When a college representative comes to our school, they are happy to talk with all interested students. They are also sure to note the names of those kids, because talking to a college rep is a “touch-point”. The official definition of a touch-point is “a point of contact between a buyer and a seller”…and in the world of four-year institutions, it is a point of contact between a student and a school.
To help students grasp the concept of touch-points, I ask them to think of four-year colleges as “jealous girl friends”. Each school is hoping that a student will prove that they really love them best…and you prove your intentions by stacking up touch-points. Each and every time a student connects with a school, the school keeps track of it.
Why do touch-points matter? Imagine a hypothetical two students: both apply to the same school, and they have nearly identical applications…same GPA, same financial situation, the same caliber of essay…but a student with a large number of touch-points may be offered a better financial aid package. This is why schools track student contacts closely: they want to make a better offer to students who appear to be highly interested in attending, as evidenced by large numbers of touch-points.
So how do students romance a school? Talk to college reps from schools you are considering if they visit your high school. Talk to those same reps at college fairs if you can possibly attend one. Try to take a campus tour, or even several. Go to the school website and sign up for information, take their virtual campus tour and like them on Facebook. Do you have any questions about the school? Email their admissions department with those questions, or their financial aid department if the question is about any of their scholarships or the financial aspects of the school. Ask about their programs, dorms, tutoring, clubs, sports, meal plans, and even extra-curricular activities. Ask about any college credits you already have, to see if the school will accept those credits. Any question shows your interest in that school, so be sure to ask.
Here is the really critical part: I want students to romance SEVERAL schools. Yes, I am asking them to “play the field” and romance EACH school they are seriously interested in. Why? Because each school is likely going to make you a different financial aid offer. State schools versus private schools, in-state versus out-of-state… each type of school has a different number of scholarships, a different amount of aid they are able to offer, a different level of desire for students to attend. Just like the most popular students in school do not lack friends, large popular universities are not desperate for students to apply. Just as lonely kids may be VERY eager to make a new friend, a smaller university may be far more willing to work with your financial aid because they are far more eager for you to apply.
Many students choose a school for personal reasons: my friends are going there, I got to visit the campus, it is near my grandma, etc…..Those types of factors will obviously play into their final decision. That seems reasonable, right? The school you most love, you want to attend. I am trying to get students to approach it with a different mindset: Please consider choosing the school who proves they love YOU the best, with the best financial aid package. Choose the school that will not only accept you, but make it the most possible, financially, to graduate. It is sadly common for students to apply to a school beyond their financial means, only to drop out with nothing to show for their efforts but a few credits, and a lot of student debt.
Education at a four year institution is big business. It can lead to huge debt. Please become a savvy shopper who chooses the school willing to help you the most to be able to afford your education. Since education is big business, become a stingy shopper, unwilling to part with your precious dollars to a school unwilling or unable to make education as affordable as possible. Apply to several schools so you get several different financial aid offers and have the ability to choose among them.
There is one other reason I teach students about touch-points: 60% of college freshmen decide to transfer OUT of the school they choose after only one year. The school that seemed so perfect fails to live up to their expectations 60% of the time. It is my hope that talking to lots of reps, exploring websites, exploring the campuses and talking to actual students may help them get a clearer picture of what life at each school will really be like. Then they will narrow their college search armed with lots of good information. I want students to be happy enough with each of the schools they choose, so they can easily pick the school offering the most financial aid.
So start researching schools. Try not to fall in love with any schools until you know if they are worthy of your love…and make them prove it with a good financial aid offer. That is how universities romance YOU. Try to apply to several different schools, both public and private, but only after learning enough about them to be sure they are a strong candidate. At the end of the day, a college education results in one important piece of paper. That’s all. A diploma is just a piece of paper…and the school that will help you get that diploma with the least student debt is the very best choice.
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