Here are a few of the most common questions you may have about getting into college.
Q: I got a letter from a college. Does that mean I can get in?
Colleges purchase student data from The College Board, ACT and other organizations, but they use it relatively generically. For instance, a college might purchase thousands of names and addresses of students with test scores within a certain range and send one communication to everyone.
These “search” letters and e-mails are meant to capture your attention and encourage you to learn more about the college; they are not an implicit offer of admission. Only a thorough review of your application will result in a decision.
Q: Why do these people keep e-mailing me, even though I haven’t responded?
This is marketing, pure and simple. A “non-respondent” isn’t necessarily uninterested. Sometimes people need to get a message multiple times before they pay attention to it.
Colleges want as many “inquiries”—students who express interest in them—as possible to help ensure a strong applicant pool, so they’ll reach out to you multiple times in hopes of getting a response at some point. And sometimes, the third or fourth notice really might help you consider a college you might otherwise pass up!
Q: I can do all of my research on the Internet—why do I need to go to a college fair?
The student who submits an application without any recorded contact with a college can present a unique challenge to the admissions committee. When spaces in a class are at a premium, colleges want to ensure that they are offering admission to students who are most likely to accept those offers.
One of the ways colleges try to judge that likelihood is by tracking students who have visited campus or met with admissions officers at high school visits, college fairs or area receptions.
You may have done extensive research on your own by reading the college’s Web site, talking to alumni, or even visiting a campus without giving your information to the
visitor center. But if the review committee has no way of knowing that, an applicant who may otherwise be qualified can find himself on a waitlist, while applicants who have demonstrated their interest may be offered admission.
Q: I know everything for my application was sent, but now the college is telling me something’s missing. What went wrong?
One of two things has happened. If the college’s system is set to automatically send out a notice of missing credentials a certain number of days after an application is received, that notice and your credentials may simply have crossed in the mail. Call the admissions office and ask for confirmation that the materials have been received.
Remember, colleges manage tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of pieces of information during the application process. Recording and filing them can take weeks.
If you have reason to believe the materials did arrive in the admissions office, the most likely explanation is that it has been lost or misfiled. Don’t disregard this notice until you have verified that your application is complete.
Call and ask someone to physically review your file (as opposed to just checking to see what is marked in the database). If the information cannot be found, send it again.
This is a fairly common occurrence, and there is generally no need for concern. As long as your application was received by the deadline and the missing information is replaced in a timely manner, there should be no negative impact.
Q: My counselor has done so much for me. How can I possibly show my appreciation?
So glad you asked! Start by nominating them for Next Step Magazine’s Super Counselor contest, nextSTEPmag.com/SuperCounselor.
Carol E. Wasden is director of college counseling at The Hockaday School in Texas and former associate director of admissions at Boston University.