Parents know from experience that relationships and networks can create opportunities in the job world. Often, moms and dads will apply this same “build a relationship” thinking to the college admissions process, to try and gain an advantage for their rising Senior student. The theory is that the more the kid makes himself/herself known to the admissions officer, the greater the understanding the evaluator will have of the applicant, helping him/her to stand out amongst the crowd. Sounds simple. But, for rising Seniors (aka current Juniors), “Make yourself known to the college admissions office” is a foreign concept–especially for students who’ve earned high grades for their intelligence and good behavior. Part of any high grade also comes with following the rules (i.e. turning in assignments by the due date, following the directions given to complete the assignment, being pleasant and polite to the teacher so s/he has a smooth working relationship with the student). Making oneself known to an authority figure, is in a high school students’ lifetime the number one reason kids get sent to the Principal’s Office. Who wants that? And, no matter the logic of a parents’ argument for why a student should contact a college admissions office, previous history is a powerful set of lessons to unlearn.
Unlearning to not be known can happen with experience over time. Expecting a Junior to start a new behavior with little foundation can be unrealistic and a set up for unmet expectations–even for those Juniors who’re used to making organizing dances or events for school–taking the initiative on one’s own behalf is not the same as representing an organization. Start simple. Ask the Junior to make the reservations online for the campus tour or contact the admissions office by phone to register for a campus visit. Ask the Junior to contact just graduated Seniors (i.e. current college Freshmen) friends through Facebook or email to set up a coffee date. And, for families with younger students, encourage them to order the pizza for dinner, or make their next haircut appointment or schedule the doctor’s appointment for their annual sports season physical–any tasks where they’re having to ask for help and interact with an adult. For even younger students, actually selling whatever product they’re fundraising with to aunts and uncles instead of relying on mom and dad to do the asking can build the experience of talking about oneself to adults and “making themselves known.” Slowly, over time, students can build the confidence to push themselves to the forefront a bit more.
And, from the college’s end, some admissions offices track interest–meaning the student’s name appears on a mailing list, filled out an interest card at a college fair or the student contacted an admissions officer to ask a question about the application process–and some admissions offices do not track the “interest” of students. In offices that don’t track interest, often there’s a large pool of applicants and the systems would not be able to connect the contacts with the individual applicants. Also, for the admissions offices that do track interest, the student’s interest is never a make or break criteria in the evaluation of admissions. However, given that colleges are looking for evidence that the applicant is interested in the school, has done some leg work to know if s/he matches what the college offers, contacts with the admisisons office to “make oneself known” can only add to an applicant’s file. While there’s no one action, like making oneself known to the admissions office, that will guarantee admissions to the college of one’s choice, the indirect benefits of learning to promote oneself and level the playing field between oneself and authority can serve students no matter where they enroll in college and beyond.
For more information about finding valuable and affordable options for college, listen to our college selection podcast series.