This time of year, college representatives are busy visiting high schools in hopes of interesting an even larger pool of applicants each year to consider their institutions.
Students busy with classes and writing college essays may wonder if it's worth their time to go to these sessions.
Yes, say the experts.
Competitive colleges are increasingly giving weight to how much interest a student conveys in a school as part of the admissions decision, says Don Fraser, director of education and training for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, based in Arlington, Va. In the most recent NACAC survey of admissions counselors, 23 percent said "demonstrated interest" is of considerable importance when reviewing student applications.
"It's a strategy students should take advantage of," says Fraser. "If a rep came to the school and you didn't show up, it's a missed opportunity."
Sometimes it's not feasible to visit a campus, so talking with the college rep is the next best thing. Or, a student may have additional questions after visiting that a rep can answer, suggests Fraser.
Rather than asking information that's easily found on the school's website, a student should ask pointed questions about the campus climate or the personal experience of the rep's if he or she is an alum.
Colleges track who attends a session, and it can make a difference if you skip one at your own school. However, if you can't attend, drop the college an email to explain you have a class you can't miss or have another conflict but are interested, suggests Fraser.
The rep may be the person who evaluates your application, so it pays to make a personal connection. The rep might take note of students who seem highly tuned in or ask good questions. However, Fraser cautions not to overdo it. "If you go on too long about how you always wanted to go to their college, then it gets off-putting. Keep it short and sweet," he says.
Also, just as students shouldn't dismiss a college because they got a bad tour guide (which happens), Fraser reminds students not to rule out a school because they don't like the college rep's presentation. "They are human and may have had a tough day or may not be feeling well," he says. "Take this for what it's worth and don't evaluate the college based only on the rep."