March 2011 Newsletter
To apply to a college without having visited that school is not in your best interest because you can’t get a true sense of the campus culture, the students, the academics, and the outside-the-classroom experience. Suppose that you got accepted to a school that you hadn’t visited – and worse, decided to matriculate – only to learn that Greek life is really the only social option on campus. Suppose partying takes place every weeknight, professors are inaccessible, TAs teach a number of introductory courses, and the turnout at the football games is unimpressive. Suppose the art department isn’t as strong as the college’s website led you to believe. These are aspects of a college that you could not learn from a virtual tour, and they are all valid reasons why you should visit the colleges to which you are applying.
Just as you wouldn’t buy a house without checking out the neighborhood, the quality of the public schools in the area, access to athletic facilities, parks and transportation, you wouldn’t want to commit yourself to four years at a college without giving that college a walkthrough. But there are other reasons for visiting campuses, reasons a bit less obvious. And these reasons should encourage you to visit schools before you apply.
One of these reasons is the IQ. No, not Intelligence Quotient. This IQ is the Interest Quotient. As you probably know because it may have been the first publication you looked at when you and your parents started thinking about colleges, the rankings in U.S. News & World Report hold enormous weight, not only for students deciding on which school to attend but for colleges as well. In this best-selling magazine, the colleges are competing against each other to achieve higher rankings. And they are manipulating these very rankings.
To give you an analogy, think of it like Fantasy Sports. If your team is low in the league standings because your Total Field Goals Made stat is sub par, you will search through the free agents not to find the best overall player but instead to find the kicker who has made the most field goals. Just as you may manipulate the rankings in Fantasy Football, colleges manipulate the rankings, too.
Yield falls under one of the categories (Student Selectivity) that determines the school’s ultimate annual ranking. If an admissions officer feels that if they accept you to their school, you will likely choose not to attend, then your chances for admission are greatly reduced. It only makes sense that you would not be accepted if you’re going to hurt the college’s rankings when they could instead choose to accept a candidate they know is going attend. So if you have 2400 SATs and straight As in the most competitive courses offered at your high school and you’re surprised that you didn’t get accepted to Lehigh University when you were admitted at Brown, chances are that the lack of interest you showed in Lehigh had a whole lot to do with it.
It’s important to visit a college when it’s in session, when you can see the students going about their daily routine and can get a sense of the energy that exists on campus. When you do go on your college visit, make sure that your presence is known and the best way to do this is by filling out a form in the admissions office. This is how admissions counselors track your visit and judge your level of interest, your IQ.
On your visit, make sure you do the tour, attend the info session, and, if possible, sit in on a class. Some colleges allow prospective students (typically seniors in high school) to spend an overnight, so inquire about this as well. Talk to students on their way to and from classes, have lunch in the cafeteria, take notes, and take pictures! The information that you glean from your visit will prove useful when it comes time for you to write your supplemental essay on why you want to attend that college. Specifics matter here and this will be your chance to gather information that you can’t find on a college’s website.
In the end, colleges just want to know that you love them and it’s in your best interest to give them that very confidence they crave!
Below is a video of a college tour guide and a prospective applicant discussing what you should be doing on your college visit:
What To Do on Your College Tour
Click on Picture of Video