Yearly Archives: 2020

Make Your College Visits Count!

There’s no substitute for being there.  Well-planned college visits will reveal more useful information than its website, course catalog, statistical profile, and magazine rankings all put together.

College Visits Before and After 

There are two stages in your college admissions campaign when you should do your college visits. The first  is when you create  your college list — the schools to which you’ll apply in senior year. Ideally, your visits should begin in your junior year and continue until fall of your senior year,College just ahead when you need to prepare your applications. It’s this Before stage that we’ll focus on in this post.

The After stage comes late in senior year. It’s brief but important, if you’ve been accepted to more than one school and are unsure which school to choose. Try to re-visit the contending colleges before May 1 to make a final comparison and decision. Stay overnight if possible.

Planning for Before Visits

Successful college visits require careful planning, so we recommend that you use the same criteria in comparing colleges.

First,  do your homework and research each college that interests you. Review the school’s website, especially the course catalogue and, within it, the requirements for the majors that you’re considering. Second, although magazine rankings can’t assess the qualitative factors that matter most to you in selecting a college, they compare peer institutions in quantifiable terms. That may come in handy as a quick reference source for such metrics. In addition, search the web for recent articles in the news media about colleges of interest.

In addition to enabling you to add or delete schools from your College List, the knowledge that you gain in this process will make a positive impression on admissions officers in college interviews.  They’ll know that you’re genuinely interested in their school.

What to do During Your Visits

Make the time that you spend on campus as productive as possible. Wear comfortable shoes. Take notes and photos because you’ll usually be touring several colleges in one trip and they’ll tend to blur together. You’ll need to make arrangements for the activities below in advance.

1. Schedule an Interview: Your first task is to schedule an interview with the admissions office. This requires the most lead-time, so make the interview appointment well in advance.

2. Go on the Guided Tour: A student-led tour of the campus is a great way to begin a college visit. Schedule it with the admissions office and let them know if others will be accompanying you. Campus tours usually involve an Information session led by an administrator or faculty member after the tour.

3. Assess the Classroom Environment: During the school year, sit in on a class (with permission of the admissions office) that you would be taking as a freshman. Even in summer, there’s likely to be classes that you can attend to get a feel for the classroom environment.

4. Experience Campus Life: Nothing you do will tell you more about a college than staying in a dormitory and eating in a dining hall. If you have a choice, stay with sophomores. They know more than the current freshmen do about the school and they’re not yet as jaded as upperclassmen. If the admissions office won’t arrange a stay for you, try to make arrangements yourself if you know students at the school.

5. Learn More About Your Major: If you can do so through the admissions office, schedule meetings with a faculty member and a student in your probable major. You can use the meetings to ask questions about the curriculum and any special programs within the major.

6. View College Activities: For those students with sufficient time on campus, try to attend a campus event such as a student concert, stage performance, or sporting event to get a sense of the community.

7. Follow Your Interests: Seek permission to take your own tour of facilities that are of particular interest to you, such as concert halls, athletic facilities, science labs, art studios, and rehearsal spaces.

Also keep in mind if you visit a campus in summer when the weather is pleasant, it may be much different in winter. Consider whether the campus will appeal to you under winter conditions.

At Klaar College Consulting, we get to know you very well so that we can integrate your interests, talents, experiences, skills, preferences, and goals into your profile. This affects the advice we give you throughout your college admissions campaign, including your college road trips.

The College List is an indispensable tool for success in college admissions. This is the set of target colleges that are exceptionally well suited to you as an individual and to which you’ll apply in senior year.

A key consideration in developing your College List is the number of schools that should be on the final version. While there is no “right” number, we advise that the majority of students should apply to nine colleges. Less than nine doesn’t spread your risk sufficiently and more than nine risks dissipating your effort. If application fees are an issue, many colleges allow you to apply without paying a fee.

Set the Requirements for Your List

The first step in building your College List is to establish the criteria against which you’ll compare colleges. You choose and prioritize your own criteria to suit yourself. They may include such factors as the size of the student body, faculty-to-student ratio, affordability, core curriculum, academic reputation, majors, degrees granted, geographic location, local community, campus setting, campus amenities, social life, work-study programs, ROTC options, college abroad opportunities, and mentorship programs.

Most students weigh affordability and academic reputation most heavily.

Next, assess how well colleges match your criteria. Start with a list of all of the colleges that interest you. Assuming this is a long list, you’ll need to reduce it to a more manageable size through research. With a list of about 15 schools, you can discuss their pros and cons with guidance counselors, admissions consultants, family, friends, and students and alumni of the colleges.

Among the resources available for your research are college websites and course catalogs, shared databases like the Common Data Set (CDS), magazine rankings and the databases that support them, college guidebooks such as the Fiske Guide and Peterson’s, governmental resources like the College Scoreboard, high school guidance resources like Naviance Scatter Diagrams, and certified independent educational consultants like Klaar College Consulting.

The best way to assess the colleges still on the list is to visit them. Take campus tours, set up college visitsadmissions interviews, and meet with students and faculty in your major. Staying overnight in a dorm and interacting informally with students will yield more useful information than any other research. The positive or negative vibes you get may be strong enough for you to reexamine your entire list.

Create Three Tiers of Target Schools

 A common approach to developing a College List is to divide it into these three tiers: 1.) Colleges to which you will almost certainly be admitted, 2.) Colleges to which you will probably be admitted, and 3.) Colleges that you aspire to attend but where you have a slim chance of admission.

At Klaar College Consulting, we refer to the three tiers as Likely, Target, and Reach. They’re distinguished by their academic requirements for admission. You’ll measure your GPA, test scores, and other variables such as class rank against the comparative data for colleges; the academic records of applicants who were accepted last year.

This data is available from a range of sources, but most readily from the Common Data Set, CDS, for each college. The CDS provides substantial detail and breaks down all admissions-related data elements such as freshmen GPA and test scores into percentiles so you can see where your record would place you among previously successful applicants.

Here’s an overview of the tiers:

Likely

A Likely school is one where your academic record falls comfortably above the average GPA and test scores of the last class admitted. You should feel confident that you’ll be admitted to your three Likely schools. You should select Likely schools that you’d be happy to attend if your Target and Reach schools don’t admit you, or you decide not to attend any that do.

Target

 A Target school is one where your academic record falls at about the average level of last year’s freshmen. It’s reasonable to anticipate admission to your three Target schools. However, there’s an immeasurable risk inherent in the variability of the volume and quality of applications from year to year.

Reach

Your three Reach schools are ones that you aspire to attend and where you have at least a possibility of admission. Your academic record places you at the lower end of the average of last year’s successful applicants, but not so low as to eliminate you from consideration.

As is true in all three tiers, but especially with Reach schools, your chances of acceptance are much improved if you possess a strong non-academic hook, that is, a highly developed talent or skill that enables you to satisfy an existing need that has been identified by a college. In addition, the degree to which you demonstrate interest in attending the college is also important. Essays, extracurricular activities, and interviews are three additional non-academic ways to distinguish yourself.

Early Application Programs:  Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action and Single-Choice Early Action

The process of identifying the colleges that best fit you, and narrowing them down to three in each tier, is difficult and time-consuming. Adding to the complexity is the need to consider Early Admission programs.

Early Application programs vary widely in their terms and options. Your chance of acceptance by certain colleges is improved significantly if you participate in their Early program. If you choose to apply early to colleges, you’ll know if you were accepted before the deadline for submitting applications for the Regular Decision cycle. Obviously, you won’t need to submit any more applications if you choose to accept a binding Early Decision offer. In case your dream doesn’t come true, you should have all the other applications ready to submit when the bad news comes.

Summary

The arduous College List process is well worth the effort if it helps you to achieve the desired outcome — acceptance at one or more of your best-fit colleges. Klaar College Consulting has years of experience in assisting students in building effective College Lists. We stay well informed by following college news, attending professional association events, and interacting with fellow experts. We also attend college fairs, visit campuses, and speak with college administrators. Klaar College Consulting is your top choice for guidance in building a College List that suits your personal set of qualifications, needs, and preferences.