On Those College Visits

College Visits, School Visits, Visiting Schools
Visiting colleges is a powerful way of showing interest (photo credit: Derrick Smith).

We’re often asked, “How many colleges should we visit? Three? Six? 18?” Our answer has been the same for decades: “As many as you’d like your child to get into.” So if you want your child to get into six schools, visit those six schools. If you want your child to get into 18, visit 18. But if you don’t visit a college — and by visit we mean go on a tour and attend an information session — don’t plan on getting in. Why’s that, you ask?

If You Don’t Visit, Don’t Plan On Getting In

Just about all of America’s highly selective colleges care about interest. They want to know you’re going to attend if you’re offered admission. And why? Because they don’t want to give away admission slots to students who aren’t going to matriculate. That would only hurt their yield and, indirectly, hurt their all-important US News & World Report ranking. It’s all a part of Demonstrated Interest, a way to showcase your love for a given institution, to prove to them that you’ll go there over all other schools. The university that created Demonstrated Interest? We’d argue that would be Emory University. But it’s not like Emory is alone in caring about interest. It’s the reason the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Duke University, Columbia University, Brown University, Yale University, Northwestern University, and many other highly selective colleges ask a version of this essay prompt on their supplements: “Why this college?” They’re insecure. They want to know you’ll really come. This is one of their ways of gauging your interest. Another way? Visits.

If you don’t visit, don’t plan on earning admission — irrespective of your grades, your scores, your letters of recommendation, your essays, and what you ate for breakfast. We would argue that the only school that doesn’t care about interest would be Harvard University. And why? Harvard knows you’ll attend if offered admission. Duh.


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