May 1, the official day when students need to notify colleges if they’re coming this fall, is creeping up on everyone. “Accepted Student Days” are a new-ish phenomenon whose objective is to lure students to say “yes.”
Accepted Student Days are similar to traditional campus visits except that colleges are trying harder to convince you that they are the right choice. You will see prettier campuses, indulge in uncommonly good cafeteria food and undoubtedly be impressed by the array of well-spoken students, professors and staff who will all try to wow you.
It’s rare for parents and students NOT to fall in love with a college during Accepted Student Days; that is until they experience their next Accepted Student Day at another college.
The first big decision is whether you should even go. The benefits of attending include an opportunity to speak with professors, coaches, future teammates, students, staff and alumni as well as seeing the campus in action and maybe even sitting in on a class of interest and sometimes spending the night with a student ambassador or a friend.
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If you do choose to go, here are some suggestions:
1. Get engaged from the get-go. This is not a time to be shy; the more pro-active you are while you’re there, the more confident you’ll be in deciding if this is your best fit for next year. Immerse yourself in campus life, initiate conversations with students in the dining hall, ask thoughtful questions of the admissions staff. You’re already in; they won’t rescind their offer if you ask a “stupid question.”
2. Tailor your visit for your needs. You are likely to have some down-time. Make arrangements ahead of time to meet with people/departments that are likely to be pivotal in your decision-making process: theater directors, coaches, career services, study abroad, internship, financial aid, etc.
3. Listen and take notes. There is a lot to take in; you’ll appreciate your notes when you return, especially if you attend more than one Accepted Student Day. Listen to the questions other students and families ask because it may prompt you to think more closely about issues you hadn’t previously considered.
4. Check out the campus culture. Look around and see if people look a lot like you. Try to picture yourself on the campus, in the classes and participating in campus life. Judi Robinovitz, founder and co-owner of Score at the Top Learning Centers and Schools, suggests checking out what other students look like and how they are dressed. “That may sound very shallow, but feeling socially comfortable is almost more important than being academically comfortable, because I think that most students can choose their courses wisely enough.”
5. Relax (as best you can) and don’t make any rash decisions. Understand that colleges are putting their best foot forward and their objective is to make you fall in love. Be smart, go home, sleep on the experience and hold off on making big decisions.