boost their yield statistics, which is the number of students that accept an offer of admission. As more students apply to more colleges, it becomes more difficult for admissions officers to anticipate who will actually attend.
One way to increase their yield is to offer admission to students that have made it very clear that they plan on attending, if accepted. A number of colleges try their best to measure a student’s “demonstrated interest” by keeping track of the number of times a student interacts with the college.
These interactions include the campus visit, stopping by the booth at a college fair and attending the meeting when colleges visit your high school, as well as phone calls and emails. Students shouldn’t pester admissions offices, but if they have legitimate questions that can’t be answered on the college website, it’s fine to be in touch.
Focus your visit on the people, programs and the locale. Wander around the campus on your own. Talk to students, faculty and staff and ask good questions.
Then follow up. Request business cards from any admissions representative you meet. Send thank-you notes referencing your discussions. Type up your notes from your visit and keep them all organized in a folder for future reference.
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte, N.C. For more information, visit www.collegeadmissions strategies.com.