Lori Connor has worked in admissions and financial aid for 15 years. Today, she helps school implement SALT® for parent company, American Student Assistance®. Since we’re right in the middle of college application season, Aaron Weber asked her to tell us about admissions, money, and transferring to new schools.
AW: What are some common misconceptions about applying to college?
LC: There are three things, really, that I think are tricky for families.
First, people don’t always know how important it is to meet face-to-face with admissions and make campus visits. A lot of students think that they’re done once they finish the application. But it’s more than just the application form. Every student is a lot more than what the admissions office sees on paper, and if you can help us get a better idea of who you are, then we can do a better job. If you can, go to campus, meet the representatives, and do interviews. It builds a relationship with the school. You can still get in without a visit, of course, but it can really help a school understand a student.
Second, fit is really important. That’s another reason I always encourage people to visit campus and meet students and faculty. It gives you more information about the school and helps you decide if it’s the right place for you. The more you know about the campus and what it’s like to be there, the better.
Finally, there’s money. This one’s hard to get right for just about everyone. It’s easy to say “look for the best price” and “money is no object, go to your dream school.” But the reality is somewhere in the middle. What if you like one school almost as much as another—do you let the price be the deciding factor? You don’t want finances to stand between you and your education, but you do need to take them into account.
For students who are applying to graduate schools, or transferring to a new college, how is the process different?
They’re not as different as you might think. Graduate school is a more focused process, because you’re not just applying to a college, you’re applying to a very specific program. There are fewer candidates applying for fewer spaces, so there’s a lot more in-depth review, and more involvement from professors and not just the admissions office. I’ve also found that potential grad students are more likely to ask about the career services office, which is a good thing.
For transfer students, we’ll be looking at both college and high school transcripts. Similar to graduate school, we’re looking at a smaller number of applicants and a small number of spaces, so we can really focus on those applicants. For transfer, it’s even more important to visit the campus if you can. If you can’t afford a visit, call and ask if there’s assistance available. Many colleges will pay to bring promising students out for a tour.
Behind the scenes, what do admissions officers talk about?
We swap stories about micromanaging parents, and about our own kids. My son’s a freshman now, and let me tell you, after helping him apply to college, I really understood where the helicopter parents were coming from. I always swore I wouldn’t be That Parent, but it was a struggle to back off.