If you are a high school junior, in the past few months you’ve most likely had a college visit or two. Here are your next steps.
Take time to reflect on what you observed during your college visits.
Record your impressions – While the ideal scenario is to take notes while traveling, your first step upon returning home should be to mentally download what you learned about each school. If you took photos on your visits, review them to help trigger memories of what was positive, and be sure to note any negative impressions or concerns, and what surprised you. Capturing this information fully will help immensely if you later need to submit an essay about why you are applying and are a good fit at that school.
Research and reevaluate – Look into issues that concerned or surprised you. Maybe you thought you wanted a large university, but felt overwhelmed, or perhaps you expected the dance department to have higher caliber performers than what you encountered. Find out more about opportunities that you may have just discovered on your visit, such as unique leadership programs or majors. Review each school, and its prioritization on your list, in light of this new information. Consider if there are additional schools that may now match your redefined list of requirements, and make plans to research and visit those. Also reflect on whether you want to remove some schools from consideration. Once you have done this, be sure to make an appointment to discuss your insights with your college consultant.
Follow up, as appropriate – Touch base with your college admissions consultant to decide whether and what type of follow-up is suitable for your specific scenarios. While we are taught from an early age to write thank you notes when hospitality is extended, inundated admissions offices may not always appreciate or record that you contacted them just to say thanks.
Pay close attention to what kind of tips you learn about each college’s admissions process.
Factors to consider are whether the college representatives shared their contact information, invited dialogue, or had a personal interaction with you. Be considerate about using your contacts’ time efficiently, so try to include any follow-up questions in one thank you email sent to a coach, student host, or faculty member with whom you interacted.
Remember, it can reflect positively if you ask a thoughtful question that cannot be answered using internet research, but asking simple or obvious questions may communicate that you are not resourceful or devoting the necessary time to research their school. Should we decide that a follow-up communication is appropriate, email a message instead of handwriting a note since colleges are probably more likely to save email to your electronic file (you will have one if you have registered).
Save tips gathered for later use – Colleges may share specific directions or tips about their application process, and you should remember and follow these. If the admissions officer conducting the information session remarks about disliking it when students send unsolicited materials with their applications, don’t send any! If they describe enjoying meeting prospective students during high school visits, introduce yourself when they come to your school or at another local event to demonstrate your interest. Finally, if a college representative mentions a specific attribute that they feel identifies an appropriate fit, such as a large school saying that it seeks self-reliant students, ensure that your application demonstrates how you possess this quality.
Once you debrief after college visits, relax and give yourself some time to let your thoughts settle. Sometimes your perception of a school’s fit will shift as you do more research, and factors such as visit weather and the tour guide’s demeanor will fade over time as you amass more factual information. Rest assured that your investment of time, patience, and collaboration with your consultant will result in an informed and well-balanced college list.