Making the High School Visit a Success
Joseph Fantozzi Jr. has been a member of the admission counseling team at the City University of New York (CUNY) since 2009. Recently, he has taken on a management role as recruitment coordinator. In this role, he coordinates outreach activities for high school and transfer students throughout the New York Metropolitan area while fostering relationships between college counselors/transfer advisors and the University. Additionally, he oversees all virtual recruitment efforts and social media activities. Joseph has also been an adjunct faculty member at the City College of New York since 2008. He is an active member of National Associate for College Admission Counseling, the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling and the College Board. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in music from The Boston Conservatory.
Back in 1975, Saturday Night Live did a routine poking fun at the concept of the high school visit. College admission reps have been visiting high schools to recruit students for decades, and not much has changed. As your seniors begin to receive their admission letters and your juniors start to take center stage, let’s think about the potential value of these visits and how to make the most out of them.
Your Presentation Format:
Perhaps you have the ideal setup at your school; an office with a large conference table dedicated exclusively to college search where you can comfortably host half of your graduating class and your visiting college rep. But for most, the reality is a constant juggling act of schedules, room reservations and available technology. In the midst of all of this, you should be asking yourself: is this setup ideal for my students to get the most out of this visit?
Not all visits are created equally. Being from the local public university, I am often faced with large numbers of interested students. Does that mean we should put them all in a large lecture-style presentation? I believe that format works best as an introduction to the university and not for nitty gritty discussions that need to take place deeper into the college search process. When deciding the presentation format for your visiting college, gauging the knowledge base of your students is essential and should influence your decision. Often the wrong format is a deterrent for some students. Your students will likely be in different places; if your college rep has the time, I love to have 2 different sessions, each with different goals catering to the students in that particular room.
Preparing for a high school visit should happen on all levels, but it should start with the student. You will have a live rep in your office and basic essential questions, easily looked up online, should be researched in advance. Do you have a nursing program? Where is your college located? How much is tuition? Etc.
Students should use the opportunity of speaking with a rep in person to ask the tough questions: Can you talk about the culture of the student body? As a commuter, will I be able to still get the full experience? What support do you offer freshman to help make the transition?
Your Admissions Rep:
I can assure you that college reps are doing extensive research before visiting your school: Did any of your students decide to come to our university last year? How are they doing? So if you have any useful information that could make for a more insightful visit, please do share! Maybe you have an overwhelming amount of students this year interested in health professions? Perhaps you have a core of students that did really well in AP physics and are exploring engineering? If you share this information with us in advance, we can come prepared with details that perhaps do not usually travel with us in our bag of tricks.
That Awkward Moment
It happens to the best of us. You worked hard to schedule a visit with a great university, did all the prep work and promoted the visit to your students. The day comes. You peek outside your door and notice the college rep sitting alone, responding to emails on their iPhone. What do you do?
As an admissions rep that has experienced this before, it can be turned into time well spent. Use the time to get to know the university and the rep yourself. After all, once the rep leaves your school campus, they understand that you are our biggest ally. Tell them about your students. If the university is not local, perhaps a virtual event could be set up in the future. Often, I walk out of a visit where no students show up and I’m still happy with the relationship that has been created with hope for the future.
After the visit
We admissions reps often view these visits as the start of a relationship. If things go well, we expect some form of a second date. I'm sure you have used the term "demonstrated interested" with your students and explained the importance of it. Yet, many students are falling back into the category of "stealth applicants."
Encourage your students to learn the art of the follow up communication. I give out my card to every student I meet on the road but often do not hear from them again until I stumble upon their application come December. On the college side, we love to see enthusiastic students that can handle professional communication. Provide them with a basic template, practice with them and encourage that follow up phone call, email or visit to further the relationship and ultimately get closer to finding the best fit.
Keeping with the times, does all of this even matter anymore?
Is it time for us to evolve? Is this still time well spent for everyone involved? I truly believe these visits are still essential and can be very meaningful interactions. With the right approach, these meetings can be life changing for students and help them find that seemingly elusive “right fit”. At the same time, we need to encourage students to connect with us on virtual levels as well, to seamlessly integrate into their already screen-heavy lives. More and more, colleges are offering virtual interviews, campus tours and workshops. They are disseminating essential information on Twitter, giving a peek into the lives of their students on Instagram and creating student communities on Facebook. So please, encourage students to gain information on all platforms as we enter uncharted territory but remember, have them clean up those profiles first!
What have you done to facilitate a successful and insightful high school visit? Do your students still find this a good use of their time?