College visit follow-up

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: College visit follow-up
By Fireflyscout (Fireflyscout) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 08:46 am: Edit

In June, my daughter and I toured several colleges. Upon returning home, she wrote thank you notes to each college requesting additional information. To date, she has received responses from all but one. She called that one a few weeks ago to check and yes, they did receive her letter. But still nothing! I would understand if this were a public university, but this is a private LAC (under 2000 students). This is a college she really liked, and her stats are on the upper end of their range of admission. Has anyone else had this experience?

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 08:58 am: Edit

When my child has written and requested information directly to her admissions rep, sometimes we got it, sometimes not. Same with calls requesting information or an application (going through this now with next child). Sometimes it has taken follow up calls to get the stuff!


By Ohio_Mom (Ohio_Mom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 09:42 am: Edit

I would repeat the same request via a different media - e-mail or phone. There is a huge amount of communications between admissions offices and prospects, and some go awry. You are not alone!

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:01 am: Edit

I suppose some colleges act more quickly than others. DD received info from the schools we visited before we actually arrived back home (we were gone for another 5 days after our last college visit). AND come here...we receive mail from TONS of colleges (unsolicited)...Maybe we got yours by mistake :)

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:19 am: Edit

My thoughts are that it shouldn't take a couple of months to respond to a request like your daughter's. If that's the way the college responds to potential applicants, I hate to think of how students might be treated once they are enrolled. I would be having second thoughts about applying to such a college.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:43 pm: Edit

>> Has anyone else had this experience?

Yes. Exactly the same experience. Because my daughter had visited colleges over an 18 month period, sometimes taking official tours, sometimes not, she sat down in June to e-mail all of the schools on her final list requesting their viewbook and asking for confirmation that she was on the mailing list for application materials. These e-mails included a short (three sentences) describing where she lived, type of high school, her class rank, and her main academic interests. She also provided the date of her campus visit and the reasons for her interest in the school -- basically just a three paragraph e-mail introducing herself. She sent the first round of e-mails to the generic admissions office e-mail addresses.

The responses varied greatly. The e-mail to Emory triggered the most comprehensive set of mailings including a letter from her regional adcom and info packets from several departments she had mentioned in passing. Clearly a cutting edge computer driven tracking system that even included business reply postcards to be returned confirming continuted interest along the way.

Davidson and Vanderbilt were also very responsive. Her regional adcom at each school e-mailed her back within hours with friendly notes and printed materials started arriving within days.

In fairness, Emory, Vandy, and Davidson were the three schools on her list most likely to take notice an early inquiry from a qaulified Massachusetts kid.

Two other southern schools (William & Mary and Wake Forrest) did not reply in any way.

None of the presigious northeast liberal arts colleges, including Swarthmore, responded to her initial e-mail.

For the non-responders, she waited a couple of weeks so and moved up the chain of command, sending a similar e-mail directly to her regional admissions rep, indicating that she had not received a response to her initial inquiry.

She received confirmation and anticipated mailing dates for application materials from everyone except Wake Forrest. Of most interest to her, she did receive an e-mail from her regional adcom at Swarthmore, saying that he had been out of the office travelling for two weeks. From that point forward, he responded promptly (in a business-like manner) to the occasional e-mail and sent her a personal e-mail in the fall alerting her to a just published article on community service at Swarthmore.

I chalk up the differences to several factors. First, there is real difference in style between southern schools and northeast schools. Anyone who has lived in both regions already understands that this difference in cultural, widespread, and obvious. It is a reflection of the underlying styles of the two regions more than a reflection on individual schools, IMO.

Second, there is a difference in how motivated schools are to attract applicants. Simply put, the elite northeast liberal arts colleges have more qualified candidates than they can handle. Not only are their admissions offices totally overloaded by the crush of applications, but there is also a bit of a "don't call us, we'll call you" mentality. They will most likely file the inquiry and add the name to the mailing list, but may not bother with a response. For example, viewbooks and applications did evenutally arrive from Williams.

The adcoms at these schools do care and ultimately do an incredible job of getting to know their applicants, however it takes a bit more persistance to establish a connection at the front-end. Also, these colleges tend to be "old-school" in terms of systems. They are still handling admissions manually with no whiz-bang information tracking systems in place.

Third, the clerical and initial repsonse functions at admissions offices is usually a student work-study situation. Large schools like Vanderbilt and Emory are year-round institutions, while Swarthmore and Williams have greatly reduced student populations over the summer months. If half of the adcoms are on vacation, it is highly likely that there simply isn't the manpower to respond to inquiries on a daily basis.

Is it worth the effort to establish communication? I guess that depends. An applicant from a podunk public high school that the adcoms wouldn't visit in a million years doesn't benefit from having guidance counselors who are on a first name basis with adcoms and who can champion their applications over dinner and a bottle of wine. If the student is going to level that playing field, it is going to have to be from his or her own initiative.

As far as I'm concerned, if the adcom is going to be on a first name basis with the applicants from Exeter or Stamford High, I would like him to be on a first name basis with my daughter, too. But, that's something everyone has to decide individually.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 12:56 pm: Edit

My son sent an email to Wake Forest during his college search period, and they responded immediately. So much for the "southern" school theory! Infact, after that, he received mail from them on a weekly basis. They were very much "courting" him. In fact, he received a hand written note (likely letter) from the dean of admissions after he applied, well prior to the official notification date!

He received information almost immediately (within a week) from all of the school admissions offices that he sent emails to.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:04 pm: Edit

So funny the varying responses. DD also toured Davidson this July (she will begin her Junior year this fall). She wrote them a nice email follow up and hasn't heard one word from them!! Nothing, not even a postcard. She had a 1:1 interview there too which I would think would qualify for showing "early interest". She also sent an inquiry postcard to Emory and has received a ton of info from them (we haven't visited there yet). She has received very nice followup info from College of Charleston and U of South Carolina. Elon, surprisingly, hasn't sent a thing either, but it is off of DD's radar screen so she really doesn't care. She will be writing a short followup note to the adcom at Davidson once school begins again requesting info.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 01:39 pm: Edit

I like to give schools the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, some communication does fall through the cracks.

If I were a cynic, I might comment on the fact that the very first communication she ever received from Wake Forrest came in January, when they had received her SAT score report from the Collge Board, but had not received an application. With her scores in hand (well above their 75th percentile), they sent her a nice letter encouraging her to submit her application even after the deadline had passed. She tossed their letter in the trash can, remembering that they hadn't even bothered to send her an application package despite visiting the school (from a long distance away) and contacting them by e-mail and through their website request forms. Maybe she should have included her SAT scores and other "stats" in her earlier communications to assist them in determining whether they should respond to her inquiries!

The schools that had communicated with her all got personal notes after her Swat acceptance thanking them for their interest and letting them know why she would not be completing her application so they could close her file cleanly.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 02:22 pm: Edit

>> So funny the varying responses. DD also toured Davidson this July (she will begin her Junior year this fall). She wrote them a nice email follow up and hasn't heard one word from them!! Nothing, not even a postcard.

In fairness to Davidson: The real point of sending inquiries (and responding to inquiries) is to open a file for THIS YEAR'S APPLICANTS. I think that very few admissions departments are equipped to open files and send materials to applicants more than a year out from the process.

The time your daughter needs to dig in and make sure her campus visits are noted and make sure she has a file opened will be NEXT summer.

SOKKERMOM: You may have misinterpreted my "southern theory". I believe that southerners, by nature, would be far more likely to respond in a warm, friendly way than would crusty old Northeasterners. After all, WE are the people who boo Santa Claus at football games and we aren't referred to as "damn yankees" for nothing.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 03:09 pm: Edit

I think that it's reasonable to expect any college to reply to a student of any age who sends a letter asking questions about the college.

While it would be unreasonable to expect a reply within a couple of days, certainly any college with any kind of caring staff should be able to reply within a 2-month period.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 03:49 pm: Edit


I agree with you, but with one caveat. I would not write off a school after just one request because I do think there are a lot of cracks in these admissions office for communications to disappear.

I know for a fact that the communication (or lack thereof) played a significant role in my daughter's ordering of her final list. Schools that responded to her inquiries moved up the list; those that ignored her moved down.

The only time that Swarthmore came close to moving off her list was a period when it took two requests to get an a response. She was contemplating a letter to the Dean of Admissions asking what more she needed to do (in addition to visiting campus, filling out their forms, submitting website inquiries, and sending two e-mails) to get so much as a postcard acknowledging that she was on the mailing list. And how that experience could be reconciled with their advertised commitment to close student contact.

Fortunately, an e-mail came from her regional adcom (apologizing for the delay while he was on vacation) before she needed to send the letter! From that point on, her contacts with everyone (admissions, professors, and staff) at Swat were all answered promptly and her adcom even sent HER an e-mail pointing to an article he thought she would be interested in.

That's why I would recommend a little persistance (at least a second try) in getting the ball rolling.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 04:57 pm: Edit

>>The time your daughter needs to dig in and make sure her campus visits are noted and make sure she has a file opened will be NEXT summer.>>

Interesting you say that. The colleges we visited (including Davidson) all said that junior year was a perfect time to look at colleges because it gave the student sufficient time to meet required courses before graduation. e.g. many schools we saw required three lab sciences. If DD had gone during her sr. summer, it might have been too late to schedule the last lab science into her schedule.

Also, U of South Carolina adcom told DD to continue to send her info as she was starting a file on her. The adcom knew she was a rising junior.

My guess is that some schools simply follow-up more consistently and better than others.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 05:41 pm: Edit

Junior year is an ideal time for first visits. However, the summer BEFORE the junior year is about 12 months too early for the school to open an active admissions file for the student, particularly school where an active admissions file literally means a file folder in a filing cabinet.

Visiting and the start of the active application process are two different things, IMO. Up through June/July, the admissions office is still heavily involved in filling THIS year's freshman class.

By Jrpar (Jrpar) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 06:02 pm: Edit

I would agree that the responsiveness really varies a lot from school to school. After each interview, my son sent a thank you email to his interviewer, in some cases asking a follow-up question. With one exception, every interviewer promptly responded with a short friendly email back to my son. The one exception: one interviewer suggested that my son send some specific additional information, he sent it immediately, and then did not get a response. Yup, my alma mater. The experience did color my son's impression of the school, which is unfortunate.

By Irishbird (Irishbird) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:10 am: Edit

Also keep in mind that the renewal of application materials , info sheets and viewbooks can occur on a different cycle.
When I worked in admissions, viewbooks or academic prospectus was always "dropped" or mailed to upcoming seniors in August, even if they had sent in a springtime request.
However, some contact would have been made to those spring juniors, at least an invite to our Summer Open House. But our viewbooks, apps or course catalogs were being updated in late spring/early summer & would not be available for mailing until August.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

I would not be put off at all if a written note got no response. I certainly wouldn't write the school off for that reason alone!

Don't most school websites have a "request more info" form to fill out? That would probably be the most efficient way to request generic information. If you want info about a particular dept, sport, etc., then you should send a targeted e-mail.

By Interesteddad (Interesteddad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 12:53 pm: Edit

>> Don't most school websites have a "request more info" form to fill out?

Some schools don't seem to respond to those requests, either.

By Newnudad (Newnudad) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 03:54 pm: Edit

I have no sympathy for schools that can't respond to applicants!

IMO I would "vote with my checkbook" and be grateful that you have an early warning of potential admin issues! I like Thumper1's comment that some schools simply follow-up better than others. Sums up the issue nicely.

Just one more piece of free advice, and worth every penny of it!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 04:47 pm: Edit

Newnudad -- but it can certainly be the case that the admissions office is not well run but the academic depts and the registrar's office (which are what you'll be dealing with as a student) are quite well run.

By Marianne (Marianne) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:55 pm: Edit

I wouldn't write off a school your child really likes simply because responses were not as efficient as you would like them to be. There will be times at any college or university when a professor or administrative staff's responses to a student are not ideal. Kids learn to deal with that. After all, college experience can't be perfect. It will mirror reality to a certain extent. Focus on the academics and the "fit," and if your child really likes the school, apply there.

By Garland (Garland) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 06:00 pm: Edit

I agree with you, Rhonda. I guess if the way that admissions is run is important to someone, then for that person, it's a valid reason to reject that school. It was just not that important to us. This whole dance of letters and responses was not part of my S's college application experience. If we had a question, we picked up a phone and asked. Overall, though, I know that the internal workings of an admissions office are eons away from the academic or student affairs departments, and shed no light on them. My observation after seeing two kids through three application cycles is that a school's PR in no way coordinated with the quality of the academic experience. (the school my D transfered away from was by far the best at PR--we found that appearances had no connection to substance the hard way.)

But hey, if this is important to someone, by all means, cross that college off the list; if it's a good one, there are plenty other students to take that place.

By Jrpar (Jrpar) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 08:04 pm: Edit

I agree schools shouldn't be written off for a lack of responsiveness. There are all sorts of reasons why any one school might be more or less responsive, few of which should have any impact on an applicant's decision-making.

But that's my adult/parent reaction. I know first-hand that the lack of response from my alma mater bears no relation to the excellent personalized education it offers. But kids form impressions on a very limited exposure to these schools, and my son was a bit put off.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:37 pm: Edit

Sorry, but communication IS important. DS was accepted at a school that was one of his top choices. He called, and emailed trying to set up a day to visit the school, sit in on classes, etc. NO ONE ever returned his calls (yes, he made several) or acknowledged receipt of his emails. He spoke to folks in admissions who gave him the names of the contact people. He called them back and got other names when the first group didn't return his calls. He was doing this at his other top choice school as well...they returned every call, set up a fabulous day for him including classes, and a luncheon with the adcom. He made his choice and it was the school with the great communication and response. DS's comment about the other school "if they treat me like this now, what can I expect if I go there".

By Garland (Garland) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:46 pm: Edit

As I said, different people feel differently. We never looked for lunches with adcoms, so I guess we wouldn't know whether we could get them. But I stand by my assertion that admissions is not related in any way to academics; they have virtually no contact in the small LAC I work at.

My D chose the school which treated her like gold, and was miserable. The appearance had no thing to do with reality. What she learned was that there is no monolithic "they". In answer to your S's question, he can expect whatever he wants, but these expectations may or may not be accurate.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 11:03 am: Edit

Garland -- I agree with you. I don't really care how the admissions office treats me. Brown's info session was extremely overcrowded (beyond SRO) and they had no cards for kids to fill out at the admissions office (oh, well!). People seemed very annoyed by the crowded info session (yelling -- I can't hear!! -- from the back of the room). They also didn't bother contacting D when they hadn't received one of her recs (which they lost, btw, since it was sent early). She discovered this when she called to check to make sure they had gotten everything.

BUT -- the profs she contacted were responsive and one who was on sabbatical set up time for her to talk with a fellow prof. They also sent her information about their course offerings. The same prof (the one on sabbatical) asked her to inform him when she sent in her application so he could keep an eye out for it.

Same for Princeton -- the admissions office was, frankly, obnoxious. But the prof she contacted (head of dept) talked with her for an hour and later e-mailed her urging her to apply (in the end she didn't).

So I think it's often the case that the admissions office is unorganized, stand-offish, unresponsive, whatever, but the academic depts are excellent. And that's what I would care about.

Thinking logically, I would expect the admissions offices at the most selective schools to have the least interest in being responsive -- they get applicants in droves anyway. It's the lower-tier schools that have to attract people.

But if someone is put off by the admissions office's treatment, not much you can do about that, if it drives them to decide not to apply or attend.

By Patr1ck (Patr1ck) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 03:46 pm: Edit

Some schools are like that. You got to remind them ever-so often.

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 04:03 pm: Edit

Clarification for all of you...DS's positive experience with the adcom folks were the admissions people in HIS department, not the general university admissions department. His "not so responsive experience" was also with HIS department of acceptance. It was the professors that did NOT return his calls or emails. Sorry...I did not mean to imply that he made his college decision because an adcom in the admissions office took him to lunch. The adcom that took him out was the Music Admissions Dean. He is a music major. This same person actually set up the schedule for DS to visit classes and sit in on ensemble rehearsals and a master class. DS was also able to speak to the profs of all the things he attended. At school #2, the music faculty never returned his calls or emails...he felt that was not particularly considerate. We found out later that he was 1 of only 3 students accepted on his instrument. They also accepted no one from their waitlist when DS declined enrollment. I guess they felt that he would come if he wanted to, and they didn't need to do anymore than accept him. Bottom line, he is very happy with the decision he made.

By Garland (Garland) on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 05:58 pm: Edit

Sorry, Thumper, I misunderstood. That makes sense, and bodes well for a good experience.

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