When you are in the company of an admissions counselor, it is common to go, well, blank.
What were those questions you had, again? Uh, what are good questions to ask an admissions counselor?
First of all, what is an admissions counselor? An admissions counselor is someone employed by a college or university to market the college and walk students through the admissions process, from application to acceptance to first-year orientation. Any questions your family has should go toward the admissions counselor. Admissions counselors typically have a territory that they manage, which consists of different areas of the country. Your admission counselor assignment depends on your area of the country.
In this piece, we will walk through eleven questions to ask an admissions counselor so you do not get the “deer in the headlights” look.
When Will You Meet with an Admissions Counselor?
Admissions counselors will pop up into your life in three major locations: college fairs, during college visits, and at your high school. Let’s explore these three locations further:
- College fairs: You know college fairs as the sea of tables with tablecloths in a gymnasium or a convention center commonly held by the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). College fairs allow you to meet with admissions counselors quickly. If their table is busy, it is likely that you will not get to talk with an admissions counselor for very long — sometimes just long enough to ask a question or two and swipe some materials! You may not meet with your assigned admissions counselor at a college fair, but in most cases, admissions counselors who manage your area will be at your local college fair.
- College visits: While you are on campus, schedule some time with your admissions counselor. If your particular admissions counselor is traveling, you may have to meet with a different counselor. At any rate, this is a good time to meet with the person you will work with for the better part of a year! Be sure to check out college visit tips to maximize your time on campus.
- Your high school: You may also meet an admissions counselor at your high school. Many, many colleges schedule high school visits during the school year to meet with prospective students and answer any questions one-on-one. It is a great opportunity to ask an admissions counselor questions in a small setting. It is important to note that you may have to ask questions in front of your classmates unless you get the admission counselor alone to ask personal questions related to your application or status or other questions.
Might you encounter admissions counselors in different locations? It is possible you may do a Zoom call with them or meet them in another capacity in a different location.
11 Questions to Ask an Admissions Counselor
Let’s take a look at some good questions to ask an admissions counselor to better help you understand what they are looking for in applicants. Whether you incorporate questions to ask during an admission counselor’s interview or during a college fair, always ask questions to tap into the extensive institutional knowledge possessed by an admissions counselor.
1. What is it like to attend this college or university?
An admissions counselor should be able to give you a deep, detailed account of what it is like to attend a college. In fact, they may give you more information than students because they are employed to know every fact there is to know about a college or university.
An admissions counselor should be able to give you a colorful picture of what it is like to attend a college. Even if a particular admission counselor did not attend that particular institution, they should still give you a descriptive overview of student life, residence hall life, academic options, and more. They should even be able to tell you how long it takes to get from one end of campus to the other.
Should you skip asking this question and go straight to a student to get a student’s perspective? Well, we recommend talking with students, of course, but It is a really good idea to get both perspectives — students’ and admissions counselors’ perspectives — so you hear both.
In short, if you cannot get a comprehensive answer from an admissions counselor, ask the director of admissions or an associate director of admissions for more information.
2. What is the success rate of my intended major at this college or university?
What is one of the most important questions among parents? Here it is:
Will my child get a job after attending your college? Career launching is always on every parent’s radar screen.
So, do not dance around the subject. Ask about job placement or graduation rates for the major you are considering. Many colleges publish this information on their websites, but consider asking the admissions counselor for more detailed information. They should be able to give you detailed information about actual students who have graduated from the college you are considering and where they work now or where they attend graduate school. Listen for high job placement rates. If it is a 50% placement rate or lower, probe for more details about why these graduates have been unsuccessful finding jobs.
3. What are my financial aid or scholarship opportunities?
There is no question about it — you should ask this question and ask for details. If an admissions counselor gives you a bland answer or uses words like “about so-and-so amount,” press for more details.
Now, it is important to remember that the admissions office is not the financial aid office. The financial aid office is the entity that puts together your exact financial aid award. If you want exact details about how much you will pay, meet with the financial aid office for more details.
Remember that in some cases, financial aid is a partnership between you, your parents, and the school. Listen in on this very important portion of the financial aid discussion — your parents may ask you to contribute to your college costs! And always be sure to complete your FAFSA each year!
Ask about specialty scholarships as well, such as music scholarships if you play the trumpet or theater scholarships if you want to be a thespian in college. The college may also have some extra ideas on state, regional, or other area scholarships you can apply for that fit your experience level and interests. Some colleges have even developed their own scholarship databases for organizing scholarship opportunities such as the University of Pittsburgh’s PittFund$Me for incoming and current students.
4. What types of academic resources are available?
Put this one on your list of good questions to ask college admissions counselors, especially if you have specific academic needs. For example, do you have dyslexia and need information about academic support for your situation? Do you need help in other areas of your academic life? Academics in college often present a much more challenging scenario than academics in high school, so be prepared for a lot more reading, writing, and a larger homework load.
Colleges and universities want to hear about your academic needs so they can mobilize to help meet your needs and help you have a successful academic experience.
5. What internships have students secured in my major?
At many colleges and universities, students get a reputation for being great interns at a certain location, and businesses jump at the chance to hire or employ them.
For example, a particular athletic training program may have a connection through an alumnus through the Kansas City Chiefs because that alumnus works as an athletic trainer for the Chiefs. Remember, connections mean everything, and that is the case with internships as well as job prospects.
Again, many colleges and universities publish information about internships on their websites, but ask the admissions counselor for detailed information about students who have gotten excellent internships and have seen success after that. Do not forget to ask how many students pursue internships — you want to hear higher numbers for your particular major unless your major offers an alternative route, such as student teaching for education majors.
6. What do you wish you could change about this college or university?
This is a great stumper question and it is one you should always ask because it forces colleges and universities to answer thoughtfully. Most admissions counselors realize that they have to give a meaningful answer because families will see right through it if they answer, “I wish they had chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria on Wednesdays instead of Thursdays.”
It has to get at the heart of a profound change they wish they could see, and definitely encourage them to answer in that manner. As a student or parent, it could also send up red flags if they refuse to answer or if they are totally honest with you and give you a laundry list of things they would like to change.
7. What is the application process? What is my application status?
The admissions counselor should know everything about your application before you even arrive. For example, they need to know that you have already applied, been admitted, been rejected, waitlisted, or waiting to hear back. If the college has rolling admissions, you could be at any stage in the pipeline, but in the case of more definitive deadline dates, the scenario could look different.
At any rate, ask the admissions counselor to tell you exactly what the application process looks like — in detail! They will help you figure out what you need to do next and can even help you determine what you need to do to prepare for the next step or even bolster your application.
This is a great question for underclassmen to ask, particularly if you are not sure about what to expect.
8. How accessible are the professors?
This is a great question that requires a straightforward answer. For example, if you are visiting a research university and expect the lecturing professor to be available to answer your questions at the drop of a hat, you may be out of luck. A teaching assistant may be the only one who will do that.
On the other hand, if you are looking into a liberal arts college and want access to professors, you may have more luck getting in touch with professors during lengthy office hours throughout the week. That might be a better match for your needs.
Regardless, find out how often professors are available to students and make sure the answer matches up with your preferences.
9. What is campus life like?
An admissions counselor will likely cover student life when they answer the question, “What is it like to attend this college or university?” However, if they do not touch on campus life in that question and focus solely on academics, you may want to revisit the question.
Ask about distance from the airport, shopping areas, whether freshmen can have cars on campus, how students are assigned to a residence hall and whether there are co-ed dorms, services provided in the residence halls, meal plan options, athletic teams available, and general activities students can get involved in on campus. If you want to be part of the ski club or the dance club in college, ask about the details!
10. How will we work together?
In most cases, you do not have any control over who gets “assigned” to you as an admissions counselor, and that may be intimidating for you. However, remember that in most cases, the admissions counselor has your best interests at heart throughout the process.
Ask them when you will hear from them, when you can expect to get in touch with them, etc. Ask as many questions related to contacting them as possible. It is to your advantage to get to know your admissions counselor. If you do not, you are missing out on a treasure trove of information and a wonderful resource.
Now, is it possible to get a dud as an admissions counselor? Might you never hear from them — ever? Sure. Report it to the director of admissions and politely request that you want a new admissions counselor.
11. What is special about this college or university?
This is another great one, and to be honest, your admissions counselor should not quit talking when you ask this question. Colleges tend to blend together after a while, TBH, so never stop asking this discerning question to understand how it differs and how it can get you closer to your dreams. You will be glad you asked this question because it should make your eyes a little starrier.
Questions to Ask Admissions Officers: Do not Limit Yourself to this List
This may be the end of our list, but there are other good questions to ask admissions officers related to your specific needs and interests. If you have a distinct interest in dancing in college, you are likely going to ask lots of pointed questions about the ballet or jazz classes available to you.
On the other hand, if you know you want to major in criminal justice, you may have questions about how many students graduate successfully from that major and go on to become investigators. The sky’s the limit — do not forget to use admissions counselors to your advantage.
Also, do not be afraid to play the game “stump the admissions counselor.” If they do not know the answer to something, they should be willing to get it for you.
If you are still feeling a little nervous or need help formulating the right questions to ask an admissions counselor based on your unique situation, contact Campus to Career Crossroads so we can help you leave a long-lasting positive impression!