Virtual college admissions information sessions are currently taking the place of on-campus visits and will still be useful even after traditional visits resume.
I’ve put together this article to help you make the most out of these sessions.
Click on one of the links below to jump right to the section that interests you:
What’s the value of participating in virtual college admissions information sessions if your school doesn’t consider demonstrated interest?
How can you use info you learn in your supplemental essays and alumni interviews?
We’re tackling these two questions at the same time.
Many schools say that they don’t take into account demonstrated interest. Nevertheless, many of these same schools require you to write supplemental “why us” essays.
One or two tactful references to your visits (virtual or otherwise) can be a useful addition to your supplemental essays.
Let’s say that during your Colgate admissions information session you were blown away when you heard a current sophomore describe her experience helping her history professor edit the introduction to his new book on the American Revolution, an opportunity that at a larger research institution would have gone to a graduate student. Hearing about her experience inspired you to learn more about history professors in your field of interest at Colgate and start envisioning what it would be like to work on his upcoming project.
Colgate indicates in their Common Data Set for 2019-2020 that they do not consider the “level of [an] applicant’s interest” (aka demonstrated interest), but one of the Colgate supplemental essays (for 2019-2020) asks you to respond to this question: “With over 500 liberal arts and sciences colleges in the United States, what inspired you to apply to Colgate?” (260 words).
You could use your experience in the admissions information session along with your description of the steps you took afterwards to explain how these types of experiences symbolize to you the essence of what makes a Colgate education unique and “inspired you to apply to Colgate.”
Likewise, in your alumni interviews, you can sometimes use what you learn during admissions information sessions. In alumni interviews, you’re basically guaranteed to get asked why you are drawn to the particular school and if you have any questions for the interviewer. It’s SO hard to come up with interesting and meaningful questions, especially if you’re just sitting around trying to figure out a good question.
Let’s say you’re participating in your alumni interview for Colgate and you’re the student I described in the previous paragraph.
You could share about your experience and why that intensified your interest in Colgate and then ask your interviewer how their interactions with professors were transformative in terms of shaping their thinking, knowledge, and experience. That’s a great question that you can integrate into the natural flow of your conversation with the alumni interviewer.
What should you do before participating in information sessions?
There are two main things you should do to prepare for your virtual college admissions information sessions.
- Study the Admissions section of the website, “clip” relevant pages into Evernote, highlight any important information (the ability to mark up website content is something I love about Evernote), and jot down questions that emerge from this research.
This approach makes it easier to focus during the college admissions information sessions because your mind won’t have to process a ton of information. You can filter out stuff that appears on the website and listen for the unique points. It also increases the chances of coming up with useful questions for the Q&A section.
- Find the most recent supplemental essay questions for the college. Copy and paste the essay prompt and word limit into a document.
Knowing these topics helps you stay on the lookout for details in the admissions info sessions that you might be able integrate into your essays.
You should be taking notes on the following things:
- the name of the admissions officer hosting the session
- the name of any of the current students participating in the session, any interesting anecdotes they share, and what you notice about their spirit
- any important details that you didn’t see described in the Admissions section of the website
- the “vibe” of the session (especially if you feel it represents something significant about the essence of the school and intensifies your desire to attend it)
I often have students asking me if they should try to curry favor with admissions officers and “build relationships” with them.
It’s fine to send a brief but specific thank-you message to the admissions officer who hosted the virtual session. It isn’t absolutely necessary.
You shouldn’t be emailing admissions officers unless you have genuine questions whose answers cannot be located on the website. Frivolous emails will backfire on you.
I always tell my students to run their emails by me before sending them. You want to make sure they’re tactful and truly necessary.
Colleges Offering Online/Virtual Admissions Information Sessions for 2020-2021
This list is far from exhaustive, but it represents many of the schools that are popular amongst my students.
If a college that interests you isn’t on this list, go to the school’s admissions page and look for the tab with information on visiting campus. That’s where you should find what kind of online admissions information sessions (if any) they are hosting.
Registration is required for all live admissions information sessions and even some of the pre-recorded ones.
Bard is offering “Let’s Meet sessions,” which “will allow prospective students and their families to join virtual information and Q&A sessions hosted by an admission counselor and a current Bard student.”
You can participate in this recent pre-recorded admissions information session.
Boston College invites you to “register for a Virtual Eagle Eye Campus Visit for prospective first-year students. Led by an admission counselor, this one-hour `visit’ includes an information session covering the admission process and financial aid” and features “an authentic panel discussion with current students.”
Boston University is hosting “Virtual Chats with Current BU Students” You’ll get to connect with “a group of current BU students over Zoom Webinar.” You can also ask them “questions about academic and student life.”
Carleton is hosting Online Information Sessions that last for one hour and include time for “Q&A with a member of the Carleton Admissions staff.”
Colgate is hosting Virtual Information Sessions run by an admission officer and a current student. You’ll “be able to chat questions to the panelists.”
Columbia is hosting Virtual Information Sessions.
As of April 23, Cornell doesn’t have any virtual admissions information sessions. However, you can “email a current student.” The “Cornell Ambassadors can provide you with more information about the application process, and about learning and living at Cornell. The International Student Admission Ambassadors group is also available to assist international applicants with questions.”
Duke is hosting Virtual Visits hosted by an admissions officer.
Georgia Tech is offering both live Virtual Information Sessions and pre-recorded ones.
Grinell offers a pre-recorded virtual information session with “fourth-year students Maddy Smith and Ayyad Jacob [who] share their unique stories about learning, life, and friendship at Grinnell.”
Throughout April, Macalester is offering a wide range of online information sessions.
Middlebury is offering online information sessions.
Northwestern is offering online information sessions that “feature admission directors and current students, with opportunity for real-time Q & A, while the student panels will offer an opportunity to ask questions of a group of current students.” They also have pre-recorded options.
Tufts is hosting “30-minute information session[s] with an admissions officer, followed up by 30 minutes of Q&A!”
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN – ANN ARBOR
University of Michigan has pre-recorded information sessions.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA – CHAPEL HILL
UNC Chapel Hill is hosting “Carolina Virtual Visits,” where “you’ll connect with current Carolina students and a member of our Undergraduate Admissions team to learn more about the University and what it’s like to study here. You’ll also be able to ask live questions through our chat.”
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame is hosting virtual admissions sessions that are “presented by an admissions counselor” and “provide all the information you would receive from a visit to campus. Counselors cover academics, extracurriculars, community, and spiritual life at Notre Dame, as well as information on admissions and financial aid.” During the “live webcasts. . .you will be able to participate in a Q&A with our admissions staff.” There is also a pre-recorded option available.
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS
WUSTL is “offering live information sessions three days a week. During the session you’ll hear about life at WashU from our student interns and there will be plenty of time to have your questions answered.” They also have a pre-recorded option.
Beginning in “early May we will be providing virtual information sessions twice per week with current students and admission counselors. When registration for information sessions is available, you’ll be able to book your information session online and we’ll email you so you’re the first to know. If your burning curiosity can’t wait until then, you can watch our previously recorded information session with two current students, Malena ’20 and Tema ’20.” Wellesley also has “a selection of recorded faculty lectures that will be available on-demand. Our first faculty lecture is now available and more will be released throughout the month of April and into May.”
Wesleyan is hosting online information sessions run by an “admission dean and a current Wesleyan student who will provide an inside look at the Wesleyan community both academically and socially, as well as offer information about admission and financial aid. Guests will be able to see the presenters and submit questions throughout the session. Online information sessions are offered on the follow days: Tuesdays at 3:00 pm EDT and Thursdays at 9:00 am EDT and 6:00 pm EDT.”
Williams is hosting “forty-minute Zoom sessions,” which “include Q&A and are offered weekdays at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 a.m Eastern Time.”
Yale is hosting virtual information sessions.
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