For many families, getting acquainted with colleges is a process of courtship: both sides are getting to know one another, feeling out the chemistry. It's the foundation for any solid relationship.

Especially for the colleges hovering at the top of your list, make sure to reach out and let them know that you're interested. Demonstrating your interest can help them feel more assured that if they accept you, then you will choose to attend. Even for the colleges that don't actively track the interest of applicants, putting a real live human face and voice with an application can change the way that an admissions counselor advocates for you in the committee room during application reviews.

There are five easy ways to reach out:

  1. Follow colleges on social media. Head to the college's website or search for it directly on Facebook or Twitter. It's the easiest thing for you to do and for them to track.
  2. Join colleges' e-news lists. Again, it's easy for them to track, but that way you'll be sure not to miss out on events that are happening in your area.
  3. Tour college campuses and register through the admissions office for an information session. While you're there, make sure to ask if the representative from your region is there. If so, make sure to introduce yourself. Afterward, don't forget to send a thank-you note!
  4. Email your regional admissions counselor. If you haven't met that person, write to introduce yourself. If you've done thorough research on the college and you have questions about certain programs or upcoming events in your local area, ask away.
  5. Reach out to professors by way of the admissions office -- meaning, call or email the office of admission and ask them to put you in touch with a specific department or professor. IMPORTANT: you need good, substantive questions about a course or program that the professor or department offers, so do your homework carefully.

One final word of caution: DON'T ask general, non-specific questions that could be answered by five minutes of Googling. Part of the purpose of contacting colleges is to show that you already have a good foundation for understand why the fit would be great.