When you investigate colleges, it is not always possible to visit the campuses before applying. A helpful way of finding out more information is to send for view books, brochures, videos, and other information about the colleges you are interested in. An even better way is to visit any of the national and regional college fairs or to meet individually with a visiting college representative.
College fairs are meetings conducted by a consortium or group of colleges, usually held in a large hall or auditorium, often on local college or high school campuses. Each school has a booth with material from the college or university and a representative on hand to answer any questions you have. You can also get on the mailing list of a college you are considering and can ask them to send you an application when they are available for the year you plan to apply. These fairs can range from 30 or 40 colleges to over 200 booths at some of the national fairs.
Often individual colleges will hold information evenings or open houses on their campuses and invite prospective students to spend the day or go to an evening reception. Sometimes larger and/or more selective colleges will send representatives all over the country and offer information evenings in local hotels, community centers, or at local high schools. They will show a slide show or film and conduct question-and-answer sessions. Always listen to the PA announcements, check the SVHS website, and read the class newsletter and daily bulletin – these events are well publicized by SVHS!
To find out when the big national and regional college fairs will be near you, go to www.nacac.com and www.wacac.org or refer to SVHS’s Daily Announcements and your note bene newsletter. Other groups of colleges who are related in some way (e.g., the Jesuit colleges, the Ivy League, etc.) put together college fairs as well. You can check the internet homepages of the colleges you are interested in and find information about their participation in any fairs.
When you get to a fair or reception or are able to meet individually with a rep, what sort of questions should you ask? Try to get as much specific information as you can. Here is a list of questions that may help (see also Planning College Visits for a list of questions):
Where are you located (urban, suburban, rural)?
How far away are you? How long will it take me to get there from my home?
How big is the school? How many undergraduate students? Graduate students?
Is public transportation readily available or will I need a car?
What kinds of social activities are there? How many clubs and groups are on campus? What about sports teams? Performing arts?
What sorts of cultural and recreational activities are available in the surrounding area?
What is the academic calendar like? Are you on the semester, quarter, or trimester system and do you have interim or ‘Jan.’ terms?
How many majors do you offer? Do you have the major I am looking for?
What advanced degrees do you offer? If I want to attend graduate school in my major, what are the admit rates and chances that I would be admitted after attending as an undergraduate?
Are there internship opportunities available? Paid or unpaid?
Do you have a study-abroad program? When do students generally go overseas (sophomore or junior)? Are there both semester and yearlong programs offered?
May I enroll part-time at your school?
What about honors or accelerated programs?
Do you have a ‘college system’ within your university (e.g., UC San Diego, Oxford, etc.)?
What is the student-faculty ratio?
What are your admission requirements for first-time freshmen? Are transfer requirements different?
What characteristics of a student are important to the admissions staff?
What is the average size of the freshman class?
Do you accept transfer students only after two years, or may I transfer in as a sophomore?
What is the average high school GPA of admitted students?
What range of SAT I/ACT scores are average for applicants?
Do you have an Early Decision or Early Action program? How can I qualify and what are the deadlines for applying in this way? Is ED a binding commitment?
Do you weight the GPA based on honors and/or AP classes?
Do you take the best SAT score from one sitting or will you combine my highest verbal and highest math sittings to give me the highest possible score?
How do you determine my grade and overall GPA if I repeat a course for credit?
What do you do with ‘D’ grades? Are they counted?
Do you have any special programs or admission criteria for students who are economically disadvantaged or are first-generation college applicants?
Will you count summer school courses taken after graduation and before beginning freshman year?
What community college connections does your school have? Is there a transfer agreement that I can participate in?
What is the admission priority for transfer students? Are community college students given preference over students transferring from four-year colleges?
How do I know which credits will transfer from community college?
When can I first apply? Do you have a window of time when applications are accepted, or do you have rolling admissions? What is the deadline for application?
When do I submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and other information?
Can I apply to more than one campus in your system?
Do you accept the Common Application?
Is my major impacted? If so, are there special requirements that I need to meet in order to be competitive for that major? What are they?
How do you feel about ‘undeclared’ majors on the application?
If I am not admitted to the major I request, may I change to another major or to another campus and/or re-submit my application?
Do you require an interview for applicants? How and when will I have one – do your alumni conduct interviews? Will I be notified, or do I make the arrangements?
Do I need an art portfolio or do I need to audition if I am interested in visual or performing arts? When is the portfolio due? Are there auditions near to where I live, or are they held only at your campus?
When will I be notified if I am admitted?
What is the total cost of attendance (tuition, fees, room, board, books, parking, extras)?
What is the tuition (or fee) rate only? Can I take out smaller loans for just this amount rather than the total cost of attendance?
When are fees due? Do you have a monthly or quarterly installment plan?
Do I have to send in a deposit with my intent to register? If so, what is the amount? Is it non-refundable?
Tell me about your financial aid assistance. Is it need-based, merit-based, or both?
What is the financial aid deadline?
Do I apply for campus scholarships separately or with the financial aid application?
Do you require the Profile or other forms besides the FAFSA?
How do you determine if I qualify for assistance? Do you ask for tax records in addition to the FAFSA?
Is financial aid guaranteed to cover my entire need?
When will I get my financial aid award letter?
What is the average financial aid award on your campus?
What is the percentage of loans versus grants or scholarships in your awards?
Do you have a work study program? Will your office or the career center help me obtain a part time job on campus even if I do not qualify for work study?
Are Early Decision students notified of their financial aid package before regular admits? When?
Do you offer campus housing? How many dorms or student apartments, etc. are available?
Is on-campus housing guaranteed?
Are the dorms coed? By floor or how?
Are freshmen required to live on campus?
What percentage of your undergraduate student body lives on campus?
How and when do I apply for housing?
When will I know if I have housing?
Can I choose my roommate?
When is the contract and housing deposit due?
If I can not obtain housing on campus, will you assist me in finding off-campus housing?
Is it easy to find a place to live near campus? In what price range?
Are meal plans available – are they required? If so, are there different meal plans to choose from?
You might think of extra questions you have about your specific situation. Be sure to write them down and take notes on all the answers given by the representative. Here are a few more:
Can I take courses at your college for credit before I graduate from high school?
Do you have a representative assigned to my geographic area, and should I always ask for him/her if I call or write with questions?
What is the school’s email address?
What is your endowment? Do you rely heavily on it to meet costs or do operating expenses come from tuition only?
What is the retention rate of the freshman class on average?
Can I graduate from your school in four years? What is the average rate to graduation?
Are you having a campus open house? When?
Tell me how your college compares to two or three comparably sized colleges. What makes your school unique?
Anything else you would like to tell me about your school?
You do not have to ask all the questions above – get the information that you are looking for and move on to the next booth if you are at a college fair, or simply thank the representative for his/her time if you meet with a rep individually. It is polite to send the representative a thank you note if he/she spent a good deal of time with you. Remember, the better informed you are, the better decision you can make when you receive admission offers!