Admission officials understand that many students can't visit campus, and they won't hold it against you, as long as the campus isn't an easy trip from home. (More on that in a minute.)
This “Ask the Dean" column offers tips on what you can do to prove your love to your target colleges when you can't do it in person. Note also that, within this column, you'll find a link to yet another “Ask the Dean" with additional advice on “Making the Most of College Fairs When You Can't Get to Campus." Fairs can be a great way to connect directly with admissions staffers ... often the people who will actually be deciding your fate. And, as you'll see when you read these two articles, your first step should be to connect with your regional admissions rep via email so that you can explain that, despite your enthusiasm for the school, your “touring" will be limited to your computer screen.
However, if a college is less than two or so hours from home, admission officials may be wary of your interest if you don't visit. Unless you're from a disadvantaged background or there are other extenuating circumstances that would make the trip difficult (such as physical disabilities) then you should try to find a way to go. If you've already ruled out your family car or public transportation as means to get there, perhaps you can tag along with a classmate who's heading that way for a day. If none of your friends fit the bill, ask your school counselor if she or he can refer you to other prospective visitors.
If you've contacted coaches, professors or anyone else on campus from afar, this can certainly show your interest, but don't count on the word getting back to the admission office. One thing we've all learned from the “Varsity Blues" scandal is that admission officials and coaches seem to communicate a lot these than one would expect! If you're an athletic recruit, then the admission committee should get your name from the coach. But this won't necessarily indicate that you're actually eager to enroll, and — if you aren't a top pick — the coach may not even mention you at all.
Likewise, if you exchange messages with faculty members or administrators, there's an outside chance that they will report these exchanges to the admissions office or even write a letter on your behalf, but few colleges have a protocol in place that requires notifying admissions following contact with a high school student. So it's up to you to relay such contact in an email to your regional rep. But, as noted in one of the “Ask the Dean" columns cited above, “ ... admission folks are busy and don't need new pen pals. Too many attempts to seem enthusiastic will merely make you seem annoying."
Thus, try to find a balance between demonstrating your interest and demonstrating your own good judgment by not overdoing it!
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