Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

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5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores

5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores

Student Studies in Uris Library, Cornell University

My last post, 10 College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores, turned out to be a big hit.

I even received some great suggestions for more college visit tips, including a note to tell parents that they should share these posts with their students.

Note for Juniors! The tips in both posts will help you, too. So here they are:

5 More College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores:

  1. Besides taking notes, take video so you’ll have a visual history later on.
  2. Think about splitting from your parents and taking a separate tour. You can be independent as well as safe (if that’s a concern).
  3. Ask other students questions. Don’t just hear what the tour guide and admissions office want you to hear and see (although speaking with an admissions rep is a good thing to do).
  4. If there is a student from the same high school enrolled, contact him or her and see if he or she would take you to the cafeteria, eat the food and meet and greet, and get treated like a real person.
  5. Parents – Reading your student is important. If your student isn’t ready, don’t visit. Dragging someone to a place he or she doesn’t want to be will only cause irritation all around. (Or, as a colleague of mine put it, “Leading a horse to water when he’s not thirsty will often aggravate the horse and the horse’s parents.”)

Do you have more tips for college visits? Let me know! I’ll include them in future posts.

Recommended blog posts:
10 College Visit Tips for High School Sophomores
5 Questions to Ask Students on Your College Visit

Best College Town – Ithaca, New York

Other recommended links
US News & World Report: Get a Head Start on College Visits
The Choice: Making the Most of a Campus Visit

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. Need help with essay writing, interview skills, and organizing your college search? I work with students everywhere: in-person, over the phone, Skype, and by email. Visit my website for more info. Connect with me on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.


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College Visits: Great Prep for College Application Essays

Planning to visit colleges during spring break? You’re not alone. March is the time many high school juniors (and some sophomores) start their college tours.

On these visits you’ll be looking for answers to questions like “Is this school for me?” and “Will I be happy here?” But let me give you another question to ask yourself: “What can I learn from this visit that will help me write a great college application essay?”


Here are 3 ways to make college visits work for your college application essays:

1. Make contacts

Making contacts is great for two reasons: 1. You can learn a lot from the people you talk to, and 2. You can get in touch later if you have more questions.

There are several ways to make contacts:

  • Schedule an interview for the day you’re on campus. If the school doesn’t offer interviews see if you can get an interview with a professor in a field of study that interests you. Get your contact’s name (correctly spelled) and email, and send him or her a thank-you. That way if you have more questions you can follow up knowing you’ve already made a good impression.
  • Are you an athlete? See if you can meet a coach or a student athlete. Same goes for the thank-you note.
  • Chat with your tour guide when you go on the tour. At the end ask for his or her name and email and ask if you can write if you have more questions.

2. Notice details

Details are important in college application essays. They make your essays personal and separate you from students writing essays so generic that 1,000 others could have written the same one.

When you visit each college notice what makes an impression on you. It can be anything from how you feel walking on campus to the kind of students you meet. The details don’t matter, as long as they matter to you.  Do you see a dorm you might want to live in? Find out its name. Is your tour guide a member of the student council and you think you’d like to join? Ask what her experiences have been.

The more details you collect now the more information you’ll have for your essay later.

3. Write it down:

Take a pad with you and write it down. Let me say it again: write it down. At the end of the day your note pad should have the names and emails of your contacts, and a detailed list of what you saw and liked, and why.

Why go through the trouble? Let me give you an example: A student of mine had to write a short essay about why he wanted to go to college X.  In his first draft he wrote that he went on the tour and liked the campus and dorms. It was too generic, so I asked him to find an alum or someone on campus he could talk to. He surprised me by saying that he’d hit it off with his campus tour guide and had gotten his email. So he emailed him with some questions about campus life and extra-curricular activities, and asked him more about the dorm he’d liked.  When he re-wrote his essay it was full of detail. He also made sure to mention he had corresponded with his tour guide — an impressive fact that was not going be lost on the school.

Prep for your college application essays. Use your college visits as opportunities to make contacts and gather details. The end result will be essays that are detailed, personal, and well worth the effort.