Dear Student Editors:
As a professional who understands college admissions, I want to lend my perspective, share insights and offer advice to students.
Visiting colleges is important from both the student’s and the college’s perspectives. For the student, it is an important part of the search and exploration process. Visiting colleges allows for broad preferences to evolve over time as students learn about different programs, environments and the look of the students, facilities and campuses and as they process and react to all they are learning. It gives students the language to interpret and understand what different educational options can provide.
Visiting a particular college enables the student to consider if that environment and community match his or her evolving criteria and is a place that he or she might like to apply to. In addition, information and impressions gleaned from the visit will help the applicant articulate a targeted and comprehensive answer to the “why I want to attend x college” essay prompt that can be a part of that school’s application and so can help increase the likelihood of being admitted.
Information sessions are full of information about what a particular school values as an educational institution and in the college admissions process. The session often provides that college’s definition of terms, a roadmap of sorts, and keys to their particular code for gaining admissions. Students and their parents should pay close attention and listen for the tips that a good information session can provide.
From the perspective of many colleges, particularly those that are liberal arts colleges and not large public institutions, student visits to their campuses are also very important. Research by colleges shows that applicants who visit are more likely to enroll. Therefore, many colleges treat the visit as proxy for “likely to enroll” and as a positive factor in their admissions deliberations. Visiting is one of the elements of “demonstrated interest” that many colleges like to see.
Colleges do understand why it can be hard to visit campuses at a distance and when the cost of visiting is a factor. Under those conditions, it is important that the student not be a stealth applicant, meaning someone who does research online without making himself or herself known to the college. Many colleges need to know that applicants are actively interested in learning more about them. They say that if the first time they hear about an applicant is with an application then they may conclude that he or she wasn’t very thoughtful about the process in general or about them in particular. Therefore, the student needs to make contact with a college as part of his or her search process.
At a minimum, students need to visit colleges’ web sites and go to the admissions or visitor pages to find the prompts that allow them to sign in and sign on to receive information. That will put them on the colleges’ radar, demonstrate their preliminary interest in learning more about the colleges and ensure that they are not regarded as stealth applicants.
Published as a Letter to the Editor in The Globe, the student newspaper of Mamaroneck High School, for March 2010.