By now many college-bound high school seniors have not only received acceptance letters; they have also received invitations to the Accepted Students Day for at least one college that admitted them.

Each year, colleges host an Accepted Students Day one or more times during their admission cycle to welcome prospective freshmen. The Accepted Students Day helps students and parents make their final decision because they have to attract the best freshman class that they can possibly get. The Accepted Students Day also gives a school a chance to showcase itself at its best, especially when the weather is nice. You can bet admissions officers across the country pray for sunny skies the night before.

What should parents and students do after they have been invited to an Accepted Students Day?

Well, for one thing, they should go, if they are truly serious about the school. If the school was a “safe school,” the 12th choice on a 12 school list, the place where a student would go if s/he did not get in anywhere else, then parents and students should pass, if they have more attractive alternatives. There is no point in misleading the admissions team at a school that you have no intention of attending.

Here are some tips for visiting the schools that are higher up your list.

  • Parent and student should go together, even if it is a school where the student is likely to live at home. Students who come to an Accepted Students Days with their friends instead of their parents take information sessions, campus tours and the other events less seriously. Besides, it makes little sense to choose a school mainly because friends from high school will be going there, too.
  • Book two days near campus, the day before or the day after the Accepted Students Day and walk around the campus and surroundings, parent and student separately, if possible. Talk to students. Buy a snack at the student center or the dining hall and observe how people interact. Get to know the surrounding area. Is it a long walk to downtown, or is downtown outside the main gate? Can you get around the campus and community without having a car? Most colleges do not allow freshmen to have cars, but most students do not want to feel “stuck” on campus when they want to have fun. If you are on campus on a Friday or Saturday night, try to get an idea of where students go when they want to go out.
  • Be polite to everyone who works for the school. Administrators remember everyone who is nice to them–and they also remember everyone who is rude to them. Do not use an Accepted Students Day as an opportunity to brag or convince the admissions and financial aid officers that your student (if you’re a parent) is better than they think or more deserving of assistance than similar students. The smart administrators smile, then they excuse themselves. But they always remember. So do the student ambassadors who help the admissions office host these events.
  • At the same time, don’t be shy about asking  about special needs: medical, dietary, religious and so on. Colleges are expected to be accommodating to these needs, as long as they are aware of them. Administrators who want you to come to their school are more than happy to set you up with doctors, dining services, anyone who might need to assist you.
  • Keep the embarrassing questions private. These events are run with large groups in mind, especially among the students who might be coming there in the fall. A student who becomes red-faced over an embarrassing question from their mother or father will be remembered by future classmates in September. Not to mention that other parents will move over a few seats.
  • Wait until after the event is over to review the school.. Parents and students should talk over everything privately away from campus, as their financial and family situations are uniquely their own. Share notes, even if they’re different. Both parents and students have to be comfortable with their decision.

An Accepted Students Day is a great way to get to know a college before you commit your student and your money. It provides a longer exposure to a school than you will get from an information session and a campus tour and they help you get your questions answered. It is a win for the colleges, too. They want nothing more than satisfied students who have made a well-informed decision.

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