AO Advice: Building Your Personal Brand for College Admissions
One of the most important parts of a student’s college application is a clear personal brand weaved throughout. Get the inside scoop on how to craft and strengthen your personal brand to standout during the college application process. Former Admissions Officer and CollegeAdvisor Admissions Specialist Ferrell Armstrong will share his insider knowledge for college admissions success during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
2022-03-09 AO Advice: Building Your Personal Brand for College Admissions
Hi everyone. Welcome to tonight’s webinar on building your personal brand for college admissions. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation and then answer your questions in a live Q and a, and on the sidebar, you can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q and a tab right away.
Now let’s meet our panelists for this evening. Hi everyone. My name is Ferrell Armstrong. I’m a former admissions officer who has worked at the university of Georgia as well as Vanderbilt university. While at Vanguard. I was actually their chief international admissions officer and I ran their largest recruitment program.
Uh, but the highlight of my career was us serving as one of the five voting members of their admissions committee. Uh, very excited to sit down and come to explain branding to you this evening. And also looking forward to taking some of your questions at the conclusion of our presentation.
All right. So we will be moving on to our first poll of the night, which is what grade are you [00:01:00] in? Uh, so we’ll go ahead and start collecting those responses at this time. Um, and, uh, just in the meantime, a question for you, um, what is, what would you say, uh, what has been your most kind of memorable, uh, experience working as an admissions officer?
Oh man. There’s so many, um, I think the best one, just the. To be sentimental. Um, just some of the joy I’ve gotten out of it. Uh, I, I remember, um, one time I was able, I had the opportunity to actually got to do it twice. I got to call two different families and notify them that they’d been accepted. Um, and to hear their, their joys, they were, uh, both individual families were jumping on there, but I student was their living room, floor, kitchen floor, and, um, happy tears.
That’s, that’s pretty memorable for me. It’s a great experience. I looked back on. Awesome. Thank you for that. Um, all right. So we, our responses aren’t in, [00:02:00] um, so we have 2% or an eighth grade with the 12% in ninth grade. Uh, 22% of you are in 10th grade, uh, with a whopping 55% in 11th grade, uh, 8% in 12th grade and 2% in others.
So wide range of you in tonight’s session, but I’m sure all of you are able to, um, take away something that’s, uh, you know, highly meaningful from this.
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Well, you know, I think what’s so important is kind of establishing, you know, what a personal brand is and what a brand will really kind of do for you in this process. And so I’m hopefully going to address that, um, it to be as clear as I possibly can. Um, so you can have, you know, some action steps of what you may need to be doing, uh, in your own process, what you may need to adjust, what you make, you just start doing, uh, in order to make yourself more recognizable.
What I want everyone to understand is that this is a [00:03:00] competition and I I’m a little blunt about that. And please forgive my no direct delivery on that. But if you’re not looking at this as a competition, I would encourage you to start changing your mindset now because you have to promote yourself. And if you’re not going to promote yourself, you will not stand out and you will not be heard.
Whether it’s a highly ranked school or a very well-known school. That’s great, but maybe isn’t in the top 50. Um, they’re still looking for students in their application process, uh, that are drawing attention to themselves. And the best way to do that is to establish a brand. So a brand by, you know, business and marketing perspective and definition is, you know, an idea or an image of someone or something.
And what I want you to start thinking of the admissions application as it’s your opportunity to present an image of who you are to the admissions office. So this whole process is actually your opportunity to share your brand. Okay. And so in this [00:04:00] case, what we’re referring to here, in my opinion, okay. Is talking about the things that you may be passionate about, maybe what you want out of life before.
It’s even better, if you can illustrate how you’re planning on going to get that. Um, and then your hopes of what you’re wanting to use it for. Why does this matter? You know, why is this something that will create so much impact? And why do we have such a, you know, I think focus on that this evening, as simply as I can put it, it tells me everything about who you are and you know, what you know, you’re really doing here in my applicant pool.
Um, I think what so many students and families today don’t understand is that you’re not applying to a school for law. You’re not applying to a school for a business program or a psychology program. Uh, for the record, there are thousands of psychology programs. Um, you are choosing my school for a reason to pursue that program.
So if you can get me to understand is I purposely go back a slide. If you can get me to understand what you’re passionate about, what you think you want out of life, how you’re planning to go [00:05:00] get it and what you’re going to do with it. Now, I have a better understanding of perhaps why my unique resource.
For the program that you’re applying to can make that pathway that you envision for yourself, much more achievable, that it’s a brand in this process. And so hopefully tonight I’m going to shed some light on things that you can be doing to make that a little bit more clear and to start giving you some action steps that you can be taking.
Um, but I want to go back here to talking about defines you. I need a purpose of your application. I need to understand why you’re coming to me and why we need to discuss you. If I’m going to spend the time to vote, um, to vote on you. And what admissions officers are looking for is they’re looking for reasons of how they can help you.
They’re looking for reasons as to how their institution can support you in this process, by defining yourself by communicating this brand or illustrating who you want. You’re building competence in the admissions office that they can support you in this journey called undergraduate, right? Uh, they can [00:06:00] support you by what resources they have on campus and that you are going to be the right fit for their community and what they’re in place to build.
Uh, so to that end, what I try to get families to understand immediately, um, in a very simple way is I do a small exercise and this may be a little confusing and I, and I hope that it’s not, but I’m going to try to do this obviously, without anybody responding. Um, so what I try to get students to realize about themselves for a brand is by getting someone to tell me the following, what I’ll do is I’ll sit down with a student or family and I’ll say, Hey, tell me in one or two words, what is Nike known for doing not what they’re known for, but what they’re known for doing most people tell me shoes.
Right? Um, then I’ll ask, Hey, tell me what. You know what Nokia or Samsung or apple are known for, and most people are going to tell me phones, then I’ll transition. I’ll say, tell me about what Toyota does like, oh, cars. Okay. And they’ll say, tell me about something like Casio or Rolex. And they’ll tell me watches.
And then I’ll quickly say no. [00:07:00] Tell me about what you are known for. And then they trip up. And my point is, is in that moment, you need to be able to describe yourself and what you’re about, what you’re in pursuit of. Just like somebody can tell you that Nike is about shoes. Toyota is basically focused on cars.
That’s what your admissions officers are looking to get out of your application. And by establishing this brand awareness throughout your application, you’re going to convey that to them. They’re going to be able to walk into the admissions committee and say, Hey everybody, this is Jillian. This is what she’s all about.
And in that moment, it sets the tone for why you’ve applied to that school. It has defined your application. So as we move on here, um, All about building this brand. How do you start? Um, I want to be very clear with you. You can help yourself the most by developing relationships. When you can start to build relationships from the early stages of high school, even before high school, it will really allow you to [00:08:00] start to walk into a variety of different opportunities that you may have never thought of before by having people that are influencing you in a positive way, to getting you to open your eyes to things that you may have not considered.
You’re going to start becoming more likely to try and to pathway doing something, um, that you may have not known about. Otherwise when you’re having to sit down and work with individuals that are encouraging you to do more than what you’re doing now, they’re going to start being able to talk about the motivation that you have.
And I say that because these individuals that may serve as mentors to you, they could end up writing letters of recommendation for you in the future that speak about your drive, your personal. That influences your brand to some degree. And so by, you know, developing these relationships and maintaining them as, you know, you go through time, you’re able to kind of learn what others have done to define themselves.
So let’s just say for all intents and purposes, we’re talking with a sophomore right now, even though I know the majority of our families tonight are juniors. Uh, let’s just say it’s a sophomore. I would encourage you to be talking with upperclassmen. What [00:09:00] got them so focused on what they’re applying to school for.
If you have that friend in school that is a hundred percent sole, that they’re going to go to school for, you know, neuroscience, what was it that got them to that point? What was there a, a moment in time they had a light bulb go off in their head or was it another person they spoke with maybe a teacher, uh, in a certain lab at school, maybe it was a summer academic experience that made them kind of get really interested in a certain type of research.
When you have those relationships and they tell you their own story that opens the door for you to start thinking on what other avenues you can explore to start finding out what it is you want to be passionate about, or start to at least pursue to that end. What I will tell you is that I love adventure and, and I, I try to get students to become vulnerable and to be willing to try things that they haven’t done before.
Um, and I said in a recent, you know, webinars that we’ve done, you need to maintain a white belt mentality. Um, that actually comes from, you know, I’m a [00:10:00] martial artist. I’ve been practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu for four or five years. And when I’ve learned, um, over those years is that somebody can always come in and, and be better than me.
Someone I’ve never met before, someone that has less experienced than me, they may have some technique that works better. Well, my point is putting that here as an example, is that if you can be open to try new things, to new experiences, right? To new ways of thinking, it might inspire you to start following a particular pathway that you can start to hone in on.
When you have those initial experiences, there’s this initial encounters by working with upperclassmen, or maybe working with, you know, a friend or a colleague of a parent that may be doing something that your son or daughter is interested in, that will let you start to kind of focus in on very particular things that you want to gain more experience in which leads into taking up opportunities for internships and research.
Now in a recent webinar, um, I had a parent respond saying, how, how can I get my [00:11:00] student to do something when they’re more likely to find out what they don’t like to do versus what they like to do? And my response is perfect now, you know what they don’t like to do. So we’re narrowing the playing field down even more.
Right? So what I want you to do is it’s a process of elimination. So as you start to have these experiences, now you can start figuring out little by little, what you may want to hone in on more. And so ideally, um, before junior year, if not by junior year, by the spring of junior year. So right now, for all your juniors, you want to be really trying to plan that last summer before senior year.
To be really geared towards an internship or some research as it relates to what you’re applying for in an ideal world. Okay. Ideal world. Um, why does this matter? Well, because it’s going to build a stronger connection to what it is that you’re eventually applying for. It supports your brand. It’s one thing to say that you’re passionate about something.
It’s another thing to show through historical experience that you’re passionate about something. And that’s why [00:12:00] diving into hands-on research, uh, or hands-on internships can develop something much more significant for you.
All right. So we’ve made it to the second poll of the evening, uh, which is where are you in the college application process? Uh, so we’ll go ahead and again, start collecting those responses. All right. And the next question for you, um, while these answers are rolling in, it’s just, what was your favorite tradition that you celebrated at your undergraduate college at my undergraduate college?
Um, so I went to school in Birmingham, Alabama, uh, and we, we kicked off every football season, uh, with the crawfish boil, which was great. Um, and, uh, we also kicked off every baseball season, uh, with a massive, massive cookout, uh, in like February when it was like 19 degrees outside, it was a, it was kind of, you go out there, you’d be bundled up, but you’d be [00:13:00] eating a good hot dog or a burger with all your friends to kick off the first, uh, home weekend tournament.
It was great. That is amazing. A lot of fun. I’m sure. Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Um, all right, so the responses are rolling in. Um, so we’re seeing like 19% of you haven’t started at all, uh, 65% of you currently researching schools, uh, with 6% working on essays, another 4% getting your application materials together, and 6% of you, I’m saying that you’re almost done.
Uh, so again, a wide range of answers, but a lot of you still kind of in the beginning stages. So, um, yeah, that’s awesome. Almost done. That’s that speaks volumes right there. Good for you. For those of you that are almost done. All right, so we’ll continue on. So the other thing that I want to spend some time posting focusing about are really kind of honing it [00:14:00] down and making it as specific as you can.
I want to start talking about things that schools will really place even deeper, I think appreciate or not placed deeper appreciation on, but show appreciation for when I was an admissions officer at both university of Georgia and at Vanderbilt, we, we really awarded more points in the review process for the three things that you’d seen in front of you here.
Um, I think when we talk about leadership specifically, I think leadership, um, is probably one of the more misunderstood pieces on a resume. Um, and I, what I’m going to say is meant with all respect intended. I think a lot of families associate leadership with. Right. President vice president, captain of a club or a team, something like that secretary.
And a lot of times families think that if their son or daughter does not win a popularity contest, as it can be, unfortunately, um, that they don’t really have any opportunity to develop a leadership. Well, leadership can be, you know, developed in other ways. [00:15:00] Um, it can be done through humanitarian projects.
It can be done through, you know, developing, you know, a process to give back to younger students, maybe, you know, developing, you know, a tutoring program for younger students or something for your local community to benefit the community. Um, you know, these are all different ways that you can establish leadership.
Leadership can also be established by being a good human being in your community, just by being willing to go help your fellow classmates and your teachers seeing that, uh, and being able to talk about that in their letters recommended. The fact that they started to rely upon you in the classroom to, you know, set an example for others to follow.
That’s also leadership. So leadership is not just going to be established through your resume. Leadership is also going to be established through things like your letters of recommendation and why those are so important is that your letters of recommendation are really going to, you know, tell me a lot about who you’re going to be within my school community, which we’ll talk about more here in a second.
Um, passion projects really, really hot [00:16:00] term right now. Right. Um, and you, you hear a lot of people talking about it and they, they just don’t know, um, what it is, why schools are kind of leaning towards these right now and, and giving a little bit more preferential. I don’t wanna say preferential treatment that may be giving an extra bumper to in the point system for passion projects.
Is that it’s you, the applicant building something from the ground up now, just think about that for a second. When you have the, the drive, the tenacity to start something from the ground up, as opposed to just jumping into a pre-existing organization. Not that there’s anything wrong with. It takes a lot more work.
It takes a lot more maturity time management skill set, which is something that we’re secretly always looking for. Um, and it really speaks to your individual, you know, ability that right. There is something that schools really are, you know, excited about, uh, because it tells us, you know, that you’re serious about what your pursuit of you went out of your way to create a new opportunity for yourself.
You know, I, I had a young man that I was, uh, working with one time, uh, lived in a [00:17:00] country that you’re not allowed to do an internship, um, whatsoever until you’re the age of 18 due to the laws there and was struggling to get involved with his interest in finance and through his, you know, use of. Social media and LinkedIn other accounts, he was able to start his own microfinancing firm.
I actually helped him write the business plan. And micro-financing is where you provide micro loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. And he built this from the ground up by utilizing the internet and relationships that he built over LinkedIn and other online resources to seek investors, and then to seek individuals to invest in very unique story.
But that’s a passion project that, you know, he was able to use on his application that got him into NYU stern school of business. Uh, just as an example. So think about that. He had to go a very alternative route in comparison to what a lot of US-based applicants are going to be able to. And [00:18:00] it makes a significant difference.
You know, someone just messaged me saying that they’re getting this, having the same situation they’re going through right now, leverage your contacts, right? Leverage your personal relationships and contacts to develop things like passion projects or E based internships or job observations. It’s a great way to do it.
Um, then of course, let’s talk about passion right there. There’s no better way to show that you’re passionate about something than to share it with everybody else. And I think today, One thing that I was always really excited about is that servant leadership. Um, when I, when I can see somebody that is, you know, willing to give back to others, you know, through, you know, service that’s leadership, you know, they’re, they’re seeing a need somewhere and they’re establishing a support for that person in need, or maybe that area of need, um, or maybe you are taking it upon yourself to mentor a student that may be passionate about the same things that you are made.
You’re upperclassmen now, and you connect with an eighth grader or a freshman. That’s [00:19:00] interested in computer science. Doesn’t know where to start, but you, you may have a background in coding in Python or Java script, or even C sharp, right? You take it upon you graphically incorrect, uh, to interact with that student and start teaching in those coding languages.
Now here’s the cool thing about that. You shouldn’t be doing it for the reward. You should be doing it because you’re genuinely passionate about it. But what can come out of that is that individual that younger. He, or she, or maybe their parent might be willing to write you a letter of recommendation one day.
And that speaks to your dedication about following a particular pathway and the longer that you can be doing all these things that I’ve been going over with you, if you can start from eighth grade, you can start from right now where you are in 11th grade, the longer history you have of it, and more people around you will be taking note of it.
And why that matters is they can all start talking about ever since I knew John ever since I knew Liza, he or she’s always been talking about why she’s in pursuit of this. And she’s been telling me why she’s been [00:20:00] taking the very specific steps that she has to achieve a certain. That is how you establish a brand because the brand is influenced by not just you, but it’s also influenced by what people are saying about you through letters of recommendation, as I’ve said, the last one here is, you know, I think the exciting one, that’s what most students that are using.
Um, you know, one thing I was surprised to learn about today is that a lot of families, when they’re doing their school research, um, instead of going just to the school’s website, they’re paying a lot of attention to things like YouTube. Um, and so the reality here is that modern, you know, you know, social media accounts, uh, have a lot of influence.
So. You putting out, you know, material or information about what you’re passionate about, maybe it’s about, you know, your interest in it. You know, maybe neuroscience, maybe it’s your interest in, you know, gene therapy. You can create a podcast about that. More importantly, you can show your own research over YouTube, which is pretty cool.
Uh, Tik TOK, obviously, you know, growing so fast on in the course publishing your own blogs. And the cool thing is for those [00:21:00] schools that will in fact, look at some of this material. That’s an additional thing that you can be adding to your resume later on, that will continue to kind of service. That you’re passionate about what you’re applying for.
Um, so weaponize and it’s a strong word, and I realized that, but weaponize technology weaponize the resources that are modern social media, uh, and utilize your, you know, your friendships respectfully, of course, um, and, and utilize, you know, the connections that you may have through your friendships, um, because they can serve as you know, great guides on where you can be going, or perhaps what your son or daughter can be investing themselves into to really start to narrow that pathway down.
Now that begs the question of narrowing the pathway down. The whole purpose of this branding is to do exactly that. What I think most families need to hear me tell you is that schools actually would prefer that you be defined instead of well-rounded. I am much more likely to take a student that is qualified for what they’re applying for a than having 10 or 12 different [00:22:00] things, but no real angle that they’re following by taking the time to build this kind of pathway for yourself and starting to establish this recognition of what you’re all about this brand.
Now it makes us a much more likely to buy into what you’re doing and to feel that we can support you within our own institution. So I think the other thing here to talk about is, is utilizing you know, your best resource and that’s time. Um, the reality here is you cannot start this process. Soon enough, whether you’re a junior, you’ve got to immediately do it.
You’re by the way, your applications are due in less than eight months for you early action applicants. Uh, and so you’ve gotta be having a summer plan right now. If you don’t have this, you actually shouldn’t be waiting for the summer. You should be utilizing spring break and available weekends. If you’re a sophomore or junior, what are you doing this summer?
I’m sorry, a sophomore freshman. What are you doing this summer? Are you trying to start narrowing down the pathway and start really getting defined through an internship? Or are you going to go look at 3, [00:23:00] 4, 5 different career fields and talk with individuals in those fields to kind of see what might spike in interest in those fields for you?
That’s what you need to be using your time for. So you need to be planning this throughout high school, as much as you possibly can. I would prefer that you have afforded a six month plan for every single period of time ahead of you right now, whether you’re in eighth grade or even if you’re a junior, you need to have a goal of what you’re going to accomplish for the next four to six months as you progress through the process and eventually submitting your application.
Uh, so to that end, obviously, you know, utilizing your, your school time off, you know, whether it’s, you know, holiday breaks, fall break, winter break, summer break, um, spring break, anytime that these schools are giving you, I want you to be thinking about what can you be doing to kind of further, you know, yourself with what you’re in pursuit of what you’re passionate about?
Um, I think one thing that I do sometimes hesitate to talk about, um, but I, I have to really encourage you to do is you really have to verify everything you’re being told. Um, I, I do think [00:24:00] sometimes that’s people will hear something from their neighbor, their friends, their family members that have maybe gone through this process before about what made their son or daughter stand out in the past.
And they take that as good to go. They take it as cold and this process is changing by the day. You know, w where we are, you know, right now is completely different than where we were three years ago. And that’s all a result of the pandemic. And so what may have worked three or four years ago, Doesn’t necessarily work now.
Um, I’ve been doing this for going on 13 years. This is all I’ve ever done since I graduated college and there’ve been three major paradigm shifts. So always be verifying what you’re being told, made someone stand out or how a certain activity created an impact for them. Talk to somebody like a college admissions officer, um, that can give you, you know, the insight of how that’s going to be reviewed.
It makes a significant difference. Don’t listen to the rumor mill. The rumor mill is what will just destroy applications before they’re ever submitted. Uh, so I challenge you to check your work and check what you’re being told. Uh, and [00:25:00] of course the final thing is, you know, there’s no reason not to get help.
You know, I, I tell students, you know, whether it’s a question about something like this, or it’s academic help that they need because they’re struggling with a math class or a science class, um, Don’t wait, you’re potentially taking away from the, you know, probably the biggest decision of your life, where you go to school is going to influence the next 30, 40, even 50 years of your life.
Um, it’s not just about the next four years of your life. When you go to college, it really is about a lifetime impact. So if you want something right now, if you have a dream in mind and you really want to make sure that you’re accomplishing that, then you need to start reaching out and getting help before trouble really reaches you.
And so what I will tell you is there’s not a better time to get help right now. And then right now, excuse me. Uh, and the reason for that is this process is very overwhelming. And when you consider the fact that just over 40% of all applicants today are getting some format of third-party assistance. Uh, it’s extremely [00:26:00] important that you consider finding out what you can be doing to differentiating yourself.
And when we’re working with the family here at college advisor, that family has access to over 300 advisors that we’re able to sit down and talk with your family about your son or daughter’s individual needs and what their, what they may or may not be lacking and addressing those areas of need so that you have the outcome that you’ve dreamed of.
You know, what I’ll tell you is that when you’re working with individuals that have made the final decisions at some of the top schools in the country, like our team members have, you’re going to increase your likelihood of. Because we know how to present you in a way that’s going to get you more points in the application review.
But I think the other piece is this is a full-time job, you know, and, and to some people, this may seem like a strong statement, but I genuinely believe this, this for one student in a year, you could arguably make, uh, you know, uh, half, you know, job out of this doing a part-time job. Um, and if you have two kids in this process, it’s a full-time job from researching all the schools, researching how to build a brand.
Not only just that, but then how to build [00:27:00] essays when that time comes, uh, developing an application strategy, it all takes. But as parents, you have your own responsibilities of maintaining your employment, providing a roof over the head of your family, putting food on your family’s table. Right? Um, the students have their responsibilities of maintaining their academics because if those academics slipped, you’re not going to have the outcome that they dreamed off.
And so that’s why making, or I should say, getting help, make sense when you consider the fact that it’s such a reduction time and it can limit the amount of stress and anxiety that you’re feeling, because assistance is going to prevent you from falling off the correct pathway. You’ll be held. And so what I’ll tell you is weaponize yourself by giving yourself as much time as possible, your time, again, it’s your greatest asset and make sure you start scheduling the next four to six months out right now.
When you end this call tonight, start making sure that you’re writing out a goal for yourself for each month, for the next four to six months of what you want to have done within this process. You’re going to see at the conclusion of our Q and a session this [00:28:00] evening, um, a webinar, or excuse me, a web form that if you’re having questions about this process right now, maybe you’re confused, maybe your first time going through this process as a family, maybe it’s your second child going through this process, but you’re concerned about the recent changes due to the pandemic.
And you just want to figure out where you are, maybe what you needed to address. Fill that web form. One of my colleagues will reach out to you tomorrow. There’s no fee for us reaching out to you and we can set up a time to walk you through what you may need to fix. What may be something that you’re already really strong on, but you might need to add an additional piece too, and we can kind of walk you through what this process will look like and how we might be able to help.
But I’m really excited to start taking your questions. And I know we’ll start doing that here in just one second.
Oh, right. Um, so we’re now moving on to the live Q and a section of our webinar or the seat. Um, so I hope you found this information helpful this far, and remember that you can download the [00:29:00] slides from the link in the handouts tab. So I’ll read through the questions that you submit in the Q and a tab.
I’ll paste them into the public chat so that everyone can see and then read them aloud so that our panelists can provide you with an answer. Um, as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.
So let’s go ahead and get started. Um, and I appreciate all of you being so willing. Um, and so open to go ahead and start listing questions. Um, and so we have, uh, a healthy source to choose from. Um, so our first question this evening is for, for sports marketing management, um, what are a few classes I should take going into senior year of high school?
So very challenging question to answer without seeing what courses are available to you at your high school. Okay. Um, so what I will tell you [00:30:00] is, uh, a good literature program is, is an imperative piece there, uh, with marketing, with branding in general, um, writing is going to be a heavy piece of that. So a strong literature program would be encouraged.
Um, if your school has a business track or a business pathway that they make Mike might make available to you, I would make sure that you’re doing that. Um, if your schedule allows for it, right. I typically don’t suggest doing dual enrollment unless you’ve exceeded the available honors or AP curriculum to at your school.
Um, but for something specific like that, if your schedule would allow for it, and there is a local community college that would have a program that relates to it, uh, you should look into adding that dual enrollment course, that would make a little bit of a difference for you as well. All right. The next question for you is, um, how do you find an internship.
Uh, regarding possible careers, if you don’t know what you want to be yet. Yeah. That’s a great question. So first of all, um, let, let’s take it from the very beginning. Um, you know, [00:31:00] I encourage families to utilize their friendships and relationships to start talking about, Hey, like I don’t really exactly know what I want to do, but could you tell me a little bit more about, you know, what, you know, your career looks like and having those conversations, and then as you start to hear things that may peak your interest, then start asking that individual, Hey, would there be any opportunity for me to come, just observe you for a day or two, just to kind of get a little bit more of a sense of what, what your day to day job looks like, and maybe talk to you a little bit more about what the process looked like to get here.
And I guarantee you, if you’re doing this through like a family friend or, you know, a longstanding relationship that your parents they’ve had with somebody to probably more than likely going to say yes, and if they can’t do it after place to work, they’re probably willing to do it with you over zoom, or maybe, you know, over coffee one day and to kinda at least lead you through what that process.
That’s a great way to find out something that you may be interested in. Um, and then you may go be able to do that job observation and say, Hey, this is definitely something I want to pursue further. And then that is when you might start targeting and more specific research [00:32:00] program or more specific internship program that relates to it.
Or, Hey, it could end up being not to be negative Nancy here. It could end up being that you don’t like it whatsoever, but that’s okay. Now you can start narrowing down that field of interest more as you continue to have more conversations, but I want to say something here. That’s not meant to be negative and derogatory.
Most students today don’t want to ask. They’re afraid to you have nothing to be afraid of. No, one’s going to hurt you. All they can say is, Hey, we don’t do that at my office. I’m so sorry. Keep going. Don’t take the first. No, and stop. It may take you asking 20, 30 people, but I promise you that somebody will give you a positive response.
All right. Um, so the next question is. How would you describe or yeah. How would you describe your passion project on your college resume? Yeah. So who, great question. Um, so let me identify that the elephant in the room with that question is that on your [00:33:00] resume, on the activity section, they cap on the common app.
They, they cap your response to 160 characters about 29 30 words, if you’re lucky. Um, so it’s very challenging. It’s a great question. Um, you you’ve really got to use the impact words that these schools placed value on. Unfortunately, words that they will not tell you about. Um, so really establishing, you know, what it took to build, you know, the select activity of something, um, that you, you know, went through three, four different plans, uh, before maybe a city commission approved your building project that you designed.
You know, build maybe a, a picnic area and your local community, because you notice that families were not having access to a free local area to enjoy the outdoors. Um, you talking about the amount of resources that you had to, you know, go through a require the amount of, um, you know, um, advertising campaigns.
It may have taken you to acquire funds to develop the capital necessary to pursue your project. Things like that are important to add in. Um, but I [00:34:00] would encourage you to have an additional full-scale resume, um, that you can supplement your application with that. We’ll go into greater details that the activity description, um, within the common application will not allow you to go into such detail.
All right. Um, so what can I do first to start looking for a college? Yeah, so I go right back to a couple of people here. So first mom and dad, Hey, if mom and dad went to school, maybe talk to them about, you know, what made them kind of hone in on school and start figuring that that may be the right place for them or not.
Uh, most importantly, um, use it, utilize your contacts with friends. It understand why they looked at a particular school or what schools they’re interested in. And then you can start, you know, doing your research. You know, from there, we have a wonderful resource here at college advisor, we’ve over 20. I think we were at 2200 schools on our website with all their data, you know, admissions data, all that listed.
Um, and then you have other great resources, like, you know, YouTube. [00:35:00] Um, you can be looking at different schools, taking virtual tours, you know, through our website here at college advisor, uh, or on YouTube to figure out, you know, maybe that’s the right community that you wanna explore a little bit more about, and then you go schedule a tour on.
So that’s a great way to. All right. Thank you. Um, the next question for you is, uh, what are some extra things I’m kind of skipping down a bit. One second. I’m just making sure I go in order. Um, what can I ask? Sorry. As a freshman, I don’t get a lot of internship opportunities. How would I gain internships on something I’m passionate about?
Yeah. So it goes back to, you know, kind of what I said, just a few questions back there. It’s trying to leverage those contacts. You know, that you may have to Ruffino family, friends, maybe your school counselor. A lot of times guys, what I’ll tell you is this stop, stop using the term internship when you’re looking for experience?
Um, I think sometimes organizations will be a little hesitant to do an internship because typically that, uh, that brings [00:36:00] with it, the, the idea of getting a paycheck for it, just lead with a, Hey, I’d like to do a job observation and you’ll be quite surprised at how many faint or I should say how many companies, organizations will come back and be like, oh yeah, we love having high school students come here.
Uh, and, and kind of take part in that. Um, so you’d be very surprised with what that can do for you. Um, obviously. As a, you know, as a freshman, you probably gonna have to do a little bit more of that in the summertime. You may not have a car yet. Um, but trying to figure that out, um, is, is a good idea. Um, but what I will tell you is don’t always, again, don’t always lead with calling it an internship called that job observation, and you’ll be quite surprised about what opportunities do open for you.
Um, another thing is looking into summer academic programs. You may not be able to get an internship, uh, but you might, you will be competitive or able to join like a summer engineering camp or a computer coding camp, something like that. Um, a writing camp, um, those exist. And that’s another great way to really kind of start to finding that pathway and really kind of honing in on it.
This is what you’re serious about or not. [00:37:00] Alright, how can I integrate my two passions in essays and applications? So that one more time, how could I integrate two passions, um, in my essays and applications. Yeah. I mean, it’s just, it comes down to, are you going to have the ring to do it? So, um, depending upon, you know, if we’re, if we’re referring to supplemental essays here, um, you know, the school’s kind of stipulate where they want those supplemental essays to go on.
So you may not be able to do it in your supplemental essays. If you are referring to your personal statement, um, you’re able to kind of blend those together the way that you should do it is ideally you’re trying to, you know, go to a certain point with them. If you can kind of illustrate how your experience within those two passions has kind of led you to where you are and then illustrate where you wanting those two passions to take you.
That’s what you should do. Um, maybe they come together, maybe they don’t. Um, but you want to have a purpose of talking about them. And I mean that with all respect, um, you’re wanting to define that pathway. And if that you’re the reason [00:38:00] you’re applying to these schools, they want that definitive pathway to explain your application.
Maybe one of those doesn’t really influence that. Maybe it’s just what, you’re one of those you’re just super passionate. But it’s not what you’re in pursuit of for your academic or career field. Maybe that one doesn’t get included after all. That’s something to be thoughtful of. All right. Uh, what should I do when I feel overwhelmed about the application ice cream, best example I could give you?
Um, it takes a lot of stress away. I’m big fan of it, myself. Uh, no joking aside, listen, first of all, take breaks. Okay. Um, I, I do think that, um, time, you know, it’s XL and I’m not trying to be negative here, but if this student does not give themselves enough time, uh, this can happen. If it is something that you’re experiencing, w take a break, step away for a couple of days, um, you know, get some outside time, uh, and just get away from it and let yourself reset and recuperate.
Um, in, in fact, I’ll tell you this, one of the reasons that I, I see better performance from students that start writing the rest [00:39:00] A’s in January and February of their 11th grade year versus students that start their essays and, you know, may or later, uh, is. They’re spreading those essays out of her time.
The longer you wait to get started, the more compressed the process is. And so when you can create gaps, uh, you won’t have as much of that feeling that burden will kind of come off your shoulders. But seriously, if you’re feeling that right now, take a couple of days off. Um, again, I I’m, I’m not joking. I actually would suggest some ice cream feel like ice cream, uh, and, um, just kind of recuperate and then re-engage and just get back after it.
That’s the best plan for, uh, is it okay if what I’m passionate about is different from my chosen career field? So it’s yes, it’s fine. Yes. Um, but what we’re referring to here in creating this brand for yourself is this recognition of purpose of why you’re applying to. Okay, so you may be passionate about something and that’s, that’s great.
Right? That’s wonderful. And you definitely want that to come out, um, in things like, [00:40:00] you know, your activities or your resume. Um, but when we’re trying to talk about branding here, what I want you to be thinking on is we’re trying to give them the reason, the purpose of why you’re applying to that school.
Um, and if what you’re pursuing is for school, maybe a little bit differently, you might want to kind of redirect how you’re kind of going through this, you know, process in terms of your essay development, things like that and what you’re going to share. All right. Um, and right. I, we have a flood of questions coming in.
I got one that just came into me. I’ll, I’ll say this really quickly. Um, so we’ll just ask me, is it too late for juniors to start their own brand? Um, you know, someone had mentioned that, uh, students may have, you know, things like computer science programs or hackathons, um, and they were asking, is that good enough?
Yeah, that’s, that’s perfect. What I want everyone to realize here is it’s. It’s not just building the resume, it’s having people around you being able to describe what they’ve seen you involved with, right? Your brand. I want to re reiterate this. Your brand is as much about what [00:41:00] your in person, what you’re involving yourself with.
As much as people talking about you and how they’ve seen you interacting and pursuing something. So I want to come back. Your brain is also influenced by teachers, looking at you as a. Now everybody’s messaging me a, teacher’s looking at you as a leader in the classroom. They can speak to your leadership, right?
They can speak to the individual that you’re going to be in the community. That’s a part of your brand that tells me that you’re going to be contributing member of our community. Um, and that’s what I’m also looking for here, uh, to make sure that I understand who you’re going to be within our particular community at this school.
So it’s not just about extracurriculars. It’s also very much about, you know, making sure that people around you are aware of what you are in pursuit of. So they can kind of supplement that within their own words to describe you and what your future looks like from their own. All right. Can you explain the difference between being defined versus well, yeah, that’s a perfect question.
Well-rounded 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, you know, activities. No real connection to [00:42:00] one, right? Well-defined well angled. You may have six or so activities, but three or four of them are already kind of connected and have similar kind of relation to a pathway. Right? You’ve done. You’ve done some computer if let’s just say it’s computer science, right.
You’ve learned coding, right? So, you know, two or three coding languages, uh, you’ve done an internship. Maybe you’ve gone to some hackathons and stuff like that. Those are two or three things right there that directly relate to your computer science interests. And let me tell you why this is so important.
Um, this is when I get in trouble, uh, there are three common types of applicants to college today. Undecided applicants, psychology majors, and everybody else. That’s the truth. Okay. Undecided applicants. Um, Not that it’s wrong. Um, but sometimes it’s better when you can have that more definitive pathway. So the defined pathway students always gonna look a little bit stronger.
Okay. Psychology applicants, nothing wrong with it. Wonderful major. Um, but there are a lot of students that start out a psychology applicants that end up changing their major. So I’m not [00:43:00] trying to scare anybody. Let me repeat that. Do not freak out. Do not suddenly go change with your applying to school for you want to be in the third category, which is any major, whether it’s psychology, computer science, anything that you can have historical connection to.
So if I, as the admissions office, We can go to your activities list on the application or a resume and see two or three things, maybe four things that would relate to what you’re applying for. That’s a defined application and you in my book instantly move up because it, I should say instantly move up in terms of my likelihood of admitting you, because now you have historical connection to what it is you’re saying you’re applying for not just blindly saying I’m applying for business and there’s nothing that connects you to business.
That’s the difference in being defined versus well-rounded. I want that definitive pathway, it builds competence in me that you’re here for reasons that we can support. All right. Um, what are some examples of some passion projects that people have done in the past that [00:44:00] maybe you’ve personally been impressed?
Yeah. So I’ll kind of go back over the one that I was giving some details on earlier. So, um, the young man I was referring to was in Dubai, UAE. I used to live there for about two years. Um, and the, the law and the UAE is that you can not do an internship under the age of 18. Um, and so what we did is he actually sat down, um, and the conversation was he wanted to do something finance related.
Um, but he didn’t know how to establish a connection to it because of the restrictions there. Um, and so we kind of sat down and in through conversation, we established, what do you want to do with finance? And he indicated that he wants to help people find a way to invest their money. Uh, cause he enjoys teaching people how to invest your money and help them physically investor money to see it grow.
But then he also wanted to find a way to give, give to others that may needed kind of a bump to get their start. Right. Because. Yeah, a couple of other ideas of entrepreneurialship at the time. Um, and so I said, well, listen, you need to do the microloan organization. And he [00:45:00] didn’t know what it was at the time until I explained to him that, you know, financing is where you are basically providing minimal loans.
To individuals that might not get that funding, uh, anywhere else. And the interest rate return is like tiny, tiny, tiny, typically paid back within six to 18 months. Um, but then you seek investors for it. So he, through LinkedIn, uh, through, you know, relationships that he had, you know, built through friends like his friend’s parents, uh, his own parents was able to reach out and, you know, build an investment portfolio, get investors to invest in the organization.
They established a board. Um, they had an application pool of, you know, of entrepreneurs seeking funding and their board elected every six months, six new, um, entrepreneurs to invest in. Uh, you know, we had students, I shouldn’t say we, because I was a part of the board that, uh, he was investing in people in Ghana.
He had invested in people in Chile. Uh, he invested in people in Ukraine. Uh, [00:46:00] so that’s an example. Um, and he utilized that kind of. You come the leading kind of impact point to prove his, you know, interest in the business field, which is what got him into stern for business.
All right. Um, should I choose summer camps that are only related to my, that are only related to my passion? Uh, so I, I will tell you this. Um, I will say that depends on where you are in the process. If you’re early on, if you’re a freshmen, um, try to do something a little bit more broad. I want you to explore.
I want you to kind of find out and maybe there’s other things that you, other things out there that you still want to jump into and experience first. Um, but if you’re pretty, if you’re pretty locked in, right? If you, if you have something that you’re. Really leaning towards, uh, yeah, I I’d say if you’re, you know, that junior going into senior year next year, this summer.
Yeah. Make that more specific to that passion for sure. Um, and we’re talking academically related, right. To what you’re in pursuit of, [00:47:00] um, to that end, you know, this always begs the question. I’m not really my eyes, but I try to cover my, my basis here. I always get that. What 17 year old knows what they want to do.
Touché okay. Tusha I got ya. Okay. Um, but it’s all about what they are currently thinking. If they are, there’s a, a longer period of time that they’ve been building to something, you know, that, that looks a lot better. So if you, if you have a year and a half, two years of really getting slowly more and more serious about something, then yeah.
That lasts. Really leaning heavy to that one kind of focal field would be my suggestion. As long as you don’t need any type of academic support, like you’re not doing hot, you know, with your academics, you need to build something back up. Uh, if that’s the case you need to address the academic needs, uh, as opposed to doing, um, you know, a specific summer program, because if your grades aren’t up, then it doesn’t matter.
All right. How do we stand out if everyone does the same things? Oh man. You’re you just fell into my favorite topic. Everyone’s everyone [00:48:00] hates my response here and I’m sorry. Um, you stand out by having a plan. Okay. Um, most students today are not looking at this from a holistic perspective. Most students and families think that GPA and test score are what make the decision.
That’s that’s false. It really is about how you promote yourself. Um, so the point of your question, I’m going to emphasize on everybody does the same thing. Uh, perspectively, I would disagree. Um, certain organizations may be the same, but the direction of what is being accomplished in different clubs and activities is in fact different.
Um, if you start your own activity or your own organization, that’s, that’s not doing the same thing again, you’re building your own pathway from the ground up. Um, but it all comes down to how you present it. Um, if you just say, let’s say that it was, oh boy, how do I want to do this one? Um, let’s just say that you were, um, you know, uh, helping with, um, mentoring, younger students, right?
That’s a huge difference, right? I’m totally going to be picking the second one over the first one, just for the record. So it’s very much about how you present it, what you share. It’s not just doing it if you’re not communicating it. Well, it doesn’t matter. I’ll give you a story right now. My second to last year at Vanderbilt, um, I had a student or to say we had a student that had applied for, I believe it was mechanical engineering.
Um, and we accidentally slated him to be denied. And, uh, the reality is, is that he had actually been a summer intern at NASA, uh, NASA, I think only hires like 20 to 30 high school interns a year if I remember correctly. Um, and they have like a ton of applicants. It’s incredibly rare. Um, so when we went back to figure out, um, you know, why the student hadn’t been initially picked up it’s because his [00:50:00] description was just very.
Bland. It didn’t emphasize the points. Um, you know, the highlights and the significance of the, of the experience. Now truth be told the admissions officer should have paid more attention to the title line and picked up on it, but it goes to show how much focus is put on the description. Right. The description matters.
Okay. All right. Well, how, how important is community service for colleges and what are some examples of, of service that colleges love? This? One’s going to stir the pot. None. There’s not a single school that it’s expecting community service. That’s one of the biggest rumors in college admissions today.
There’s no school that says you have to have so many hours computer service. Um, it’s a great thing to do, and I would encourage you to do it because it shows that you care about other schools love that. Okay. But I would hope that you’re doing it because you just want to help people in general. Um, so it’s not that it’s a must do because there’s no school that sets that requirement.
Okay. Um, but it, it is a nice thing to have on your resume. It [00:51:00] does look nice, but I would hope that you’re doing it genuinely. I want to extend this conversation a little bit further, and this is not meant to be an arrogant response. And a lot of times people say I’ve got 50 or 60 hours community service.
That’s great. It’s not gonna do anything for you. You need, if, if you think you’re going to have a significant impact, we’re talking hundreds of hours. Okay. So that’s what I want people to realize. It’s, you know, someone else is, how do I say this? Respectfully, someone is always willing to outwork. Right.
Someone in the, in the sports field, you know, someone’s always training to be the next best person. Right. And so someone’s always going to out work you and do more than what you’re willing to do. It’s fact. Okay. Uh, and so the reality here is, you know, don’t get caught up in what you have to do from the school’s perspective and community service.
Cause that’s not real. I want you to do something because you’re genuine about it. And when you’re genuine and you’re passionate about it, you’ll spend so much more time doing it. And that’s, what’s going to come out of your application, whether it’s your essays, whether it’s your, [00:52:00] uh, activity descriptions and your letters of recommendation, that passion that comes from it.
That’s what creates it.
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Now, back to the website now back to the Q and a, um, the next question for you is, um, are expensive, bud, selective summer programs worth it on an application. Great. Yeah. So, um, I’m a big fan of this being asked, um, cause it, it, you know, it, it’s something that I think a lot of families will overinvest in. If I’m being honest.
Um, once you’ve done one, one program, once in a program like that, I would not invest in another one. Maybe if you wanted to do it, do no more than two. Um, because they kind of all start to have similar, you know, experiences to some degree. Maybe one’s a little more unique for particular type of field. Like the writing program at Georgetown is really good.
Um, but you know, after you’ve done one, I would be hesitant after you’ve done two. Definitely. Don’t do a second one. Now at that point, I’m, I’m looking pretty heavily into. Hardcore internships, hardcore research, passion, project, stuff like that. Um, again, I’m more of a fan of that, that doing it on your [00:54:00] own, showing that commitment to something that shows me grit, that shows that you’re really in pursuit of something.
So that’s what I prefer. All right. Is it too late to start a club next year as a current junior? Not at all, not at all. Um, just understand that. Go ahead. You can go ahead and be running that club description. Um, you can actually go ahead and be putting that on your resume as long as you do it. Do not put something on your resume that doesn’t end up happening in submitting that resume.
Um, so if you want to go ahead, preemptively, put that on. You put an initial description on your resume. Um, don’t submit that resume though, until that club is active and if it ends up not being active, then remove it from your resume, uh, but definitely work doing. Um, and you can say why in the application, why you felt like to do that show that you know, that motivation show, that reason that you felt so encouraged to do it.
Um, so the next question are AP classes beneficial for college. And if so, when should you start to take them? Yeah. So this is one of the [00:55:00] easiest questions to answer the answer’s yes, and do well. Um, and, and I know that comes across very direct and smart Alkie and it’s not intended to, uh, but this is what will trip a lot of families up.
Um, a lot of times families will be encouraged to do dual enrollment, do not dual enroll. If you’re targeting a top 50 top 60 school, do not dual enroll until you have exceeded the available AP curriculum to you. The reason for that is most schools will not actually give you credit for that dual enrollment.
They will view that as you meeting your high school graduation requirement and, um, in many cases, I would say most cases, not many cases. In most cases, um, schools are actually going to view dual enrollment as being less rigorous. Uh, in comparison to AP the consistency of AP is across the board. They can’t guarantee what’s being taught in a given community college for dual enrollment program, but they can guarantee what’s being taught within an AP curriculum for the most part.
Okay. So do dual I’m sorry. Do AP, um, but make sure you’re doing well because the very next question immediately comes up from this is, Hey, and this was like, [00:56:00] when I was at Vanderbilt specifically, it’s like, I can get in by taking honors and making an a, or should I take AP and be okay with taking a B and in my 24 year old self, that was definitely arrogant and rude at times, I would say, no, you should take AP and making that because you wouldn’t be admitted to otherwise, but that is the case.
And so. The reality here is if you want to target a top 50 top 60 school and APS are available to you at your school, you need to be doing them, but you have to be able to maintain a strong academic performance. That being said, a very common trend is to also go seek out AP classes outside of school, or to study for an AP test outside of school and submit that test.
Don’t do that. The schools don’t care about that. They care about what was available to you at your school. Um, and if it was not able to use your school, um, doing it on your own, isn’t gonna have the impact that you’ve been told it will. It, it won’t. So we care about what the school is making available to you, how well you did and what you selected.
All right. Another more technical question for [00:57:00] you. Uh, do colleges care about IB classes? If you don’t take an exam. Oh, okay. So, um, they, every school is gonna have a different opinion on this. Um, and this, the same thing can apply to AP as well. So they, they do want to see, um, you know, what you’re involved with, but some schools will demand to see the test score for that other schools will not.
So the unfortunate answer is it’s a case by case basis. Um, you know, Princeton will say they prefer Vanderbilt would say they don’t care. Harvard will say they want to see it. Right. And when Princeton for the record says, they prefer they want to see it. Um, and so every school is on a case-by-case basis.
And I know that’s gonna make you probably you feeling like your question’s going on answered, but it is the, it is the truth. All right. Um, I’m going to ask this question, even though it’s a bit out of order, but just because it’s so closely relates to something you were just talking about, should we submit AP scores, even if it’s bad, It depends on the school.
So [00:58:00] some schools, if you don’t submit that test scored, they don’t have a problem with it. Um, other schools, they don’t care. Um, and, um, they are going to, you know, not care at all and they’re not gonna be expecting it. So when I was at Vanderbilt, our policy was this, it’s still the policy to this day. Hey, submit what you want to submit if you do well and you submit it cool.
If you do, don’t do well and you submit it, that’s going to hurt. Right. So Princeton, on the other hand, they would say we don’t require, but we would prefer. Right. Uh, and, and so it’s always a case by case basis. If, if it’s a school that is not asking you to submit as a test score and it’s bad, don’t submit the test score, but if you have to submit it, you have to submit it.
All right. And, uh, I think this is our last question of the night. Do you have any tips for researching colleges and finding out how they connect with your brand? Fill out that weapon, that web form at the end of this call, set up a time to speak with us and we’ll go through that the next time that.
Amazing. All right. [00:59:00] So, um, we thank everyone for submitting all of those questions tonight and pined you. Um, we really appreciate it. Uh, so thank you everyone for coming out tonight and thank you again to our highly informative panelists this evening. Um, and so, uh, looking into the calendar as a lot of you are still submitting questions, or they’re just kind of popping up on my screen.
Um, but looking now at this screen, uh, you will see a calendar, um, you know, be sure to kind of mark these days for upcoming webinars, uh, in, uh, you know, in your planner. Uh, we definitely look forward to having you join us for future sessions. Uh, we had a really great time telling you about building your personal brand for emissions, uh, and that concludes the end of the webinar.
Everyone have a great evening.