Now that college acceptance letters have mostly arrived, the need to decide from among various admission offers is becoming a reality—a reality with a May 1 deadline.
Assuming you’ve received the decisions you were hoping for, the fun part of the admission process can really begin. And that’s visiting campus as an admitted student.
This is an opportunity to be treated as royalty by colleges hoping to earn your business.
Even Stanford University, which hardly needs to do much recruitment, advertises its “Admit Weekend” as a chance to, “Meet our students, talk to our professors, walk beneath the palms.” And further south, Harvey Mudd invites its ‘admits’ to, “Check out everything from lab facilities and libraries to what Harvey Mudd College students do for fun.”
Even though “admitted” student events are sometimes confused with those targeted to “prospective” students, the recruitment objectives are entirely different. With an offer of admission in your pocket, you are free to be a more discerning consumer and ask very direct questions about what life is like on campus while examining in some detail the kinds of opportunities you can expect as an undergraduate.
Without being too obnoxious, you can drop the inhibitions of someone hoping to be accepted and assume the position of a comparison shopper.
Although anxious that admitted students will say “yes” to their offers, colleges want to make sure you are comfortable with the important decision that is at hand. It’s up to you to look beneath all the intense marketing and use the weeks before May 1 to compile whatever information you need to make an informed decision.
One of the best ways to do this is by visiting as an admitted student. And here are seven huge reasons why:
1. Your POV has changed. You are no longer hoping a college will look favorably on your application. As an admitted student, you can feel free to fall in love without the pressure of uncertainty weighing you down. And with all the excitement of knowing, ‘Hey this school wants me,” you can focus on the things that matter most to you and try to imagine yourself living and learning on campus. Your new point of view should provide you with an ability to explore with a new set of eyes and to invest all the emotional commitment you want into ensuring you make the right choice about how you want to spend the next four years.
2. You’ll meet other accepted students. During these events, you will be surrounded by students who have already made the decision to attend as well as by those who are still weighing their options. You’ll be among those who will potentially be your peers, your friends, and possibly your future roommate. While you may have made some acquaintances through Facebook or other social media, it helps to test your fit among the kinds of students with whom you may be living in the not-too-distant future.
3. You can ask ‘hard’ questions. Now is the time to kick the tires a little. Drill deeper into departments and programs and make sure you understand everything about the offer you’ve been made, from living arrangements to financial aid. If undergraduate research is important to your long term goals, make sure there is some reality in the claims made and talk to professors. If you need accommodations, visit the appropriate offices and check out the availability of as well as staffing for these services. Look for additional charges and fees that may not have been obvious. There shouldn’t be any surprises down the road, and it’s up to you to push for full disclosure on issues of importance to you.
4. You get idea of what it’s like to be a student. If possible, try to arrange for an overnight in a freshman residence hall. Many admitted student weekends have overnights built in, and these are terrific opportunities to get a feel for undergraduate living. Pay attention to clues provided by interactions among students and engage in conversations whenever possible. Have a meal or two in the dining hall, visit some classes, check out campus activities and try to experience—to the extent possible—day-to-day life on campus.
5. You can investigate the surrounding community. Take this opportunity to do a little leisurely exploring beyond campus walls, especially if your first visit was hurried or limited to a scripted tour of grounds. In addition to entertainment, look for the cultural climate and check for signs of town/gown relationships. Discover places off campus to work, volunteer or otherwise take a break from the intensity of college life.
6. You begin the transition. The transition from high school to college can be challenging for students and their families. In many ways, the groundwork has already been laid for stepping into your new life and this visit can serve to officially launch your transition to undergrad. Find out what kinds of programs the college has put in place to support your success and ask what you need to do in the next few months to get prepared. Learn what factors go into making a smooth transition including everything from roommate assignments and course selection to freshman orientation and move-in day. You may be surprised to find the transition to college has already begun.
7. You’ll have some fun. Enjoy being king or queen for a day and having a series of college administrators make a pitch for enrollment. Admitted student weekends are fun—the campus will never look better. But try to make sure you leave campus with a clear idea of what your decision will be. For better or worse, May 1 will be here before you know it!