College Tours and Visits: Questions to Ask a College Representative
Questions to Ask a College Representative: Part 3
For the final post in this three part series, my readers are in for a real treat. Taking over the KD College Counseling blog with his genuine and upbeat answers, you can hear his passion coming out in the words that he speaks. Nothing makes me more excited than an admissions professional who is dedicated to the students applying to their school and whole-heartedly wants each one to succeed, no matter what the outcome is. Christopher Gray is the Director of Admissions Marketing at Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts and I am beyond thrilled to introduce him to this community. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and read on for rare insight into the world of college admissions, you won't regret it!
In your experience, what are some helpful questions that prospective students should be asking when they visit a college campus?
Let’s remember what the primary purpose of a campus visit is. It’s to experience the campus, from academic facilities to the dining hall and everything in between. A campus visit gives you the ability to speak with current students (whether it’s the tour guide or a student in the library studying). The reason why you hop in the car and drive for 4 hours is because you want to gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a student at fill in the blank institution. With that in mind, students should be asking questions that are specific to them. This sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many questions I receive that revolve around publicly stated facts; either on the institution website, on college search websites, or in printed publications. Parents should be asking their student, “why are we visiting this institution” and “what do you hope to see or learn while at X institution”. This can help facilitate conversation before and after the visit. Asking what an institution’s graduation or retention rates are can be semi-helpful, but those are facts that can be found in numerous areas (IPEDS is my favorite source). Students should be asking questions about what they see (or what they don’t see) while on campus. Asking probing questions about “why the student center is the heart of the University” or “what the late night hot spots on campus for food are” can help show the student what his/her experience could be like on campus.
Are there different questions students should be asking at a college fair versus a high school visit?
Depending on the size of the college fair, I always encourage students to grab as much information as possible and speak with representatives from schools that they may not encounter again (remember my point from the previous question, do no ask questions you can readily find the answer to). If you’re a student from New England, talk to the University of Hawaii, but if you know you’re visiting the University of South Carolina over winter break, don’t spend the majority of your time at that table. To help cut down on time at a table filling out a card, bring a pre-printed sheet of mailing labels that include your name, mailing address, email address, phone, high school and graduation year. Then you can just stick it on the card and check the majors you’re interested in. Boom! There’s an additional 5 minutes you have to ask some great questions.
At a college fair, I encourage students to ask questions that will help them gauge if this school is right for them; campus surroundings, what the weekends are like, what differentiates the Psychology program there versus another school, etc. At a high school visit, I encourage students to ask more specific questions that pertain to their studies, individual passions, and admission criteria. Asking questions like “what type of research did Psychology majors do last year” or “how I can start a foodie club because I didn’t see it listed on the website (hint: do some research before the high school visit)” can be beneficial. Additionally, if you’re looking at a smaller school, the representative visiting your high school is most likely going to read your application and if you have some thoughtful questions prepared, we almost always remember you when it comes time for reviewing your application.
Do the questions a student asks their college counselor make a difference in their potential acceptance or denial?
NO! I tell every student and family I meet, there is no such thing as a stupid or silly question when it comes to admissions. Our job in the Office of Admission is to assist the student through this phase of their academic career. I think there’s always that fear of, “if I ask a question that could be construed as weird or silly, the admission counselor will think I’m unintelligent and therefore, I won’t get in”. That is completely false. Our job is to evaluate you for admission based upon academic criteria, community involvement, citizenship, and other factors that will paint a picture as to who you are as a student and individual. We’re looking for candidates that are always going to improve our campus and community. And remember, you don’t know what you don’t know, so ask! But keep in mind what I said earlier, there’s a difference in asking meaningful questions than simple facts that can be found within a few clicks of the campus website.
To date, what has been your favorite question(s) that you have been asked?!
I still remember who asked and why she asked me this question. “Why should I leave Southern California for blizzards? And on top of that, do you really not have In N Out?”. I used to recruit in California for over three years. Almost every student I worked with, knew they wanted to leave the state (finding the right destination was a whole other question). This one student was very interested in the institution I was working for at the time, but she was also being recruited to play volleyball in California and academically had the ability to attend a UC campus. When she asked me why she should leave California for blizzards, I had nothing to say except for, snow days! She decided to enroll, she just graduated this past May, and she just accepted a full-time job in Boston. I couldn’t be happier! And I still have no idea why In N Out won’t come to New England!
What has been your least favorite question, or one that you feel doesn't really serve the student?
“How is your (fill in the blank) program?” What students really should be asking is:
What makes your (fill in the blank) program different than other institutions?
How are graduates prepared for (fill in the career) in the (fill in the program)?
What do faculty do to engage students in and out of the classroom in the (fill in the program)?
Any advice you have for prospective students and their families?
Take pictures while you’re on campus! Campus tours will always blend together, especially after a half dozen. Take pictures of what you like (or what you don’t like), it’ll help you remember a special residence hall, the food, or even a walk from one building to another.