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Articles / Applying to College / How Important are Accepted-Student Days?

Feb. 17, 2014

How Important are Accepted-Student Days?

Question: My son has applied to nine colleges and was only able to visit three. He may not be able to attend many of the accepted students days (assuming he is accepted!) because of an unavoidable family trip. How important are the accepted student days in making a decision? What are the downsides of making a decision on a school without going to accepted students day? He can schedule an overnight visit earlier or later in April, as an alternative to the formal accepted students day. He has no clear favorites so the April visits will be important to his decision.

There are pros and cons to attending the accepted-student events, so your son will lose out in some ways but gain in others by not being able to take part.

One advantage of these events is that they would allow your son to eyeball a big batch of his potential classmates. Granted, it will be impossible for him to tell which ones will eventually enroll, so perhaps the gaggle of Goths (or lax bros) that most (or least) attracts him could be gone by September. These all-comers events are also usually well organized and rife with panels and other formal presentations that allow prospective students to get a helpful glimpse at a broad swath of the college experience (academics, athletics, clubs, etc.) in a short amount of time.

BUT … typically these events are SO well organized that the accepted seniors see mostly what the admission officials want them to see and may not have a chance to test-drive life as a “real” student at that school, just as looking at a store window display at holiday time may be far more enticing than what you’ll find on the racks beyond it. Also, with so many prospectives on campus, it can be hard for visitors to tell the “real” students from other guests. Lunch time conversations may be dominated by parents playing “Do you know?” across the table, and the hand-picked student hosts are apt to be “on” for 24 hours and are perhaps more likely to be their “salesman” selves than their genuine selves (although this can happen on any overnight visit, including a solo one).

The bottom line is that it’s fine that your son won’t visit on an admitted student day and perhaps even better than fine because it will give him the opportunity to explore in depth what he most wants to see (Library? Laboratories? Weight room? Bathroom?) and not what the college honchos think that he should see.

Happy hunting and good luck to your son on the verdicts ahead!


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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