When the colleges come to you

How to make the most of college admissions representative visits

When the colleges come to you

Counselors from college admissions offices are the key link between your students’ days in high school and the days after graduation. Building good relationships with them makes life easier for you and supports your students.

Small gestures go a long way with admissions officers who often travel in rental cars for days at a time, meeting students and counselors from high schools in your area. Counselors on both sides of the desk gave LINK tips on what admissions officers wish you knew before arranging their visits to your school or planning your annual college fair.


Admissions counselor visits

• Don’t ask admissions officers to stand in your cafeteria during students’ lunch periods. Some officers have said they don’t prefer these lunch visits.

“They’re never productive,” says Eric Nichols, director of admission at Saint Anselm College, who recruits in the Midwest for three weeks each year. “I’ve seen food fights. I’ve seen a lot of things. What I haven’t seen is productive conversation.”

If there’s no way to avoid these cafeteria appointments, tell admissions officers in advance. Otherwise they might not bring their table banners to your school, further reducing their visibility in your school.

• If you have to schedule a lunch visit, give the college a table in a high-traffic area outside the cafeteria. Chris Coale, assistant director of admissions at Lycoming College, says a Catholic school in Maryland sets her up at lunch in the school’s main thoroughfare. Students often stop to chat. “You are right at Broadway and 42nd Street,” Coale says. “The students can’t help but see you.” She never misses a lunchtime visit to that school.

• Make sure a school counselor talks to each admissions officer who visits, even if it’s for 10 minutes. Nichols explains that colleges like to know if AP Calculus was cut this year or if your office is measuring GPAs differently. This knowledge means the colleges can judge your students’ applications more fairly. “We don’t want to do anything to disadvantage the students,” he says.

• If your school uses Naviance college-planning software, require students to use it to set up appointments with admissions counselors who visit your school. Jeremy Goldman, head of the counseling department at Pikesville High School in suburban Baltimore, says fewer students miss their appointments since this tool was implemented.

• Arrange for a school counselor to sit in on students’ appointments with admissions representatives. Coale meets a lot of students who don’t know what to ask her if there’s not a knowledgeable adult nearby. You can prompt teens to ask about a college’s four-year graduation rate or the size of the endowment.


College fairs

• Try not to schedule your fair for a weekend.

• Provide colleges with a list of all the institutions at your fair.

• Give every college representative a water bottle or two. They talk a lot!

• Even better, give them a meal. Pikesville got catering from a local deli for about 40 college representatives who came to a fair that Jeremy Goldman, president-elect of the Maryland School Counselor Association, organized in 2013. “It only cost about $60,” says Goldman.

• Take a cue from Goldman and ask your custodians to set up rectangular tables — not round ones. Circular tables are among admissions counselors’ biggest complaints since their table banners are usually designed for tables with corners. Even worse, says Nichols of Saint Anselm, is sharing a round table with another college representative.

• Map the tables alphabetically by college so students can easily find schools. Ideally, set up rectangular tables, about 12 feet long, surrounded in all directions by at least six feet of space. This gives college representatives enough space to store extra brochures and students enough room to fill out inquiry cards comfortably.

• Walk around. Stop and talk with the counselor from that college you don’t know about. “We all have the same goal, in that we’re trying to find the perfect school for that child,” says Coale of Lycoming. “Don’t walk past a school you’ve never heard of. I could be from that perfect school.”


In general

• Before admissions officers visit, give them directions to your school. Warn them if GPS-enabled directions need more explanation. Tell them where to park.

• Offer college representatives something to eat. Even a bottle of water and a granola bar helps.

• Ask admissions representatives if they need directions to their next destination.

• Do you think an admissions office should know more about a student than the application says? Then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Nichols says admissions officers always like to hear more context about their applicants. 

Most importantly, treat those on the other side of the desk like members of your team. You’re both there to guide students toward successful futures.

Rebecca VanderMeulen has a degree in journalism from American University. 

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