I mentioned last week that there are four “places” from which you can build relationships with college admissions officers, professors, alumni, and administrators.
1) College tours. Some Regional admissions reps will be willing to meet face-to-face with students. JHU, for example, has admissions officers who offer admission interviews.
2) Email. To request a meeting (if you go on a tour) or an informational phone call. You can ask your questions over email and offer them the chance to talk with you at their convenience.
3) School and regionally-based college fairs. Regional reps will show up to your local area to represent their college. Before these events, come prepared with questions and do your research ahead of time.
4) Local alumni networks. Learn about campus life by connecting with alumni in your community. This also includes alumni of your high school who may attend colleges you’re interested in.
Now, I’ll tell you about a few strategies that will work. The best strategy that will possibly get you to meet someone at the college (you don’t want to just barge in), is to write emails to make an initial connection. When corresponding with college personnel and faculty, there are a few rules of thumb:
• Follow formal letter conventions: No “text-speak.” e.g. “U” is “you.” Address the letter to Dr. or Mr. or Ms. and last name depending on the recipient.
• Time your emails strategically. You can use a college visit, college fair, conversation with your counselor, or a conversation with an alum as an excuse to email the question.
• Don’t ask a “dumb” question. While there’s no such thing as a dumb question, make sure that you don’t ask something you can easily find on the website. Otherwise, it will seem like you’re just using the question as an excuse to email.
• Once your question is answered, politely say thank you. Good manners never hurt! When you say thanks, also say that you appreciate their time and will plan to send regular updates when you have news about your progress in high school.
• Send a monthly or bi-monthly update with an update. This should be something you share about an extracurricular activity such as a new club you start (not that you’re going to start, that’s already been started), a promotion at a part-time job, an article (or group of articles you’ve written), and so forth.
• For a visit/meeting email, send about 2-3 weeks in advance. Otherwise, it might get lost, but it gives you time to follow up in case you don’t hear back the first time. If you follow up twice and don’t hear anything, let it go.
Next week, I’ll send you an email template you can use to correspond with college personnel. Of course, it will need to be adjusted to fit your style and the recipient. Until then…