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What Colleges Look For

How To Interact With Your College Admissions Officer

Picture of Megan Carlier
By Megan Carlier on November, 13 2018 | 3 minute read

Chances are, if you're applying to college or just starting your search, you'll have the opportunity to interact with an admissions officer. And you definitely should. Many colleges track something called demonstrated interestand these interactions are some of the best ways to show your initial interest in a college or university.

So, just how should you speak to this mythical figure, also known as an admissions officer

Here are some helpful tips for students on how to handle interactions: 

In Person

You may meet a counselor at a college fair, when one visits your high school, or even at your first (or second) admissions interview. Remember: they're human beings, probably a lot closer in age to you than you think, and they genuinely love students and the school they represent. Make sure you show them your interest and treat them well. Here's how:

  • Start by introducing yourself (it’s less common than you’d think!).

  • If you're going to ask a question, think of a question that you're genuinely curious about and consider going deeper than the information you can find on the internet or in their brochures. You have the advantage of speaking to someone who went to and/or works for the school. Ask them about the campus vibe, what type of student does well there, what they like best about the school, or anything that's important to you that you might not be able to find online.

  • Fill out the inquiry cards (please write legibly!) so they can remember that you stopped by and mark the field,  "demonstrated interest."

  • Read the room. It may seem mature to initiate a handshake when you introduce yourself at a college fair, but if the counselor has their hands behind their back or in their pockets, they may be trying to send a message. Their lives are full of travel and shaking many hands, and sometimes counselors prefer to not shake hands if they're sick or trying to avoid getting sick. Do what feels right to you, but don’t ignore their body language.

Via Email

  • Start with a clear and concise Subject Line. Sound like the intelligent and fun human being that you are!

  • Greet the counselor and be polite—simply say "hello", "please", and "thank you". Remember all of those manners your parents taught you when you were growing up? They still apply today! While an email can seem detached, there is a human answering on the other side of the computer.

  • Write in full sentences, not text lingo. (Example: “U r school is gr8” is not the best thing to write here!)

  • Put your full legal name in your email signature along with your birthdate, email address, and phone number. This way, they can determine which "Mary Jane" you are out of the other hundred "Mary Janes" who applied.

Via Phone

  • If you have a call scheduled with a counselor, make sure you're in a quiet place with good reception.
  • Answer clearly and confidently.

  • You can expect to get calls from schools once you get on mailing lists—especially once you start applying. Consider not answering unknown numbers when you are in a loud setting where you cannot clearly hear and respond to the person on the other end. Let it go to voicemail (and use the voicemail tips in the next two bullets!).

  • If you miss their call: make sure you don’t have a full inbox and that you have an appropriate voicemail greeting set up.

  • Check your voicemails regularly and respond in a timely manner.

Some of these tips may seem obvious, but as a past admissions officer, I've witnessed many students who don’t take these small steps...and they can make a big difference. And don’t be afraid to work with your admissions officers—they're there to help!

Tips For Parents

Armed with the tips above, please encourage your students to interact with counselors thoughtfully, and again, with confidence. You are involved in the process, but your student should the primary contact and communicator. They're the ones going off to college, and they're the ones the admission counselors want to get to know.

Curious about first steps in the college admissions process?
Have general questions? A Collegewise admissions counselor can help! 

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