Applying To College

College Essay Writing and Interview Skills

1 Comment

Applying to College: Why It’s Important to Know Your College Rep

Why Its Important to Know Your College RepThe parents of a student just called me. Their son was accepted to most of the colleges he applied to, even one of his reach schools. The problem? He was wait listed at a college they thought would be an easy acceptance and now it’s THE place he wants to go.

I was asked to read his letter of continued interest. (A letter of continued interest tells the school you still want to attend and why.) The letter was addressed “Dear Admissions Committee.”

I asked them to address the letter to their local admissions counselor. They didn’t know who that was.

So I asked if the student had interviewed when he visited.

“The school said the interview was only informational,” said his dad. “So we just took the tour and went home.”

By never contacting his admissions representative, the student missed a big opportunity.

Imagine if, in his letter, the student could have mentioned how he had enjoyed his interview or reminded the rep about something interesting they’d talked about. Instead, he hadn’t made a connection at all.

Your local college admissions counselor is the person who will read your application and recommend whether or not to accept you. This is the person who will fight for you (or not fight for you) when the admissions committee discusses your future.

Developing a relationship with your local college admissions representative is one of the easiest things you can do when you’re applying to college.


1. Attend College Fairs. If a college fair is held in your area or at your school, make plans to go.

Tips for making a good impression at a college fair:

  • Dress nicely.
  • Arrive early to avoid long lines.
  • Be mature. Go up to the admissions counselor and introduce yourself. Make eye contact and be the first to offer a handshake. Let him or her know that you’re interested in their school.
  • Be prepared with a few questions. (Do they offer the courses you’re interested in, what majors are most popular at their school, student life, athletics, etc.)
  • Ask for the representative’s business card or contact information. Go home and write a brief thank you note. You will be noticed and remembered.

2. Call or Email Your Local Rep. If you have specific questions during your application process, he or she will be glad to answer. Even if you don’t have questions, send your rep a short email saying hello and that you’re excited about the idea of attending. College reps don’t bite – they’re there to help you through all the stages of your application. Talk to them.

Tip: You can find the name of your local admissions representative on the school’s website or by calling or emailing the admissions office.

3. Schedule an On-Campus Interview. There are several different kinds of on-campus interviews:

  • Required.
  • Evaluative: These interviews aren’t required, but the thoughts and impressions of the person who interviews you will be included as part of the admissions process.
  • Non-evaluative/informational: These interviews aren’t considered in the decision-making process. They provide the school an opportunity to get to know you and answer your questions. (Occasionally, these interviews are conducted by students.)

Tip: If your local rep is busy or interviewing another student, you’ll meet with a different admissions counselor for your interview. Don’t worry — your interviewer will share his or her notes so that your local rep has all the information.


1. You Demonstrate Interest.  Sacred Heart University is a perfect example of how demonstrating interest is valuable. Christina Hamilton, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, says that while Sacred Heart doesn’t offer evaluative interviews, they strongly encourage students to interview.  She says, “We really value the demonstrated interest at Sacred Heart. We’re always encouraging students to be in touch with our staff and admission counselors. We are out in our area doing interviews or on campus hoping to be able to meet with them. The student-counselor relationship is something we definitely like to emphasize. “

2. You Put a Face to Your College Application (hopefully a smiling one).  When you can meet someone face-to-face, or send an email or a thank you note, you add a dimension to your application that isn’t already there.

3. You Give your College Rep Another Reason to Advocate for You. It takes maturity and initiative to say hello at a college fair, to pick up the phone, or to ask intelligent questions. Your rep will appreciate that when it comes time to advocate for you at the admissions table.

4. You Create a Relationship. Valuable from start to end.

So, if you’re applying to college, say hello to your college rep. Develop a relationship (don’t stalk), schedule an interview if you can, and send a thank you note. Even if you do ONE of these things you will give yourself an advantage. And if you are wait listed, you will have that relationship to draw on.

It’s good information to know.


Sharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting in Redding, Connecticut. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon lectures extensively on essay writing. Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform their goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts and email. Visit her website for more info. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.




Leave a comment

How to Talk to a Rep at a College Fair

How to talk to a rep at a college fair
If you read my last post you know how to attend a college fair.

But what do you say when you talk to a rep? Do you need to make a good impression? (Yes.)  How do you get your questions answered? (Read on.)

Here are 8 Tips for Talking to a Rep at a College Fair:

1. Introduce yourself.

  • Smile, hold out your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m _______. It’s nice to meet you.” 

2. Use this as an opportunity to develop a relationship. Colleges often give preference to students who have shown an interest in attending. The college lingo for this is “demonstrated interest.” Students can demonstrate interest in many ways, such as when they visit, take a tour, talk to a professor, attend a college fair, or get to know their college rep.

  • If you’re interested in the school, get the rep’s contact information. You can contact him or her later in the process if you have questions. It’s also possible that you’ll meet the rep at another college fair or when you visit the college, in which case you want to make sure to say hi. Developing a relationship can give you an edge when you apply, because the school will know you’re really interested.

3. Have questions ready.

  • Jot down a few questions before you go to the fair.
  • Create your questions from these categories: academics, admissions, financial aid, and housing.
  • Ask your most important questions first. If there’s a line behind you, you may not be able to ask all the questions on your list. (You can always get in touch after the fair, or come back to the table when the crowds thin out.)

4. Use these questions to jump-start your list:

  • What are your admissions requirements?
  • Do you offer early decision?
  • Do you accept advanced placement courses?
  • What is the average high school GPA of the entering class?
  • What are some of your strongest academic programs?
  • Do you offer the major(s) I’m interested in?
  • What are the most popular majors?
  • Is there an honors program? What are the requirements?
  • How many undergraduates attend  your school?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio?
  • Do professors teach undergraduates or will I have mostly teaching assistants?
  • Are faculty members easy to reach outside of class?
  • What is the total cost of attending your school for a year?
  • What kinds of scholarships are available?
  • What kind of financial aid is available?
  • What is the average financial loan package?
  • How many students receive financial aid?
  • What sports or other events are popular on campus?
  • Are there fraternities and sororities? How strong are they?
  • Is housing guaranteed? For how long?
  • What do students do in their free time?
  • What percentage of your students graduate in four years?
  • How are roommates selected?
  • What kind of support do you offer for students with special needs?

5. Don’t wait on long lines. Skip the most crowded tables. Make a note on your map to come back later, when the lines are shorter.

6. Don’t hog the rep. This tip comes from Matthew Dempsey, who is a college admissions officer at Fairfield University. Matthew says he loves answering questions, but he has a limited time to meet and talk to people at college fairs. So if you (or your family) have a lot of questions and there’s a line behind you, say hello but come back later in the fair when the rep isn’t as busy and will have more time for you.

7. Let your parents listen. Parents will often have follow-up questions for the rep, especially about financial aid.

8. Say thank you. Make a point to end the way you began: smile, shake hands, and say thank you. You’ll make a great – and memorable – impression.

Read my related post:
How to Visit a College Fair

Print out an excellent one-page list of questions:
Questions to Ask a Representative (From Montana State University)

sharon-epstein-college-essay-writing-and-interview-skillsSharon Epstein is owner of First Impressions College Consulting. A Writers Guild Award-winner and two-time Emmy Award nominee, Sharon teaches students how to master interview skills, write killer resumes, and transform goals, dreams and experiences into memorable college application essays. She works with students everywhere: in-person, by phone, Skype and email. Visit her website for more information. Connect on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter.