Maggie Murphy is an admissions counselor at Furman University, a small private school in Greenville, South Carolina.
“Education has always been a part of my life, and I truly enjoy working with people. I was teaching at the middle school level and was ready to transition out of the classroom but didn’t want to give up daily interaction with students,” she said. “Working as an admissions counselor is perfect because it allows me to still build relationships with students and their families, while helping them navigate the college search process.”
She shared her insight to the process with Carolina College Bound.
What questions should high school students be asking when they meet with an admissions counselor?
First of all, students need to do some investigating on their end before meeting with a college representative. By doing so, they are able to ask more specific questions that will provide greater detail into the various programs and opportunities offered at a school.
Each student should have a list of “must-haves” or “non-negotiables” that they are looking for in a school and use the meeting with a college representative as a chance to gather as much additional information as possible.
Some topics may include:
- Campus setting (urban, rural, suburban)
- Class size, professor availability, academic support, availability of housing
- General admission standards
- Undergraduate research opportunities
- Availability of internships
- Study away offerings
- Partnerships with the surrounding community and businesses
- Career planning and support
- Access to clubs, organizations, Greek life, athletics, fine arts or anything else important to the individual
- Describing the students who attend the school (where are they from, what do they like to do on the weekends, what causes are they passionate about)
How should prospective students approach financial aid and scholarships in the college search process?
Financial aid and scholarship offerings need to be dealt with on a school-by-school basis because every institution has their own way of doing things.
I think it can be helpful for students and parents to have conversations early on about the amount of money a family is able to contribute to the college experience. While most colleges and universities are able to provide great assistance in the form of scholarships and need-based assistance, it is important for the family to be on the same page as far as what they will be able to contribute to a student’s education, as well.
As far as need-based financial aid, make sure you know what forms the institution requires applicants to complete (FAFSA, CSS profile) and the deadlines for submitting the paperwork. Often, the sooner you complete the necessary forms, the faster you receive notification of your need-based award.
As far as scholarships are concerned, you need to ask each school for specifics:
- Is there a separate application required to be considered for a scholarship?
- Does the school you are applying to have a general pool of scholarship funds, or is additional money awarded through the various academic departments?
- Does the school award scholarship money during all rounds of applications: early decision, early action and regular decision? Some schools require applicants to apply early if they want to be considered for a scholarship.
- Are interviews, auditions or portfolio reviews offered?
Does financial need or the lack of need affect a student’s application?
Whether a school operates under a need-blind or a need-aware admissions policy is dependent upon the individual college or university.
Need-blind institutions typically do not consider an applicant’s financial need when making an admissions decision. An institution that is need-aware could potentially factor in the financial component when making an admissions decision, but not necessarily for the entirety of an applicant pool. The admissions counselor or the financial aid officer at the school can explain the school’s process.
What are the best reasons for choosing a school?
Choosing what school to attend is a very personal decision that comes at the end of an exhausting process. Remember, there are many great schools out there, but students need to make sure it’s a great school for them.
I believe key factors in choosing a school are:
- Size and location
- Academics, including opportunities beyond the classroom such as internships, research and study abroad programs
- Opportunities for academic and personal growth, both in and outside of the intended major
- Access to activities that interest the individual as a person, such as volunteering, recreation or proximity to a nearby city.
- Financial fit: Are there merit and need-based awards available from the school? Is it a good financial fit for all parties involved in helping the student attend college?
Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI