After you have developed a list of colleges that meet your criteria, it's time to consider visits and interviews. Often campus visits help to illuminate the type of environment that will best suit a student. If you are having a difficult time choosing between a large, urban university and the more intimate atmosphere of a small liberal arts college - visit both. If you are uncertain about the advantages of a women's college, or an urban setting verses a rural one - visit one of each type. Due to the time and expense of visiting colleges some distance from home, consider making your initial visits to colleges in your area to help you determine the "type" of college you seek.
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Call or write the admissions office as soon as you can to make arrangements because schedules fill up fast. Although catalogs, viewbooks, and college web sites introduce you to a college, nothing equals the experience of seeing it for yourself. Planning to visit during a family vacation is fine, but be aware that the best time to see a college is when students are on campus and classes are in session.

Once you have established your short list (4-8 colleges) you may want to arrange an overnight visit. Some colleges sponsor prospective student programs where the admissions office makes all the arrangements. You might arrive at noon, for example, take an afternoon tour, eat dinner in a dining room, and participate in a social, cultural, athletic, or other campus activity in the evening. The next day, you might attend class, stroll around campus, chat with students, talk to faculty, eat lunch with students, and have your interview.

Read the campus newspaper, bulletin boards, and posters during your visit to get a flavor of student activities and concerns. Ask students for their opinions of the college, its housing activities, academics, and faculty, but realize that student opinions vary widely.

Carry a notebook and make detailed notes on your impressions to help you recall important information. It's amazing how college visits seem to fade together after a period of time passes.

The admissions interview is changing in importance. Although most colleges still grant interviews, very few require them, and many do not consider them in their decisions because they are swamped with applications and cannot interview everyone.

Some colleges have replaced interviews with group information sessions, which may include campus tours for small groups of applicants and their parents. In some cases, college alumni who live near a prospective student may be available to discuss the college and answer questions. It is a good idea to take advantage of whatever opportunities exist for contact with the college. It shows initiative and interest.

If you are interested in a college that does not require an interview, you may want to consider an interview if you feel your application does not convey your real strengths, if you need to explain something that affected your grades in high school, such as a bout with mononucleosis, a family divorce, or a driving need to master a tough subject, or if you simply want to personalize your application. Your may also benefit from an interview if you are a "borderline student" with an application in the "gray area" - provided you have something meaningful to say.

To get the most of an interview, follow these suggestions:
  • Before the interview, develop specific questions about the college's programs, facilities, and any other topic important to you but not covered in materials you have received.
  • Rehearse answers to questions about your test scores, grades, courses, extracurricular activities or employment, your goals, how you spent your summers, and, most importantly, why you are interested in the college.
  • Be prepared to take some initiative, to mention those things you want to emphasize.
  • Be on time, neatly dressed and well groomed. If you must be late, be sure to call ahead.
  • Answer questions to the best of your ability, but don't be afraid to admit you don't know something.
  • Be yourself. Remember that you are seeking clues as to whether the college meets your needs.

Don't forget to carry your half of the conversation. Do so with enthusiasm, and if your parents are present, ask them to stay in the background. After all, it's you who will be actually attending college, so it's your responsibility to convey your interests and abilities to the admissions office. You'll probably be nervous, but try to relax. Be confident that by preparing well, you have set the stage for an enjoyable and informative interview.

From College Times newspaper, published by The College Board


When you contact the admissions office ask for written confirmation of your arrangements. You might request:

  • A tour of the grounds and facilities

  • A meal in a college dining facility.

  • A tour of a dorm or two.

  • The names and locations of popular coffee shops or snack bars.

  • Permission to visit a particular class, or to meet with a certain professor or coach.

  • An interview or brief meeting with an admissions counselor.

  • Parents may find a meeting with the financial aid office helpful.
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