College Myth: I Shouldn’t Reach out to a College Until I’m Ready to Apply

Many students assume they’ll reach out to a college during the application process, but this shouldn’t necessarily be the case.

In fact, contacting a college before you apply can have advantages.

Contacting a college before applying could actually improve your admissions chances

You can reach out to a college whenever you want!

Gates at Harvard University. Photo via Flickr.

Reaching out to a college as a prospective student shows you’re actively interested. Colleges seek to admit students who show interest because they’re more likely to enroll, and statistically, this conversion from applicant to admitted student to enrolled student is an important one for colleges.

Some colleges will factor in your interest level when they decide whether you’ll be admitted. Consider the following example: Sue and Rob are very similar students on paper, they have both taken rigorous, college prep courses and have similar, equally acceptable GPA’s. They have roughly the same number of extracurricular activities and leadership positions. How does an admission officer decide who to take if there isn’t room for both students? There are a number of variables that could be considered including potential major (does one major have more room than another?), special skill (you play the bassoon and the orchestra is desperately in need of a bassoonist), legacy (one or both of your parents are alumni of this college), etc.

If you reach out, you’re demonstrating interest

One of the factors the school may include in the evaluation of your admission application is your “demonstrated interest”. Did you meet with the counselor who came to your high school? What about registering as a prospective student on the college’s website? Did you visit the campus? Did you join an online admissions chat?  Participating in these types of activities with colleges lets them know that you are serious about attending their school.

A college that first hears from you when they receive your application might be left to think that they are simply a safety school or that your just not all that interested in attending there. In deciding to whom they should offer a limited number of spots, they may forgo you for someone who has shown a more genuine interest in enrolling if admitted.

So, contacting a college can actually improve your admissions chances, especially for a college that’s one of your top choices.

Talk to colleges to see if they’re a good fit

Communicating with colleges early in the game can also help you decide where you should apply. Researching colleges online is a great way to narrow down your choices–but seeing what colleges have to say about themselves can also be extremely helpful.

Registering as a prospective student may give you access to helpful resources and put you in contact with campus staff. Some colleges offer programs like chats with admissions officials or current students. These can help you clear up any questions you may have.

While this may be great and helpful, it is important to keep in mind that these people are trying to sell you on their school. So, be sure to do your own research.

Reaching out to a college isn’t a commitment to attend–or even apply to–a certain college. You do not need to do everything possible to show your interest, and your interest should be genuine. Use communication with colleges as a way to help you get to know schools better and decide which colleges are your best fit.

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