Last spring, I sent an email to the parents of my rising seniors about demonstrating interest to colleges. In the email, I explained that it was an increasingly a critical component of the admissions process and that it can sometimes be the tipping point in a student being admitted, waitlisted or denied.
I’m a big believer in demonstrating interest appropriately. However, I’m not a huge fan of being overly aggressive (assertive, good, aggressive, bad) and annoying. There’s a time and a place for everything, and here are a few suggestions to help you and your kid.
Spring College Fairs and Regional Receptions. Both have value, but neither is going to tip the scales, ultimately, in the admissions process. Anyone can go to what I affectionately call “the meat market.” Parents and students should go to these events to gather information, they should not go to “impress” an admissions rep. When I worked in Georgetown’s admissions office, I toured the country with Penn, Duke, and Harvard (I think Stanford is part of it now too) and we each shared information about our schools and after the reception, welcomed any additional questions people might have. Such a high-powered group of schools brought out the highest achieving students in the country and most would shake my hand, tell me their name, ask a question, ask for my card and then leave. And then someone else would do the same. And another, and another. I never remembered a name or face from these events because there were simply too many people.
Likewise at a spring college fair, any selective school or large, popular university, has a revolving door of prospects on any given afternoon. No true, sustainable relationship can be made. Yes, a student can fill out an inquiry card or sign in via an iPad, but the chances are slim that this minimal exchange would profoundly affect a decision six to ten months later.
Visiting colleges and attending fall receptions and/or school visits by admissions reps are incredibly helpful. Colleges know that you have sacrificed time – and often money – to visit their college and they’re appreciative. And now you’re on their turf, and they’re much more willing to spend 5-10 minutes of their day with your child if you schedule a brief meeting in advance. This is always the best way to show sincere interest.
Regional receptions that are in August through November are impactful. Colleges appreciate being amongst the appropriate applicant pool. Plus, by then, your child may have an application on file or scores or polished resume to share. This is important. Building a rapport with an admissions rep without tangible evidence to support the dialogue is frivolous.
If an admissions rep visits your child’s school, your child should go. In the fall, colleges make their rounds and visit high schools all over the country. In these smaller, more intimate settings are when a rep can match a recognizable name to a recognizable face. This is when you want your kid to wear the hot pink or fluorescent shirt so they stand out that day and can reference said shirt in their follow up email. This is a meaningful interaction because it comes at a time when there is more clarity about whether or not a student should and will actually apply.
A student is making a sacrifice by missing a class. This may be the Early Decision school. The rep may be the actual regional reader versus an alum at a college fair or a sub at a regional reception. This one-on-one or even one-on-twenty times is way more effective than one-on-100. This is demonstrating true interest
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