We’ve all got those words, phrases, and sentences that we use all the time. I over-use the word “apparently,” and some quick searches through this blog make me realize I apparently also over-use the phrase “all the time.” But behind the words and sentences that we repeat often are the ideas and worldviews that drive us. So this week I thought I’d explain the thoughts and motives behind some of the sentences I use most in my job as someone who writes about college admissions and advises students on their own admissions paths.
It’s summer time, and for a lot of people—especially rising seniors—that means college campus visits. Some people take time to visit colleges near them. Some incorporate campus tours into their summer family vacations. Some make campus tours the whole point of the vacation. Some…never tour a campus and do just fine. So let’s talk about visiting campuses in the summer.
Go on a practice college tour.
For many high school students, especially juniors, Spring Break is a popular time for college campus visits. I wouldn't necessarily call this "normal." Lots of students do it, yes. But lots of students don't do many--or any--visits until they're seniors and visit only schools they've already been admitted to. And plenty of students don't visit a college at all until they show up in the fall of their first year as students. What's "normal" is up to you and what you think is really best for you. While I don't recommend skipping college visits altogether, neither do I recommend going on big multi-campus trips just for the heck of it.
Here's a pop quiz for you: what's the difference between Harvard College and Harvard University? I'll answer at the bottom.
But first here's a story. A few weeks ago I was at a conference for educational consultants, in a session about demonstrated interest. One of the presenters gave an interesting example from when he was an admissions officer at a major university in the Mid-West. He said a high school student flew in from the West Coast to do an on-campus interview. That's definitely a sign of demonstrated interest. However, the student ruined it when he said in the interview that he was really excited about studying business. This particular university has a well-known business school for people getting an M.B.A., but doesn't offer business as a major in the undergraduate program. And this, the presenter said, was a negative sign of demonstrated interest. The kid says he's really interested in the school, but doesn't even know they don't offer the major he wants?
Demonstrated interest is a term you'll hear often when people talk about college admissions. It means, well, exactly what it says: you've demonstrated that you're interested in a college you've applied to.
It seems like it should be obvious that you're interested if you've applied, but that's not necessarily the case. University admissions staff know that you may have applied because you really want to be there. They know that you may have applied because it's your safety school and not actually someplace you want to be if you can help it. They know that you may have applied because your boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend applied, and you're actually kind of secretly hoping that you don't get in. They know that your family may have pressured you to apply. They know that you may actually have no idea why you applied--that happens all the time.