Often college admissions officers are spoken of in hushed tones. They are seen as uncommunicative gods on Mount Olympus with the power to make your children’s dreams come true or to relegate their application to the trash heap and destroy their lives forever.
In truth, they are wonderful human beings who really like kids and they are there to help your student put their best foot forward. It is true that they are very busy and overworked and have tough decisions to make with the thousands of applications that come in, so we need to keep that in mind. But, even so, they are approachable if we respect their time.
The first thing to understand is that your child usually has a specific admissions officer at a particular college.
Every school is a bit different in how they divide up responsibilities. Some split by region of the country, Miss Smith works with Midwestern states or Mr. Lin works with applicants from New York City. Sometimes an officer will work with specific magnet or college prep high schools, thus knowing the quality of students that emerge from that institution and understanding what an “A” means from a particularly tough chemistry teacher in that system. Sometimes students are divided alphabetically, with Mrs. Jones handling students with the last names from A – G. Usually one person deals with all homeschooled students. One person normally works with international students or handles all Chinese National applicants.
So, when your student contacts the office for the first time with questions, they need to ask to speak to their specific counselor. In order to be directed to the right person, they should succinctly describe themselves:
- A homeschooled student from San Francisco
- A student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County, Virginia
- An Expatriate living in South Africa, homeschooled
- A public schooled student from Detroit, MI
- An international applicant from China, homeschooled
Questions and calls need to be initiated by the student, not the parent.
An email or call from a student indicates interest in the college and some schools even keep track of the number of contacts (which does not mean you should try for high numbers). This is particularly important for homeschooled students in order to demonstrate that they are independent and do not fit the stereotypes of needing their parents around for every move.
The first contact is normally in the junior year as your child prepare to visit campus. November through May is incredibly busy. Try to stay away from those months.
First, visit the website and set up everything possible there (tours, info sessions, etc.). Then the student can call to identify their officer and ask specific questions such as if your student can meet with them or interview (even if the school does not usually interview students, they often like to interview homeschoolers). If so, take a resume and transcript. Your student can also get specifics on how to set up visiting a class or spending the night in the dorm. If they meet with your child personally, send a thank you note.
If you can’t visit campus and ask the questions in person, then the student can call or email. The student should ask how to improve their candidacy based on particulars such as being homeschooled or being an international applicant.
“As a homeschooled student with a nontraditional education, how can I improve my candidacy at your institution?”
- If so, how do you submit them? Email to whom? Snail mail to whom?
- Do these letters need to come from the recommender or do they want you to gather them up and submit together?
- Do they need additional documents (be prepared to tell them the ones you have in place now: transcript, school profile, transcript legend)?
Sometimes there are just very specific questions about the application itself or problems getting it submitted. Again, kids should contact their admissions officer for help. Cautions: If it is a departmental question such as how to submit an art portfolio or a music CD, contact them first before you bother admissions. If it is a financial aid question or scholarship question, contact the Financial Aid department or Scholarship committee first rather than admissions. They may redirect you to admissions, but that is the place to start.
Some smaller schools are not overloaded with applications and welcome occasional chatty update emails from kids who are really interested in attending there. You will have to judge this for yourself.
Admissions officers are wonderful folks who are interested in your student. Don’t be afraid to contact them for counsel or with questions.
Are you on our VIP List? If you would like to receive our newsletter, be the first to be notified of sales and new classes, and get special updates, click here!