How to Make the Most Out of College Visits to Your High School
By Stacey Milton
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been visiting high schools in my region to meet with students who are interested in learning more about Boston University. My colleagues are doing the same thing around the country, and around the globe. We generally spend 30 minutes to an hour meeting with students and counselors, explaining the application process, discussing academic programs and answering questions. Despite the hectic days of navigating traffic in semi-unfamiliar places, frequent stops at Starbucks and the perpetual challenge of finding a school’s main entrance, I truly enjoy this process and look forward to meeting students in their element. I know my colleagues feel the same way.
As I am in my sixth year visiting students in my region, I’ve noticed some trends in the questions that are asked, as well as the way students approach college visits in general. Some trends are good, some are not so good. So, I thought I’d provide a little insight—and advice—regarding how to make the most out of college visits to your high schools. These tips can also be applied to other forums where you might be meeting with college representatives.
Ask questions. While I absolutely love to hear myself talk, meeting with students who are interested in BU tends to be much more engaging for everyone if the students I meet with actually seem interested. This is your opportunity to get some face time with me and, believe it or not, I remember the students who are most alert, attentive, and engaged during my visits. Additionally, I have a hard time believing that there isn’t at least one thing you’d like to know more about. Most likely, your peers have similar questions. Be brave and speak up!
Ask relevant questions. There are no stupid questions. Some questions, however, are better than others. Questions like “How is your psychology program?” or one of my favorites, “What can you tell me about BU?” (do you have three hours to listen to that answer?), are too broad and aren’t going to help you learn much more about a place. Think about what matters to you with regard to your college experience. Is it access to undergraduate research? Internship opportunities? Unique electives or interdisciplinary majors? Ask targeted questions related to the topics most important to you to help you better understand the University.
Come with a pen (or pencil). Sound kind of basic? I think so, too. Still, bring a writing utensil to a college visit. Most college reps will ask you to complete an information card and, in most cases, doing this allows a college or university to track that you took the time to come and meet with them—a good thing, since it demonstrates interest. Interested students are interesting to us.
Refrain from telling a college rep that their school is your “safety.” I recently had a student tell me that BU was her “safety” school, and that she knew she could get in. She then went on to tell me everything she knew about BU (not all of which was accurate). Needless to say, this is not the best way to make a strong first impression with a university. And who knows, you might need that “safety” after all!
Be an active listener and pay attention. If I’ve spent five minutes talking about study abroad, and a student asks me if we have study abroad opportunities, I’m a little befuddled. It’s one thing to ask for a clarification—“you talked about the ways students can double major, but I’m unclear about exactly how that works”—as this is different from asking about something I’ve already gone into great detail about. Plus, your peers might snicker at you, because they were paying attention and heard it the first time.