Senior wisdom: apply to diversity fly-in programs

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Some departing wisdom for the rising senior class: apply to diversity fly-in programs. While being admitted to prospective student programs doesn’t necessarily guarantee admission, there is evidence to suggest attending one just might help. Take it from someone who was accepted to every school who’s fly-in I was accepted to.

For high-achieving students, and especially those who come from low-income, first-generation or other underrepresented backgrounds, attending a fly-in program is a great way to decide what you want – or don’t want – in a college. Programs run 2-3 days during the fall semester, providing prospies with just enough time to completely submerge themselves into life as an independent student.

Applications for fly-in programs typically open in the summer, and, depending on the college and its program date, can be due as late as September. Typically, applications consist of 1-3 short essays (usually no more than 300 words), a counselor or teacher letter of recommendation, SAT/ACT/AP scores, student transcript and school profile. The process can be a bit tedious if started late (especially for students submitting college applications in the fall) so the sooner one applies, the better. Not to mention, many fly-in programs give priority to students who apply earlier in the process.

If you are accepted to a fly-in program – great! You’re one step closer to being an admitted student (why would they pay for someone to visit if they didn’t see potential in them as a student there?). Now comes the fun part: solo travel and college life. Aside from Colorado College, which funds the visit for students and one of their parents, you can expect to travel to your college (either by plane, bus or train) solo. While this task might seem daunting for some, rest assured that your college has more than prepared for students’ travel and arrival. Once you reach baggage claim, there will be a group of over-excited current students to welcome you and other prospies. They are almost always impossible to miss.

At campus, it’s essentially free rein. Prospies are assigned to live in a dorm with a current student (bring a sleeping bag, you’ll probably be on the floor), and while tours, panels, classes and events are planned out for the entire weekend, only a few activities are ever mandatory. You’ll have the independence to decide which classes to take, when to eat (access to dining halls is included in your stay) and what activities to participate in (though you’ll want to do as many as you can, time is limited and you might become good friends with the people you meet). Fly-in programs are also the perfect time to demonstrate that you really want to attend the college – don’t forget to schedule time for an on-campus interview with the admissions office beforehand.

For students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to visit the colleges and universities on their list, diversity fly-in programs can make or break the decision to apply to certain schools. The only downside to attending one (or two or three) is the number of school days you might miss (though they are counted as “activity” days, not absences) and the amount of work you will have to make up. Having the opportunity to visit a school you otherwise might have had to attend sight-unseen, though, is more than worth it.

Click here for a comprehensive list of fly-in programs offered by U.S. colleges and universities.

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