What to Know When Colleges Visit Your High School

The following piece was written by Rachel Korn. Rachel has been featured in our Admissions Expert series and is a former University of Pennsylvania admissions officer, as well as the founder of her own admissions consulting firm.

Investigating colleges demands intensive work – reading websites/blogs/books, talking with your guidance counselor, contacting current college students and alumni, touring campuses, and attending presentations and fairs. Sometimes, however, you have the easy opportunity to meet with a college representative right in your own high school during your school day.

Every year, college admissions officers travel the U.S. and the world conducting high school visits (HSVs), typically dropping by four to five high schools per day to meet with students in their own environments. Meetings are often conducted in guidance offices and you need to obtain permission to leave class for them – make sure you investigate the procedures and policies at your school.

Admissions officers normally start planning fall HSV travel in the summer. They dig into their files with itineraries and data from previous years’ visits to brainstorm and build new schedules that support recruitment needs. After confirming the visits, the colleges send out notifications announcing the dates, times, and meeting locations – look for such notifications on your high school’s bulletin boards and website. 

How does a college pick the high schools to visit? There are two major criteria:

1. A high school is a “feeder school,” one from which several students apply annually. Students may or may not be admitted in large numbers, but many apply. Even if the admission rate is low, the college wants to maintain a strong relationship with the high school and ensure that applicant numbers stay strong and grow.

2. A high school has potential to send the “right” kind of applicants. Such a school may currently send few or zero applicants, but its students with valued demographics might apply with increased exposure to the college. These may be high schools in states from which the college does not receive enough applications, schools with desired ethnic diversity, and low-income high schools. Colleges experiment with HSVs to see if in-person visits can break any barriers to applying and encourage more applications. 

What happens during the visit?

Admissions officers are often allocated little time for HSVs, but they will describe the unique aspects of their schools, provide informational materials, put you on their mailing lists, and allow some brief questions. Afterwards, they will write up their impressions of your school and record the number of attendees for future planning, noting successes and problems and making recommendations for the next travel season. They will also likely later be reading your applications, working with your guidance counselor, and serving as your contact people for follow-up questions in the coming admissions season. 

After conducting hundreds of HSVs across the U.S. in my career, I believe that nothing tells me more about your community than a glimpse into your high school. Colleges’ ability to get into your environment (as much as their time and budgets permit) allows a deeper understanding of your application. HSVs provide you easy access to college information, but they are equally important to the colleges: in admissions committees, the representatives can describe what they saw in your school and help advocate for you better with a deeper picture of your background.

Visit Rachel’s Admissions Consulting site.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.