Navigating the college decision process is a wonderful mix of stress and excitement. There are so many options out there, and you want to pick the school that is right for you. College websites and brochures are great, but they can only tell you so much about the college or university they represent. How can you know if a school is really going to be a good fit for you?
Thankfully, every campus has a built-in center where you can ask questions and tap into resources that will make the college decision process easier – the admissions office. As the point of entry for every student who has become a student on campus ever, staff in the admissions office know what you will need to be a successful college student. And they don’t like to keep this information to themselves; they are happy to share with students and their loved ones.
In other words, the admissions or recruitment office is one of your most valuable college decision resources, and your admissions counselor is there to help you navigate your admissions process. Use them as much as possible.
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If the college admissions process still feels daunting, don’t worry. Remember: you have an office full of people who are on your side (at each school you are considering!).
For now, here are a few tips admissions staff want you to know to get you through the stages of your college decision process:
1. Look beyond “name-brand” schools.
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Ivy Leagues are prestigious, and with good reason – they only admit a small percentage of those who apply. However, you don’t have to attend an Ivy League or other well-known school to get a high-quality education. Small schools in places you may have never heard of, for instance, often offer great perks such as minimal class sizes and personal attention from professors and faculty. Schools located in small towns but near large cities provide a close-knit class community with big-city weekend fun. Check out a variety of schools until you find the type that best suits you.
2. Take initiative and contact admissions counselors.
Let the schools you are interested in know you are looking at them. Admissions counselors can give you more information than you will find on the internet or the materials schools send through the mail. As counselors learn more about you and your interests, they can provide tailored information and help you craft the ultimate campus visit for your needs. You don’t have to wait for your dream school to find you; contact them first and show your ability to take responsibility for your education.
3. Engage in the campus visit and admissions experience.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you visit. You are the customer, and the education you are considering is the product. You should know as much as possible about the school you are considering before you commit. Take time to listen and soak in your admissions process, especially campus visits. Listen to current students, faculty and staff, and the admissions team when they talk about their college. Picture yourself walking to class on campus every day. Is this school a good fit?
When I was considering schools, I tended to say little during my visits but would ask questions through email later. I often soak in information before I process it. If you are the same way, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and come prepared with a few questions during your campus visit. Admissions counselors like it when they can get feedback from you – it helps them better understand you and what you are looking for in a school. They may have insight into your desires for a school that you have never considered.
4. Check your email/voicemail.
This is a great tip for life as well as the college decision process. Once you have established an initial contact with the schools you are considering, they will probably want to get in touch with you from time to time to make sure you are meeting important deadlines such as the FAFSA and to answer any questions you have. Scheduling campus visits also often involve an email or phone conversation or two.
Getting in touch with you is difficult if you are unaware that schools are trying to contact you! Make sure that schools have your most up-to-date contact information and that you check your messages regularly. You might learn about a great scholarship or campus visit opportunity you wouldn’t find on your own.
5. Update admissions counselors on your college decision process.
Counselors want to make sure you have all you need to make an informed college decision. They’ll keep sending you information as long as you are on their list as someone with an active interest in the university, particularly if you have applied and been accepted.
When you narrow down your list of schools, contact the schools that didn’t make the cut. You’ll save yourself and the schools time later. On the other side of the coin, let the schools you are still interested in know that they have made your short list. They can help you move closer and closer to your final college decision!