How important is it to visit each college and network with the admissions reps?

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

Paul Weber, College Admissions Consultant, College Pathfinder

It is essential that students visit colleges in which they are seriously interested. A key term in the industry that relates to this question is “Demonstrated Interest.” Simply put, this is the level of interest you have shown a college during the application process. Another term that ties directly to your interest level is “Yield.” Yield is the percentage of accepted students who untimely enroll. Many selective colleges place great emphasis on increasing their yield. The most recent statistics reveal that Harvard had the highest yield in the nation. In addition, you will notice other colleges boasting about increased yield such as Bates College this past fall. In a 2010 survey of admission counselors about factors that are considered important, demonstrated interest appeared on the list at more colleges than other factors like letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities. The more interest you reveal to a college, the greater the potential you will attend if accepted. Make official visits, follow-up with thank you notes to specific individuals, and keep in touch appropriately with admissions representatives. Beyond your visit reflecting well on your interest level, it also gives you the opportunity to step foot on campus. Pictures, videos, and online virtual tours are helpful, but nothing replaces the campus visit.

Peter Van Buskirk, President, The Admission Game

It is critical that you understand that colleges don’t have to admit you simply because you have the numbers (and extracurricular activities) to justify it. Before an admission committee decides to offer admission to you, it is likely to look for evidence that you will enroll if accepted. ED is the obvious solution, but if you aren’t ready to commit, you can’t go that route. As a result, you want to make sure your interest in the college is known. That’s why it is important to build relationships with the college reps who recruit in your area. Why? They are usually the first to evaluate your credentials in the admission process. Do you want to appear to them as though you are a stranger—or a candidate whose application materialized out of thin air? Students—and very good students at that—whose level of interest is open to question quite often find themselves on the Wait List. Here’s the tip: as you have important questions about the college’s academic program, its admission requirements, etc, direct them by email to the person who recruits in your area. Let him/her be your “go to” person at that institution. The key is to be careful not to abuse this relationship. If you engage this person purposefully and respectfully, you give yourself an opportunity to develop a relationship that could be helpful later in the admission process.

Judy Zodda,  Founder and President,  Zodda College Services

Attending a session on Trends in Admissions at the May, 2011 IECA conference in Philadelphia last May, one of the things that Directors of Admissions talked about was demonstrated interest and the affect on student’s admission chances. One Director of Admissions from Muhlenberg College, stated that “If you live within a six hour drive of a college campus and don’t visit, they don’t know if you are really serious about their college.” Beyond them knowing about how interested you are in their college, you immediately get a certain “vibe” or feel for a campus by being on it. You can “take the pusle” of the campus which you can’t do by reading through websites, or talking to other students who have visited. Their experience and impression does not reflect what your own might be. On paper or on a website, you might think this is the perfect school for you and yet when you visit, you might find that the students are more conservative than you thought or more liberal than you thought. You might be looking for a beautiful college campus and find it’s not as pretty in person, though attractiveness, even in a college, is in the eye of the beholder. I had a student two years ago who only wanted to go to large state universities and that’s the only kind of schools he was looking at. I begged him to take a look at this one small liberal arts college in PA (he was from FL), just to see something different. He flew up to the school with his Dad and called me to tell me he had found his school! It had almost everything he was looking for. He applied, and got accepted with a scholarship. He is currenlty in his sophomore year and loves it just as much as he did when he first visited, On his viist, he met with Admissions, the swim coach, talked with students, and a professor in the Business School, along with taking the tour and attending the information session. For the Admissions rep, he was able to put a face with a name, and my student kept in contact with the rep during the year, continually expressing his interest in that college. While the admission rep didn’t visit his school during the year, they do visit mnay high schools during the fall, and if you are a senior interested in a schhol where the rep is visitng, make it your business to stop in and say hello and express your interest. Maybe ask a question or two. After my student was accepted at the small school, he visited again, where he met the swim team, and attended classes. Even though he was accepted at many of the large state schools he originally wanted to attend, he knew that a small school, was the best for him. Visitng sometime before you make the decision to attend is important. If at all possible, visit before you make the decision to apply. It will help you to make the decision as to whether you should apply to that school at all, possibly saving you money at a school that isn’t a good fit for you, or sealing the deal that this is one of the possibilities that is right for you.

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