How To Reach Out to a College

How do you contact a college?
I decided to write about this today because I’m helping a great young man named Tyrone in St. Louis navigate his college choices. He will be the first person in his family to attend college so I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t know how to reach out to colleges.  I’ve talked to many students with college-educated parents, by the way, who are also stumped.

Step No. 1.

The best way to initially contact a college is online. When you reach a school’s home page, you should look for the Admission or Prospective Student link.  I’m going to use Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, as example because it’s one of the schools that I recommended to Tyronne.
When Tyrone clicked on Lawrence’s Prospective Student link it took him to the school’s admission page where he found lots of information on such things as academic programs, a virtual tour, freshman profile, financial aid and scholarship information. Students should always spend time on the admission site of any school as they are gathering information and deciding if a particular school is going to be a keeper.

Step No. 2.

If you are applying to private colleges, in particular, you’re going to want to find out who the admission counselor is for your state. It’s important to get to know him or her because this is the person who will likely be the one to initially handle your application and would be the one to advocate for your admission. Obviously, you’re going to want to make a good impression.  Showing interest can also result in more merit money. Check out this post where I wrote about this phenomenon:

University Reveals the Secrets of Winning Merit Scholarships

So how do you find the appropriate counselor? Look for a Contact Us or Meet the Staff link. At Lawrence, the tab is titled Contact and Visit. When I clicked the tab, I saw the photos of 10 admission counselors along with their territories. Also on the page is a map of the US — just click on any state and the appropriate counselor’s name will appear. You can learn the background of each counselor in this section and the staffers also share their favorite admission advice.
Use your counselor as a resource, but please ask intelligent questions that illustrate that you’ve put some effort into researching a school. Don’t ask questions that are readily available on the college’s website.

Step. No. 3.

Find out if an admission officer will be visiting in your area. Fall is a huge season for admission rep visits. You can ask your admission officer after you locate him/her on the school’s website, but you can sometimes find the college’s travel schedule on its website. That was the case with Lawrence University’s travel calendar.
I was thrilled to find out that Lawrence University will be sending an admission rep to Tyrone’s high school in September as part of a college fair. Perfect! Tyrone is going to be sure to connect with the Lawrence staffer then. If you can’t visit a college, talking with a visiting admission rep and sitting through an interview is the next best thing.

Step No. 4: Connect with students.

Many colleges are now offering to connect high school students with current students by email or phone. You can often take advantage of this offer by signing up on a school’s website. One of the best ways to learn about a school is to ask the students who attend. Lawrence offers live chats with students between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of  Shrinking the Cost of College. She also writes a college blog for  CBSMoneyWatch and US News. Follow her on Twitter.


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