Should I visit the school, talk to a professor, or attend an info session?
It depends on the school.
In the admissions space, these activities are also known as demonstrated interest.
This is an important topic because some colleges consider it when reviewing applications. All else equal, some colleges prioritize applicants who have shown more demonstrated interest.
Not all schools consider demonstrated interest, but you should be aware of the ones that do. For those schools, it's worth taking the time—if it's within your means—to "check the boxes."
Every year, colleges submit data to a survey called The Common Data Set. Think of it as a census survey, but for colleges. Among other questions, it asks if the college considers demonstrated interest from applicants.
If the college you're interested in considers demonstrated interest…
Here are a few ways to stand out.
Visit the campus and sign up for a guided tour. Make sure to write down the names of the tour guide, students, and faculty you've met. You can mention this in your application.
Attend virtual events hosted by the school. These can be found on their website.
Reach out to faculty via email, asking questions about their department or research. If you'll be visiting campus, try to line up in-person meetings with them.
Email the admissions representative responsible for your state. You can generally find them on the school website under admissions. (e.g. USC has a "find your counselor" page).
If the college visits your school to give an information session, be sure to attend. These visits allow you to build in-person rapport with the admissions team.
If the college you're interested in does not consider demonstrated interest…
You're off the hook for the things mentioned above. But they still want to know that you are genuinely interested in the school.
For example, Yale—which doesn't formally track demonstrated interest—still asks students to write a "Why Yale?" essay.
To show that you've done your research, try to come up with non-generic reasons for why you want to attend Yale. You can touch on things like:
Unique course offerings & opportunities that cannot be found anywhere else.
The alignment of the school's values with yours.
Specific world-class professors that you are excited to learn from.
There are many online aggregators that provide lists of schools where demonstrating interest can help. You can leverage those lists when deciding which colleges to prioritize visiting. Jordan & David Co-founders, Admission Science