Questions to Ask College Admissions Officers (and What to Avoid!)
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- Situations Where You Might Speak to Admissions
- Questions to Ask Admissions Officers
- Questions to Avoid Asking Admissions Officers
- How to Prepare for you Meeting with Admissions
The nation’s top schools are receiving record numbers of applications, which makes standing out in the crowded field of candidates increasingly challenging. One way to grab the attention of admissions officers is by asking insightful questions that lead to memorable conversations. What are the best questions to ask college admissions officers? Preferably, ones that allow you to gather meaningful information, demonstrate your interest in the school, and show off your personality.
Situations Where You Might Speak to Admissions
There are a few common ways that students connect with admissions officials, ranging from informative to evaluative. Common situations where prospective students get an opportunity to connect with an admissions representative include:
- High school visits
- Campus visits
- College fairs
- Information sessions
- On-campus interviews
- Video interviews
No matter how you connect with a school’s admissions department, the goal is the same when the time comes to ask college admissions representative questions—to put your best foot forward by having a “real” conversation that leaves them with a positive impression of you.
Questions to Ask Admissions Officers
Below are some ideas for questions to ask college admissions representatives, but these are just examples. The best and most unforgettable students ask questions tailored to their personal interests, concerns, and future plans. Just remember when crafting your own questions to keep them open-ended by avoiding ones that are answered with a simple yes or no.
Questions About Academics
1. What is unique about your school’s curriculum?
This question allows admissions officials to share what makes the school’s educational approach unique and the benefits of their curriculum, and lets students evaluate how this aligns with their expectations.
2. Do they do anything specific to support your academic transition as a new freshman?
The answer to this question can shed more light on a school’s freshman retention number by highlighting what the school does to ensure the satisfaction and success of its students. Are there on-campus academic support services such as tutoring and writing centers? Asking this question shows your commitment to taking advantage of the opportunities and support a college provides and demonstrates a mature academic attitude.
3. Are classes taught mostly by professors or by teaching assistants?
Small class sizes look great in a brochure but can be less meaningful if those classes are taught by TAs rather than professors. Demonstrate your interest in academics and find out who is teaching classes—and don’t hesitate to follow up on the accessibility of professors. Do they have regular office hours? Are they able to provide individual attention to students? What is the typical relationship between teachers and students?
4. What research opportunities exist for students?
This question demonstrates your interest in research and more importantly that you’re thinking ahead about how to gain exposure. You may learn that undergraduates have lots of opportunities to help professors with research, or that there are funded programs available for research over the summer.
5. Do students study abroad? How easy is it to graduate in four years if you study abroad?
If you’re planning on or interested in studying abroad during your college years, this is a great time to ask about the school’s study abroad program—for example, what are their popular destinations or signature programs? It’s also a time to show off your serious side and learn how to plan (or how the college plans) to prevent studying abroad from setting back your graduation goal.
Questions About Campus Life
1. How would you characterize the students who come to this school?
This is a great question to determine your fit at a school and an awesome chance to hear about the type of people on campus—and the culture they’re cultivating—from one of the people responsible for choosing the student body. You can also use the knowledge gained here to tailor your essay and other application materials to the school.
2. What do students enjoy most about this college?
You can learn a lot from how an admissions officer answers this question, like what the college values about itself, what students value in the college, and how the college differentiates itself from others on your list.
3. How does this school support low-income or first-generation students?
Many colleges and universities are making a push to prioritize diversity and inclusion. This question shows them you value diversity and it challenges them to demonstrate what steps they’ve taken to make the school more inclusive. Feel free to change the demographic to your particular case, whether you are an international student, a student with disabilities, etc.
4. How would you describe the surrounding community?
Many colleges don’t just want students interested in being active members of the campus, but also in the community as a whole. Asking about the surrounding area shows that you’re interested in the entire college experience—from classes and clubs on campus to the culture of the local communities.
5. What do students do for fun?
This question is great for discovering what the student body is interested in outside of the classroom. Maybe a school is really interested in its football team and fall Saturdays are the most important time on the calendar, while another school might boast about their outing club and all the cool camping/hiking/skiing trips students take every weekend. This also allows students to highlight parts of their personality and interests that don’t easily translate to applications and essays.
6. Are there any incorrect assumptions people make about this school?
College admissions officers are used to talking about their schools in a glowing way. Turning a common question around and asking them to identify a misconception is a good tactic for having a frank conversation and can make you stick out from the hoards of other candidates asking: what makes this school so special?
Questions About Careers
1. What do your students do just after graduating?
This is great for learning about the paths a college creates for its students. Do most of them find a job? If so, is it in their field? Do students go on to graduate school? What is the acceptance rate for students who continue to pursue an advanced degree?
2. What kind of career services does the school offer?
This question will show you how a school will support your career goals. Does the school have internships or provide opportunities for you to gain professional experience while in school? How is the school preparing students to join the workforce? Asking this question also allows you to talk about your future plans and shows that you’re thinking about how your investment in college will pay off.
3. Do you have any experience with the alumni network?
Schools are quick to boast about the size of their alumni networks, but a small active alumni network is often better than an expansive and inactive one. An admissions officer’s experience with alumni can hint at how involved they are on campus and what doors they can open for you. It also shows that you’re thinking about college as a step to a career.
Other Interesting Questions
1. What is the future of this school?
You’re going to commit to a school for four years and will hold a degree from them for a lifetime, so you’ll want to know what to expect over that time. How will the school continue to improve your return on an investment in their education? Are they building new dorms and libraries? Investing in new programs? Are they making the school more accessible for students from low-income families? Are they taking steps to make their institution more equitable?
2. What was the most memorable essay you’ve read?
The college application process is stressful for both students and college staff, and this question is a great way to lighten the mood. Also, sharing a laugh over a silly story is a great way to form a bond with a person.
3. What made you want to work for this college?
It’s the job of admissions officers to entice you to come to their school, but asking them about the reasons they choose to work at that institution is a way to reframe a common question asked of applicants and pose it to admissions officers. The question itself can leave a mark with officials and the answer can illuminate which traits of the school they value the most.
Questions to Avoid Asking Admissions Officers
Just as there are good questions to ask admissions officers, there are also bad ones. In addition to avoiding asking yes/no questions, steer clear of asking these other problematic questions.
1. Asking about anything you can find on the website.
Whether it’s a question about admissions requirements or about class size, asking an admissions officer about readily available information looks lazy and shows a lack of preparation and interest—all of which you want to avoid.
2. Asking for advice on your application and chances of acceptance.
Admissions officers aren’t college consultants, their job is to determine the students best suited for their school. If you have a question about your odds of acceptance at an institution, save it for our free chancing engine. CollegeVine’s chancing calculator uses quantitative data like grades and test scores (along with qualitative information such as extracurricular activities) to provide you with insight into your chances of gaining admission into over 600 schools.
3. Sensitive questions.
Exercise caution when asking questions about a school’s party culture or drug use on campus and avoid insinuating that you can’t wait to cut loose at college. The goal of your question is to put yourself in the best light, and in general, that is as a serious student.
How to Prepare for your Meeting with Admissions
Do Your Homework
You want to show admissions officers you’re generally interested in attending their institution and this is best done by knowing about it. Before the meeting, spend some time on the college’s website and social media channels to familiarize yourself with the school. As you research, write down any questions that you have and ask them at your meeting.
Dress for Success
College admissions are serious business, so treat it as such by dressing in a professional manner. Business casual is a safe standard. For men, this means khakis or dress slacks, a long-sleeved collared shirt, and polished shoes. The standard for women is similar, but with the additional option of wearing a skirt or dress. You should present a neat and well-kept appearance—keep in mind that you want admissions reps to remember you for your charming personality and insightful questions, not an over-the-top beard or colorful makeup.
Make a Good Impression
Just as you should dress like a professional, you’ll also want to act like one.
- Turn your cell phone off before the meeting
- Smile and look the representative in the eye when talking
- Have a firm (but not crushing) handshake
- Take your time and give thoughtful and honest answers to questions
Lastly, be yourself! This is a chance to let your personality shine and for admissions officials to see the “real” person behind the test scores and grades.
Have a friend or parent ask you common interview questions to prepare for the real thing and determine how best to work in key points you want to highlight. Common questions include:
- Why are you interested in this college?
- What are your academic interests?
- What makes you unique?
- What do you plan to contribute to campus?
- What do you expect to be doing 10 years from now?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
After your meeting, follow up with a handwritten note thanking the admissions representative for their time and expressing your interest in their institution. If there was something specific you connected with the admissions officer over, mention it.
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