College counseling corner

By Sarah Soule
It’s an extremely busy time as the end of the year approaches with final exams, SAT and ACT tests on the horizon, and summer activities looming.  But, juniors, it is now time to really engage in the process of college counseling as you begin to contemplate life after high school.
Something to consider, and one that many students are not aware of, is the term “demonstrated interest.”  This is what many colleges use as a means of interpreting each candidate’s level of awareness regarding their institution.  Students should be mindful that colleges track each time they make contact with them, be it at a college fair, an interview, a campus tour, a high school visit, or an admission reception.  Demonstrated interest plays a larger role when contemplating admission to more selective colleges and universities and is not as important if one is applying to a large public university such as Ohio State or University of Florida.
Students often ask how one makes genuine contact with admissions officers in a legitimate and significant way?  I encourage students to take the time to meet with representatives as they visit area high schools, attend the college fair, host receptions in our area, and, if offered, take advantage of alumni interviews.  Each of these can be considered a form of “demonstrated interest.”
Visit the admission section of the website for those colleges and universities and fill out the inquiry form.  For students at Vermont Commons, Rice, and CVU, it is as easy as logging on to your Naviance account and going directly to your college list and filling out the form.  The simple act of entering your address and other pertinent information, including email, will place a student in the college’s inquiry pool.  Be sure that the email you provide is one that you access with regularity.  Colleges will send email updates about open houses and various programs that you may potentially consider attending.   If appropriate, they will send a notification about when they will be coming to the area to visit local high schools.   Be sure to open the emails from the colleges and universities that you are most interested in as they do indeed track if you are opening your messages!
Think about “liking” the college or university on Facebook as a means of following their activities.  It is a great way to record what is going on campus, too.  This is just one more way for a student to demonstrate that they are interested in learning more about a specific college or university.
If convenience and scheduling allows, a visit to the college will give you an opportunity to see the campus and meet students.  The most important thing to take away from visiting any college or university is to know if it is the right fit for you as based on your personal interests and criteria you’ve selected when creating a college list.   Please note that many students are unable to visit all of the colleges on their list due to time and geographical constraints.  Admission officers know that it is not possible for each candidate to visit, therefore it is important that if you are unable to get to the campus, that you should, whenever possible, take advantage of a regional interview, a high school visit, or a college fair to make contact with an admission representative.
Students often ask about the interview and many colleges host them in the admission office or do them while traveling.  A regional interview is especially helpful to a student who might not be able to visit a campus located at a great distance.  Current juniors should be looking ahead to the possibility of scheduling interviews this summer and into the fall of their senior year.   Taking advantage of an admission interview, if the college offers them, is another form of demonstrated interest.
After a student applies for admission, a student is given access to an online portal whereby students can access their application and current status.   Admissions officers note how often applicants access their portals!
The Common Application has greatly eased the college process for students by streamlining it tremendously, but it also enables students to have the application potentially be their first contact with an institution.  Therefore it is vital that students make an effort to reach out to admission officers to demonstrate their interest by showing a level of curiosity in the college.  So juniors, please take advantage of the tips offered here as you embark on your college search process in earnest. Good luck!
Sarah Soule is the Director of College Counseling at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington.  She has been quoted in the Princeton Review’s book The Portable Guidance Counselor and recently appeared on FOX 44.  She has 31 years of experience in the field of college and independent school admissions.  She works individually with students advising them on the college admission process.

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