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5 ways to make a great impression

Dressing up and being enthusiastic are two ways to impress a college admissions rep

5 ways to make a great impression

Admissions representatives travel the world to meet students and parents at college fairs, evening receptions and high school visits. These are all great opportunities for you to get more information about the school and to make personal connections with the admissions officers who may evaluate your application.

My college admissions colleagues tell me that though they meet hundreds, if not thousands, of students on their travels, they do remember those students who are enthusiastic, sincere and knowledgeable about their college.

Top five tips to impress a college admissions representative

1. Arrive early
After you’ve decided which colleges you’d like to get to know better, go to their Web sites and see if any representatives will be in your neighborhood. Then make it a point to be one of the first to meet the officer at the event. If you get there before the crowds, you will have the opportunity to introduce yourself and spend one-on-one time. If it’s a presentation, get a good seat in the front two rows where you can make eye contact with the admissions officer. If it’s a college fair, try to be one of the first individuals to speak with the admissions officer.

2. Dress (and behave) to impress
A Brown University admissions officer recently shared a story with me about chatting with a soft-spoken man in a suit after doing an evening presentation to 150 students. My colleague thought he was a teacher, as most students dress casually. When the young man identified himself as a prospective applicant, my colleague wrote his name down and kept it on file. The applicant’s demeanor and dress made him
so memorable that the admissions officer was very excited to review his application a few weeks later. The lesson: Dress well and speak intelligently. You’ll not only impress the admissions officer, but your classmates and teachers as well.

3. Prepare at least two thoughtful questions
Asking basic questions about a campus does not make a positive first impression. Do your research ahead of time and be prepared to ask the admissions officer questions that go above and beyond statistics that you can find in a college guidebook or on a Web site. Also, be prepared to share something interesting about you. Rest assured that unless it is a formal interview, the admissions officer is not interviewing you on the spot. Your responses can leave a great impression and make you stand out from the crowd.

Here are a few questions that you should be ready to answer:

• What are your academic interests?

• Besides location, why are you interested in this college? (Hint: “A good education” is not an impressive answer. All colleges provide “a good education” if it is the right fit and you take advantage of the school’s opportunities.)

• What do you do for fun?

• What books have you read independently (outside of school)?

• How will you get involved with the campus community?

• Be as specific and honest as possible. You will get bonus points if you mention specific professors, courses, or programs offered only at that institution. The admissions officer is, after all, trying to get to know you as well.

For your part, ask the admissions officer a few qualitative, not quantitative, questions. A quantitative question might be about an institution’s average SAT score, an answer to which you could easily find on the school’s Web site or in any college guidebook. You should know the answers to these basic questions before meeting an admissions officer.

Asking a few questions that dig deeper into the academic and social experience of being a student at that specific school will not only make a lasting impression, but it also will help you decide if that college is the right fit.

4. End the conversation on a good note
Harassing the admissions officer by dominating the conversation or monopolizing his or her time will leave a bad impression. Instead, after asking your two thoughtful, qualitative questions, end the conversation by saying, “I do have more questions, but let me give you time to meet with other students. Can I have your business card so I can keep in touch?” Be sure to say thank you and goodbye with a firm handshake. This is a good tip to share with your parents, too!

5. Send an e-mail to the rep by the end of the day
When you get home, review your notes from the day. Write the admissions officer a short thank you e-mail, mentioning a few details from your conversation. Make sure you include your first and last names, high school and the date of your conversation. This will help your admissions officer remember you.

Also use this e-mail to ask another follow-up question and make sure you convey how genuinely enthusiastic you are about the possibility of applying to their school. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a response immediately.

Remember, demonstrating sincere interest leaves a lasting impression, which may be the difference between getting in or not.

Armed with these tips, you’ll feel confident about meeting admissions officers in the next few months. Work hard this semester and remember to have fun finding the right college for you.

Kat Cohen, Ph.D., is author of The Truth About Getting In and founder of


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