10 Things to Keep in Mind When an Admissions Officer Visits Your High School

I was dropping off my kids at school last week and instead of heading home right away, I headed down the hall to the school bookstore to try to find a size 3 uniform for my tiny, petite kindergartner—she takes after me instead of my tall husband, of course.

While my kids are not old enough for the college process just yet, I had a moment of nostalgia as I overheard the morning announcements at their school which goes all the way up to 12th grade: Providence College, Elizabethtown College, and Middlebury College will have admissions representatives visiting today in the College Counseling Office. It brought back so many memories.

Before I was a dean of admissions. Before I was a director of college counseling at a high school. Before I started AdmissionsRevolution.com, SaraHarberson.com, and Application Nation, I was an entry-level admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania who traveled more weeks in the year than I care to admit. It wasn't glamorous—far from it. But it was an enlightening and inspiring time in my life.
 
I grew up in a family that never traveled. My dad worked non-stop (now I know where I get this trait from!) and my mom worked full-time to get us through some very lean years. But working as an admissions officer took me out of my comfort zone. If you're not familiar with this lifestyle, indulge me for a moment.
 
Admissions officers travel from Labor Day to November 1st (or later) before picking up their travel schedule once again in the spring. They live out of a suitcase and warn their friends and family to just not expect anything from them while they're traveling. Why? Because they spend their days going from high school to high school in their region for eight weeks (or more) straight. It is their time to connect with college counselors, and most importantly, meet up with prospective applicants.
 
But how important are these visits to students? Here is everything you need to know:

1. If a college factors in "demonstrated interest," attending one of these sessions is a way to show a college that you care.
 
2. Even if demonstrated interest isn't factored into the admissions process, it's a chance to possibly introduce yourself to the admissions officer reading your application!
 
3. Seniors are more important to admissions officers, but juniors can get a head start on the process by attending a session.
 
4. If you have an important class you don't want to miss (or can't miss!), send an email in advance to the admissions officer letting them know that you would love to attend the session but a quiz, test, or simply, AP Physics is calling your name. They will completely understand, and just like that, you're on their radar!
 
5. Introduce yourself to the admissions officer before or after the session if you're planning to apply and mention something really positive about yourself that will help them remember you.
One of my favorite students of all-time offered to walk me out of his high school at the end of my session and mentioned that his favorite bagel shop was just a block away. By the way, it worked. He got admitted to Penn, and I count him as a dear friend of mine almost two decades later. 


6. Don't try to dominate the presentation. In other words, asking a question is fine. But make sure it's a question that suggests the depth of your interest in the institution. Questions about the food on campus or whether you can have a car freshman year are not what an admissions officer wants to be asked about.
 
7. Just bring your pen or pencil in case you have to fill out an informational card. This is not a time to give an admissions officer a resume or your transcript. 
 
8. If you view this session as an opportunity to learn something new, even if it's small, then you have gotten something out of it.
 
9. As much as there will be other students in attendance, focus less on them and more on you. Not everyone who attends the session will apply.

"Focus on yourself when an admissions officer visits your high school. Not everyone who attends the session will apply to that particular college." TWEET THIS

10. High school visits are a chance for the admissions officer to get a better sense of you and your school. Be on your best behavior because how you and your classmates behave sets the stage for how you and your high school will be judged. 
 
So, that day when I went to visit the school store, I was reminded of how important those visits were for me when I was an admissions officer and for the students who took the time to listen to my canned speech. At every high school, I got something priceless out of my visit. I hope you will as well.