AO Advice: Handling College Admissions Stress as a Family
College applications can be overwhelming for the whole family. Join CollegeAdvisor for a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session where former Admissions Officer and parent Lauren Lynch will share her tips and tricks for navigating college admissions stress as a family. Parents, you won’t want to miss this!
2022-03-16 AO Advice: For Parents: Handling College Admissions Stress as a Family
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to tonight’s session titled AO Advice: For Parents: Handling College Admissions Stress as a Family. uh, to orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, uh, and then answer your questions in a live Q and a, um, on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q and a tab right away.
Uh, now let’s meet our panelists for this. Hi everyone. I am Lauren Lynch. I am associate director of admission with college advisor. Um, I attended Smith college and Columbia university. I worked in admissions at Williams college for almost 10 years. I worked at a DC area, private high school as the director of college counseling.
I’ve worked in various other college consulting organizations. Um, and perhaps the most salient piece of information for tonight’s presentation is that I’m the parent [00:01:00] of a freshman in college and a junior in high school. So whatever you, if you are a parents in the audience, whatever you’re going through, I am also going through it or have been through it.
Um, so yes, I’m going to try to talk for about 30 minutes to me just giving you a general overview and then I hope to leave plenty of time for questions. All right. And so let’s go ahead and get into our first poll of the night, which is how stressed are you feeling now? I feel like I can answer that one.
Um, and actually we do not have, uh, that poll question, um, uh, doable right now. So we’re going to actually switch it up for right now and just say, what, uh, where are you kind of in the application process? So, uh, we’ll go ahead and start to like those polls and then we’ll come back to this question later on.
Um, and in the meantime, so, Lauren, uh, what would you say is probably [00:02:00] like your favorite tradition? Uh, what was your favorite tradition? I should say it should say, uh, estimate. Um, so Smith has a wonderful tradition, which a lot of colleges have copied, um, called mountain day where, um, every year during the fall, the president of the college chooses a beautiful, typical new England fall day and all the bells on the campus ring in the morning, alerting students that it’s mountain day and classes are canceled and the dining halls make packed box lunches for all the students.
And we’re supposed to go hiking and get outside and enjoy the weather. And it’s a real gift. It’s a real thing. Okay. Awesome. Thank you for sharing. All right. And, uh, so we have some responses that have rolled in, uh, so we have 25% of you saying you haven’t started at all, uh, 40%, uh, currently researching schools, uh, 4%, uh, both for working on essays and getting application materials together, and then a whopping [00:03:00] 27% saying almost done.
Wow. Okay. That’s impressive. I’m I’m amazed to hear that. Okay. Well, hopefully tonight we’ll cover enough information where there’s a little bit, um, a little bit in there for everybody, but again, I really encourage you to ask questions as we get towards the end of the presentation. Um, I think. Uh, speaking from my professional experience, speaking from personal experience, and of course having many, many friends who are going through this with their kids, I, I, I think the basic kind of issue that I want to communicate before you even get into the slide is that there’s no way to eliminate stress from this process.
Uh, I think even the most organized and thoughtful of students and families are going to experience some level of stress and part of that. Can make the process less stressful. It’s just an acceptance of that fact that this is an inherently difficult process. It involves a lot of moving pieces. It involves a [00:04:00] lot of, um, kind of intense, personal and emotional growth on the part of the student.
And it involves a lot of letting go on the part of the parent and all of these things together can, can make for a kind of fraught, uh, process and situation. However, I think some of the things that make the process even more stressful than it needs to be are when students and families feel like they’re lacking information or lacking accurate information.
Um, we have a lot of families who come to us where the parents have not been educated in the U S or they’re first generation college students, or even families who’ve been through the process, but just feel like they’re at a loss for, for a baseline of accurate, helpful information. I think also starting too late can be very stressful for those of you who are in the thick of it.
And it sounds like many of you are, you know, there are so many pieces, um, to be completed, including applications themselves, and usually anywhere [00:05:00] between kind of four and 20 different essays that have to be written. So starting late, it can feel very overwhelming. And part of that is not being adequately prepared, not feeling like you’ve had enough knowledge information, and you are lacking the resources to start early enough in the process to feel successful in the completion of the process.
I have a lot of students who have regrets who feel like they’ve made choices, either academic, behavioral, or personal, that will have an impact on the application process. And that can be very stressful, perhaps a disciplinary action, which honestly, depending on what it is, colleges tend to be very forgiving of, uh, or at least take in context.
Um, perhaps students. Are not taking the right courses. They need to be prepared for a highly competitive application experience. One thing I will say about that right now is please don’t [00:06:00] confuse what your high school graduation requirements are with. What a college’s application requirements are. High schools often have far more flexible and lenient requirements for graduation than colleges do for admission.
Typically for college, you need four years of English, four years of history or social sciences, four years of math, four years of, of hard science and typically two to three years of a foreign language. I think it’s also very difficult. Um, we have a lot of students who want to apply to a lot of highly competitive schools.
That’s great, but it’s also really important to be realistic and balanced and have a number of schools on the list that are going to be matched schools and, uh, safe choices, no problem schools, although there is really no such thing anymore. Um, the, the process has gotten increasingly competitive, which makes it even more important to have a good [00:07:00] balanced list.
I think also just having that, that tension, that difficulty between the family, um, and the students around the application process, lack of alignment in terms of motivation over, uh, Investment in going through the process can be very, very difficult for students who are not comfortable writing about themselves, thinking about themselves and, um, putting that personal thought into, into words, into language that will connect with the reader.
This can feel very difficult and very overwhelming. And I think just a lot of students maybe are going through this without parental support. A lot of parents are going through it without outside support. Um, and, and just feeling like you’re, you’re floundering and doing this too independently can add a tremendous amount of stress to this process.
In terms of helping students mitigate the stress and burnout around [00:08:00] the process, relating back to the previous slide, gaining knowledge, educating for the student and the family about the education process. What admission officers are looking for, how applications are evaluated, how does the student know what colleges are going to be a good fit or what schools might be appropriate?
Giving that, given that student’s interests and areas of expertise and excellence. One of the most important things in this process is understanding and recognizing what you have control over and what you don’t students, you have control over creating the strongest application. You have creating the best possible college list for you individually.
You do not have control over how your application is going to be received or evaluated in the admission office. And that’s something that’s very difficult, uh, for, for students and families to understand just because you can or should or could get into a school does [00:09:00] not mean you will necessarily get into that school.
Recognizing that early in the process is crucially important to reducing stress. Starting early setting goals that you can achieve kind of laying things out in an appropriate timeline is very helpful. That’s something that our advisors spent a lot of time with students working on practicing. Good.
Self-care I think it’s easy to get really caught up in this and the stress of a busy academic and social and extracurricular life. So practice now, the good self-care that you will need for work college in terms of, um, setting boundaries, resting building in some downtime and keeping things in perspective, which is.
Crucially important. This is one of many, many decisions you, you, as a family or students will be making in their lifetimes, um, and understanding that helps offset [00:10:00] the feeling that this is the most important thing you’ve ever done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it’s in school from a counselor, whether it’s from our organization, our advisors are absolutely here to guide and support.
Um, and you know, please reach out as needed. I think for students also, and for families finding that organizational strategy, that’s going to be the most effective in terms of working towards goals and getting the work done. Every student in every family is different in that regard. And one of the things circling back to the first, uh, kind of bullet point on here, um, as you all know, I’m sure there is way too much information out there, too many blogs, too many articles, too many group chats, too many strongly opinion, opinion parents, um, or other students saying that they are the experts and they know everything.
And if you don’t do this, you’re doomed. And if you do that, you’re guaranteed success. I think it’s [00:11:00] important to set limits with social media around the college application process and really seek out expert advice and trust in that process instead of, um, kind of going down the rabbit hole of too much information, which is not necessarily the kind of information which ultimately will be helpful.
As students are thinking about the process and for parents to understand and kind of frame what students are going through ninth and 10th grade are really about building a strong foundation, building the framework for the, the success of the, of the structure that’s going to come from that students are focusing at this point on their grades.
They’re, they’re developing a sense of what their academic interests are and are as appropriate, uh, accelerating in the rigor of their curriculum, adding on honors and AP courses in areas that are going to be a good fit for them, exploring some of the [00:12:00] passions and interests, whether it’s in school activities outside of school, independently through community organizations, uh, family interactions.
There’s so many different ways for students to get involved in ninth and 10th grade. Yeah. Are the appropriate times for students to do that exploration before kind of committing themselves to a more narrow, uh, personally relevant course of action that ultimately will shape their application narrative.
Some are, should still be fun. Some are, should always be fun. Um, but this is also an opportunity for students to start exploring, um, maybe a work opportunity. Maybe it’s a volunteer experience. Maybe it’s an academic experience, something that appeals to them that might deepen, um, kind of their profile in some of the things that they’re drawn to, um, academically or in terms of extracurricular involvement.
11th grade is [00:13:00] when things start feeling a little more real, the grades become very important. Um, this is when students typically have the most rigorous curriculum. Although many students also, um, tend to bulk up and senior year, which is, uh, grades do still matter and senior year. Um, this is when the college application.
Kicks into high gear with college research, which thanks to COVID you can do virtually as well as in person, um, really thoughtfully creating a college list. Juniors are also taking standardized testing. They’re taking their SATs and actsh ideally twice during junior year, um, for SATs pretty much every college is going to super score.
Uh, so it definitely is in a student’s best interest to take the sat twice, uh, for act a lot of colleges. We’ll super score. Um, so again, um, even if, if they don’t typically students, composite scores [00:14:00] changed slightly, hopefully improving between the first and second sitting. It’s also a great time in, um, a non, um, kind of serious way because you’re not actually filling out applications, um, to get on the common app to, um, to explore the different platforms like the UC application apply Texas, kind of get familiar with the questions they’re asking, look at some of the supplemental essay questions that are posted, um, during 11th grade with the hope that they will stay basically the same senior year.
So at least you can start thinking about them in the back of your mind. And again, summer should be fun, but maybe you’re doing this. A course at a campus, maybe you’re working in a lab, maybe you’re helping in the family store, um, doing something that’s substantive as well. Part of the reason for this is some college applications are going to ask what a student has done over the last couple of summers.
And so it’s helpful to have [00:15:00] something to write in there
between the end of 11th grade, which typically I’m thinking kind of main June and 12th grade. This is when as many of you know, cause it sounds like so many of you are going through this. Um, this is when you’re in the thick of it. Um, students by now have asked two teachers for letters of recommendation.
They have finished all of their testing if they did not do it to their satisfaction in junior year, um, they have September and October of senior year to retake testing. Um, if you are not climbing early action or early decision, you can also do testing as late as November, uh, of your, of your senior year.
Uh, you’re finalizing your college list, uh, and you you’re deciding on your application strategies. If you’re applying to any schools early action, early decision, what schools have priority deadlines, what schools are rolling decisions and which schools you’ll be [00:16:00] applying to regular decision. This can be overwhelming.
Again, this is something our advisors help students with a lot because it’s hard to figure out the best course of action sometimes. You also were filling out all of the applications. Um, so kind of the line items, as well as the essays. And, uh, I mentioned this earlier, but essays are going to be, um, very time consuming.
Typically students are going to write between about four and 20 different essays, the main common app essay and myriad supplements required by colleges. Ideally, you’re finding ways to take kind of the, the kernel of a few different supplements and maybe work them for four, um, different college prompts, um, as long as they fit in, as long as it’s appropriate, again, something we’re happy to help with.
And students plan ahead. You’re going to want to write and leave plenty of time to [00:17:00] revise and rewrite essays, uh, until you’re feeling really confident before you submit. At this time also parents, this is when you get involved in terms of filling out any financial aid forms that are required. Um, I don’t usually advocate no one in my field will really advocate parents getting particularly involved in this process, but financially documents with the clear exception, they are overwhelming, very complex, uh, very dependent on families, financial situations, and financial documentation.
So much more appropriate for a parent or a guardian to fill out.
All right, at this time, we’re to go ahead and get into our second poll of the night, which is what great is your child in a, so we’ll go ahead and start collecting those responses at this time. Um, and then Lauren, just in the meantime, uh, how would you describe how you handled, [00:18:00] uh, stress as you were applying for.
Uh, college back then. Oh gosh. Well, I mean, I am very old and that was a lifetime ago. Um, I broke my typewriter. That’s kind of how I handled stress unintentionally. Cause back then it was typewriters. Um, I think it was very different. I think a lot of people in my generation, um, benefited from not having access to a lot of information, in some ways it made it easier.
It was less overwhelming because you knew less. Uh, I think at this point there’s so much false information in so much hysteria. It’s very hard to know what is factual and how to focus on the things that really matter in this process. Awesome. All right. Thank you. Um, so what grade is your child in? So we have 2%, uh, in eighth grade, um, 6% for ninth grade, 13% for 10th grade, a whopping 50% for 11th grade and [00:19:00] 27% for 12th grade.
Uh, yeah, so high majority in the 11th and 12th. Perfect.
Um, So I think one of the things that is important is to really understand kind of the, there, there there’s a lot of overlap, but there’s also a lot of separation between what aspects of the process students are able to have ownership of should appropriately have ownership of. And what aspects of the application fall more into the kind of family slash parent, um, camp.
So students really it’s up to students to identify what they love, um, in terms of their, uh, or what they’re drawn to in terms of their, their academic interests. Um, Extracurricular activities, the things that appeal to them, um, which might seem [00:20:00] inconsequential, but ultimately are going to feed into the second item here, which is identifying colleges and creating a list.
Um, someone who, for example, loves surfing and being near the water and is really interested in Marine biology that is going to have a direct impact on the kind of colleges that show up on that student’s list. They’re probably not going to want to be in a landlocked, um, school environment where they can’t get close to the thing they love.
So it’s important for students to do the thought necessary, to, to create the list. And we have, um, a pretty comprehensive. Questionnaire, um, and process we go through with students to really get them thinking critically about the things ultimately that are going to matter to them in this process. Um, you know, religious affiliation of a campus or the kinds of class size, uh, the kinds of classes and class size, um, you know, setting suburban, urban, rural, there’s [00:21:00] so many different elements to consider and not just the students should, should do the thought behind it, but also think, um, try to separate out a little bit kind of where they think that college will get them in terms of what they want to do with their lives and focus more ideally on what it’s going to be like to be at that college for the next four years.
Um, students also obviously have to fill out the applications. Parents should not be filling out applications for students. There are things that, that parents are going to need to help with like the financial aid forms. Also the applications typically ask, you know, parents job descriptions or job titles year of graduation.
If they went to school, different things like that. And students usually do seek out parents feedback on them. It’s imperative that students are doing all of the writing required. Uh, I can tell you with absolute certainty that admission officers not only are going [00:22:00] to be picked, be able to pick up if a student’s voice does not seem genuine, um, true to them, reflective of them.
Also, if a parent has over edited one essay and not others that is, uh, brutally obvious to admission officers and a real red flag. Um, so it’s, it’s important that the writing be genuine reflective of the student, um, something that the admission officers can relate to because it speaks to aspects of the student, um, that the student chooses to share with the reader of their application.
Again, that is probably where our advisors spend. The bulk of time with students is, is helping with the essays and what the. Um, helping, not in terms of writing the essays, but helping the students voice come from. For parents, there’s lots of different things you can be doing during the application process that are not action oriented.
Um, [00:23:00] a lot of it is just being self-aware and reflective and honest with your child. And more importantly, honest with yourself. Um, if you have expectations about the kinds of schools your, your students should be applying to, or how the process should look, um, please have an open conversation with your child, those mean and not, but it’s going to add an incredible amount of stress.
If you’re swimming or frustrated or anxious or worried that they’re not doing it right or doing it the way you want them to do it with expressing that directly to them. I think it’s really crucially important to expect your student’s perspective on process, to really try to understand it and come to some agreement.
If there’s a vast difference between. Between your, your viewpoints on the process. Sometimes students don’t really know what their strengths and weaknesses are and are very hard on themselves for things they feel they’re doing poorly. And it can be [00:24:00] really helpful parents to reflect to your student, to your child, the, the strength, the capability, um, the pride you see in them, in the things they do well and, and help them understand how to manage the things they are not as, as good at, or as strong at I think protecting their privacy.
I think what I mean by that is, um, Again, this kind of goes into social media. It’s very hard for students in schools. These days, everyone is in everyone’s business about what they got on their, their sat scores and what schools they’re applying to and what GPA they have. Um, and that can make things much more stressful.
So kind of understanding that this is your student’s process and it doesn’t belong to anyone outside of the family can be very important in terms of reducing stress. Um, again, communication is, is huge. Uh, it’s, it’s really important to [00:25:00] be open and honest. You also want to support your child’s independence and initiative.
I get there in another slide, but part of this is that you, as a parent are not just preparing your child for college. You’re preparing them to live an adult life. And part of that is them learning how to make hard decisions, um, how to problem solve, how to deal with stress and adversity, and you are there to support them.
Absolutely. But you’re also there to Marvel at their strength and their capability. Sometimes they just needed cheerleader. They just need to know you believe in them that you have faith, that wherever they end up, it’s going to be the right fit for them, that you see beautiful things in their future, because it’s very hard for students in the thick of this process to embrace that kind of hopefulness all the time.
Um, this seems obvious, but you are not the one going to college. Uh, so let your child really drive this process, um, [00:26:00] and keep perspective on the fact that this is, um, this is something that in 10, 15, 20 years, you’re not going to remember necessarily the stress and the hardship. You’re going to remember, um, your pride in watching them grow up and, and manage this task.
When I, when I say facilitate conversations about rules and boundaries, sometimes that’s going to be about finances. Um, you know, we can afford this. We can’t afford that in terms of colleges, sometimes it’s going to be, you know, We don’t want you a plane right away. Any schools you’re looking at need to be a six hour drive at most.
So kind of having that conversation early in the process is going to be very important. Parents. You are, you are deputized, you are delegated to organize some of the logistics when it comes to doing college visits, setting up hotel reservations, booking tours, and info [00:27:00] sessions. That’s all on you. If you’re willing to take that on, I think students are dealing with enough.
Um, and this to me, it’s kind of clerical work and something that does not take away from their ownership and just makes the process much less stressful for everybody. And again, parents, the financial aid forms are definitely going to fall on you. We do have financial aid experts on staff. So if you need assistance with that, please reach out to our company for that.
Um, a lot of this on this slide, I’ve, I’ve already covered, but I just want to touch on a few things. Um, I think that w in, in my experience, one of the things that really lower stress for the family is. Just that honest and open communication about what you, your hopes and fears are, what their hopes and fears are.
Um, really kind of clearly articulating, uh, what your [00:28:00] expectations are, understanding what theirs are, uh, kind of getting that framework in place for how, as a family system, you are going to manage a process that is dependent largely on their initiative. Um, we have students who are very diligent about sticking to deadlines, working with us, um, handing in essays on time for us to review and send back to them.
And we have students that we are constantly chasing down and ultimately of course, that’s going to have a negative impact on the, on the outcome of their application. In terms of having that kind of clarity and openness early on within the family about what the expectations are, you know, in terms of whether it’s working with us or you are working independently with your, with your student and family on the process, uh, it’s very important to really articulate those things, have a conversation about what a successful outcome means.
Uh, one of the most [00:29:00] important things. I think that, um, a lot of families do, which I love is establishing a lot of time during the week where it’s no conversation about college. College is off limits at the dinner table. It’s off limits six days a week and or five days a week. And you set aside a couple of hours a week, where you as a family are going to sit down and talk about the progress being made.
Um, and the work being done on the application process. I think taking college out of every interaction with your child is going to really minimize the stress of this process.
I think it’s easy. Um, you know, I, I feel like as a parent, I’m going to speak as a parent for a moment here. I feel like whatever, there, there are many crisis moments or kind of growth opportunity moments we’ve had, uh, you know, I’ve had with my children where [00:30:00] I, I catch myself feeling like this is, this is it.
This is the defining moment. This is the most important thing that’s ever happened. Um, whether it’s, you know, my child doesn’t walking yet and all the other kids are, or my child didn’t get into this prep school and all the other kids did whatever it is that each of you individually has had that kind of experiences.
It is important to keep this process in perspective. This is one of many moments. This is not the only moment help, help it be a good one by giving your child space to not be perfect, to not necessarily get into the top school on the list and still be happy. Uh, those are going to, that is going to really help, uh, minimize stress around this, that, that the parent kind of manifesting that, that acceptance and that, that peacefulness around the process.
And I think for students, particularly, and for parents, just [00:31:00] remembering that it’s not just the mad race of getting through the process, it’s getting through it with grace, getting through it with laughter in the family, with love, with acceptance, with kindness, with integrity, not writing your kid’s essays, for example, um, these are things that are going to be much more important in terms of shaping your child’s growth potential than getting into the best school on the list.
It’s important to remember that students will thrive where they, where they land. I have never, in my years of experience, how does students say to me that their life was ruined? Because they didn’t get into their top choice school. I’ve had students for the, you know, week to two months after a denial, be sad and hurt and mystified and feel bitter.
And then ultimately come to a place where they are so profoundly grateful, uh, with the choices they have and with the decisions they’ve [00:32:00] made and that choice to plant yourself and really grow at the school that does accept you. That is that right fit for you? Uh, I think is the key to minimizing. Um, and just focusing on the positives in this process that your, your student, um, if you’re a parent, uh, has achieved so much, has accomplished so much and has done.
So, uh, ideally with, with grace and dignity, um, and for students just recognizing how much you’ve grown, um, your capacity to deal with difficult challenges. Uh, these are things that are going to help shape a really positive outcome and absolutely minimize the stress of this process.
All right. So at this time we’ve made it to the Q and a section of the webinar. Um, [00:33:00] so that is the end of the presentation. Uh, hope you found this information helpful. Remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. So as move on to this live Q and a I’ll read the, the questions that you submit in the Q and a tab, uh, paste them into the public chat so that everyone can see, um, and then read them aloud so that our panelists can provide you with an answer, uh, as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions.
Uh, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page. All right. So let’s go ahead and get started at this time. Uh, all righty. Well, Lauren, you must’ve did amazingly, um, with your descriptions. Cause we don’t have any questions as of right now.
Okay. In the, in the QA. So what I will say is everyone, please don’t be shy. Uh, you know, this is, please do take this as an opportunity to ask. There’s no such thing as a, you know, silly or [00:34:00] unwanted question. So, uh, please shoot away. Um, but in the meantime, uh, okay, so we have one question coming in. Thank you.
Um, is sat or GPA more important overall? That’s a great question. Um, and I will say, um, I, what I did not reference and let me give you a little bit of information about how standardized testing is used right now. And then I will get to that specific question. Um, for those of you who don’t know, and again, sounds like many of you were going through this or are almost finished with it.
COVID has seriously impacted, uh, colleges. Um, Requirements for standardized testing. So in the first year of COVID, every college was test optional again, in this application season, every college was test optional. What we’re seeing is also [00:35:00] a pretty seismic shift. I think colleges across the country have many have been really longing to eliminate, um, testing for a very long time, uh, because of the inherent inequities in, uh, requiring testing and how testing is managed.
Um, the UC system, for example, has eliminated UCS going, I’m sorry, has eliminated the need for standardized testing going forward. They, they do not look at standardized testing and I think a lot of colleges will follow suit. Having said that I am always going to encourage my students and we company-wide always encourage our students to take either the act or the sat.
’cause some colleges will look at testing if it’s submitted and some colleges will use testing as, um, an evaluative tool for merit or scholarship money. So the question about sat, uh, or standardized [00:36:00] testing and GPA is a great one. Ultimately the GPA is going to be the driver in the process, but what the application reader is looking at is not just the GPA, but also the rigor of the.
In other words, how has the student challenged themselves within the classes that are available to that student in their homeschool system? So obviously there’s, there’s a huge variety in high schools across the country, and then high schools across the world, in terms of IB, AP honors, you know, college level, college prep courses, or just kind of grade level courses, not every high school has the variety and range that other schools do.
So a student who goes to a school without a range of, uh, rigorous courses is not going to be penalized for not having those on their transcript, but typically colleges are, are looking to see has the student appropriately challenged themselves and has the student done [00:37:00] well in those classes? What that shows the college is.
Not just a student’s ability to perform academically, but it also shows a sense of kind of intellectual curiosity and a willing to work hard, uh, which is, which is important, obviously in a college classroom, a bit of a red flag for colleges as a student with kind of moderate grades and PSU purlative testing.
Uh, what, what that shows a college is that the student is capable of having done better academically than they did. And, and that does sometimes raise some concerns in the evaluation process. So grades definitely are going to be more persuasive than standardized testing, but sometimes they are both very important.
And just while you’re still on this topic of testing, uh, we have a question, well, she’s just asking, is the S act or the sat more [00:38:00] important when it comes to Ivy league specifically? There is absolutely no preference. So, uh, when these tests were created there, there used to be a kind of a geographical distribution in terms of which states, which parts of the country tended to predominantly use one or the other.
At this point, they were completely ubiquitous colleges have zero preference about which test is students submit. So what I typically recommend if, if your student is not doing, um, tutoring or test prep of any kind, you can easily go on the individual testing sites, um, and just do some sample questions, kind of look around, see what the language is, see what some of the questions are, get a sense of the different tests.
Uh, you can even just on, you know, in a used bookstore or on Amazon or something, buy some, some test prep, test prep books, do some full length practice tests. Um, there are online calculators [00:39:00] comparing sat results in act results because one, the act is scored out of 36. Um, and the sat is scored out of 1600.
Um, so you can see what the comparison is and see which the student has a preference, uh, or a strength in. Okay. Uh, Lauren, is there any advice that you have for twins that are applying? Um, well, uh, certainly, I mean, I’ve worked with a lot of twins. Um, I would say, um, I have never worked with twins who are, um, applying to all of the same schools and look the same on paper or, um, bring the same kind of qualities and attributes to their applications.
Um, so I think for the parents, I’m sorry, cause you’re going to double the stress of, of helping two students through this process simultaneously. Um, but definitely I think just treating the [00:40:00] students as individuals in the process, um, recognizing the differences between them in terms of what that college lists might look like, what their essays are going to sound like, what their experiences and personalities are, uh, is, is hugely important.
Um, You know, I, I think even if twins apply to the same school, maybe there’s a family connection or there are schools that appeal to them. Um, colleges do ask, um, in the applications, if you have any siblings and, you know, they will, they will know, um, they will be able to flag that their, their same age siblings applying to schools.
Um, so they will see that and, and probably exercise a little bit of consideration. Um, if twins are applying to the same colleges, but they may not get the same results. All right. Um, now this next question is asking, you know, how accurate are the reviews and ratings are niche.com. Uh, but I think that can extend to more than just [00:41:00] that ranking list is how much significance should parents be placing on rankings?
Yeah, I, um, pretty much every college person you talk to will advocate not paying much attention to rankings at all. Um, you know, I think as a parent, there are certain rankings that I personally think are important, like safety, um, campus safety, um, is one that I think is important, but. Colleges are master manipulators.
Um, there, this is a well-known fact. Colleges are constantly massaging their data and their statistics in order to sway their rankings rankings. Ultimately, I will tell you with absolute authority, I am willing to sign on the dotted-line rankings are going to have zero impact on a student’s ability to thrive and succeed at any college.
They go through. The rankings will have no bearing on the student’s success at that school. And the [00:42:00] rankings will have very little bearing. I’m going to say very little, because it does depend in some ways on a specific, you know, highly intensified field or area of study. Um, but we’ll have very little bearing on a student’s potential, uh, for graduate school or careers coming out of college.
What is going to have the greatest significance on that is a student’s ability to really engage in the campus community, taking advantage of the academics, the resources, getting to know faculty, um, really having a stellar, academic and personal experience, um, because that’s what shapes that strong foundation with the alumni network, you know, the strong college GPA then propels the student onto success and other areas, and those things are best achieved.
When a student is genuinely happy at the college, they attend. So when you’re looking at rankings, um, I, I [00:43:00] think, you know, take them with a grain of salt. Um, the other. Kind of aspect that I would definitely encourage to kind of balance out rankings is do school visits. I cannot stress this enough. Uh, with restrictions lifting campuses now are open up for tours and info sessions.
Um, if it’s not financially or, or kind of physically viable for you to get to different campuses, um, everything is available online. The more you get to know about a school’s personality, um, specific academic offerings, the structure of their academic network, um, the, the kinds of faculty they have the vibe and the dynamic on the campus, the study abroad opportunities.
Those are the things that are going to be much more important than, than the ranking. The college, uh, shows on niche, uh, or other sources. Um, so kind of focus on the things that are going to matter [00:44:00] to you and try to find out more about those things. Um, by doing college research, uh, through virtual or in-person visits whenever possible, or going to college fairs and, and gathering information, however you can.
All right. Um, the next question for you, Lauren, is do most schools offer scholarships as a separate application process or isn’t included within the initial admissions application? That’s a great question. Um, I will say, uh, I am definitely not a financial aid expert, so I’m going to give you very general information, um, but definitely urge you.
If you’re working with us to schedule a session with one of our financial aid experts, they are absolutely amazing. Um, Not every college does it the same. So what you’re going to want to look at is the language. And again, this is something that doing these virtual or in-person, um, information sessions is going to be helped, very helpful, uh, for, um, there are colleges that are a [00:45:00] hundred percent need-based.
Um, what that means is that you obviously have to apply for financial aid and they will, uh, meet all of your demonstrated financial aid needs. Some of these colleges are also need blind, meaning they are not looking at whether a student is applying for financial aid or not applying for financial aid in the admission process.
They are not using that as a determinant, um, in making an admission, uh, D uh, decision for the student. Typically these are schools with larger endowment. Uh, scholarships and merit aid are, are different. And not every student who applies for aid is going to get a merit or scholarship. Um, and you don’t necessarily have to have applied for financial aid in order to get a merit scholarship scholarships are given by colleges based on what they want to yield.
So if a [00:46:00] student is applying to a college where they’re kind of on the higher end of the spectrum academically, they’re bringing some academic talent or extracurricular talent that the campus really wants to yield. That college is more likely to offer some scholarship money to that student as a way to woo them to, to yield them into that entering class.
You definitely are going to want to pay attention on the applications though. This is something, you know, as parents, you may want to kind of look over the application before your child submits. Um, because some applications will ask students to kind of check a box saying they would like to be considered for certain scholarships.
Um, sometimes those will require extra essays. I would say sometimes to often those will require extra essays. So that’s definitely something to be aware of. Um, you don’t want to wait till the last minute trying to submit your application and then realize that if you need a scholarship, you’re [00:47:00] you still have another essay to write.
Um, so it’s a little bit of a complicated thing. Clearly. Not every college does it exactly like every other college. Um, again, great to get information from the colleges themselves when you’re visiting or work with one of, one of our financial aid experts. All right. Um, what is the average time? Uh, yeah.
What is the average time to prepare kids for the. For the, uh, the exams, did you say? Yes. Um, it, it depends typically the best time in my experience, the best time to start preparing for SATs. And actsh is the summer between sophomore and junior year. Um, that’s when most students, I think tend to do it because obviously they’re not in class.
They have a little more time. Um, a lot of students will continue doing, uh, some kind of test prep throughout the bulk of junior year until they’re done. Um, ideally [00:48:00] when it comes to a testing calendar, I typically recommend that students take their first test kind of October, November, December of junior year.
Um, and then plan for a second test kind of March, April, may of, of junior year. Um, because it’s hard, although again, Colleges are not really requiring testing right now, but it can be difficult sometimes to kind of finalize your college list, uh, until you get those scores back because it’s, it’s hard to know what colleges are going to be kind of in that right range for you.
Um, and also it’s just very stressful working on applications. So getting testing out of the way junior year, I think is, is a wise choice of possible. Alright. Um, That’s an internship isn’t internship more important within the junior year or senior year of high school. So [00:49:00] neither, um, I mean, both, uh, it, it doesn’t, it doesn’t, there’s no, uh, it’s not a more important or less important.
If a student is doing something, uh, an internship junior or senior year in time for it to go on the application, uh, in time for the admission officer to see that a student is involved in this internship, then it doesn’t matter when in the app, in the application cycle, that internship is taking place. Um, so that’s really kind of a personal choice.
You know, just whatever works for the student’s schedule. I do want to say this is probably a good point to say, especially cause we have a bunch of seniors on here. A couple of words of advice, colleges are going to see all of your senior grades, um, and the college you pay a deposit to and choose for next year is going to see your final senior year grades.
So they are certainly kind of understanding that, you know, there might [00:50:00] be tiny, tiny little dip for seniors towards the end, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that your senior year grades don’t matter because they are. Absolutely do. Um, also I did not say this and I feel like I should say this in, in every session.
Um, for all of you ninth through 12th graders, families, please be aware of social media. Um, students particularly don’t post anything inflammatory, derogatory, um, illegal don’t let yourself be tagged in anything. Um, every year you’ll hear students who lose their acceptances because of this kind of behavior.
And you don’t want to be one of those students. Definitely not well at this time. Um, for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, you know, that the college admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike. Uh, our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family [00:51:00] navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions.
And last year’s admission cycle. Our students were accepted into Harvard at three times, the national rate and Stanford at 4.4 times the national rate. And so sign up for a free consultation with us by filling out the brief form that will auto-populate on your screen. After this webinar’s conclusion, uh, from there, a member of our team will reach out to you.
So don’t forget to also register for our free web [email protected] advisor.com where students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application, deadlines, research schools, and more all right on our web. All right now, back to the Q and a, um, so Lauren, um, the next question for you is can you please guide us as to how many AP courses to take, uh, what types and then just, how does simply spread them across four years of high school?
Wow, that’s a great question. And I’m going to say, um, in an annoying fashion, the answer is [00:52:00] completely dependent on the student. Um, generally speaking, um, AP courses, some high schools don’t even let year at freshmen take APS. So typically students are starting to take APS in sophomore year, maybe one to two AP sophomore year, um, you know, two to four junior year.
Um, Two to five senior year or two to five junior year. But here are the, here are the things that are the most important is that, um, it is, you never want to take an AP class at the expense of doing well in that class. So it’s really important to kind of self identify areas of strengths. Um, some students are graded everything and, oh my gosh, I admire you so much.
Most students are going to be kind of better in certain areas, stronger, more confident in certain academic areas than others. So focus on taking APS in those areas and don’t feel compelled to take an [00:53:00] AP level class, um, in a discipline that is particularly challenging for you. I will say very clearly, nothing is more important than a student’s emotional and mental health.
What you want to avoid is a student really struggling, feeling profoundly overwhelmed and not doing well academically because they are overloaded in the rigor of their curriculum. Um, so some schools are going to S. Say like you have to get a teacher’s permission to take an AP or you have to get recommended for an AP.
Um, but typically I would say kind of the structure is that each year you’re kind of building on the rigor of your curriculum. Uh, again, you know, starting out with a couple in sophomore year and, and moving up from there. Um, same, you know, some students are an IB programs. It’s, it’s the same kind of thing you want to kind of slowly build on.
Right. Um, and another question, it’s just, [00:54:00] how can we help our child make a decision about what school they want to commit to you? Uh, apparently, you know, their student is very stressed with picking a school. Uh, there isn’t an overwhelming, like this is the one feeling like everyone is nice. Yeah. Well, so how do you help them kind of, you know, uh, differentiate all these colleges?
Sure, absolutely. Great question and congratulations on, on having exciting choices. Um, so I will say, I don’t know if you are a client, if you’re working with us, if you are, I would say, schedule a meeting with your advisor and talk it through with your advisor. Um, for students who have been admitted now, or, you know, as decisions are rolling in, every college is going to host admitted students events.
Um, I’m hoping they’re going to be back on campus again. Um, and. It is at all feasible for you to get to that college campus and do one of those events. I strongly [00:55:00] encourage you to do that. Um, it’s, it’s something the college puts a lot of thought into, but more importantly, you’re getting kind of a sense of, um, kind of the, the energy and the, the kind of, I don’t know, vibe on the campus.
And you’re getting exposed to a bunch of other students who might be your best friends for the next four years. So gives you a chance to kind of look around and think, are these people gonna challenge me to grow? And, and, you know, are these people I want to be around? Um, if a campus is not doing.
In-person events, do whatever virtual events you can. I would also go on, um, the admission website and every admission website has a kind of ASCA current student feature, um, which gives you an opportunity to chat with someone who’s a student at the school who might kind of help you get a better sense, or even if they’re not doing an admitted [00:56:00] student event, if it’s physically possible for you to get to the campus.
Um, and, um, you know, and. See it for yourself, try to envision yourself there. Um, that’s going to be really important. Um, and then if you really still can’t make a decision, try to focus on the few things that for you are absolute deal breakers, um, like, uh, you know, uh, setting or a location or a particular area of study or particular last, or an opportunity, um, you know, or housing, like is the housing nicer on one place or another?
Um, I will tell you that the. She’s joking. But my daughter told me that if she knew how bad the food was at the, at her college, she probably would have chosen something different. She’s kidding. She’s very happy there, but that’s important. You, you have to think about these things. Um, [00:57:00] so, you know, those are just some good ways to, um, to try to get a sense of which college might be, uh, might be a fit.
Um, you know, another trick sometimes is to rate both, both schools on a piece of paper, put them in a hat and pull one out and kind of like, listen to what your gut says when you read it, like yay or, oh gosh, no, that, wasn’t what I wanted. Um, sometimes your mind is so busy thinking that it forgets to check in with your heart.
Awesome. Um, is it ever advisable to not submit an sat score? If you feel. It is not a very good score or should you just always submit it? Great question. Definitely. If your sat score is not reflective of your potential or your ability, or does not, um, seem to be on the same level as your academics, I would probably recommend not submitting it.
Um, especially you’re in this kind of grace period where, you know, colleges are not really looking at testing. [00:58:00] Um, and for those of you who are younger students, um, if we revert back to colleges requiring testing and you’re anxious about that, you’re not a great test taker. There is a site called fair test.org and it lists all of the tests, optional colleges and universities.
It’s constantly updated and they will just spend much more time and care kind of looking at your academics and looking at your personal presentation versus factoring in your testing. Um, but yes, and if your SATs are not, uh, not reflective of you, then I would not submit them. Okay. And, uh, I think this is the last question of the night, Lauren.
Um, how can I prepare now as a junior in order to be a competitive BSMD. B a M D applicant. Yeah. Great question. These are the most, uh, competitive programs to get into. So the first thing I’ll say is you should [00:59:00] definitely work with someone. We have a lot of people who can help you with that. Um, but for, for BSMD program, they are looking at kind of a track record of excellence and science’s dedication to the field.
Um, they want to see that you are the kind of legitimate candidate who has done enough. Self-reflection done enough intellectual exploration and have done well enough in those areas, uh, to be a strong candidate for a BSMD program, because it is extremely intense as you know, very, very compressed. You are not going to have time for electives and for kind of, you know, fun exploration.
Um, and they want to know that you’re fully prepared for that. All right. Thanks so much, Lauren. Um, so, um, at this time, you know, thank you everyone for coming out tonight. Uh, again, thank you to our panelists Lauren Lynch. Um, so that is the end of the [01:00:00] webinar. Uh, we had a really great time telling you about no handling college admissions stress as a family.
Um, and here’s the rest of our March series. So, um, as you’re looking at those dates on the calendar now on your screen, please be sure to mark those dates on your calendar. And we look forward to seeing in an upcoming session, have a good night. Okay.