Picking up from where we left off in the last post, we are now entering the season in which high school juniors (soon-to-be seniors!) should begin to engage with the colleges at the top of their list.

Many colleges and universities -- particularly the small to mid-sized private schools -- keep track of how much each individual applicant has done to express their interest in attending. When the time comes to read through applications, often the very first page of a student's file is a log of the date, time, and form of each contact that student made in the months leading up to the deadline.

Remember that, while demonstrated interest takes a backseat to criteria such as GPA, difficulty level of classes, test scores, etc., it can tilt the scales between two otherwise evenly matched candidates. In other words, you want to be on your top colleges’ radar well before you actually apply.

First thing’s first: find out which of your favorite colleges look at applicants’ level of interest. To learn the most convenient way of determining whether a college tracks demonstrated interest, visit this CCP blog entry.

Then get to work! Here are the six ways I encourage my students to connect with colleges and make their interest known:

  1. Sign up for a tour & info session. When you’re touring or even taking a day trip out to a local campus, it often feels most convenient to drop in whenever you happen to arrive, entirely on your own schedule. RESIST THE TEMPTATION! The first thing colleges want to know is whether or not you visited and took the formal opportunity to learn about what they offer. When you know your visit dates, the first thing to do is book a tour, usually through the school’s website. Your registration will often go directly into your file, and you’ll even have the chance while you’re there to meet members of the admissions office in person. 
  2. Call the admissions office with questions. If you can’t make it to campus for a visit (which admissions counselors are very understanding of, if you live far away and the costs are too much), let them know. Use that call to ask the kinds of questions you would have otherwise asked in person. If you do visit and later find that you have follow-up questions or inquiries for particular departments or faculty members, call the admissions office anyway. If they don’t have the information you’re after, then they’ll usually be happy to connect you with the person who does.
  3. Connect with your regional representative. College websites now often have a directory that lists admissions counselors by the region that they represent. Do some online research and if you can’t find that direct contact, again, call the admissions office to request an introduction. Call or email your representative, let them know who you are and where you attend high school, let them know how you intend to apply in the fall (if you know you’re aiming for an early deadline, that’s important!), and, if you don’t have any more in-depth questions at that moment, ask how best to reach them if any further questions about the college or application come up.
  4. Join the e-newslist. Nearly every college has some sort of bulletin or newsletter that they send out periodically. Make sure your email address is in their database; it’s helpful to be in the know about what’s happening on campus, as well, for when you interview or have other direct conversations with college representatives.
  5. Follow on social media. As with the e-newslist, this is one of the easiest things for colleges to track and store in their contact log, and it’s often the best source of the most up-to-date information about the latest news.
  6. Request an interview. While the interview is considered an optional piece of the application process — more of an opportunity to get a better feel for your personality — taking the initiative is important for showing that you’re interested and serious about applying. Check out my breakdown of the different types of interview procedures, or these tips for preparing to learn more.