Advanced Admissions: What seniors can do now to get in next April

Most seniors think their job is to find the schools they want to apply to over the next month or two. The more ambitious ones might also be writing application essays. And they’re right. But what most aren’t doing is something of a secret in admissions counseling. The term “demonstrated interest” gets tossed around in articles on admissions trends, but there is very little concrete advice on what it is and how to do it.

If you’re not familiar with demonstrated interest, it describes a student’s efforts to show that a school is at the top of his or her list. Admissions officers gauge interest in an attempt to predict who will attend if admitted.

I asked two leading college counselors, Marilyn Emerson and Howard Verman , for their advice on how best to demonstrate interest. Marilyn prefaced her list with an important distinction: the applicant, rather than a parent, must be the one showing the interest. Phone calls and emails from parents can actually hurt your chances for admission at some selective schools.

Here are their ideas:
• Visit the college if possible. It shows you’ve invested the time to check out the campus. While there, take the tour, arrange to sit in on a class, and talk with students. If you’re interested in majoring in a specific department, arrange to meet with a professor or students pursuing the major and ask questions.
• Request an on-campus interview if the college offers one, or connect with an alumnus in your area. Prepare for the interview by learning about the school and thinking about what you want the interviewer to know about you. This shows initiative, even if the interview never takes place.
• If you cannot get to the school, arrange to visit with the college admissions staff at a local or national college fair. You can check out national college fairs at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling website, www .nacacnet.org.
• Identify the Regional Admissions Officer at each college on your list. This is the person responsible for applications from your part of the country. Get to know this person through both email and phone conversations. Ask this person to help you decide if the school is a good fit.
• Let the college know if it is your first choice or a top choice.
• Attend a prospective student day.
• Participate in online chats through the admissions department.
• Email well thought-out questions and spend time on the college’s website on a regular basis. Colleges keep track of how often you contact them and visit the site.
• Respond to recruiting emails or correspondence.
• Attend a college fair or a college reception.
• Meet with the admissions officer who visits your high school or local area.
• Develop a relationship with someone at the college or university.
• Answer the “why you want to attend” question on your application as thoughtfully and thoroughly as possible.
• Once you’ve sent in your application, check back with the admissions office to make sure they have everything they need and that your application is complete.

Marilyn offers a final word of caution: “college admissions officers are usually very skilled at reading students, so do not think of this process as a game and try to fake your interest.”

Howard Verman is a senior associate with Strategies For College, Inc., a Vermont corporation specializing in college selection, admissions, and financial aid counseling with offices in Shelburne, VT, Montpelier, VT, West Lebanon, NH, and Canton, MA. He can be contacted at (802) 985-8700 or through www.strategiesforcollege.com.
Marilyn Emerson is the President of College Planning Services, Inc. She specializes in college and graduate admission counseling. She has offices in Chappaqua and New York City and can be reached at mgse@collplan.com.

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