Colleges tend to visit high schools in the fall so it’s a good idea to check with your guidance department to see if any of the colleges you are interested in are coming to your school. If so, try to sign up to attend a small group session to learn more about the college and to make contact with the admissions person. In some schools, these fall visits may only be open to seniors.
A good impression is important! Remember that schools welcome contact from interested students and they are paying attention, so present yourself in a positive way (handshake, eye contact, ask a few questions, etc.).
Make sure to ask for the business card of anyone with whom you spend time. Then send an email or (even better) a handwritten note to express your interest in their school and to thank them for speaking with you. This is easy to do and, since so many students don’t bother, it goes a long way. Remember, this may be the person who ends up reading your application!
During the Fall and, particularly if your high school does not host one, you may find it helpful to attend an outside college fair. Here as well, this allows you to connect with admissions people from many different schools. (Here is a link to some local fairs over the next few months.)
Keep in mind too that college fairs can be overwhelming, so be sure to plan ahead by finding out which schools will be there and pick out some that you want to visit. Bring a notepad and a bag to collect information. Some students even bring printed mailing labels with their contact info so they don’t have to write it out at each table in order to be placed on that school’s mailing list. You may be able to use a college fair to help identify which schools you would like to visit – for a tour and information session, or for a weekend Open House.
Finally, if a school of interest that is not within easy driving distance does not appear on the list of visitors to your high school or local college fair, check that school’s admissions web site (look under “campus visits >> off-campus events”) to see if they may be hosting an information session at a local hotel and/or if they are offering local interviews.
In all cases, sign up early (they can fill up) and sign up “officially,” so you “get credit” for attending.
The bottom line is this: Talking with admissions folks is a two-way street . You get to learn a bit about the college and they get to learn a bit about you. A college should never hear about you for the first time when they receive your application. Don’t be a stranger!