The path to college starts in high school. From freshman through junior year a lot of effort and time has gone into getting good grades, taking college admissions tests and participating in extracurricular activities. By junior year students have a solid idea of the colleges that are of interest to them. So when you submit your college admission applications to the list of finalists during senior year you will want to have done everything you can to get in. With college admissions departments using more sophisticated means of picking students it becomes critical to be certain you demonstrate interest in your favorite college.
Colleges begin building freshman profiles years in advance. They pay for student test scores. They track who registers for information through their web site. If a college has not heard of you before they receive your application package then this means that they do not have you in their system. Typically they have you in their system from one of many ways you can initiate contact with the school. There is a higher risk of not getting accepted to a school that has not heard of you. It is a wise idea to demonstrate interest in the short list of schools that you want to attend.
It is common sense.
There are nine things you can do to demonstrate interest in one or more colleges.
Tip #1. Visit the College
The benefits to visiting a college are numerous. It provides you the opportunity to see first-hand what a school is about. You get to see the city, the people, the campus and buildings. You can begin to understand what type of support and opportunities the school will provide to you. The colleges also register you in their system. You will want to create a college visit checklist. You will also want to compare all the colleges that you will be considering. This is great information to have when you visit the college. You should have a good understanding of the school and be aware of some of the latest news and events. Consider this visit an opportunity for you to get to know the school and for the school to get to know you. Conduct the Bench Test where you sit on a bench in the middle of campus during an active semester for an hour to observe and listen to students. Visit the Career Counseling office to understand what the school does to support internships and job placement during and after college. Talk to students about their experience and things you should consider.
Tip #2. High School Visits
There are numerous benefits to meeting with college admissions representatives that visit your high school. It provides you the opportunity to ask questions about the school and the programs you may be interested in. If you plan to be a residential student (live on campus) then you can inquire about campus life, facilities, and activities that are available to students. The high school guidance counselors and college advisors typically publish the list of college visits weeks in advance. You should visit your counselors office to inquire how to best understand when colleges will be visiting your high school. It makes sense to have a resume prepared that you can provide the admissions rep. Consider this visit as a mini-interview. You want to be properly dressed and be prepared. Be sure you know some good information about the college. It makes sense to have a fact sheet on every college you are interested. It shows you demonstrate ambition, organization and are well prepared. Some high schools use a system called Naviance and require students to sign up for visits through this tool. It makes sense to contact your high school guidance counselor to find out the best strategy. The colleges also register you in their system.
Tip #3. Online Profile and Direct Mail
It is wise to get on a schools mailing list early in your high school career. By Sophomore year you should have built your first list of colleges that you are interested in. It makes sense to go to their web site and get on their mailing list or join any interest clubs offered by the college. Request information packets and the colleges will register you in their system.
Tip #4. College Fairs & Information Sessions
Colleges actively recruit and network at college fairs and Information Sessions all over the world. You will want to understand which college fairs and information sessions that your colleges of interest will be participating. You will want to participate in these fairs and information sessions. Have a resume available, a business card, and be dressed appropriately. Be sure to sign in to get the credit. The colleges will record this information in their system.
Tip #5. Social Networks
It makes sense to begin following the school through its social network avenues. You should follow your favorite colleges on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. You will be updated on the latest news and information about the school which can serve as great conversation during the college visits, college fairs, and high school visits. You will want to be sure to have a clean online profile. It is important to note that these colleges will also be evaluating your profiles in these social networks. If your online profile portrays you as a student who lacks the character and class they require in their students, it will negatively impact your acceptance chances. You will want to maintain a clean social network profile at all times.
Tip #6. Apply Early
Many colleges offer early admissions or early decision. If you submit your application early decision then you are committing to that college if they accept you. This is one sure way to demonstrate interest to that college. Colleges that are deemed selective (less than fifty percent admit rate) focus on this early decision opportunity as a way to increase their yields. Early action rules vary but also demonstrate interest in the school. Early action may have rules that require a student to commit once accepted. It is important to evaluate the terms of each college.
Tip #7. Send Thank You Notes
Every contact opportunity you have provides you with an chance to communicate with the school. Get a card, name, number, email address or school address so that you can shoot a card or email thanking the person. You may even get a response. This also ensures a direct line of communication to someone on the inside of the admissions department at the school. If you send an email just after meeting someone be sure to point out something memorable about your encounter. This way they will remember you when they read your email. For each follow up email be sure to reply to their email response if they provided one. This again is to ensure they remember you and they can look to the email thread for this confirmation. Remember they have hundreds and even thousands of applications to process each year. Every access point is huge. Take full advantage of it. Also a word of warning. Do not do anything gimmicky or send cheesy notes, gifts or cards. Do not over communicate. Be cautious as to when and why you communicate. Ask smart questions that may not be found on the web site or in other materials.
Tip #8. Demonstrate Interest In Your Essays
It is important to provide sound justification for attending the college. It should be logical and fit a path to something. It is refreshing when a student knows what they want, has a plan and is able to convey how this college supports this plan. Some essay prompts ask why you are interested in this college. Even if there are no direct prompts it may be wise to work your demonstrated interest into an essay answer.
Tip #9. Demonstrate Knowledge Of The College
Be sure you know about the college. This reminds me of applying to companies for a job. I have researched every company that I have interviewed. I used this relevant news and demonstrated my knowledge by how I answered questions or asked my own questions about the company. The same rule applies to college. If you just are enamored by the popularity of the school and the prestigious name but have not really dug into understand how the school would benefit you and how you can offer something to the school. For example, say you were president of the marketing club at your high school and you initiated several new ideas. You can ask really good questions about marketing major, classes, programs, and clubs – and express interest in becoming an active leader with some new ideas. Do your homework. It pays off. My first job offer out of college was the result of me doing research by contacting an employee that worked in the area I was going to be working. Armed with that information I rocked the many rounds of interviews and was offered one of the few spots offered that year from thousands competing across the country.
The Key Is To Demonstrate Interest
When you do these tips then you have identified yourself as a person who has demonstrated interest in their college.
College admissions departments closely evaluate student grades on college prep courses, overall grades, strength of curriculum and test scores far and above all other criteria when considering student applications.
The value of demonstrated interest starts to factor when the college admissions officers are reviewing profiles in committee and need to make tie-breaker decisions. They will look to demonstrated interest. A student who has done all or some of these tips will stand out and break that close call.
You want any advantage or edge that you can get.
These tips will not only show demonstrated interest but will give you the information and confidence you need to establish your best fit colleges and pick the school that is your best choice.
To be successful be sure to plan ahead and start following these tips as early as possible in high school. It is not too late even to start early senior year.
As part of your college plan you will want to use your time management skills to outline when to visit colleges, when colleges will be visiting your high school, and when colleges will be participating in college fairs or information sessions.
The college visit is the most expensive and time consuming, but something you will want to do for the colleges you are most interested in. It is wise to plan to visit multiple colleges.
The high school visits and college fairs are the least invasive means to meet school officials without requiring travel or overnight stays.
Remember, a best fit college is one that fits academically, socially, physically, and financially. Once you have determined your best fit colleges, then it is full court press on doing what it takes to get noticed – the right way.