Admissions procedures vary greatly from college to college, so it is always a good idea to check the college website and call the admissions office at each school to gather information regarding school visits, application deadlines and application documents required. Before beginning the admissions process, however, you should gather enough information from the college website and any brochures you have requested to determine whether a school is one you would consider applying to. In general, you should reduce your list to five schools or less, before beginning to plan college visits or applying. In your list, you may want to include at least one school that may be slightly out of your reach academically or may be way too expensive, but is one that you are really interested in. This is your "reach" school. It is the one that you may need to let go of if you do not get accepted or financial aid does not work out as you hope. You should also include a "safe" school. This is the school that, if all else fails, you know you can afford and that you will be accepted. And then there should be one, two or three other schools on the list that interest you and may fall into any of the categories: "safe" schools, "reach" schools, or "somewhere in between."
If possible, it is a great idea to visit all schools on your short list. The purpose of the school visit is for you to get a "feel" for the school and gather any information that you could not get from the website or printed information.
You will want to take a tour if possible, to get a better look at the campus, where you will be spending a significant amount of your college career. The tour is often led by a student and can give you a direct insight to student life and student housing details that can be important to college choice. If you are taking a campus tour, please make sure that you wear comfortable shoes and let the office know if anyone in your party has physical limitations.
The Information Session
Many schools offer information sessions at various times. These times are often posted on the website and there may or may not be a need to make a reservation for one. The information session is a good opportunity for you to gather more detailed information about the programs available at the college and admissions procedures. There may be an opportunity for you to ask questions or to meet with various faculty and staff representatives.
Some schools will allow you to make an appointment for an individual interview. Often, the interview is simply an opportunity for you to get some one-on-one time with an admissions professional and ask all the questions you want. At more selective schools, the interview may be required and may be an opportunity for the admissions counselor to get to know you a bit better to determine if you are a good fit for the school. Here is a list of questions you may want to consider if you have an appointment with an admissions counselor.
Schools will often schedule special open house dates where they will invite students to come to campus and get to know the school. The open houses will often include the tour and information session and may include information on financial aid and specific majors. Sometimes schools will have different dates for different types of students. For instance, a school may have an open house specifically designed for Art majors or for military students, etc.
At some schools, there are special scholarship competitions scheduled on the campus. These usually occur in the fall or early winter of the applicant's senior year in high school. If your child is academically gifted or talented in a particular area, you may want to check with the college to see if they have a special scholarship competition which your child should enter. Often the school will bring these students to campus all at once and provide opportunity for them to take a tour and participate in various informational sessions while on campus for the scholarship competition.
When applying for admission to a particular school, it is important to pay attention to all deadlines and submit all required documents. Different schools may have different requirements, so when applying to more than one school, you may want to make a calendar or checklist of the deadlines for all admissions documents and deadlines.
Here are general guidelines for different admissions documents:
You will need to submit both high school and, if applicable, college transcripts.
They need to be "Official" - Sent directly from the school to college in a sealed envelope.