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By Eric Lynne

Visiting campus is a wonderful way to get to know a college — perhaps the best way. A visit is also one of the primary methods for students to demonstrate their interest in a school. Demonstrating interest is an important part of the admissions process because it indicates to a school that an applicant is actually considering attending, which can boost the applicant’s admissions chances. In sum, a college visit to a prospective school is recommended if you can make it work. (To make the most of your next college visit, check out our Galin Guide to College Visits before you head out!)

That said, visiting a school before applying isn’t always an option. Case and point: due to the threat of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to a growing number of locations and many college campuses are suspending classes to mitigate COVID-19’s spread (including UW–Madison). 

Even in safer conditions, campus visits can be tough. Each visit takes time and money. Even with unlimited resources, seeing every campus before applying is just not feasible. Not being able to visit shouldn’t deter a prospective student from applying, though. Colleges know that not all students will be able to make arrangements to visit, and therefore have provided other ways for prospective students to learn about the school.

In the next few weeks, Galin Education will be putting together a comprehensive resource for students and families who are eager to continue the college search process amidst these difficult conditions. In the meantime, here’s a good start on how to get to know a school and demonstrate your interest, even if you can’t visit:

    • Do preliminary research.

Whether making plans to visit or not, it’s a wise move to do some preliminary research into the school. Go beyond the college website’s homepage: dig into the programs offered in your fields of interest, check to see if your academic profile fits the admissions requirements, learn about the school’s vision and mission to see if it aligns with your own goals, and find out whatever other information you need to make sure that (on paper at least) it looks like a good fit.

  • Connect with the school’s social media and get onto the school’s email list.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to get to know a school and demonstrate your interest is to connect with the school on social media. It is also a smart idea to get onto the prospective student email list, which (along with the typical marketing campaigns urging you to apply) will provide pertinent application information so you are aware of requirements and upcoming deadlines. (Pro tip: actually open and read these emails, too — many schools assess prospective student engagement by tracking student’s engagement.)

  • Reach out to admissions.

Once you’ve done your research and decided you want to apply, get connected with the admissions office. By speaking with someone from admissions, you’ll learn of additional ways to connect without visiting. Each school will have a menu of different options to get connected. (Pro tip: make sure you’ve done thorough research into the school before reaching out so you have good questions to ask and can show you’ve already been looking into the school.)

  • Meet with a regional representative and/or set up an alumni interview.

Colleges want to meet you, too! Many colleges use their alumni network and regional representatives to reach out and find prospective applicants. Take advantage of these opportunities.

  • Write strong application essays.

Many schools require applicants to write additional essays to explain their interest in the school — commonly known as “Why?” Essays. These essays are where you can let your hard work and research into the school shine. By connecting your interests to what the school offers, you’ll be able to make a strong argument for your admission. (Pro tip: most optional essays aren’t really optional, so make sure you write those, too. Completing optional scholarship essays is also a way to demonstrate interest.) If you’re looking for additional guidance on your application essays, Galin Education can help. Sign up to meet with an Essay Coach by clicking here.

  • Get applications in early.

Turning in a polished application with room to spare shows that you put time and effort into your application. Waiting until the last minute of the last deadline to turn in your application, on the other hand, might indicate that the school was not high your list — especially if the application appears rushed.