I just spent my first week on the road representing W&M at college fairs in southwest Virginia. After the first two days in my new office, I quickly realized that this job as Assistant Dean requires much more knowledge than a deep love for one’s Alma Mater. Before I packed up my car with hundreds of brochures and handouts, I spent several days researching statistics, correct admission criteria and prepping to best respond to prospective students’ common questions. Just as I realized my position as a college admission counselor requires dedicated preparation and research to present the most current information, I also recognized the importance of prospective students conducting their own research on colleges and universities. Here are a few suggestions I acquired throughout my week as a traveling Dean.
1) Try to avoid asking basic questions at the college fair by visiting the schools’ sites before the fair. Find out the location, size, type of programs offered, and whether or not it is public or private. If that is not possible, take a few seconds to read the basic literature while the counselor is talking with another student, and then pose your question.
2) When visiting the websites, attempt to dive deeper than simply the admission criteria. Visit the student organization homepages, read through the information in departmental websites of different majors you might find interesting, and browse through the online course catalog to get a feel of what courses are actually offered.
3) Take the time to pose questions to yourself before you approach the table. With hundreds of students passing by each hour, your actual face time with the admissions counselor might be limited. Think of specific questions you want to ask regarding academics, student life, etc, before you even arrive at the fair.
4) Some questions that are very helpful to ask in your college search might be:
“What percentage of classes are taught by graduate assistants or teaching assistants?”
“Is your school considered a residential campus? What is the percentage of students who stay on campus on the weekends?”
“What percentage of undergraduates conduct research with professors?”
“What type of activities, concerts, shows occur on campus each year?”
5) After visiting 30 or more tables, the information may begin to run together in your head. Write down the answers so that you can use them later in your decision process.
Remember, we are there to provide you with information about our schools specific to your interests, but we will not be sure of what you seek to know unless you are clear with your questions. Doing your homework on the schools before you arrive at the fair, as well as preparing questions ahead of time, will insure that we tell you the facts that are the most helpful to you in your next few months of college applications!
– Amanda Norris