Senior fall and the college search
Trim the fat and find your focus!
By Robin Noble
The myth that juniors have it hardest in high school comes crashing down on many seniors about two weeks into the fall semester.
The list of senior-year musts is big: keep taking difficult courses, maintain (or improve) grades, apply to college, stay involved and, oh yes, enjoy it all before it’s gone.
It may be hectic, but your college-bound student can push through and even enjoy his last year of high school with some prioritizing. Fall semester will offer some good college research opportunities, but at this point it’s important to be intentional and systematic. Knowing what is and isn’t essential helps. Here is our take on three last-minute opportunities:
Essential. Nothing will give your student a better feel for a university – and the impacts of its locale – than a trip and tour while classes are in session. If she’s trying to narrow her list and/or wants to schedule admissions interviews, make this a top fall priority. By now she has a better sense of what she’s looking for, and you will get your time and money’s worth from a trip. Find great tips for making the most of any college visit here.
Regional College Fairs
Non-essential but potentially beneficial. Large regional college fairs are generally held in September or early October, and by this time your senior’s list of schools is close to final. These events are zoos, and the only people doing research here should be juniors. Your senior can use them to make meaningful contacts with colleges in which she’s seriously interested. When schools on her list are represented at a fair, she should attend with the explicit purpose of introducing herself to target admission reps, and letting them know she will submit an application. Contacts like these don’t ensure special treatment but they do matter. Colleges want to extend offers to people they believe will enroll, so demonstrating interest can make a difference in competitive situations.
Visits by Deans of Admission
Attend selectively and bring substantive questions. Admission deans spend much of the fall traveling the country, visiting high schools to campaign for applications. (The higher number of applications an institution receives, the better its ratings on best-of lists.) Seniors usually must miss classes to attend, so they should go only when they are truly curious. Also, they should bring questions that cut through the sales pitch, such as: “What are your academic standards? Can you share some statistics on what students do right after graduating? Is my major of interest a strong suit at this university? How many students do internships?”
It’s good to remember that deans of admission tend to be charismatic, likeable people. If your student comes home dazzled and dying to apply to an out-of-the-blue or out-of-reach school (academically, financially or geographically), wait 24 hours and then ask some pointed questions. I’m not suggesting you douse your student’s gusto, but ask him to consider whether this school offers the fundamentals of what he is seeking, as in major interests, size, weather, affordability, culture, etc. Help him view the school through the lens of his bigger-picture goals.
If there is a theme for fall it’s this…
Stay on track. Advise your student to use fall opportunities wisely, and only as they suit her purpose of finalizing a list of schools for application.
Other recent articles by Robin Noble:
Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s new High School Parent eNews and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for a preview of what’s ahead. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow High School parents by joining our High School Parent Facebook group.