Throughout the college admissions process, you are going to have ample opportunity to engage with college admissions officers.
Use every chance you get to ask the best questions about what colleges look for in their applicants and what life would be like at each school.
The best questions fulfill two primary functions. They each:
- Lead you to information that you still need to make an informed choice, and
- Demonstrate to the admissions officer that you could be a good fit for their school.
How do you accomplish both of these goals simultaneously?
In this article, we will unpack both priorities further to see how they work together.
Then we will share specific question suggestions, as well as tips for each type of interaction you might have with admissions personnel:
- In-person communications
- Over the phone conversations
- Emailed messages
- Overall tips for any means of connection
If you haven’t started your college comparison list yet or you need guidance in narrowing down your school choices so you know who to approach with these questions, we can help.
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Check out how our expert private college counselors can help you [find direction and save money in your college search].
Now, let’s look at how to create a list of the best questions to ask a college admissions officer and how to leverage this part of the process to increase your likelihood of gaining admission to your top-choice schools.
Goal One: Accumulating Information
It all comes down to hats.
That’s right, friends.
First, you’re going to need to swap out your student hat for a researcher hat.
Take the time to peruse each school’s information thoroughly and list questions as they occur to you.
Write down questions that you can’t answer easily by just looking at a school’s website, checking out their virtual tours, or reading their promotional materials.
Consider what your priorities are and what kind of environment you think you’ll succeed in.
What do you need in order to do your best? Is there anything you are most interested in?
Ask current college students or graduates what questions they wish they had asked when considering where to attend.
Goal Two: Appearing Interested And Interesting
The second hat you’re going to want to dig out is your salesperson hat because you’re trying to convince this school that you are an excellent candidate that they should make an offer to.
Appearing Interested In Your Prospective School
Go ahead and picture the ideal student.
Yes, grades and testing scores and recommendations are good, but wouldn’t this person also have a strong desire to attend the school they’re applying to?
For many schools, the number of interactions and the sincerity of your interest can give you an advantage over less engaged applicants.
Plus, the more you interact with the college admissions office, the deeper your understanding of the school will become.
This is an important aspect of college admissions, so we have devoted an entire article to defining demonstrated interest and detailing how you can use it to help yourself, whether or not the school you’re applying to tracks it intensively.
Above all, remember it is essential to be yourself.
Don’t just tell them what you think they want to hear unless it’s true. Most admissions officers will be able to see through insincerity.
But even if you do convince them you’re someone that you’re not, it won’t be a win because you might end up at a place where you feel like an unhappy outsider.
Appearing Interesting To Your Prospective School
The perfect student would also be intelligent, right? Of course right.
By displaying your ability to process readily available information, you are showing initiative and the ability to analyze subjects that matter to you.
Remember, intelligence does not have to mean you’re lacking spunk or sass or silliness.
Creative questions can show your personality and interests, as well as lead to fun conversations that help you stand out from the crowd.
Of course, you don’t want the interactions to be so wacky that you stand out in a bad way.
But the admissions officers are humans too; they want to have fun discovering if there is common ground between you and their school’s current student body.
The Best College Admissions Questions
Whether you’re looking to polish up your list of questions or you’re stumped on where to start, this list can help. These are our favorite questions, based on our many years of experience helping students just like you to get into their dream college.
- Why do you think your school stands out from other schools?
- Can you explain what makes [insert a particular program] unique?
- I’m interested in getting involved in [insert cool-sounding activity]. Are there opportunities here to do that?
- How does the career center support students in finding jobs after graduation?
- What is the rate of employment for graduates?
- How accessible is the career center for students who want to make individual appointments with a career counselor?
- How much does your school provide help to students in finding internships?
- What types of internships are available here?
- How does your school assist undergraduate students in identifying research opportunities?
- Are there any major companies that regularly recruit from your school?
- What programs would you recommend I look into?
- Does the school maintain strong alumni contacts that provide hiring opportunities for students?
- What is the average class size?
- What percentage of students here graduate on time?
- What dining halls do students consider the best here?
- Could you tell me more about how you evaluate applications?
- Are there additional requirements for STEM majors, such as prerequisite courses, separate departmental applications, or portfolios?
- What is your acceptance rate for Early Decision?
- Do you evaluate applicants differently in Early Action or Early Decision rounds than in Regular Decision rounds?
- Approximately how many students are offered admission from the waitlist each year?
- Can you suggest any full or half-tuition scholarships that I can apply for?
- Are there any merit scholarships I might qualify for?
- What tips would you give me for the application process?
- Do you have any advice as I write essays?
- Do you offer interviews?
- What type of student do you feel really fits in at your school?
- How engaged are professors with their students’ academic careers?
- What programs are most competitive for admissions here?
Now, remember that how you ask something is just as important as what you ask.
If you sprinkle in some specifics, either about the school or the programs you are most interested in, you are likely to get a better and more detailed response than just asking simple questions that could be easily researched on the website (as well as appearing interesting and demonstrating interest, as we discussed earlier.)
So review your questions and see if there is any way to add particulars.
- Instead of asking: “Do you have a business major?”
You might say: “What are the opportunities in your business program that make it stand out?”
Or: “I read about your finance program and the business department’s Bloomberg trading room. Could you tell me more about other opportunities, that might not be on the website, that I should look into?”
- You could be very concerned about: “Does this school help students find jobs?”
But a better way to ask about it might be: “Do you currently have any active partnerships with companies that lead to internships or work experience for students? How hands-on is your career center?”
- Rather than jumping in with: “What do students do outside of class?”
Perhaps you can ask: “What does a typical Friday night look like on campus?”
Once you have your list of questions ready, you need to know how to put your best foot forward when asking your list of questions.
Keep on reading to discover what our friends in admissions appreciate most and will respond to best, depending on each type of interaction you’re likely to have.
Important Tips When Meeting In-Person With College Admissions Officers
If you have the opportunity to meet in person, this is probably the interaction that is going to be the most impactful for you.
Don’t hesitate to practice beforehand and be prepared with a small list of your most important questions.
- If the college admissions officer has time for an interview with you, great. If they just handle the group welcome and send you with a tour director, you might only get a quick introduction. Don’t be shy. Try to offer a brief, friendly “Hi, I’m _____. Thanks for making this possible for us” to help them remember that they met you.
- Be confident and make eye contact.
- Say both your first and last name when introducing yourself. You want your full name to be familiar when they are reviewing applications.
- Send a thank-you note a couple of days after you met. Mention anything that was particularly enjoyable or interesting that you hadn’t known before.
Important Tips When Talking On the Phone to College Admissions Officers
Whether talking with an admissions officer in person or communicating electronically, your goal is to leave a good impression and to ensure that you have mentioned your full name so it begins to sound familiar to them.
- Before the call, be sure to have your questions written down in articulate sentences so that even if you get nervous, you won’t forget what you called to find out or accidentally phrase a question awkwardly.
- Leave space on your list between questions to write down the answers they give so you don’t have to ask the same questions again later. If the question is worth asking, the answers should be worth saving.
- Send a thank-you note as soon as possible after the phone call. It can be handwritten or emailed; the important thing is to let them know you appreciate them taking the time to answer your questions.
Important Tips When Emailing With College Admissions Officers
With digital communication, it is tempting to be casual. But it is better to be formal in this context.
When it comes to email, it is expected that you will have had plenty of time to compose what you are saying, so the standards will be higher than when you’re just speaking “off the cuff.”
This is an opportunity to outshine many students who don’t realize that they should formally, concisely compose an email that showcases writing and communication skills which clearly indicate a potential student who will take their education seriously.
- Use proper pronouns. Usually, you’ll see an admissions officer list their preferred pronouns. If not, simply use their full name rather than guessing.
- Stick with Mr. or Ms. If you see your admissions officer’s name is Dr. Elvis Aaron Presley, you’ll use Dr. instead of Mr. or Ms. Never use Mrs. unless that is how they have introduced themselves.
- Try to be as clear as possible with your questions. Always re-read what you have written to check for typos and clarity.
- When you sign off (Sincerely, All the best, Thank you, Kindest regards), make sure you put your full name.
A Few Things To Remember
As you can see from the large number of sample questions assembled, you have a lot of options regarding what to ask about.
At the end of the day, this is an area of opportunity in the college admissions process that is incredibly easy to get right.
Admissions officers are some of the most caring and intelligent people.
They understand what you’re going through and want to get you matched with the right school.
So assemble your list of colleges along with your list of questions and bravely approach them!
If you’d like help going over your list of questions or doing practice interviews with us, we are always only an email away and would be happy to lend a hand.