AO Advice: Crafting Your College Admissions Strategy for Juniors
Former Admissions Officer and Admissions Specialist Ferrell gives the inside scoop on how to craft your college admissions strategy as a high school junior.
2022-02-15 Crafting Your College Admissions Strategy for Juniors
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to AO Advice: Crafting Your College Admissions Strategy for Juniors. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in the live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelist..
Well, good evening everybody. My name is Ferrell Armstrong. I’m a former admissions officer at both the university of Georgia and at Vanderbilt university. Um, while at Vanderbilt, I served as the assistant director of admissions. I was the chief international admissions officer and later ran their largest domestic recruitment program.
The highlight of my time at Vanderbilt, I was actually one of the five admissions committee members out of the, you know, 30 to 40 missions officers. I was one of the five final votes of who was admitted to the institution. Um, you know, a very unique role. [00:01:00] I’ve enjoyed my time in the industry, doing it now for over 12 years and excited to kind of talk about the process with you tonight.
Okay. So before we get into talking about the college admissions process, Uh, start with our first poll. So where are you in the college application process? So please select your response and, you know, as our participants are going through the, um, poll really quickly, can you share with us what kind of got you interested in being an admission officer?
Uh, this is an embarrassing answer, but I was really wanting to kind of stay close to school. I had enjoyed being a, an RA in college, really worked closely with the admissions office when I was in college and in wanting to kind of stay near that. I thought it would be a great first job getting travel, recruit students for something I was passionate about and never thought I would make a career out of it.
And here I am and I can’t, I can’t see [00:02:00] myself doing anything. That’s great. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that with our audience. So taking it back to the poll, uh, about 66% of our participants are currently researching schools, uh, followed by that we have a few that haven’t started, which is totally fine.
You’re going to learn today. Some, some strategies to get you started. And then we have some that are working on their essays, followed by that we have about 6% that are getting their application material together. So thank you all for filling out our poll and Pharrell. I’ll turn it back over to. Well, great.
Well, thank you so much, Lonnie. I really do appreciate it. And you know, tonight, what we’re going to try to cover is, you know, what can make you stand out in this process by developing an emission strategy, also known as a application targeting plan. Um, but before we kinda dive into that, I do just want to briefly provide an ideal timeline for 11th graders of asterix by ideal.
Um, I know we all have our own kind [00:03:00] of influences that are, you know, taking our time. And so this is kind of laid out to try to get you through the process as smoothly as possible. So what you’ll notice here is in the first semester of your 11th grade, um, season or year, excuse me, you really want to be starting to narrow down that school list and trying to make it as finalized as Paul.
You want to be using your time wisely via school, summer breaks, I’m sorry, a fall breaks. Uh, obviously the holiday breaks as well to really be getting engaged with individuals at schools that you might be interested in. It’s kind of funny. You’ll see that interact with professors is, is listed here. And a lot of times students and families that I interact with are I’m surprised to hear that professors will respond to you and they want to talk to you.
And, um, I can recount multiple times where, when I was at the university of Georgia and also at Vanderbilt where, uh, professors would come and bring me just, you know, handfuls of business cards, begging me to put them in contact with prospective students. So they absolutely love it. And it’s a great way to really learn more about that school’s [00:04:00] culture and community to decide if that’s really where you want to apply.
As you kind of get into your holiday break, you really want to start thinking about an application plan, a targeting strategy, which is what we’re gonna spend most of our time talking about this evening. Um, and at that time, Time, you’re also going to want to start putting together the initial ideas for your personal statement and the primary essay.
That’ll go to all of your schools that you’re going to apply to. And then of course, starting to put those final touches in place for any final internship opportunities, a final research opportunities that will really kind of help you define your brand and your pathway, uh, which will take place over the summer.
What would I try to remind a lot of families on is that most of those summer programs that require an application like the Wharton leadership program or the, you know, USC summer program, those are actually going to have applications that are traditionally due by either the 15th of January or the 1st of February.
So you do want to be proactive in getting those applications out there as you make your way [00:05:00] into February. You do want to be in process with your personal statement and for any of you that are juniors right now, uh, and you’re seeing. Respectfully, I’m going to tell you that you’re a little bit behind and you need to be kind of picking up the pace, uh, to really make sure that you are giving yourself the opportunity to really stand out in this process, uh, and to give yourself the time to develop things to the best of your ability, uh, time is your greatest weapon in this process.
So I would encourage you to use it beneficially. Um, as you get into March, you really want to start transitioning into those initial supplemental essays for schools on your list. Uh, and to that end, a lot of families will say, wait a second. I didn’t think I could start writing my essays until August.
Well, that’s that’s if a school’s changing their essay topics, most schools only change their essay topics every two to three years. And so if you’re applying to a school that’s in the middle of their kind of cycle, you can go ahead and start working in this essay topics sooner rather than later. And I would encourage you to do so when you put them [00:06:00] off until the summertime related.
There are no breaks at that point, and you’re just rushing until you get through. So you want to spread them out to give yourself a better quality control if you will. And as you kind of get into April and may, you’re really finalizing summer activity planning. And of course, diving deeper into the supplemental essays and by the rest of the summer, you’re actually taking part in those final internships and research programs.
And then of course building your final resume at that point. And as you can see at the very bottom essays, essays, essays, as much as you can before the school year begins, uh, it’s one of the most important things that you can do. So you don’t overload yourself at the start of senior year, but as we transition into the primary conversation for tonight’s topic, you need to understand that it takes time to research.
All the things I’m about to cover with you this evening, building your application straps. It’s not something that you can rush. Okay. Again, I’ll repeat myself. Time is your greatest asset here. Do not take light for it. Okay. It’s something that you need [00:07:00] to be thinking about six months ahead of time, not three weeks ahead of time for it.
So what are the primary factors that should influence your application strategy or building your targeting plan? Well, those are the five main components right there. Your applicant, your academic performance, your test scores, and your overall activities are the three first things that you should be focused on because they will influence the final two being your actual school list and your application type.
So we’re going to talk about each of those tonight, and then we’re going to pull it all together so that you have a better understanding of how all this works and how you can be creating that. Not only that, you know, profile advantage for yourself, but that’s statistical advantage for yourself.
So as we start talking about academic performance, it’s safe to say here that I don’t think a lot of students and families are doing enough research to understand what schools are actually looking for. And I mean this, with the greatest intent, greatest respect intended, just because you have a [00:08:00] 4.0, does not make you competitive for school on your list.
Schools have different preferences on the type of curriculum that you are involved with. The great debate always seems to be about AP versus honors on some cases it’s about IB versus AP. What I will tell you, is this the rigor of your curriculum matters, especially at the more elite selective schools, any school in the top 50, they’re really good to put a greater preference on you taking that AP IB curriculum over dual enrollment or honors.
Um, the more challenging the curriculum, the better that’s, that’s typically the best game plan. Um, and what we’ll come into conversation a lot of times is, Hey, should I take honors and make an a, or should I take AP and make a beat? And my response is it depends on the school that you’re interested in applying to.
Um, if you’re talking a Vanderbilt, if you’re talking, uh, uh, Georgia tech, if you’re talking a university of Florida, right. You, and see, you need to be taking AP curriculum and you need to be doing well. [00:09:00] And if you’re talking a different school that may not have that kind of rigorous expectation, then those honors classes are certainly okay as well.
But if you want to be the standout applicant to give yourself the best chance of admission at those more selective school, The more challenging the curriculum, the better, but your academic performance also has to match. So there are preferences, some schools will in fact, give credit for dual enrollment courses.
Some schools will not give credit for dual enrollment courses. You need to know each of these individual components for any school that you are looking at and investigating to be potential, one that you wish to apply to. And then you need to become aware of any prerequisites, whether they’re listed or unlisted, uh, that a school might be, you know, having for you a great example of this is for engineering applicants.
Many engineering applicants today are expected to have taken calculus and physics to be admissible to a school. And when I was at Vanderbilt, we didn’t list this on our website and it was [00:10:00] also something that we did not make a part of our normal information sessions. And if you applied as an engineering applicant, without calculus, without physics, you are automatically.
And you were not reviewed past that moment. So learning what these schools are looking for individually is imperative to shaping not only what schools you’re interested in applying to, but that final academic year of senior year to take care of any missing components that you may need to add to your, your academic curriculum to meet those prerequisites that schools may be having for you as you move into test scores.
Right? The great conversation that the big debate of today’s world, um, with so many schools being test optional, you know, should I test, should I not test? You know, I start by asking, have you tested any school that is accepting test scores will certainly appreciate a good test score. So I would encourage you to plan on taking it.
And see your outcome before making a decision. If you want to submit that test score [00:11:00] or go test optional in determining if you went to submit a test score that you need to be paying attention to the testing averages of each school that you’re exploring, are you in the upper, you know, middle 50% other testing averages, or are you in the bottom half of the average?
Uh, one of the other things that you need to pay careful attention to, and you need to proactively take into consideration is whether a school practices, affirmative action, um, that will have an input in your test score averages as well. Something you should be making yourself aware of. And so to that end, which schools are looking at the test score might be considered differently, uh, at each one, what Vanderbilt considers to be a good test score will be totally different than what Georgetown might consider to be a good test score.
And then we need to talk about the newest kind of, you know, topic in the industry right now. And that is test optional whether or not to do it or not to do it. You know, what are the pros? What are the. If I’m being totally honest, I’m a firm believer that that testing is a barrier to admission. That’s my personal opinion.
[00:12:00] That’s not our organization’s opinion. That’s my personal opinion. Um, to that end, I do believe that test optional admissions. Lee’s a great opportunity for a student that is incredibly gifted. Academically has, you know, great resources for their profile. All that’s there. They just struggle with their sat or act test, but there’s a downside to going test optional the other components of your application by that.
I mean your academic performance, your, your personal profile, your essays, your letters, recommendation. Now all of those components are going to be weighted and valued more so than if you were to also include your test score. When you applied to a school, you have to be comfortable and confident that those other components of your applications are enough to carry.
Through successfully, if you’re going to go test optional. So it’s something that you have to be very cognizant of, um, when making decision on whether a school is going to be the right fit for you or not. And then if you should be adding your test score in the mix with your application to that particular school,[00:13:00]
the think I should say, I think the thing that so many students today really tend to debate about is what do I involve myself with? You know, does that even matter? You know, do schools actually value leadership? What can I be doing to set myself. I think one of the most common rumors that exist today, um, is the need to be well-rounded frankly.
I think it’s the most overused term in college admissions and schools I can tell you from experience would much prefer you to be more defined from what you’re applying for. What I mean by this is it is a greater comforting factor. When a school can look at your resume and see 2, 3, 4 things that you’ve been involved with that relate to what you’re wanting to study their institution.
They take great faith in that, uh, because when they see that they believe you to be less likely to change your major and then to transfer. So you’re always going to be a more, um, you know, admissible candidate by having that demonstrated interest in a particular [00:14:00] field that you’re pursuing admissions to.
Um, but what are the schools looking for? What do they want to see? And are you missing anything? That’s something that you need to be very aware of. A great example. Here is computer science majors. A lot of times, students that are interested in computer science. You know, they’ll come up to me and they’ll say, Hey, I’m really interested in going to Carnegie Mellon, or I want to go to Stanford.
Maybe you Chicago, you know, maybe university of Texas at Austin, because I’m really passionate about their different computer science programs. Like, okay, cool. So what, what background do you have in computer science? Like, no, no, no. You misunderstood me. I’m wanting to go study and learn computer science, learn coding at those schools.
And if you [00:15:00] don’t, you’re not going to be as admissible. I’m not saying that you’re not admissible, but you’re certainly not going to be at the upper threshold. Okay. So by understanding what each of these schools are looking for now, with the time that you have as a junior, you can be finalizing of summer plans that we talked about earlier to really, you know, cover any areas of need that you’ll need to address to make you competitive.
For a particular school that you’re wanting to target mission for what about leadership roles? And I think this is one of the most under discussed topics in college missions today, you do need leadership roles. Uh, they, they look great. They, they speak to the individual that you’re going to be within the school community.
So schools do appreciate it. Uh, but I think what is not recognized is that leadership comes in in more ways than just being the vice-president or captain of a team or organization. Okay. Leadership comes from developing opportunities for your local community. If you start teaching music, free music lessons, to younger children in your [00:16:00] community, that’s a format of leadership.
Um, if you start doing, organizing the large cleanup in your local community, and you keep it going for, you know, six months to a year at a time, regular meetings and, um, you know, sessions to accomplish that, that’s ongoing leadership with a high degree of reach as well. Schools love that type of thing because.
It’s not following the traditional route, right? It’s, it’s doing something unique that most students aren’t doing. And when you can kind of have that unique little asterix there, it will bring a little bit of extra attention to you. I don’t want to take anything away from being the VP or president of an organization.
It’s very important thing and you should totally pursue it. Um, but don’t be afraid to kind of create your own pathway of leadership. Um, but it really will come down to making sure that you illustrate it properly so that these schools recognize it for what it is. So to that end, are there any other unspoken prerequisites that these schools might have?
Well, it depends on each major and it depends on each [00:17:00] school and that’s why you need to be providing yourself the time to get to know each school on your list. You should be looking at 30, 35 schools over time to condense it down to your final school list of 10 to 12. Okay. Which then leads us to the school list itself.
So once you’ve determined utilizing these first three pieces that these schools are schools, that you would be competitive for that, that you want to apply to you. Now, you need to understand how to build the right school list from the schools that you are competitive for. You need to diversify your list.
And I think that mistake that can easily be prevented today is applying to enough schools where most students don’t a lot of, you know, trouble that I find students having is that they’re only applying to four or five schools for the record. The average student today is applying to eight schools. I would personally encourage you to apply to at least 10 to 12 schools.
I would encourage a buffer of two to four schools over what the average applicant is doing, especially [00:18:00] considering the increase in applications that we’re seeing in the industry. Okay, but going back to my initial comment with many students applying to four or five schools, they typically kind of put all their eggs in one basket.
They’re traditionally applying to all reach schools and that’s really putting yourself at risk of being denied to every single school. So you want to diversify your list between reach schools, target schools and safety schools, but how do you determine this by definition? A reach school is any school with an admissions rate of 30% or less 30% overall admissions rate or less target school would be a 55 admissions rate or better.
So 55% or more that applied. Or better are being admitted. And a safety school will be 85% or more being admitted. If you’re applying to 10 schools, you really want to diversify your list between perhaps three safety schools, four target schools, and three reach schools. When you have that more diverse list, not only [00:19:00] are you increasing your opportunity for admission, but you’re also increasing your opportunity for scholarship, which is an important factor, but there was one caveat here that I think is, um, very frequently overlooked.
And that is the differences between in-state versus out-of-state, especially when you’re looking at, um, public schools in general. When you look at a lot of public schools, some state legislatures do in fact place enrollment caps on out-of-state applicants, because many state legislatures take the approach that in-state applicants should be facing.
Some public institutions hold to that more so than others. Uh, but what that will do is it will actually lower your mission’s opportunity as an out-of-state applicant to many schools. A perfect example is where I started my career at the university of Georgia. So university of Georgia right now, if my brain serves me correctly, is that a 45 or 46% admissions rate?
Okay. They’re out of state population is only about 15 or 16% of their entire [00:20:00] student body to get into UGA out of state. You really do have to be the upper echelon academically, but as an out-of-state applicant, it is automatically a target school because you have to now look at it as an out-of-state admissions rate, not just the overall admissions rate.
So any applicant to UGA, university of Georgia out of state will actually be. A reach school, even though the overall enrollment rate is, or I should say overall admissions rate is identifying it is on the cusp of being a target school. That’s the fine line. That’s the research. You have to be putting into this to really establish the statistical advantage of each school that you’re looking at.
Of course you need to be having that financial conversation and your financial needs should play a major role in shaping your lists. But also I think it plays a, a unique role in preventing students from applying to schools that would actually be an incredible opportunity for them. And what I mean by preventing is that so many families today are totally against private schools because of the initial price tag.
What I will tell [00:21:00] you is that private schools are actually more likely to provide you scholarship. I would encourage you to have not only a diverse list of in-state versus out-of-state public institutions reach target and safety schools, but I would also encourage you to have private schools on your list.
Because private schools are in direct control of their own finances. They are more likely and have that greater ability to provide you with better financial aid and better scholarship. And in many cases can end up being cheaper than an in-state public option for you. So don’t just walk away from the idea of a private school, uh, simply on the initial price tag alone, uh, strategically it could work very well to your favor.
And as you finalize how to put the list together, what it really comes down to is how to physically apply to these schools. You know, if, if you’re a parent on here with us this evening and for the record, I’m 34, I have an 18 month old and I have a three-year-old and it’s a job. I get it. But what I will get you to remind yourself of is that this process has [00:22:00] changed significantly since perhaps when you went through the.
Since I started working in college missions 12 years ago, when I graduated college, there’ve been three major paradigm shifts on how we processed applications and what we were looking for. So what I’m saying is it’s not as simple as just clicking submit on an application. There are multiple ways that you will spend an application today.
Uh, and the primary ways are early decision, early action and regular decision. Each of those formats will actually create a different opportunity or different will have a difference, I should say, in the opportunity you have for admission. So how you physically apply to a school will in fact matter, you need to follow the data of what a school has done over a historical trend period.
Last 3, 4, 5 years. What is the traditional pathway of accepted students out of school? Is it through early action or are they more lenient during regular school? Which brings into question. The favorite rumor of mine [00:23:00] is early action, better than regular decision. Yes and no, it depends on the school, but the most common, I think rumor I do here today is an early action is always better.
And that is simply not the case at some schools early action will be better statistically, and that is the best way that you should apply to that school. So a great example would be university of Georgia, early action, university of Georgia, much higher admissions rate than the regular decision process.
So if you were wanting to apply there, I would encourage you, especially as an out-of-state applicant to apply early action. Okay. Um, but there are other schools where regular decision might actually be the higher statistical advantage. And if you’re not applying to that school, in that format, you could be limiting your opportunity for admission.
You need to have the data to make this informed decision. But you also need to have historical data, not just one year’s worth of data, uh, in the recent, you know, the elements with the COVID pandemic, shifting how applications are [00:24:00] being reviewed. You know, you really do need to be going off of two, three years of data, not just last year’s admission cycle information, getting that can be difficult when we’re talking about maintaining, you know, historical evidence for multiple schools.
Most schools are only to be able to find one years’ worth of data on their website and that’s it. So you need to be finding sources that track that over time. So now it’s about putting it all together, right? How do I make all this work for me? Well, you really have to bring it together and make some hard decisions for yourself.
You have to be honest with yourself. Do you have the academics? Do you have the portfolio that these schools are looking for and are your test scores at a level that are going to make you competitive for it? To that end. Are you their ideal candidate? Are you the type of student? Are you applying for the major that these schools are really focusing on filling gaps with at the current time, you have to do your research to determine if you are that answer or not more importantly, you have to inform yourself on how to target these schools.
Like I just [00:25:00] talked about, you know, early action, regular decision, and more importantly, that will really stipulate the order by which you start applying to these schools in early at auction school should be your first applications. Regular decision school should be the applications you kind of work on later in the process.
And it’s difficult, right? It’s difficult to sit down and compile all this it’s overwhelming. And I go back to time one more time, the more time that you can give yourself as a family to process all this, to research this and inform yourselves of what each individual school that you’re interested in is going to be doing the better off you’re.
But this is a full-time job. This is not something that is so easily done. When you have, you know, a full-time job yourself, as a parent, you’re providing for your family, your son, your daughter, their full focus is maintaining a strong academic performance, let alone your extracurriculars, but it matters.
And the reason it matters is pretty significant. College [00:26:00] admissions is a data science it’s called enrollment management. And what these schools are doing is they’re using predictive modeling and data analytics to make informed decisions of who to admit to their institutions. And why do you meet the needs?
Do you help them hit their goal? That’s being set for them by their board. All of this comes into the decision making that’s going to happen for your application. So it’s not just about, do I have the portfolio that they need? Do I have the test score? It’s also, are you hitting the actual needs of what the school needs at a given point in time when you are.
For your knowledge, schools will actually make three to five admitted classes in one given year. And we will sit back and we will look at multiple screens of data in front of us. And we’ll pull five kids from this admitted class, two kids from this admitted class, and we’ll put them together and say, statistically, do we like this outcome for ourselves better?
Or if we kind of mix it around a little bit more and what was some different students, [00:27:00] we like that outcome more. So that’s the background of college admissions today. And so in order to make yourself stand out, you have to have all the components I’ve just gone through while also providing yourself that statistical advantage with how you’re targeting a school through early decision, early action or regular decision to give yourself the best ability to stand out when these schools start looking at it from the data perspective.
Okay. So to that end, you need a. Okay. And the plan today, it’s, it’s difficult to do it, as I said earlier, when you already have so much going on and that’s the difference in getting assistance, right? If you find yourself earlier this evening, when I was talking about the ideal timeline and you might’ve heard me tell you that you’re behind, because you may have not started your essays yet, you need to do something about it.
Okay? You need to start taking action steps to create that difference for yourself. Now, if you’re a sophomore, if you’re not already looking at schools, you need to be looking at schools immediately because you should be finalizing your school list. By the first [00:28:00] semester of next school year, you need to start taking the necessary opportunities or should say, providing yourself the necessary opportunities to have the outcome that you’re looking for.
So the difference is by getting help and where we can help you is that we have over 300 advisors that are prepared to work with you one-on-one and guide you through this process. And so the reality is if you’re not already getting help, if you’re not currently working with you, we’re thoughts. I would encourage you to, to pay attention to what your needs are and to reach out and get assistance.
The difference in the admissions process today is that when you are getting third-party assistance, as nearly half of all applicants are doing, we can take the stress away. You can focus on your day job as a mom or a dad. The students can focus on their academics. We can do the data research for you and illustrate the right pathway for a student, and then walk side by side with you.
As you go through that process. As a family, one-on-one all over zoom [00:29:00] until you’re successfully in the schools that you’ve been targeting. The difference is time. And the more time that we have with the family, the better the outcome will be at the end of our program this evening, after we’ve had our Q and a time together, there’s going to be a web form.
That’s going to automatically populate when this meeting ends. If you are in a position where you’re. If you’re needing some time to kind of figure out what your needs are. Maybe some things that you may be lacking that you may not know of. And you’d like to have a conversation fill out that web form.
And one of our team members will reach out to you the next day or two to set up a free consultation, and we can identify some things that you need to be working on and perhaps how we might be able to help you as well. So with that, I’m going to turn it back over to Lonnie, but I’ll leave you with. It’s a doing process.
So start taking the steps you need to do. You need to be successful. Thank you for REL. Um, so now we’re going to move into our live Q and a. Um, so how this is gonna work is I’m going to read through [00:30:00] the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, and thank you to our participants. Who’s all who have already submitted their questions.
I will paste them into the public chat so that you can see them. And then I’ll read them out loud. Before Pharrell gives you an answer 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 the webinar landing page.
All right. So moving into our first question, um, where can I usually find the essay topics for each school? Yeah, so it’s a great question. Um, schools will typically lead these on their blogs. Um, and so many schools have them there. Some schools will have them displayed, blink on their admissions page under the application tab.
A lot of other schools, uh, you can always just pick up the phone and they can even email you an attachment, um, over email, obviously, uh, of what their topics are going to be. Some schools may be a little bit more [00:31:00] hesitant to tell you if they’re changing their topics in a given year, if they’re not. So my favorite statements, it’s always a case by case.
Great. Next question. What are the best ways to find out what schools are looking for if they have specific prerequisites? Yeah, so I think one of the things is working with individuals that have, you know, S you know, served at these schools, uh, have made decisions at these schools. You know, there’s some things that school, isn’t just not, they’re just not going to tell you, um, because there’s some things that you use to kind of weed applicants out and not, and keep some in to that end.
Um, but ongoing conversations with the school’s admissions office is certainly great. Um, more importantly, ongoing conversations with current students and recent graduates of these schools. Um, Y particularly current students. You can understand in the most recent timescales, what they felt made them most applicable to that school.
And you can kind of use that as [00:32:00] a comparison to yourself to figure out where, um, where you may need to kind of add something, or maybe you already have a stream that you may not have known about. Um, so those are all good resources. Um, one of the great things about 14 here at college advisor is that you get to interact with all of our team members over 300 people to ask those very questions, as opposed to just getting the perspective of admissions office who’s being paid to recruit you.
Okay. Okay. So moving to our next question regarding academic performance, if a secondary school does not offer AP or IB courses, but they do offer dual enrollment and a student takes advantage of what is offered. Are they at an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to women? You’re doing it perfectly.
So I should have specified that. And I do apologize that is completely on me. Um, yes. If your school is not offering AP or IB, but they do offer dual [00:33:00] enrollment, I would a hundred percent encourage you to do dual enrollment at that point, because that will be the most rigorous curriculum available to you through your school, which is how these schools are in fact evaluating you.
So that’s a great question. All right. How can I determine whether or not my application is strong enough to submit without test scores? So a variety of answers there. Uh, obviously you need to understand the culture and the community of that school, and you need to understand, you know, what that admissions offices is really kind of placing emphasis on ongoing conversations.
Again, with recently admitted students to understand what they did, what was in their profile and make a significant difference there. Um, working with former admissions officers, people that have made those decisions can tell you point blank, what will and what will not work. Um, at individual schools, certainly, you know, speaking with an admissions office, some schools are more forthcoming than other schools, um, about, you know, what is [00:34:00] going to be, you know, admissible and what’s not gonna be admissible.
Um, but at the end of the day, I do default to the fact that you, you do have to take what you’re being told by any school admissions office, to some degree, with a grain of salt, um, because their job is to get you to apply.
How should I alter my application process if. If I’m doing my senior year of high school abroad. So, you know, to that end, it’s a unique situation. So I’m going to try to answer this two different ways. If you’re taking the route where you’re enrolled in a completely new school and you’re in a completely new curriculum, um, and you’re not graduating from your initial high school, then you’re just going to be viewed as a graduate from that new school.
If you’re staying essentially within your current school curriculum, and you’re just doing it remote while abroad, um, then you’re just going to be in comparison to the rest of the students that are graduating in Europe, your current class,[00:35:00]
what is the difference between early decision and early action? Yeah. Great question. So early decision, uh, is a contractually binding agreement where, um, every parent or guardian and the student him or herself, um, will actually sign a contract that states if accepted, I will enroll this institution and that is regardless.
Uh, financial aid or scholarship. So you are on the hook for whatever they tell you that you’re going to pay. If you sign that contract, it is statistically for the schools that offer it in most cases, the best chance of admission, but most families don’t like being held to that because they obviously want to know what financial aid, what scholarship opportunities are going to be available to them before they commit to a school.
Um, so that’s early decision. The, uh, normal, early decision deadline is November 1st at nearly all schools that offer it. And then you will get your admissions decision by December the 15th early action is not binding. There, there is no [00:36:00] contractual agreement whatsoever. You can apply to as many early action schools as you want.
Um, for the record, there’s a, there’s a process called restricted early action. I’m not gonna go into that. Um, we’re just going to talk about main really action right now, primary early action, which is the most. Common format of early action. The typical deadline at schools is November 15th to apply by, but there are a lot of schools that are actually having you apply for early action by October 15th.
Um, and then typically early action decisions will be released to you by the first week of January. Um, and then you don’t have to automatically enroll at that school like you would with early decision. So if you’re accepted during early decision, eight days in most cases to 10 days to cancel all of your applications and submit your commitment deposit for early action.
If you are admitted, you don’t need to let them know. You’ll have to let them do, I should say until may the first.
Okay. Um, if I’m [00:37:00] applying for a competitive major, should I go undecided to increase my chances? Okay. So this, this is the, this is the tough conversation. That’s a great question. I don’t, I don’t blame anyone for asking that question. You need to apply for what your profile says you’re capable of, right?
What’s your background is there are three common types of applicants to call. Undecided, uh, psychology majors. That’s a joke. It’s a great major. Uh, and then everybody else. Um, and, and so, um, my wife’s a psychologist, but I make that joke every time. Um, as an undecided applicant here, here’s the truth. Um, if you were to go undecided, it can leave a school a little bit kind of questionable because they really do like that defined pathway.
If you are going to go undecided, you want to show that you’re working towards something that you’ve been, you know, doing internships or exploring a couple of different fields through job observations, research, things like that. That’s how you want to go in as an undecided applicant. But if your background [00:38:00] speaks to something very particular, right?
Like let’s just say it was, you know, mechanical engineering at MIT, right? If your background speaks to an engineering, a strong engineering background, they’re more than likely going to know what you’re doing. Right. They’re going to know he, or she’s wanting to flip over once they get in here to that program.
And so that can actually work against. You’re always better off by playing to your strengths. So I would encourage you if, if your, your portfolio, if you have things that relate to that field of interest, I would double down and fully go after that major specifically. Yes. Great, great response. Leaning on your, on your strengths.
Okay. So our next question is where would you start to find historical data for research? Great question. So this is, this is the part that gets a little funny. Schools are not as consistent with releasing their data. Um, there’s something [00:39:00] known as the common dataset, but schools are typically releasing this about a year to a year and a half behind that class, uh, whose data is for.
So, um, and then, you know, it’s true. It can be troublesome to kind of compile it all because the only release it, you know, once every year to year and a half. And so it can be a little bit challenging to get it. Um, there are some, you know, small resources, you know, higher ed news that will have it. Um, one of the things that we do at college advisors, we track all these admissions, all this admissions data for each school.
Um, and so when you’re logging into your portal, you’ll be able to see the admissions rates amount of out-of-state enrollment versus in-state enrollment. All of that’s in your, your, um, aspects of your profile, but in your portal, when you’re working with this year at CollegeAdvisor, which is a great resource, so you don’t have to go do any of that to save you all that time.
That is, that’s a great asset, um, to looking at that data, that CollegeAdvisor has it, you know, readily available, um, kind of going more into [00:40:00] continuing with the data question. Like when you look at reach target safe safety schools, um, should I look at a university’s acceptance rate or major acceptance rate?
Great question. Oh, I, whoever did this you’re you’re my new favorite. Um, yeah, if you can, if you can break it down as small as the acceptance rate for a major, awesome. Just know that it can be more and more difficult. Uh, it’s getting more and more difficult for schools to publish it down that far. A lot of times they’ll, they’ll break it down.
As far as like per individual school within the university, they won’t actually go by major, but if you can get it broken down by major yeah. That that’s really giving yourself some good information to go off of, for sure. That’s definitely the way to do that. Uh, for letters of recommendation, how influential are they concerning overall odds of admitted?
Hey, I love this question. Um, the record letters, recommendation that Vanderbilt got while I was there was 26. [00:41:00] Um, the applicant was denied. Uh, the reality is that they are influential if they’re for the right purpose. Um, I’ve seen letters of recommendation safety. And I have seen letters of recommendation kill applications.
And I’ll give you an example of both when you have a teacher or a third-party official, right? Maybe it’s, maybe you’ve done some research somewhere. Maybe, maybe you were a volunteer somewhere, or maybe it’s an employer that you’re working for. They can speak to your skillset. And they talk about your background.
In their 15 years of working there 20 years of being a teacher or working in a particular field, you’re the most influential student or most well-spoken student I’ve ever come across that says something, we place a lot of emphasis on that, right? So that can really help your application. And I’ve had instances where I’ve had a teacher tell me best student in my 18 year career, hands down.
And I’ve literally used that and put that in front of the admissions committee and that’s gotten student in, but on the, on the flip [00:42:00] side of it, let us recommendation, in my opinion, are the silent killer of applications you need to be provided. Talking points, touch points of what these individuals should be covering for you.
And here’s why within your application, as you probably were getting from me tonight, hopefully your people are getting this from you. Didn’t I, you want to be kind of defining your pathway. You want these schools to understand that you are perceived as something specific, right? But what can happen so many times when you’re not providing the right guidance on to these individuals of what to kind of encompass in their letters, recommendation, you could be illustrating in your application material that you’re going down, this particular pathway.
And then this teacher says that you’re actually shooting this pathway. And now the admissions office is stuck in the middle and we’re playing who’s on first base trying to determine who’s more accurate, what their description of the student 17 year old or the teacher that’s been teaching for 20 years.
And I’m going to tell you who we’re probably naturally going to default. Right. So I’m not saying it’s [00:43:00] right, but I’m saying that too, they’re probably naturally going to fall to that teacher, so,
okay. How much does demonstrate an interest play a role in college admissions? Yeah, so some schools, it matters a lot, like a lot, a lot, a lot. Um, you know, Georgia big time really matters there. Um, believe it or not, uh, you know, Hopkins takes into account Vanderbilt, not a thing at all. They don’t track it at all.
Uh, you know, a place like U of F they take it into account for sure. So it’s on a case-by-case basis. Again, my, my favorite thing to say, um, but for the school that it matters, it really matters. You do want to be interacting with, you know, the admission staff through email a couple times. Ideally you do want to go on an official tour of the school, um, because they will track that to make a decision on you.
Other schools, though, it will not influence a single thing. What is the advantage of completing the essays prior to application deadlines, [00:44:00] mental health, and greater outcome with your essays. So let’s just break it down, right? And I mean, this respectfully, why would we take the greatest, biggest, probably most influential decision of your life?
That’s going to have the greatest impact over the next 40 or 50 years and stuff. An eight to maybe 10 week period of summertime, and then sprint to the finish and try to get all the essays written super fast and click submit when we could take our time with them and spread them out from February all the way through application deadline.
And now you’re doing one or two essays at a time and you take a break. And during that break, you get to kind of reset. You get to refresh yourself, your mental clarity comes back. And when your creativity is always going to be at its highest levels. So your message is probably going to be a lot more clean and it’s going to have further deeper impact when you’re done writing that essay versus a lot of families that are putting this off until the summertime or later.
They’re burning out with the essay development and they’re miserable and you end up having a lot of jujitsu, [00:45:00] undeveloped essays, and for the record, um, admissions officers, because of the amount of essays that we read in a given year, we can legitimately tell someone that started an essay earlier versus someone that started an essay later.
And the ones that stayed off the most mind memory were the ones that were able to incorporate. You know, I should say that were able to authenticate themselves within the idea of our school culture, community. And when someone does that, it’s just like incredible. Cause it’s just, it’s just basically landed on the floor.
Why we have to take on you’re showing us how you’re the right fit for us at that point. But that’s something that it takes time to develop to that point. It’s not something that you can just sprint through. All right. Um, what would you suggest doing now for a mentees into more selective schools? Okay. Um, so, uh, I’ll try to make this as specific as I can, right?
So you really want to start trying to break it down by. [00:46:00] Uh, connecting with departmental heads or individuals that work in a particular department that you’re interested in applying to understanding the parameters that they may have given to an admissions office of what they would like to see in their ideal freshmen student, that they’re going to enroll in that particular department.
Um, that’s where, you know, getting in contact with professors really makes a difference. Um, that’s one of the easiest things that you can be doing, but it will take hot time up to that end also understanding, you know, kind of the, the, the attributes of, you know, the more commonly admitted students, what, you know, what they bring to the table, uh, you know, how they’re going out, you know, be current creating change out of school, understand by understanding the school’s culture and community, you can really make yourself more, uh, admissible by, you know, making your application materials more unique to that school.
Uh, and a great example. Is this students today want to copy and paste their essays? Okay. A lot of students today want to read, it’s called recycling essays. They [00:47:00] want to write 5, 6, 7 essays, and they want to use it to cover all the different essays that they’re having to submit to all these different schools.
When you do that, you’re removing any personal connection to the school. It’s going to be super high level, very, you know, generic. And it’s not going to have the impact that you could have by really incorporating your knowledge of the school’s culture and community into that essay. In essence, tailoring the sat each school, and it kind of defaults back to what I just said about this, this best kids.
So when you can start researching that kind of information that you can be incorporating in your essay right now, that’s going to allow you to take those essays further and deeper when that time comes for you to start caliper also from an activity perspective, learning what, you know, commonly in the students have done from a portfolio perspective or profile perspective, things that you can be adding there to create that difference.
Okay. Do you need an internship to get into a reach school? Do you need an internship? Uh, no. [00:48:00] No, you can do passion projects, things like that. You don’t ha you don’t need an internship, but I, you know, I, I would encourage you to have some type of a similar experience. Um, let, let me explain why this is so influential to an admissions office.
And I have to be cautious here because I don’t want to rub any feathers, but in admissions office, they’re very passionate about serving and helping students. But at the core of it’s responsibilities, it’s, it’s keeping the school fully enrolled. So lights are on and salaries are paid. When we see students that are targeting a particular major.
And they don’t have anything on paper that really relates to it, or anything of more significance at some of these more elite schools that relates to it. We kind of have, and I hate to say this, we kind of have doubts when you can have that job observation, shadowing experience, internship research. It makes us a lot more common and comfortable because now we can say, oh, he or she has [00:49:00] historical evidence to say that they are real about this.
This is a hundred percent what they’re serious about. And it makes us feel a lot more common and meeting you and thinking that you’re going to stay here for that program.
Okay. Uh, let’s see. Let’s see. We’re like, will our class rank affect our emissions? Yeah, that’s a great question. Uh, so class rank today is, is something that is not discussed enough. Um, if a school officially reports your rank on the, on the transcript, most of the schools are gonna be taken into account.
Absolutely. Um, now there’s a difference in, in real, what’s known as real rank and estimated rank when your school will not provide a rank because of all this data that these schools have been tracking for, you know, 10, 15, 20 years, they’re able to estimate your rank within the averages, what they’ve stemmed from your school over historical period.
So I used to have, I had 15 years worth of data. A lot of the [00:50:00] schools that I read at Vanderbilt, and I could go back and estimate your rank over the last five, you know, five years and kind of see where somebody that took the amount of AP courses, the amount of honors course. With a similar GPA, do you, where they kind of leveled out when that school used to officially report rank and now I can estimate your rank, um, and that will still be used in your missions decision.
We also have our ways of getting an estimated rank. Like we’ll pick up the phone and we’ll call and we, we can have ways of getting a counselor to kind of give us some idea. Okay. Uh, how does sports recruiting affect the admissions process? So as a recruited athlete, um, I didn’t actually compete in college cause I blew my shoulders, but I was recruited swimmer.
Um, if you are officially being recruited and you have a scholarship on the table, Where you’re having a preferred walk-on yes. That that can help you. Okay. It can help you. Um, but if, if that’s not on the table and I’m talking like the offer is in hand, right. [00:51:00] Then you’re normal applicant when you submit that application.
Okay. And you will be held at the same standard of admission. Um, and so that’s, that’s the difference that, um, I think students and families do have to be honest with themselves and I mean this with grace and respect intended, there’s a difference in having discussions with the coaching staff and having an offering.
And when you have the offer, that’s the difference. Okay. Um, let’s see. Is there anything different in admissions if you’re homeschool? Hey, that’s one of my favorite questions actually, because more and more schools are actually having school specific counselors now for homeschool students. Um, so there are a couple of things you should be aware of you if you can.
And I would highly encourage this. You do want to be utilizing an accredited program. If you utilize an accredited program, the process is a lot smoother. It’s not very different from a typical. Well, I say typical, that’s rude to me from a traditional high school, [00:52:00] you know, a graduate that’s attending a physical school.
Um, if you’re going through a non-accredited program, schools will increase their expectation on you. Many times, they will force you to take an sat and act tests at that point to show academic performance. Um, because if it’s not accredited, they’re not necessarily able to kind of compare you to other students from that, from that program.
Uh, and so if you’re accredited versus uncredited, um, that will have a difference in the outcome. So if you can definitely be going through an accredited program, do summer program, stand out any students, extracurricular portfolio, considering the price of some of the programs, the surprise warrant, the benefits it’s yeah.
That’s you, you make a killer point there. I mean, some of these programs now, I mean, they’re, they’re approaching, you know, six grand for eight days, which is mindblowing. Um, but yes, yes. They, they will have an impact to a point. Um, after [00:53:00] my personal advice is after two summer programs, like I’m talking like a summer academy, like, you know, the U Chicago summer program at rice summer program.
Um, Georgetown’s after about two similar experiences, don’t do it. Don’t do another one. Okay. You’ve kind of reached the impact that that’s going to have for you in the admissions process. Now, if you have one of those and another student does not have one of those on their resume, does that put you at a greater advantage?
Not necessarily. Not necessarily, because remember that’s just one component of the process. The academics still have to be there. The essay still have to be there. You have to really establish your personal fit within the school. Um, and to that degree, someone could have a passion project that they’ve done on their own.
And the reach and the, you know, the outcome of that passion project could be incredible, uh, and could potentially dwarf an eight day experience at a summer program. So again, not trying to take away from the summer programs. I do like them a lot and encourage students to do them, but I would not have you do more.[00:54:00]
Personally, that’s not CollegeAdvisor saying that. That’s me saying that. Okay. Got you. Got you. Okay. What is the best time to visit a college? Our visits in the summer useful are only when the school is in session. Hey, that’s another great one. So I say visit as soon as you can, when you get. Work schedules are crazy.
School schedules are crazy. You’ve got to do it when you can. Um, but I, I do try to encourage students when possible try to with kids on campus because the, the experience is different. Um, it look, and I’m going to say something that can, I’m not trying to get you to spend more money by going back and taking a second trip to the school.
But if you, you wake up and go to a school and it’s a rainy day and you had the tour was kind of mad and you’re not satisfied, don’t don’t block that school out, right? Like there is research proven that rainy day tours lead to negative experiences or feelings with the school. Um, and so try to, you know, try to keep it as even as possible, try to make sure you’re going when the weather is [00:55:00] as good as it possibly can.
I know nobody can control that. Uh, but try to keep, try to keep your visits as even as you can, if you’re going to be going to as many majority of your schools, when school’s out of session, then try to visit as most of your school’s out of session as you can. So you have kind of an even experience between them.
What advice do you have for students in stem programs and emission strategy? Yeah, so stem programs, you’re really starting to see a lot more research background now from students that are applying to the more lead programs, even self led research at home. So, you know, try to really focus on something, you know, specific, um, again, the more specific you can be and really kind of establish that path for yourself, uh, and make that clear through your application components, like your activity section through your essay, make these schools just make it known what you’re all about working in pursuit of what’s your brand is right.
Um, that is, that is what you can be doing, but it’s done [00:56:00] through demonstrated interest and experience. So again, the more specific things you can involve yourself with the better be. Specific internships, uh, not interested in, sorry. Specific letters of recommendation from individuals in the field really can help you there.
So if you’ve done like an internship at a summer program with a professor that would a hundred percent be someone I would secure a letter of recommendation from to kind of speak to your lab experience, speak to your credentials on your abilities, in that set. Okay. Um, so someone asks, what is it? What do you mean by, um, being strategic with the applicant?
Yeah, so you have to be strategic in how you’re targeting the school. So with your application, you cannot just click submit if you’re, so you have to choose primarily between early decision, early action, regular decision, those different ways that you can submit your application. There is going to be a higher admissions rate for [00:57:00] one of those, and there’s going to be a lower budget.
So you need to understand how to apply to each one and to give yourself the highest statistical advantage. That’s the strategy here? Okay. So if you’re looking at it from the perspective of, Hey, I want to apply to Vanderbilt and default there. It’s where I spent my most time. Um, if I wanna apply to Vanderbilt, should I go regular decision?
Or should I go early ax or wherever the decision? Well, early admission or early decision to Vanderbilt is an over 23% acceptance rate. Regular decision is it’s 7.8%. So strategically speaking, you’re going to give yourself the best opportunity for admission by applying early action, early decision, as opposed to applying regular decisions.
That’s from the high level, that that’s how you should be strategic with your applications. Okay. Does a missions focus change if you are wanting to apply to [00:58:00] an honors college program? Um, a little bit, you need to provide yourself a little bit more time. Uh, I’m sure people are rolling their eyes, you know, because I probably said time three dozen times.
Um, but honors colleges will typically have an additional essay or two that you’ll have to submit. Um, and it won’t in many cases, be a little short one. It’ll, it’ll be something to the tune of anywhere from 6 50, 800, even a thousand words. Uh, so those do typically come with a feed, more additional essays, um, and then you will be held to a higher academic standard to be admissible for that.
Um, you know, you at, uh, university of Southern Carolina is about say Southern California. Uh, South Carolina is a great example of that. University of Georgia is a great example of that. Um, so you will have a higher academic, you know, bar that you have to meet in addition to a few additional, um, application materials you’ll have to submit.
Okay. Um, so a little bit about, just about like CollegeAdvisor specifically, um, do you all help students who are [00:59:00] undecided. Absolutely. I mean, that’s one of the biggest things that we can do with you is when you have the reach that we have, we’re the only organization that has, you know, 300 plus advisors on staff and you have access to all of our team members.
And so you could say, Hey, you know what, I, I kind of have a little bit of interest in these two or three fields, but not, I’m not really sure where I want to take it. We can set you down with our team members that have experience in those different fields that you’re interested in exploring, and they can talk about their undergraduate, even your graduate level experience with what that process was like for them and what they’ve done since they’ve graduated.
Right? So you can understand what the journey is going to look like, what it’s going to entail. To decide if that’s something that you’d be interested in further exploring, we can also be providing you guidance and recommendations on how you can be creating opportunities for yourself, extracurriculars, summertime, planning, things of that nature, passion project.
So really helping you flesh out if a particular pathways, the best fit for you, or maybe it’s not. And listen, what I’ll tell you is this being undecided is not a bad thing. Okay. [01:00:00] I don’t want what I said earlier about it’s better to be more defined than undecided to scare anybody. That is the fact, but the reality here is that by just showing that you’re trying to figure it out, you look a lot better than most applicants.
And I wish I was joking when I’ve told him, when I tell you that I’ve read applicants, that listed net. And call of duty as activities on the resume, as long as you’re not doing that, you’re in a much better position than you realize. Okay. So, um, as long as you’re taking the opportunity and able to, to show it on paper, that you’re trying to figure out a couple of different things.
That’s a great way to go in as an undecided applicant and you can figure it out from there once you’re in school towards. Thank you. Thank you. So, um, that actually is going to conclude our questions and answers. Thank you all for submitting your Q and A’s. Um, as a reminder, before we end this webinar, I want to remind you all that immediately after you will be redirected to a quick form to sign up for a free [01:01:00] consultation, to learn more about our services within CollegeAdvisor and member from our team will reach out to you tomorrow after you fill out the form.
It is never too early to start the admissions process. And we at CollegeAdvisor will be honored to support you along the way. So with that, thank you everyone for coming out tonight. Thank you for Ferrell for this informative information. And last thing I want to share with you all is that we have more webinars that we are going to be doing this month, as well as in the coming months.
So we look forward to seeing you in another webinar, have a great evening.