In my previous article, I wrote about some surefire ways to annoy admissions officers. Today, I want to look at the other side of the coin and offer some suggestions regarding the types of insightful questions you can ask admissions reps.
During your college research, it is important to look for qualities in the college that demonstrate how you and the school would be a great fit. These qualities could range from academic rigor to social life to campus culture to career prep opportunities, among others.
Think of it as a puzzle: the more pieces that fit with what you’re looking for, the higher your chances of academic success and happiness once you start college. Therefore, it’s important to thoroughly research the schools on your college list. The internet should be one of your primary research tools, especially college websites, but sometimes you just can’t find the answers to some of your questions. When this situation arises, you may find it useful to call or email the admissions office and receive responses directly from the source. Contacting the admissions office with insightful questions serves to dual purpose of actually gathering valuable info to use during your college search and showing admissions officers that you really are interested in the school. If you'd like to learn more about why that's important, I've written a whole article about demonstrated interest.
Need some inspiration? Here are some examples of the types of questions you could ask:
QUESTIONS ABOUT ACADEMICS
1. My favorite school subject is _________. How could that translate into a major at your school?
This question could be a great way to get an idea of various majors you could pursue if you’re undecided.
2. Are there different admissions requirements for different departments or majors?
It is vital to know the specific requirements for the programs you are interested in. For example, USC’s School of Engineering has two additional required essay prompts.
3. What unique programs are included in your school's curriculum?
Find out what sets a school’s curriculum apart from everyone else’s and whether that matches your expectations.
QUESTIONS ABOUT SOCIAL LIFE
4. What are some of the most popular clubs on campus?
Get a sense of where student interests lie and what social outlets the students prefer.
5. Would it be possible for me to start my own student organization? What is that process like?
If a club in which you would like to participate isn’t offered, this is one way to demonstrate interest, particularly if you want to continue an activity that you are passionate about.
QUESTIONS ABOUT CAMPUS CULTURE
6. What is the school culture like? / How would you characterize the students who come to your school?
It is impossible to know how you will adjust to college until you’re there, but try to gain a sense of how you would acclimate to a school’s atmosphere by exploring campus culture.
7. What do students enjoy most about this college?
If what students enjoy most fits with what you’re looking for, you’re probably on the right track. If not, it may be a good way to challenge your expectations and/or find other schools with a better fit.
8. What do students do for fun? Are the events mostly on campus or off campus? What were some of the biggest or most popular events on campus last year?
Discover which live performances, sporting events, social gatherings and more take place on or around campus.
QUESTIONS ABOUT ACADEMIC SUPPORT
9. What type of support is offered for freshmen?
The first year of college can be a major transition, and you want it to go as smoothly as possible.
10. Are there academic support services on campus such as tutoring and writing centers?
Seek out the assistance you need. The learning curve can be sharp in college.
11. If requested, are professors available to give individual attention to students?
Some schools require professors to hold designated open office hours, which can serve as additional learning opportunities outside of the traditional classroom/lecture hall.
QUESTIONS ABOUT CAREER READINESS
12. What do your students do just after graduating?
There are many paths students can take after college, so try to find opportunities that align with your goals.
13. What are the undergraduate opportunities for internships, research, and employment?
Seek out professional experiences that can set you up for your future plans.
14. What percentage of students find summer internships and/or jobs before graduating?
You want to get a sense of how strong the school’s career preparation programs are for undergraduates.
These are just a few of the questions you could potentially ask. Hopefully, they inspire your own original questions based on what you are looking for in a college or university. Remember to be professional and polite in your interactions with admissions representatives, and always follow up with any representatives you communicate with. A little appreciation can go a long way!
Jon G. is originally from Houston, Texas. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Harvard University and is currently one of the resident English gurus at Elite Prep Los Angeles. Nothing makes him more proud and pumped up than watching his students succeed. When it comes to hitting the books, Jon recommends starting early and studying in increments to avoid burnout. He's a huge basketball fan, loves green tea, and his favorite vocabulary word is "seditious."