For most students applying on regular deadlines, the college application season has ended. But just because your applications are sent out, that doesn't necessarily mean your work trying to get accepted at your favorite school is over. Counselors and admissions officers at schools across the country say there are still some things you can do to get an edge, as long as you don't go overboard."Most students feel that once the application is submitted, that's it," says Eric Greenberg, founder and director of the advising and tutoring firm Greenberg Educational Group. "But the reality is that colleges are often very receptive to getting additional information later on."
One remaining task, which many students are already aware of, is to follow up with senior grades and additional test scores. In turn, it's important to be in regular contact with your high school guidance counselor and not to assume that he or she will send out the scores on your behalf, say officials at St. Michael's College, a Catholic liberal arts school in Vermont. "If the college you are hoping to get into wants to see your progress, it is your responsibility to show them," says admission director Jacqueline Murphy.
Think about how you want to do it, though. Experts say that guidance counselors can carry an incredibly large workload, so it might be smart to hedge your bets and have a teacher send a letter to the university on your continuing academic progress. And it is not a bad idea to notify schools of honors, awards, or special achievements accomplished during senior year or even to submit additional recommendations. However, whether such information is considered by the admissions staff depends on the timing. And if you're applying to the most selective universities like Harvard and Yale, experts say that sending a note yourself on having obtained above-average grades—with no corroboration from a teacher or counselor—is probably a waste of time and effort, because keeping up your winning streak, gradewise, will not exactly make you a standout applicant at those universities. "But at schools that are good but not quite as selective, it could make a difference," says Chris Munoz, vice president for enrollment at Rice University.
Things get trickier when it comes to using more aggressive strategies—like personal communication and campus visits—in the hopes of getting that coveted acceptance packet. After you click "submit," some admissions officers say it can help to get up close and personal, even with the admission counselors themselves. Others say the selectivity of the school should dictate the approach taken. And many experts maintain that attempts to get the attention of admission committees are pointless at best and might even hurt one's chances of acceptance. "Such efforts unfortunately fall flat when received by office staff," says Bob Lay, dean for enrollment management at Boston College.
So what really is the best route to take? Most university officials are in agreement on at least one thing: Coming to campus for an event other than an admissions program, provided that the applicant is in range of meeting the admissions requirements, might deliver a good message. Visiting the school again, meeting with faculty members, sitting in on a class, and attending any regional events that the school might host are all good ways not just to make an informed decision on whether to attend the school but also to demonstrate to the admissions committee that you are truly interested in the institution. And whether it is a first or second visit to the campus, educational consultant Greenberg says it is perfectly acceptable to send a letter to the school explaining why the visit was useful in determining that the school is a good fit. Moreover, because most students typically wait until they receive an acceptance letter to visit or revisit the school, experts say now might be a better time to learn more about the college without the flurry of excited seniors who typically visit in the spring.
Victoria Valle, the assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management at Southern Illinois University, also recommends that students check out blogs and other online media as a way to make connections or get information on a college. Think of it as "friending" your top-choice schools, says Rob Durkle, vice president and dean of admission for the University of Dayton in Ohio. And some schools, such as Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., are even using Facebook as a channel to answer questions from prospective students.