Is March Too Late to Demonstrate Interest in a College?

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I have a question about "demonstrated interest." I applied to Tufts and won't hear back until April. I happen to be going to Boston for my brother's engagement party next month. I plan to stop in at Tufts and look around since I'd like to get a feel for the campus, but I won't be doing a formal tour (I looked at the tour schedule and there isn't one available that day when I'll be on the campus...I don't know if I'd have the time anyway). Should I "check in" with admissions or email them ahead of time to say I'll be there? Or offer to set up an interview or meeting with the head of the department I applied to? I want to get credit for "demonstrated interest" by visiting but I realize it's late in the process by the time I'll be there and I won't be doing a formal tour.

Next month is rather late to pick up any Brownie points for "Demonstrated Interest" at Tufts. However, if you haven't been to campus yet, "The Dean" urges you to visit while you're in Boston because, if you are accepted, it will be quite helpful to have eyeballed the place before you have to make a big decision about enrolling.

And although your admissions verdict may already be final — or close to final — by the time you get there, it could be at least a tiny plus to show some interest now. So your first step should be to email your regional admissions representative right away. This is the staff member who oversees applicants from your high school. If you don't already have a name (and contact information) for your rep, you can probably find it here.

Explain in your message that you're heading to Boston for your brother's engagement party next month and that you haven't yet seen Tufts because ____. (Hopefully you'll have a legitimate reason like cost or distance. But if you live in New England or if your real reason for not going sooner was along the lines of, "I was sure I'd get in early to Brown," then you'd better leave this part out.)

Tell your rep that you are eager to see the campus although there are no official tours during your travel dates. The Dean's best guess is that you'll be there during the Tufts spring break when tours aren't offered. However, there are information sessions during the break. You should book one today. Then you can mention to your rep that you'll be at the session on ______ [date] and were wondering if he or she might be around for a quick hello before or afterward. But do note that regional reps don't typically meet with visiting students. So if the rep can't see you, don't interpret this to mean, "We've already decided to reject you." And if your regional rep should write back and say, "I can probably dig up a student to give you a tour" (highly unlikely but possible), it would be to your benefit to reply with enthusiasm and thanks rather than to say, "I'm not sure I'll have the time." Make the time, even if it means skipping a shower on the way to your brother's bash.

It also would work in your favor to do a little "homework" and find out what's happening on campus when you're there and — if any of the events catch your eye and fit your schedule — you can say this in your note as well. Here's the Tufts Event calendar. (Don't you wish all your teachers made your homework as easy as The Dean does? ;-)) So you could say something like, "Because of my passion for Environmental Science, I was excited to see that there's a lecture I can get to on banning fracking in New York."

You should not try to meet with the head of your prospective major department unless you have some amazingly compelling reason to do so (e.g., you just won an award for a research paper on his or her exact area of specialization). Faculty members, and especially department heads, usually don't have the time to chit-chat with prospective students unless they encounter them casually in the snack bar queue.

Bottom line: At this stage of the admission process, you won't get a lot of mileage out of your "demonstrated interest" gambit. Even so, touching base with your regional rep right now is still a good plan, and making an effort to see the Tufts campus next month is an even better one because you might have a key decision about the school facing you in April.

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About the Ask the Dean column: Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean, please send it along here.