“I’ll visit the campus if I’m admitted. Visiting takes too much time; besides, I’ll probably just go to the top school that admits me.”
For students who have the means to travel, but who plan to give more weight to rankings than personal fit in their final college choice, skipping exploratory college visits might represent a reasoned admissions strategy.
“After all,” they surmise, “wouldn’t it be a waste of time to explore a college in person before you even know if you will receive an offer of admission?”
No, for so many reasons that have nothing to do with rankings. But regardless of how you plan to select among any of your admission offers, a preliminary college visit can affect whether or not that offer is even made.
To put yourself in the best position possible as a candidate for admission, visit the campus before you submit your application. Here are three times you’ll be glad you did:
1. When the school tracks demonstrated interest
Many schools track demonstrated interest in the hopes of increasing their yield (the percentage of students offered admission who enroll). Since schools only want to admit students who will accept their offer, they use big data to gauge your enrollment intentions; a visit to campus will help you signal your intentions to enroll (if admitted) more convincingly.
Beyond the admissions presentation and campus tour, your visit provides additional opportunities to demonstrate interest, such as introducing yourself to your regional admissions representative (that’s the person who will manage your application) or setting up an on-campus interview. The more communication you initiate, the greater your level of interest and your likelihood of accepting an offer of admission (according to the enrollment management software that will be tracking it); therefore, the greater your chances of receiving one.
2. When the essay prompt is: “Why Us?”
Supplemental essays provide a college with more information about you. The most common supplemental essay prompt is some version of “Why Us?”
- How did you first learn about Vassar and what aspects of our college do you find appealing?
- What are the unique qualities of Northwestern that make you want to attend?
- What excites you about attending Notre Dame?
- Please discuss why you consider Duke to be a good match for you
If you have visited campus you will be able to enhance any “Why Us?” essays with references to your own live experiences. Your genuine, specific observations or anecdotes will help you make more concrete connections between what you are looking for and what the college offers, resulting in a better supplemental essay. Better essays increase your odds of admission.
3. When you are placed on the waitlist
Students who receive a waitlist spot each spring in lieu of an offer usually have to move on — the chances of that changing to an offer of admission are usually slim.
But if this happens to you at a school you still very much want to attend, you can ask for further consideration. You’ll strengthen your position if you can point to continued academic success, recent achievements, and the school’s place as your top choice. While you are making your case — and making it clear that you will attend if admitted — think about how much more believable you will be if you can mention your campus visit…
Colleges certainly understand when expenses and long distance prevent students from coming to campus before they apply. But if you can manage to get there on a weekend or school holiday, consider how you may increase your admission possibilities by scheduling a visit before you apply.