How to Get Noticed by Colleges

Get noticed by colleges!By: Susanna Cerasuolo M.Ed.
As you narrow down your college list this summer, there are some things that you can be doing to be sure that your colleges notice you.  Remember to clearly tell your top choice college that they are your number one choice; colleges are most interested in making offers of admission to students they know will accept and enroll, so when you are one of those students, be sure to make it known.
Research your top choice college
Be very clear about the reasons they are your top choice.  If their application allows a space for you to state these reasons, awesome.  If it doesn’t, then draft a few paragraphs eloquently and succinctly declaring your love for them, and find a way to get this to your admissions officer at that college.  In this effort, you need to use a lot of specific names from that college, names of: programs, professors, classes, clubs, facilities, fun traditions, etc.
Join the mailing list
You want to declare your interest and stay in the loop, so sign up on the admissions website to receive more info.  Just because you get emails and brochures from the college does not mean that you are on their mailing list!  Colleges purchase your contact info from the PSAT and PLAN, but when you initiate contact it puts you on a different, better list.
Visit the campus
This is always a good idea, and it should be an official, registered visit. Take the tour and sit in on the info session. Be sure to sign in, see if you can meet professors in your department or the coach for your sport (huge help). And then be sure to send a thank you note. Also, check out our vlog for more touring tips.
Attend the visit when the college rep comes to your high school
If your favorite college travels all the way across the country to visit your high school, then you had certainly better be there if you want them to believe that they are your top choice college. Read the handout on what to do at these visits here.
Attend the visit when the college rep comes to your city
In the Fall (and sometimes in May) colleges go on tour and your faves may be coming to a city near you.  They give great advice on admissions, so it is always a great idea for you to go, to sign in and see if there are any things you can do to increase your admissions chances.
Follow the college on Twitter, Like them on Facebook, Follow them on Instagram
Who knows if this one counts, but it can’t hurt, right?  Plus, everyone likes to be liked, even colleges. 🙂
Apply Early Action or Early Decision
Applying EA and ED really increases your chances of admissions because you show the college that you are really interested in enrolling there.  EA is not binding, but ED is, so you probably don’t want to apply ED if you really need to consider financial aid (though you can break an ED contract if you don’t get enough aid).
Go and meet the admissions rep at the NACAC Fall College Fair
Often the person who mans the booth at the College Fair is the regional rep for your area—the person who will be deciding if you get in or not.  You should plan to attend the College Fair in Fall of Junior and Senior year.  Be polite and *do not* monopolize their time or you will make a bad impression.  See the full CollegeMapper handout on what to do at the College Fair, here.
Declare the college as one of your top four on the FAFSA
If you apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA at, then be sure to list your top four colleges in the top four spots.  Colleges can see this.
Many colleges offer interviews and it is always a good idea to schedule one if it is available.  If you are interviewing with the admissions rep for your region, then this person is likely the person who will be deciding if you get accepted or not.  While you may be nervous about meeting this person, at the same time, be sure to try to figure out if this is a good fit for you and if you should be applying to this college.  Try to figure out if you will be happy academically and socially.  They may be interviewing you, but you are interviewing them, too.  Be very polite at all times and send a thank you note in the mail as a follow-up.  We have sample thank you notes and interview guidelines in our handouts section.
Connect with local alumni from that college
See if the college has a local alumni group that you can connect with.  Ask if you can come to one of their events, or if you can meet some of them for coffee. You should offer to buy their coffee, as a gesture of thanks.  They may not let you, but it’s cute to offer and shows good manners.  During this coffee chat you can ask all kinds of insider questions about the college—make sure every question is *very* polite and presents you as a serious student who is eager to get involved on campus.
There are lots of things that you can do to show your top choice college that they are your fave and to increase your admissions chances, no matter how high ranking your college is. These things take time, so you can’t do these (nor should you) for all of your colleges. Research your colleges carefully and choose your top college carefully, too.  That is half the battle!


36 Responses

  1. I know the necessary requirements for getting to a college, but are there other special requirements going into robotics college?

    1. Hi Jamie! For going into robotics you will want to join the robotics club at school (and compete!), do some summer activities in robotics, and study robotics on your own by reading, researching, building, etc. Also, interview people who work in the industry and ask them as many questions as you can think of about their daily job, their majors, etc. These are all great things to do to be prepared. Yay, college! Susanna

  2. The college I want to get to is a high ranking one and a very expensive one. I am in England and the college in California. I am unable to pay for it and I have heard of full ride scholarships. Is it possible for me to make some sort of thing that the college will notice, and invites me? For example a computer game that people will talk about etc. (Something that the college will think beneficial to them.)

    1. Dear Bart, You can certainly try, but American colleges do not tend to give financial aid of any sort to international students. The best way to get merit aid in the States is to have top grades and SAT/ACT or leaving exam scores. I hope this helps. You can also ask the college admissions office directly. They are very friendly and forthright. Cheers, Susanna

    1. Hi Violet! It’s a bit early, to be honest. 🙂 . You can read about colleges for fun, but keep it lighthearted and enjoy your middle school years. Have fun and pursue/discover your passions. That’s the best way you can prep for college right now. Cheers, Susanna

    1. Hi Raj! You go on the admissions website of each college and enter your email, to stay informed. They do check. All the best, Susanna

  3. Hi I’m only 12 and I’m 7th grade but I was wondering if there is anything I can do right now to look good for colleges. My dream college is Stanford.

    1. Hi Jaeden, READ. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Read WHATEVER interests you, cultivate your mind and interests. Also, study Latin and music if at all possible. These are your strongest bets! Cheers, Susanna

    1. Hi Lauren, You can major in anything to become a doctor because you just need to do well on the MCAT. Many pre-meds major in Biology and English, to be well-prepared for the test, but talk to your pre-med advisor on campus. You need to get to know them because they write you a rec letter anyway. We have an AMAZING blog post for future doctors. LMK if you can’t find it. Good luck! Susanna

  4. If i would like to get noticed by a university such as NYU how do i know which admissions to contact? i have seen their website but do not understand the difference between undergraduate admissions and Graduate Admissions.

    1. Hi Marianna!

      Undergraduate school is a four year program for people doing their first degree, a Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Arts, BA, or Bachelor of Science, BS). This is usually done right after high school when you are 18-22 years old. You are accepted into undergrad based on your high school GPA *and* on your SAT or ACT score (unless you apply to test optional schools, listed on

      Graduate school is a program you do to get a Master’s degree (MA, or MBA, JD, MD, etc), after undergrad/your BA or BS. Graduate school can last from 1-7 years approximately, depending upon the program you choose.

      You are accepted into grad school based upon your BA/BS/undergrad GPA, and also perhaps on any test scores the grad school may require, like a GRE, GMAT or LSAT. Grad school is school that you do after college, and grad school enables you to become a doctor, lawyer, dentist, etc etc. It’s more specialized schooling. And remember, in general, the more school you have the more you can earn, usually/often. 🙂

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

    1. Hi Elyssa! Yes, you need your Masters degree to become a Speech Pathologist and usually you need an undergrad degree in Speech Pathology or a Post Bac in that. Then it’s a two year Masters program to be an SLP. Without your MA, you can be an SLPA, Speech Language Pathology Assistant. Hope this helps! Susanna

    1. Hi Michelle! What a great career goal! Can you tell me what you mean by tips? Are you in high school or college and what are your current goals? Cheers! Susanna

  5. I am currently a junior in high school and I would like to attend a college for civil engineering, while also furthering my sports career with playing baseball. I already have multiple schools in mind, but what is the best way for me to get noticed by one of these schools for my athletic ability and academic accomplishments?

    1. Hi Ben!

      This is a great question, and the answer is actually pretty easy. Just research the coaches at your target schools and create a brief email that introduces you, states your clear interest in their college, and states some of your athletic stats. We have a sample letter to a coach in the resources section on CollegeMapper, so let me know if you cannot find that.

      Remember that with recruiting, 99% of kids recruit themselves by reaching out to coaches again and again and again and ALWAYS being super polite. Coaches get a lot of emails (but very few phone calls, so DO consider calling–write up a script first!) so do not be surprised or discouraged if you do not get a reply to your email. Simply write to the coach again. Also write to the assistant coaches, in case they handle recruiting. Keep a spreadsheet of contacts, contact methods, dates, etc so you can keep it all straight. This is a GREAT project for Coronavirus lockdown time! 🙂

      Keep up the noise and be kind, professional, and brief. Think of this a little like flirting: as soon as you stop smiling at that person, they assume you like someone else, so keep smiling at/contacting the target coaches because if you go silent, they really will never reply. Eventually after you reach out a few times, they’ll see that you are serious and they will give you their time. 🙂

      Let me know if you have any more questions! Stay safe and be kind. Yay, college!

      PS–I just realized that I forgot to answer the second part of your question, about engineering! For that, it will be important that you learn as much as you possibly can about the type of engineering you want to pursue, and then that you begin to get experience and knowledge right now, in high school, in every way possible.

      Create. Interview engineers. Job shadow them. Build and code and design things. Release an app, etc (in your domain). Try to get an internship and be willing to do research, formal and informal. The main thing is, LEARN. Learn on your own, in every way possible, and follow your passions. Your passions will show colleges that you are serious, committed, and creative!

      Also, be sure to do compassionate volunteering and stay involved in clubs or groups, to show that you are a team player because that’s key for engineering. 🙂

    1. Hi Lara!

      I don’t believe so. The MCAT is pretty much for medical school, so you would need it to become an MD but not a PhD. Of course, always check the exact schools you will be applying to, because all schools can set their own requirements, and they vary widely.

      Good luck!

  6. Hi! I’m a Junior and I really want to get into UT Knoxville. I would love some advice on how to schedule a tour, or how to get them to see that I’m a 4.0 student. I just took the ACT so I don’t got those scores yet, but I hope they are good enough to get me in. Is it too late to decided that where I want to go?

    1. Hi Joselyn!

      The colleges are really focusing on seniors at this time, so you are not late at all. They start focusing on juniors heavily next April, so until then, go on the UTK website and sign up for everything you can, like the mailing list, a virtual tour, any events you can attend. Attend these events BY YOURSELF and with your CAMERA ON. It does not earn you points to have your camera off because then it looks like your mom is attending the visit instead of you. CAMERA ON. Look cute. Be in a quiet place. Ask your family not to interrupt. Take notes. Make a good, professional impression.

      You won’t need to tell them that you have a 4.0 because they will see that on your application, but you can ask about the Honors and Scholars Programs, which is for high-achieving kids like you, so that will flag to them that you are among that high-GPA cohort. 🙂

      You can watch my videos and read my blog/Forum posts on how to attend a College Rep visit or do a Virtual Campus Tour.

      Better yet, download my phone app which will tell you what you need to be doing each month now, to get into UT Knoxville.

      Yay, college!

  7. Hi I was wondering what I should do to prepare for college and I’m in middle school now and my dream school is Notre Dame

    1. Hi Peter! It’s definitely early to be thinking about getting into college, but you can be reading widely in any areas that interest you. That will pay off in spades! You can use my phone app to stay on task: Can also be used on computer. Yay, college! Susanna

  8. Hello Susanna,
    I’m 11 years old an I have wanted to go to Rice university for a long time.My second choice school would be Stanford or Yale. I want to major in business.I know and my family knows that I’m a very good business woman and one day,I hope that Graca Foster would mentor me so that could boost my chance for any Ivy league college.How else can I have anyone notice me

    1. Hi Jada! 11 years old is rather young to be thinking about these things, but you can start reading as much as possible. Ivy League schools love that. You can use my phone app to stay on task: Can also be used on computer. Yay, college! Susanna

  9. Hello! I’m a sophomore and I really want to get into UCLA or Harvard. But I’m really struggling on finding things to impress colleges out of school. I like helping people a lot and seeing them happy. But it’s hard finding places to volunteer, especially during this pandemic. Do you have any tips to help me out?
    -Thank you

    1. Hi Alejandro! You need to do this on your own, not through a program. Follow the ways I outlined. Yay, college! Susanna

  10. hello i am a freshman in highschool and i was wondering how i can get noticed by colleges for my athletic ability in lacrosse

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