Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Never Answer the ONE Question Colleges Will Always Ask You (If You Want to Get In)

Throughout the entire college process, colleges are trying to figure out whether or not a prospective student is a good fit for their campus. They are constantly asking interested students - at college fairs, informational sessions, on their websites, in the applications themselves, interviews, etc. The types of questions they ask sound like they're about them, but what they're really asking for information about you. (For example, when asked the perennial favorite "Why do you want to attend our college?" The last thing you want to do is go on and on about how wonderful you think their college is - that's not the answer they're looking for!)
They will ask you questions about your activities, your academics, your thoughts on the world around you, etc. But there is one question you almost always get - likely directly in a conversation - "What other colleges are you considering (or applying to)?"
There is ONE fundamental problem with answering that question. If you answer it with a laundry list of other colleges you're considering applying to, you could damage your opportunities at that college on the spot. Here is why.
When colleges make an admissions decision, if they were focused only on the amount of money they could get in tuition, then anyone who could pay the bill would get in -- and we know that isn't the case. But getting a tuition check is only part of their concern. They are also looking at students for the value they bring to campus or results they are going to achieve while on our campus (and serve as marketing tools for us in the future).
When the colleges are asking that question, they are looking to see who their competition will be when it comes decision time. College Admissions Officers are constantly thinking to themselves, "If we say yes to this student, how likely is this student actually going to attend our college (i.e. pay us money, offer us value or get great results)?"
Answering the "What other colleges are you considering?" question doesn't help them see your value one whit - but it does help them get a sense of who their competition is and they could decide that rather than compete, they'll simply "bow out" - by saying "no thanks" to you in favor of a student they think is more interested in attending their college.
The solution? Do not give them an answer to that question. Instead, provide an "obvious answer" and then "redirect" the conversation with a question of your own. One where you can give them a glimpse of your interest in them. That is how you can find out more about them, describe yourself and they sell themselves on you based on the "value" you would bring to campus.
Now, by the way, this situation does not just happen during interactions and conversations with college admissions' officers and other admissions representatives (like current students of the college at informational sessions). This question also comes up frequently on applications. The answer is always the same, though. Provide an obvious answer and then re-direct the narrative.
Your assignment:
Never discuss the colleges you're applying to during your interactions with college representatives. You will almost always hurt your chances. Here is what I recommend my clients say to the representative of XYZ College when they are asked:
"I'm considering a few additional colleges right now, but, haven't really made an decisions yet (except for XYZ - only add this part if it's 100% true). But, while I have you here, I would really like to ask you about....." and fill in with a question you have created as part of your criteria you're using to investigate the colleges to see if they're a good fit for you.
Done. You're able to reaffirm your HIGH level of interest in the college and demonstrate some thoughtfulness and value (inquisitive, deliberate, smart) and then you're all set to move on and "close the deal" later in your carefully prepared application with dynamite essay, if and when you decide to apply to that college.
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