Meeting With College Faculty

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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: July 2003 Archive: Meeting With College Faculty
By Bnp182 (Bnp182) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:44 pm: Edit

OK, I am visiting Princeton and Princeton in about a week and I need some advice about meeting with the Faculty. First, how long do the meeting usually last for and what kind of stuff is talked about. Do you ask questions? Do they ask questions? Do you think that the professors play an important role in the admission decisions? Like do the engineering faculty decide who gets accepted to the engineering department at Princeton? I donít really know a whole lot in depth about the different engineering fields but I would still like to meet with a faculty member. Should I learn some of the basics about the specific fields before I meet with someone.

By Bnp182 (Bnp182) on Monday, July 28, 2003 - 07:44 pm: Edit

**Princeton and Penn**

By Bnp182 (Bnp182) on Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - 12:42 am: Edit


By Theav8tar (Theav8tar) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 05:38 am: Edit

If you want to increase your chances of admission, this is not the best way to do it. Meeting with faculty can help answer any questions you have about specific departments (such as what classes are offered, research opportunities, major requirements, etc.), but faculty for the most part are not involved in undergraduate admissions. If you have done something extraordinary in high school and would like to tell them about it, there is about a 0.0001 percent chance that they will take a particular interest in getting you into their university. But if you've done something THAT extraordinary, you're getting in anyway, so don't worry about it.

In a nutshell: By all means, talk to faculty in the department(s) you're interested in, ask about course requirements and undergraduate research opportunities, and make a good impression, but don't expect this to have any effect on your chances of admission.

In reality, talking to current students is the way to go.

- The Avatar
(Senior at an 'elite' university, just trying to help out frantic applicants like I used to be...)

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 08:53 am: Edit

Meeting with a faculty member will not in itself increase your chances of gaining admission; emailing that faculty member afterwards with a thank you and perhaps a follow-up question---with a CC: to the Admissions Office---will show the AdComm that you have a real interest in the school, and that you know how to interact... and those two things WILL increase your chances of admission.

Always keep the Admissions Office aware of all contacts you have with any faculty. If you don't, it's as if the meeting never took place.

My daughter phoned to set up an interview with admissions and asked that a meeting be set up with someone from the English department that same day if possible. After a few minutes they informed her that she would be meeting with the chairman of the department. In the days that followed the two interviews, there were numerous emails that were sent---always with cc: Admissions. Such contacts always have some effect on the outcome of a decision.

As for what is discussed at meetings with faculty, there is no way to predict how those conversations might go---college professors are each quite unique (or at least they would like to think so.)

The lower eschelon professors have little contact with the admissions department. The department chairman is a different story---chairs are very much involved with the admissions officers on many different policy levels. How could you possibly go wrong by getting one of those fellas rooting for you?

By Momof2 (Momof2) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 09:15 am: Edit

All student interview-ees, please remember to LISTEN during your interview. Prepare a list of questions about the department - hopefully, things not readily answered on the front page of the dept. webpage! Ask what sets their dept. apart from all those at similar schools - most faculty will love to expound on that subject.

The notes my son took during his interviews really helped him along when answering the "Why did you choose XYZ University?" essay questions. I think that's the most likely way to influence admissions - at least in his case.

By Baseballtwin86 (Baseballtwin86) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 09:17 am: Edit

MT, or just shows that your sucking up to the admissions office by sending a CC everytime you have a correspondence with a member of the faculty. In other words, it would appear to me that the only reason you would be corresponding with the faculty is a means to improve your chances at getting in, not trying to learn about the department (at least thats the impression I'd get if I saw a CC to the admissions office). I think of it like e-mailing to your brother, but sending a CC to your parents just to show that your kind to your brother. At least to me it doesn't seem like very good ettiquette.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 09:34 am: Edit

It may be useful to distinguish between the true elites (HYP and peers) and the next tier. My impression is that the elites could care less whether you visited once, every week or not at all. They have a high enough yield (and perhaps enough self confidence - maybe too much?) that if they offer you admission, you are likely to come. They are only competing with a small number of similar institutions.

The next tier seems, based on a number of recent published reports, to be obsessed with yield. They've concluded that more contacts = more interest = more likely to attend = more likely to admit.

I'd plan a contact strateg with that in mind.

Sheer numbers will give you an indication of the problem some schools face. If every HYP applicant decided they wanted (or needed) to meet with faculty (let's see, 20,000 applicants to Harvard. 1/2 hour per applicant. 10,000 hours of faculty time. Shees.) I suspect there'd be a problem.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 10:09 am: Edit

Only those with no knowledge of the way the world works--view sending a "cc:" as a type of "sucking up". A cc: is in full view of the to: person and is the well recognized time-honored method of keeping another (third) party informed of what's going on.

Many colleges make it a point to mention that they prefer that you cc: the admissions office when making contact with other people on campus. Such schools actually count the number of such contacts and factor this into their admissions decisions.

If you think making contacts is a waste of time, just don't bother doing it. Let some other enterprising applicant better their chances.


As for the distictions between various "types" of colleges, why in the world would any intelligent student want to attend any college that discourages meetings with faculty? Are you foolish enough to actually believe that they don't want to see you now, but will welcome you with open arms later?

When someone says they are too busy to meet with me, I understand what that means. I don't need to hope that things will improve in the future--and I am in no mood to listen to them claim that it will.

By Bnp182 (Bnp182) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 10:21 am: Edit

When I do go ahead and meet a professor, should I take notes or just have a polite conversation with them. Taking notes would seem like I have no personality and that I was just there to gather facts and information. Also, is the senior fellow of a department pretty high up?

By Baseballtwin86 (Baseballtwin86) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:09 am: Edit

MT, show me where you see an admissions office wanting you to CC every conversation you have with the faculty.

:mischief: The flaming :ack:

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:18 am: Edit

In that type of meeting I would have a notebook and pen "within reach"---but not open with pen poised to copy down each pearl of wisdom. Have the pleasant conversation. If s/he mentions a book that you would like to read, THEN take out the notebook, jot a note, and close it. As you can imagine, there is a different atmosphere in a meeting---depending on whether the notebook is open or closed... if you catch my drift.

Hint: Look on the college website beforehand and read this fellows biography. Look for clues as to what his academic interests are. Don't try to cram expert knowledge in that area, but at least try to understand enough about it not to appear as a total dolt. If the fellow has based his whole academic career on studying Emerson, make certain you know what century Emerson lived in---and that he ain't talkin' about a cheap brand of televison sets!

Another point: Senior Fellows THINK they are pretty high up in the department. So do instructors. Department chairs, janitors, typists, assistant professors, and grounds keepers---ALL think of themselves as important people. If you treat every person you meet in life as important (and pretty high up) you will make a lot of friends who will help you when you need them. One thing I've noticed on college campuses: there are a LOT of blue collar and administrative workers who are highly educated people----who just happen to enjoy remaining on a college campus. The colleges, of course, absolutely treasure such employees. They too are part of your education.

One final point: When you get to college.... be very friendly, respectful, and considerate of the secretary in the department that you major in. Brown-nosing is not required or recommended, but you never want that particular person to think of you in any negative way.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:22 am: Edit

Go do your own research.

By Baseballtwin86 (Baseballtwin86) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:39 am: Edit

Hmm, sure, I have an experiment this afternoon, a protein assay at my summer job at a laboratory. Just wasting some time this morning before I begin.

(Although I don't really care, I was just stating my opinion and lets leave it at that. I personally don't see what you would learn from the department head that you couldn't learn elsewhere. But once again thats my opinion. :D)

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:41 am: Edit

One thing I would do before meeting with faculty would be to thoroughly examine the on-line course catalog and note either classes of possible interest I would like more info about or omissions of classes I'd like to see.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 11:51 am: Edit

I certainly know of kids who have had good results from meeting with someone from a department. If this is something a student wants to do, go for it! But I also kind of agree with the "sucking up" view of this. I can see talking to the golf coach if you are really eager to be on the golf team. But most applicants for freshmen admission would have to make up an excuse for needing to talk to someone from a particular department. Departmental requirements/opportunities for undergraduates, particularly at the level that most high school seniors would be prepared to discuss them, don't vary all that much from school to school. And whether or not you and the department head like each other is not really going to have much impact on your experience as an undergraduate at a particular school. It isn't like grad school where you choose college X because Professor Jones is doing research on an area of nano-something-ology that you really want to do your dissertation on. I can imagine an occasional freshman applicant with truly unusual circumstances. But most of them, even if they are super desirable applicants, are not going to have unusual needs at the departmental level. I can't see how some manufactured excuse to try to talk to the department head would lead to an opportunity to shine for most kids. If a kid is pretty uncomfortable with the idea of schmoozing some 50 year old professor who knows a lot more than they do about whatever subject the student thinks they might major in, I think trumping up an excuse for such a meeting could actually work against the kid.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 12:17 pm: Edit

While I think that most professors would tend to be very gentle with the tender prospective freshman, there certainly is a possiblity that you could run up against the rare one who is in a foul mood and sees the 18 year old in front of him as an easy target for whatever is bothering him that morning (probably some undigested bean dip from the previous evening's festivities.)

That scene at least makes for a very entertaining life story (after you managed to escape his office and have a good cry.)

Such bad tasting medicine is not at all likely, unless the student is woefully unprepared--in which case it might be just what the doctor would have ordered.

By Bnp182 (Bnp182) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 12:43 pm: Edit

Thanks for all the advice. Also, I was wondering if I should bring some sort of resume or a list of grades, scores, an interview or the metting with the faculty. Since they know absolutley nothing about me, would it be a good idea to bring a resume or would it seem like I am trying to sell myself already. If I were to bring a resume, what kind of stuff should I include in it. I have read a little about the professor I am meeting: he seems really acomplished and succesful in the business world (he teaches at Wharton). Should I ask questions about how he became so succesful and what kind of things he did along the way or should I just keep the conversation restricted to topics about the college?? Thanks

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 12:48 pm: Edit

" While I think that most professors would tend to be very gentle with the tender prospective freshman,..."

I think so too. But I also think the situation itself could lead to a "deer in the headlights" effect for some kids.

My kid has actually already met with some college profs as a high school student, because he has had to get advised or request departmental permission on occasion to take courses at our local university. Even though these meetings have all had a very narrow, well-defined purpose (and a parent went along the first couple of times), they have all been excrutiatingly painful for him and I doubt if anyone involved had a favorable impression about anything afterwards.

My kid actually has some good reasons why he should want to meet with representatives of the department he is interested in when he applies to colleges. He has a very extensive background in the area he plans to major in which is not backed up by courses on a transcript. It is going to make a difference to him whether colleges will allow him to place out of certain intro courses through some internal mechanism. It would be good for him to meet with someone and ask about this when he applies. Do I think he's going to voluntarily do it? No. Do I think that he and the school will learn anything about each other if I lean on him and push him into doing it? Not really. Do I think my kid is so pathologically shy and terrible at schmoozing that this only applies to him and not to lots of other kids? No!

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 01:18 pm: Edit


Although you did not emphasize it, you hit on the key point: meetings should be arranged when there is a need for the meeting on the part of the student, NOT because it is on the applicant checklist. The latter wastes both the student's and the school's time.

There are many legitimate questions one could ask about a particular course of study, including flexibility, prerequisites, research opportunities and so forth. Funny thing is, the faculty is probably less likely to know the answers than the departmental office is.

An exampe: I did graduate work at a major west coast university. My grad school advisor is now the department chair. My D is interesting in the same field of study. Last month, we visited the campus. I met and reminisced with the department chair. My daughter met with the undergraduate advisor - he had the answer to her questions. The department chair knew all about the new building, faculty recruitment, funding and so forth. That was his thrust and what he and I spoke about.

On a similar note, last February, we visited McGill (heat wave in Feb - temps almost up to freezing...). Called the music school's undergrad recruiter/advisor the day before. She rolled out the red carpet and showed D around. She introduced faculty etc. And she knew what options a kid who wanted to do both science and music had. A faculty member would not have known this.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 01:31 pm: Edit

Massdad, is your D still considering McGil and what part of themusic program is she interested in?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 01:44 pm: Edit

She loved McGill, views it as her top safety school. She's a string player (violin) and considering a double degree. She likes challenges, so when the advisor told her that, although a it is very difficult, a few students do double degrees, she came back revved up.

The department was wonderful - she saw a U. Symphony rehearsal, which was impressive, met with the head of performance, and observed a lesson from one of the string faculty. The facilities were tired and worn, but the people were great. And, there's a good cafeteria in the basement with great food prices - a real contrast to U. food prices in the Boston area where we live.

By Texas137 (Texas137) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 01:44 pm: Edit

"meetings should be arranged when there is a need for the meeting on the part of the student, NOT because it is on the applicant checklist. The latter wastes both the student's and the school's time."

Well said, Massdad.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 01:51 pm: Edit

Leave your stats at the door. The place for those is on your application. If they are reasonably OK, you don't want to be talking much about them---they are tools which the adcom takes into consideration---not for you to keep pointing to.

If you have some experience that excites you about studying business, mention that.

Asking him what he did during those three years that he worked for IBM would be putting HIM on the spot---just like him putting YOU on the spot by asking what you actually did in Latin Club. You'd probably get by better by asking him about the general effect of the well-known IBM culture on the rest of the business world. Hmmmm... you don't want to put the guy on the spot personally, but you don't want to drift into idle chit chat either. It's probably safer to talk about the college related stuff first, and then later on---if he seems approachable---pose a very general question about something about his background that shows that you did bother to find out something about him. If by any chance you get "the hairy eyeball" or any kind of hesitation on his part----immediately jump in and try to get the conversation into more comfortable waters.

In all liklihood, HE is going to dominate the direction and substance of the entire meeting---which, believe it or not, is a big break for you!

One final word---he knows VERY WELL why you are there! He knows that you are trying to gain admission. He knows that you are in HIS ballpark. He's played this game countless times. Unless the guy is clueless, he will be thinking of how he felt 20 years earlier when he was sitting in your chair! He is fully aware of the relationship between you, him, and the admission committee. He knows the game, so make it easy on yourself--and don't discuss the actual game. If you can make him think that you are hungry for learning, you will have scored a two-run homer. Run the bases, shake his hand, and get the heck out of there!

By Momof2 (Momof2) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 02:15 pm: Edit

Bingo! You might also ask (if it fits in the conversation somewhere) what he would have enjoyed most at that university/department when he was an undergrad. That shouldn't put anyone on the spot and might bring up some less obvious attractions. He also knows that you are comparing various universities, looking for the right "fit." Just another idea.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, July 30, 2003 - 02:19 pm: Edit

MassDad, a client/friend just left UCLA's music faculty to join McGil in a tenured position. His specialty is Early Music and while his main interest is early keyboard instruments he has worked in ensembles with very good violinists.

If this is of *any* interest to your D, let me know and I'll provide an introduction at an appropriate time.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 11:26 am: Edit

I just read this whole thread. Good discussion. Want to respond to a couple points made by various people. One person was asking why would a professor or department head want to meet with all these kids and/or someone was stating how it was unnecesary to meet with faculty cause you could learn the information elsewhere.

On every college visit we did, my daughter had lined up meeting with a faculty member or department head in the area of interest she hopes to major in at the college. She did NOT do this for admission purposes. Rather, it was a way to learn more about the program first hand and see some things as well. She never did it as a strategy for admissions at all. She genuinely wanted to ask questions and learn about various aspects of their programs. It was more her interviewing them, rather than vice versa. These meetings were very fruitful. Besides learning about the program specifics, they shared many other details. She could ask questions. She could find out if there was any further preparation they might suggest she do in the last 1 1/2 years of high school and so on.

To the student who asked if he should bring a resume to the meeting. My answer is no. This kind of meeting is NOT an interview. The focus of all of our meetings was not about my child. Actually I was even in these meetings. The department heads did not ask interview questions. Sometimes things did arise such as courses my daughter might have asked some questions to do with how her advanced math courses would dovetail with their requirements, or stuff like that. In the discussion, it might have come up some stuff about her. Like she might have mentioned how she was doing an indep. study for credit on this field to learn more and had set up an internship, as part of our discussion. But she was not being interviewed with questions at all. Bringing a resume would be a great idea, however, in an interview with an alumni for admissions (I conduct such interviews and only once did a kid bring me a resume and I found it extremely helpful to have).

If the purpose of your meeting with a professor or dept. head is to get a leg up in admissions, I think you are going for the wrong reason. We never looked at going as a stategy in the admissions game. It was genuinely to learn more about each school and dept. Morgantruce has an excellent point about letting admissions know such meetings took place and I had never thought of that til he mentioned it a while back in another very informative post on another forum. Admissions do not know my daughter had all these appointments on campus. I am not sure if we will send copies of all the emails back and forth as there are a lot. However, my daughter might send a letter mentioning her visit and who she met with and so on, kinda summarizing it. Another thing is to ask the faculty member you met with (in a follow up letter) if he enjoyed the meeting, if he might drop a note at admissions on your behalf. So, letting admissions know this all took place is a rather good idea as they see your level of interest and research into the school. But make that contact for the right reasons in the first place. In your application, when you answer why Good U is the school for you, again, you can talk about specifics you learned in your meeting with so and so dept. head which intrigued you as the program really fits your needs/interests for such and such reasons.

Good luck you guys! We are embarking on all this in our house now too!

By Sac (Sac) on Thursday, July 31, 2003 - 01:56 pm: Edit

I think the idea of mentioning the meeting in the section of the application that asks why you like the school is excellent. To me that is genuine, shows the student has made an effort to get information, and is applying to a school based on knowledge beyond the viewbook. I like it much better than the idea of e-mailing the admissions office about every meeting or e-mail exchange with a professor, or asking the professor, based on one meeting, to act on your behalf.

My son met with only one faculty member on our college trip, to sit in on a practice and get information on the jazz band program at Columbia. That professor told him specifically that the university instructs professors (as opposed to coaches, I guess) they are not to contact the admissions office on behalf of a potential student. Rather, he suggested my son mention when he applies that they met and include a cd of his playing, which the admissions office will then send to the professor to evaluate. I'd guess the same could be done with a scientific abstract or a piece of writing if a student met with someone in a different field.

But many students (my son included) don't know yet what their main field of interest will be. They shouldn't worry about not meeting a faculty member. It can be a waste of time for a professor, and a disaster for a student, to take advantage of someone's office hours in a misguided attempt to impress an admissions office.

Lastly, maybe I'm old fashioned, but high school students who try to do too much "packaging" scare me. (I remember a case of a kid who launched a whole campaign to get into Stanford, complete with banners. It backfired.) If an 18-year-old really is coached enough in the world of business and networking to come across like a thirtysomething job applicant, that's one thing. Most are not. I'd like to think there are admissions officers who are looking for what's genuine in an applicant, including level of interest in the school, rather than how well a teenager has already mastered the art of the schmooze.

If, in the process of gathering information, a student does meet a helpful faculty member, it seems appropriate to mention it as part of the description of what's appealing about the college. But, I think it could be just as effective to mention a class or lecture attended while visiting the campus, an overnight in the dorm, or a program investigated thoroughly on the school's internet site, to convey that the potential student has done some homework and has come away with real enthusiasm for that college.

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