Standout Questions to Ask Admissions Counselors

There you are, face-to-face, screen-to-screen, phone-to-phone with a college admissions counselor. A meeting with a college admissions counselor can be a significant boon to your college application prospects, especially if they personally work with applications from your area. While the influence of admission counselors can vary widely from institution to institution, establishing yourself as a proactive and engaged student with thoughtful questions will never hurt.

Let’s present a common scenario that will simulate the average interaction between students and admissions counselors (for simplicity, we’ll be talking about a traditional college fair instead of a virtual college fair):

A student is attending a college fair and visiting admissions counselors to learn more about their colleges. The student approaches the table, introduces themselves, and the conversation commonly begins one of two ways: 1) The student initiates by asking questions related to their interests or concerns about college. 2) The student just wants to learn a little more about the college and the admission counselor begins a well-rehearsed elevator pitch. Even if #2 happens, the admissions counselor is going to follow-up by asking the student if they have any questions.

Now here are some of the most common questions students will ask:

  • How is your [insert major here] program?
  • Do you have study abroad?
  • How big is your school?
  • Where is your school located?
  • What [test] scores do I need to get in?
  • Does your school have [insert sport here]?

DON’T WASTE TIME WITH THESE QUESTIONS!

Well, maybe the bold and underlining is a little much, but it’s important to think about why you shouldn’t ask these questions. Almost all of these can be answered on the school’s website or any of the marketing materials available on the table, during a college visit, or that will be sent to you through via snail mail. Now, to be clear, any decent admissions counselor will have well-crafted answers for each of these questions. Ultimately, these questions make it difficult to create a meaningful and lasting impact on the admissions counselor. That being said, we can take these questions and turn them into something that will likely be much more helpful to students.

  • How is your [insert major here] program?
    • I’m interested in [insert academic subject, career ambitions, or meaningful hobby], how could your school help me grow in this area/achieve my goals? Do you know of other students that have had similar goals or interests? How was their experience? 
  • Do you have study abroad?
    • I’m interested in studying abroad, but…..
    • I don’t want to lose a semester worth of classes, what kind of non-semester-based study abroad programs do you offer?
    • I want to be abroad for longer than a semester. Is that possible and still realistic to graduate on time? 
    • I want to hear about how you can make studying abroad financially affordable. 
    • I want to go to [specific country] or study [specific subject], do you have options for that? 
  • How big is your school?
    • What is the campus culture and how do students interact with each other?
    • When I think of a [big or small] college, I think of these characteristics. Do those match your college?
    • What is the size of your average classes, your largest classes, and your smallest classes?
  • Where is your school located? 
    • How easy is it to travel to your school? Is it near an airport? Does the college offer shuttles?
    • What kind of activities do students become involved in off-campus?
    • What are the most popular local spots/activities for students? 
    • Are there opportunities for research, internships, and volunteering close to the school?
  • What [test] scores do I need to get in?
    • Here is my GPA & test score, how do they compare to other students that will be applying?
    • Tell me a little about the application process. What is more important, GPA or test scores? How much weight does the essay hold? How important are extracurricular activities? Does your school track demonstrated interest?
    • Do you recalculate my GPA? If not, do you take the weighted or unweighted GPA?
    • Are you test-optional? Are you test blind? If so, do I still qualify for scholarships if I don’t submit a test score?
  • Does your school have [insert sport here]?
    • How does your college view the idea of being a “student-athlete?” 
    • I’m interest in [specific sport] and I want to play at a [recreation, intramural, club, D3, D2, D1] level. What opportunities exist at your college for me? 

Outstanding Questions to Ask Admission Counselors

Now, let’s move past the conversation about how to enhance those commonly asked questions. What are some creative and engaging questions that will push admissions counselors to answer in organic, authentic, and transparent ways? The goal shouldn’t be to “stump” a college representative, but to provide an opportunity for them to have a fresh and engaging conversation that reveals details about the college and about what the student is looking for. Here are some suggestions for creative and engaging questions to ask admissions counselors:

  • How would you describe your students in five adjectives?
  • If there were a theme song to your campus, what would it be?
  • What’s a conversation you are likely to overhear at your school, but not anywhere else?
  • Why did you choose to work at this college? (If they are an alum, ask them why they chose to stay)
  • What would a world full of [insert college here] graduates look like?
  • If I walked onto your campus, what would I see, hear, feel, etc.?
  • If I were dropped onto your campus blindfolded, how would I be able to differentiate your campus from others?
  • How would you describe your school on a dating app?
  • Beyond ranking, GPA, and test scores, what kind of student would thrive and excel at your school?

From my experience working with students, it’s not a lack of curiosity that leaves them without questions, but a lack of knowledge about which questions to ask. Hopefully you can walk about from this blog post with more nuanced versions of commonly asked questions and some new creative questions to spur great conversations. As always, if you have questions or a topic you’d like to hear more about, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly.

Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors, Sawyer Earwood provides stress-free, personalized, and professional one-on-one college guidance around the globe from the comfort of a student’s own home.  See his profile with contact information here.

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