George Lucas Educational Foundation
College Readiness

Guiding Students to Work Effectively With College Admissions Staff

Counselors can offer a variety of programs to help students and their families make the most of interactions with college admissions staff.

September 7, 2022
College tour
David A Litman / Shutterstock

Working effectively with college admissions staff is important for counselors and their students. For new counselors in the field, learning the aspects of building relationships with admissions colleagues can be very important. I personally spent more than 10 years as a recruiter. When I met with students, families, and counselors on the road, it helped provide context that was valuable when I read applications. Each student has a unique story.

The Recruiter Visit to High School Makes an Impact

As a former admissions officer, I found that recruiting in the fall was an adventure. I was always excited when I arrived at the schools, grabbed my big bag of publications, and headed to the main entrance to prepare to meet students and counselors. At some high schools, I met with students, held brief meetings with a counselor, or even presented to a high school class. Sometimes, I met students for the first time or saw them again after a college fair or campus visit.

I always remembered where I met each student and smiled when I reflected on their story. Sitting at a table with students to answer questions or giving a mini-lecture to a group was the highlight of my travel season. Meeting with counselors was always a plus because we could discuss potential applicants. I could answer questions about the college, connect with counselors, share updates about the college, and even interview students.

During the high school visit, a representative from admissions meets with students to share information about the college, discuss admissions criteria, give advice, invite students to campus, and answer questions. They want to help students with the college search process. Keep those qualities in mind and watch for them when college admissions staff are visiting your campus. These visits are great opportunities for students and counselors to make a personal connection with a member of the admissions committee.

How to Prepare for the College Rep Visit

At my high school, we can have more than 100 college representatives visit the campus throughout the fall and spring. Many of our juniors and seniors enthusiastically take advantage of these visits. Over the years, we’ve asked college representatives for feedback: “How can we make college visits more productive?”

You can prepare students for the visit by letting them know what they can expect and why this visit is important. Frequently, the visiting admissions representative will be reviewing the college applications after the student applies. Students can even ask, “Are you our regional representative? Will you be the contact person for our school?” If only one or two students attend the visit, it can essentially become an interview and a personal information session. Students can get quality time with the admissions representative and ask for a business card with their contact information so that students can send a thank-you follow-up note.

Over the years, our counseling team partnered with local grocery stores to provide water and a granola breakfast bar for the representatives. The hospitality is appreciated during their busy days.

Assist Students With Interview Preparation

“Tell me about yourself. What are your strengths? What’s the latest book you read for fun? How would your friends describe you?”

College interviews are a great way for students to personalize the process. Help your students prepare by sharing some examples of questions to ask and questions that may be asked. College Board’s BigFuture provides some potential questions to give students an idea of what to expect.

In some cases, students may interview at their high school. Students can also visit a local college and interview in person or request a Zoom interview if offered. This is a fantastic way to gain some experience and discover more about the local colleges. Interviews on campus or at the high school are usually informational and an opportunity to learn more about the college and the student.

Host College Fairs at Your High School

College fairs are an excellent way for students to see a large number of colleges at one time. Encourage students to review the list of colleges before they attend the fair to create a game plan. Walking into a room with many college representatives can be overwhelming. However, it can reduce the stress when students know what to expect and have some questions they can ask. I suggest reviewing a sample list of questions from NACAC.

The range of colleges and universities in attendance at a fair will vary. The National Association of College Admission Counseling hosts virtual fairs and in-person fairs that can include hundreds of colleges and universities.

Students, parents, and guardians can ask the college representatives questions about academic programs, the application process, the college’s academic profile and criteria, and any additional information that is important to them. Demonstrated interest, which is important to some colleges, can include speaking to the representative, filling out the information card, making a college visit, and following up with a thank you email. 

Prepare Students for the on-Campus College Visit

One of the most important steps in college search for students and families is visiting the college campus. Most schools offer virtual visits and webinars, which makes it easy to visit from the comfort of their living room. When possible, visiting the campus in person during the academic year when students are on campus is ideal. Seeing students on campus, getting a sense of the vibe on campus, visiting a classroom or residence hall room, going to the library or cafeteria to try the food, is truly an experience. Summer and weekend visits are also helpful when offered.

The visit helps students experience the college firsthand to consider fit academically, personally, financially, and socially. For first-generation students, low-income students, and students from diverse backgrounds, some colleges offer fly-in programs. These are selective programs and another way for students to experience the campus virtually or in person.

Although visiting the campus in person for a tour is best when possible, other options, including the high school visit, college fair, and local regional programs, can provide information for students and their families.

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