AO Advice: What do Admissions Officers Want to See?
Ever wondered what Admissions Officers are looking for in your application? Get the inside scoop on how to stand out from CollegeAdvisor.com.
Former Admissions Officer Chelsea Holley will share her tips and advice on how Admissions Officers review applications and what they are looking for during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered including:
– How do Admissions Officers review applications?
– What should or shouldn’t I be including in my application?
– How can I stand out?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-12-04 – AO Advice: What do Admissions Officers Want to See?
Hi everyone. Welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Tonight’s webinar is AO Advice: What do Admissions Officers Want to See? Before we get started, I just wanna orient everyone with webinar timing. Our presenter will share some tips and strategies for the first half of the session, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in the live Q&A on the sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab and you can start so many questions in the Q&A tab.
Please make sure that your questions are general and are you are comfortable with the questions being read aloud to the entire group. Now let’s meet our presenter, Chelsea Holley. Hey Chelsea. Thank you, Anesha. Good evening everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley, and I serve as an Admissions Officer here at CollegeAdvisor.
Um, I’ve spent over 12 years working in college admissions at a variety of institutions, um, including big state flagships, um, liberal arts institutions, women’s colleges, um, really the whole gamut. Um, so tonight we’ll talk a little bit about what Admissions officers are looking for when they are reviewing your applications.
Um, and just things to keep in mind so that you can have a better understanding of the process on the other side of the desk.
Thanks Chelsea. Before we get started, we are going to do a quick poll. Um, so it would be helpful if y’all could let us know what grade you were in and that’ll help Chelsea kinda make sure she’s directing the content of tonight’s session at the right audience.
And I guess, Chelsea, as we’re waiting, do you have a preferred institution of many institutions that you’ve been at, or a favorite city?
Chelsea, are you there? Sure gets me. Oh, yes, I’m here. Okay. Sorry, I don’t, and maybe it was my computer. My computer was lagging. No, kinda gave my entire answer on mute. Actually.
and finish an answer on mute. Um, so I’m an Atlanta native, so, um, most of the institutions that I worked at, at least most recently are in the Atlanta area, um, in my university, Georgia Institute of Technology. Um, I. Really passionate about all the schools in Georgia, but there are tons of amazing schools across the nation.
Um, so the list is, is really, really long. Awesome. Well, I appreciate you answering twice, um, and we’ll go ahead and close our poll. And just so you know, the majority of folks in the space with us today, our juniors, about 65% of the attendees. The 11th grade, 11% are in 10th grade, and then 22% are in the 12th grade.
So I think this is the break period for a lot of folks to get started. So I will hop off and I’ll be back to the Q&A and you can take it from here, Chelsea. Perfect. So that is an amazing breakdown. Um, so for those of you that are seniors, most of you have likely already press submit on at least your early action or early decision applicants.
Um, and then those of you that are juniors, you are literally entering the season where you’re going to be putting together your essays, um, your activities list. Um, so this is wonderful. And those of you that are sophomores or in the ninth grade, kudos on getting started early. Um, I’ll also go over some things that you can do if you’re a little further out to start preparing for this.
So we are going to look at this from the vantage point of an admissions officer. Um, so they can be called admissions officers, they might be called admissions committee members, or even just readers depending on the college. Um, and essentially their job is to evaluate your application and make a recommendation for admission.
Um, so one of the first things Admissions Officers see when they sit down to look at an applicant is the applicant’s profile. Um, an applicant profile is a quick glance of who you are and how that lines up to the academic profile of the institution. Um, so that would be your GPA. Uh, course rigor. So the, the courses that you selected and then test scores, if that’s a required part of, uh, the school that you’re interested in, if it’s a required part of their process.
Um, so something that kind of corresponds with the applicant profile is the admitted student profile of an institution. And so almost every school you can think of publishes their admitted student profile each year. It’s important to know that the most UpToDate information is available only after they have welcomed the previous class.
So, for example, if you ask an institution what their admitted profile is right now, you’ll get numbers, GPAs test scores from fall 2020. Next year around this time, um, you’ll get an average of fall 2023 admitted students. Um, why is this important? Um, if you have been looking at particularly selective institutions that have been becoming more and more selective, or even institutions that have changes around their test optional policies, that means the GPAs and the test scores that students are submitting and getting in with are changing every year.
Whether they’re increasing, decreasing, um, there is gonna be some variation from year to year. So it’s incredibly important to understand the admitted student profile, and then you can look at your profile as the applicant and think about how you size up. Um, so GPA I think is the one that first comes to mind for many folks.
Um, but course rigor is incredibly important to admissions officers. Um, I’ll talk a little bit about how we know about your course rigor. Um, but course rigor is your AP courses, your honors courses, dual enrollment courses or whatever is considered advanced at your institution. So don’t get too caught up on if schools only mention AP or only mentioned IB, um, you’re able to, uh, share through the school.
What is advanced for your high school? And then finally, test scores. If they’re required for the institution, they will publish them. If a school is test optional, it is absolutely acceptable and I encourage you to ask, what is your average for students who submitted test scores, and what is the admit rate for students that submit test scores?
That can give you a little bit more insight on how the institution is viewing SAT or ACT scores. So let’s talk a little bit about how applicants are evaluated. Um, the first piece is holistic review. Um, so most of the institutions that our college advisor clients are interested in, um, have some sort of selective admissions process, and that essentially means they may not have an access mission in that they are selecting who might be the best fit for their institution.
Most of these schools are using a holistic review. To their selection. Holistic review means they are taking into consideration your GPA, the courses that you chose in high school, possibly your test scores. But in addition to that, they’re looking at all of the things that make you, you. So those elements come out through your essays.
They come out through letters of recommendation, possibly an interview, um, certainly an extracurricular or activity list. So when you think of holistic review, think of whole person review. So we’re looking at you as more than just the numbers that might show up on your profile. And we’re wanting to know the story of who you are and what you wanna do in the.
Holistic review is, um, framed by the school’s mission and by the school’s institutional priorities. So for example, let’s say you are applying to an institution, um, that has a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math. That may be the frame that they are evaluating their applicants in. So they may have, um, a higher standard for what type of math you should have taken in high school or what grades you got in your science courses.
Um, another example of how school mission can frame, um, how applicants are evaluated. Um, maybe you are applying to an institution that has a huge focus on service, um, to the community and service to the world and their mission. They may be looking for those themes in the activity. So very rarely is there a one shoe fits all answer for what schools are looking for.
One place to start is really knowing your school and knowing what they say they value, and you’re able to see how you’re a matched to those qualities in your application. Um, context of the school, in this case, this is actually your high school. Um, so one of the things that admissions officers must do in order to make fair and equitable decisions is we must understand your educational context.
So, for example, that would mean, um, we have some schools that have access to 20 AP courses. Um, and so course rigor, there might look like a student attempting 10 to 12 of those AP courses that are offered to them. We may have another school who does not have AP courses at all. Maybe they offer a handful of honors courses.
Um, and so course rigor. We’ll look different as well. Maybe that student might only take two or three of the honors courses offered. Um, let’s say that high school C has no AP courses, no honors courses, and there is no advanced coursework at all. The student will not be penalized based on what is not available to them at their high school.
And so when we say in the context of your high school, we want to see first that you are competitive in that educational context. And that is a good indicator that you can be competitive in the larger application pool. Um, not all schools rank, um, and that’s not always something that we’re looking at, but if you do have a school rank, um, that is something that can give you insight into how you’re doing compared to your peers and your high school.
Um, you can also go to your guidance counselor and say, um, what are the courses, um, that students are taking that got into this college or these types of colleges? And they can start to help you craft a schedule that makes you competitive for the type of institution. That you’re interested in. Um, the third one here, loosely based on a rubric.
Um, and this shifts depending on the school that you’re applying to. Um, but I wanted to put loosely based on a rubric. So, um, a lot of students think that there is some machine formula that is reviewing their application. Um, every admissions office that I have ever worked in, every admissions peer that I have, um, spoken to, every application gets touched, every application gets read by a real person.
And so while we may be using a rubric to guide. How we’re reading your application, there is almost always a human element that can say, Hmm, I don’t know if this student, um, this student fell into, uh, a deny category on the rubric or an admit category in a rubric, but I recommend something a little different.
Um, so there’s always some discussion. So when we talk about admissions committee, that is literally what committee is it is discussing the applicant. It is hearing different voices from across the committee, from across the office, um, and coming to a, um, decision on what the recommendation for admission is for that particular student.
Um, so there is no hard and fast rubric that is deciding whether you get in or not. This is an incredibly human process as we are evaluating applications. Um, and then lastly, um, you are being evaluated by multiple reviewers. So depending on the school, um, this can look different. Um, but you could be evaluated in, um, a pairing system called committee based reading, where two people are touching every application, um, initially, and then it’s going to another pair.
Um, you also may be evaluated by a primary reader and then it goes kind of up the chain, um, to others to make, uh, a recommendation as well. Um, so very rarely is one single person, um, in control of your fate in this application process.
So what are the stages of the review process? Um, so let’s start with the makeup of admissions committees. Um, for most admissions offices across the country, um, they have admissions counselors that are divided by territory. Um, and these are the counselors that come to your schools that might see you at a college fair in your city.
If you go to the website, you’ll see your state listed under this person’s name and picture. This is really, really important because oftentimes these are the very first people that are going to be reading your application. Um, and so sometimes getting to know your admissions counselor for your territory is helpful.
Some schools have what we call demonstrated interest, which is where they literally count. Um, the times that you’ve been to an event, um, they look at the times that you’ve reached out and engaged with the admissions office. Um, even if your school doesn’t have demonstrated interest, it is always a good idea to try to build a relationship with your admissions counselor based on your territory.
One of the reasons admissions offices are set up this way, Is that schools are different all across the country. Um, transcripts are different. Um, you can spot a Florida transcript out of, um, anyone in the state, and we have people that are really skilled at reading those transcripts and others that look at them, and it is really, really difficult to get through.
Um, so it is important to have region based experts that know your schools, um, and that know how to evaluate. So nine times out of 10, your regional admissions counselor is gonna be one of the first people that are tackling your application. Um, the makeup of the committee from there really depends on the school.
It can sometimes depend on the major. Um, generally speaking, faculty are not involved in the admissions, um, decisions of the admissions office. Um, there are some exceptions to that rule for specific majors. Um, there are also institutions that have a faculty person that is trained and serves on the committee each year.
But it’s important to know that the core of decision making for undergraduate institutions lies with the admissions office. Um, there’s a couple, uh, parts of the application that are sometimes broke into two so that they can be reviewed in isolation. Um, so there is an academic review. So the academic review is focusing solely on your gpa, your transcript, and your course selection.
Um, one of the things that happens before your transcript even gets to your admissions counselor to be reviewed, um, you may have schools that will recalculate your GPAs. Um, so some schools will recalculate your GPA in house and they do this in order to guard against inflation of grades. Um, they do this to compare apples to apples.
So we know some students are on a 4.0 scale. Some are on a 100% scale, 5.0 6.0, the list goes on and on. Um, so you do see GPAs that are recalculated in the process. That’s something that might happen during the academic review. Um, again, it’s a perfectly fine question for you to ask the schools that you’re interested in if they recalculate GPAs or not.
Um, but the bottom line is this is done to make things more fair. So you should not be penalized, um, by a GPA recalculation, but it is something you can ask about. Um, there’s also institutions that will take out all of your, um, non-academic courses and they’ll say, we only wanna see math, science, English, and this is what we say is your core GPA.
And they will make a great point of average based on those courses alone. Um, so these are some of the things that they might do to really try and drill down to the academic review. Um, more often than not, they are counting the rigorous courses that you’ve taken. So again, whether those are IB, AP, dual enrollment, um, there typically is a count of the advanced courses that you’re, that you’ve taken, um, over the course of the four years.
Um, and so I think what I want you to take from the academic review piece is that this is far more than just what is your GPA and your transcript, um, which I think that’s where most students head goes. Um, however, there are all of these other nuances. We are taking a deep dive into your transcript to really understand, um, the kind of student you.
Extracurricular and additional information review. Um, so I would include activities, essays, letters of recommendation. Um, these things can also be reviewed in isolation. Um, these are all of the things that make you unique and make you you, um, which are equally important as the academic review. Lastly, I wanted to, um, mention committee based review.
Um, this is a model that some admissions offices take where, um, one admissions officer looks at academic review. The next one looks at extracurricular and other information, um, and then they switch and they do the same review. Um, Uh, in the, in the opposite. And then they’ll make a recommendation, um, for where you go.
This is a, uh, something that’s supposed to be more efficient. Um, and it also allows more voices and more perspective on your application. Um, so the stages of review look pretty different depending on the admissions office. Um, but these were some of, kind of the basic tenets, um, that most admissions offices will have as a part of their process.
Okay. So how long will an AO spend on one college application? I wish I could give you a literal amount of time. Um, this is depends on a lot of factors. Um, so the first thing. However much time is needed. Um, there is quotas that readers have to meet per day or per week. Um, but all of that goes out the window if we are not making sound decisions that we feel comfortable with.
Um, and so an application could take five minutes to read, it could take 15 minutes to read. Um, you may stop and write notes and have to go back to it. Um, so the best way I like to describe this is to think about a human resources director going through job applications, um, when you’re putting together the college admissions application.
You wanna keep in mind the volume that these schools are seeing. So you wanna make sure that it is visually easy to take in. You wanna make sure you’re being concise, you want to make sure that you’re not over talking areas that don’t need that much detail. Um, these are all things that you can do to help the colleges to better see and better evaluate who you are as an applicant.
Um, so the short answer is the time depends. Um, but we’re willing to take as much time as needed on the application. Overall. Application volume also dictates time. Um, so there are times of the year when admissions officers are doing nothing but reading applications. Um, we actually just, uh, left one of those seasons.
Um, some admissions offices are still pretty swamp with just reading and reviewing applications. Um, so they are literally spending seven, eight hours a day. Doing nothing but evaluating applications so you can get into a pretty good rhythm. Um, and then maybe, you know, that time can get shortened down. Um, and then lastly, every application is different.
Um, you may go through an application where, um, it is well organized. Um, the academic piece is easy to grasp. The extracurricular story is easy to grasp, and you’re able to kind of speed through that application and everything is kind of falling in place. There’s other applications where you’re going back and you’re searching for other details.
You’re looking at the transcript, you’re revisiting the school profile. Um, it does become investigative in some ways because you’re trying to get the most accurate picture. Um, and really what is not that much information on a student, you all are tasked as summing up four years in, uh, common app is usually 13 to 17 pages.
Um, so. It is super important for us to treat every application as, um, its own piece, um, and really kind of find out the questions we need to ask per applicant. Okay. All right, I’m gonna give you a bit of a break, Chelsea, just to, uh, let folks know for those of you in the room who are seeking support in taking your college essay to the next level.
We are offering and have launched expert essay editing packages with these packages. So you can engage directly with college advisor dot com’s, uh, essay review team for two rounds of revisions. We’ll provide 72 hour essay reviews to help trending your writing package. Options include supplemental essay editing, the common app essay and supplemental essays.
And, um, at one point it was the UC’s, but the UC deadline has passed. But in the future, um, if you’d like to go back to us on that, we will have that package as well. You can take the next step to improve your college essays by signing up for an editing package using the QR code on the screen. Um, and I will hand it back over to you, Chelsea.
Thanks for letting me make that quick announcement.
Okay. Um, what are the most influential factors that go into an AO’s decision? Um, and we have 30 minutes for Q&A. Um, but I see a couple questions that are related to this slide, so I’m gonna fold them in to my answer here. Um, we talked a little bit about how this is just loosely based on a rubric before, um, but these are some of the main elements that go into the decision making process.
So I discussed mission, um, and how that plays into what colleges are looking for. We are looking for mission alignment in your application. Um, and so the most common college admissions advice question is what will make me stand out? Um, That is different for everyone. But if I had to answer that just in one way, it’s that you understand what the college values, you understand what the college is looking for, and you have found ways to draw parallels in your application.
And so how do you know what the college values, how do you know what they’re looking for? Every college has a webpage that is called Mission and Vision. That is where you find out what they’re looking for. The type of class that they wanna build and how you can find connections there. Um, so I encourage you to make that the first step as you’re trying to build these essays and these lists, especially if you have one college in mind or a top three or top five colleges in mind, you wanna make sure that you’re reflecting their mission and everything that you’re doing.
Um, academic profile is huge. So we talk a lot about holistic admissions. Um, we talk a lot about you being more than a number. Um, but there are average academic profiles, average admitted GPAs for a reason. Um, so these are very helpful. Letting the admissions officer know that you can do the work at that institution.
And essentially that’s what it’s about. Um, it’s less about whether they think that you goofed off in high school or whether you are a smart person. Um, the question at the end of the day is, could this person succeed here? And so a grade point average, um, Grades in rigorous courses, possibly a standardized test score allows colleges to know whether you would succeed at their school.
Um, and so if you have blemishes and blemishes look different depending on who the person is, um, but if you have blemishes on your transcript that you were concerned about in this process, the best thing that you can do is explain them. This is not making an excuse. This is giving us more context. Um, in order to better evaluate your application, you can do this in additional information on the common app.
You can do this in the educational progression question on the common. As well as the Covid 19 community disruption question. So there are numerous opportunities for you to say, Hey, I got a D in math and these are all the things that I feel contributed to it. Um, but you want to give us a full, uh, picture of your academic profile because can the student succeed on our campus is likely one of the most influential questions that are guiding our.
Um, extracurricular activities are certainly important. Um, most schools, if you look at their mission and vision, they value, um, things beyond just academics. So we wanna know what you’re involved in, um, and how dedicated you are to those things, how passionate you are to those things. And we wanna look for authentic extracurricular involvement.
Um, so not just you joining a club, um, just your senior year. Um, we wanna see it’s something that you’ve participated in, um, throughout your time in high school. Um, essays. So essays are important. Um, there’s a couple things that essays, uh, convey. Um, one, it’s an opportunity for you to, um, give your application some personality, um, and really round out the story of who you are.
Um, A lot of institutions do not have interviews, so this is one of the few places that you get to actually speak to the person that’s reading your application. Um, essays can also be a general, um, showcase of your ability to write at a college level. Um, so I would say those two pieces, we want something well written.
Um, we want something that’s grammatically correct. Um, but more than that, we want something that’s exciting to read, fun to read, and gives us insight on who you are. Um, and then finally, selectivity matters. So what this means is that. Yes, your academic profile for some institutions will be incredibly important, but let’s take, um, any of the highly rejective schools, any of the Ivy’s, anywhere that has a selectivity or an admit rate below, let’s say 10%, they’re seeing students with 4.1 GPAs and 1500 SAT scores by the thousands.
What do you think sets the students who get in apart? It’s the extracurricular activities, it’s the essay, it’s the full story of who they are as an applicant. Um, and so when you’re looking at kind of weighing, um, the different parts of the application, the more selective the institution that you’re interested.
The more all of these elements are going to matter. Um, a GPA or a test score alone is not going to get you in the door of somewhere that’s highly selective. Every other part of your application has to also be compelling and has to also show that you would be a good fit for that institution.
Um, so if your institution that you’re applying for does have interviews, there are a couple things that, um, you can do. Um, one is being authentic. Um, again, just like a job interview. I know it’s hard. I know nerves get in the way, but the best thing that you can do is be yourself in those interviews, um, how you present.
So, um, if it is a Zoom interview, thinking of general zoom etiquette, um, what you’re wearing, how you look, are there any distractions? Um, what does your background look like? Um, those are things that you can control. Um, answering the question. That seems like a simple one. Um, but sometimes we get so nervous that we forget to answer questions when we’re in an interview.
Um, so that is a huge thing that you can do to really make sure that you are organized and are, um, putting your best foot forward. Um, a good interview does two things. It confirms application details and it gives new insight. So we don’t want to read your application, schedule you for an interview, and then while we’re on the interview, think, oh my God, he’s not talking about anything in his application.
This is like an entirely different kid. Um, we want to, you know, be reading along to your application and nodding our head to what you’re seeing, what you’re saying, and seeing some, um, details that are shared. Um, but in addition to confirming those details that we already know, We want some new insights.
So, um, we may have heard about some of your extracurricular involvement, your interview. You can tell us how you were feeling. You can expand on your progress over the time that you were in that activity. Um, so it really is a moment where we get to see you as a person. Um, and the best thing that you can do is calm your nerves and be.
So what is the most important component of the application? Um, so I’ve said most of these things, but just to reiterate, presenting an application that is cohesive, where each element reinforces the other application components. This is a story and not a story, like something that is made up, but your story.
Um, we wanna look at your application and step away and say, oh, I feel like I know the student now. I feel like I know what makes them tick, what they’re excited about, what they’re nervous about, some of their struggles that they’ve had throughout high school. That is a good application. So there is, there is no one component that knocks it out of the park.
It is a literal combination of all of those app application pieces. Um, so last advice before we open up for Q&A. Um, I encourage you all to be authentic, get organized, which is a big one. Um, and do not wait until the last minute. We always do our best work when we have time. Um, if you are feeling stressed out about how to tackle all that is college application season, um, I encourage you to reach out for help in your current network, um, whether it is your parents, older siblings, um, your college counselor, and if you still feel you need help beyond that, um, college advisor has tons of resources that we’re able to connect you with.
Um, so I had a few questions that were coming up in my, like personal chat while I was presenting. If you all will do me a favor and put those in the main Q&A box so that we make sure we can get to all of those, um, over the next 20 minutes.
All right. Thanks so much, Chelsea. Yes, please do not send questions in the chat. Um, please send them in the Q&A box as the chat kind of gets a little overwhelming for us. Um, but thank you so much Chelsea for that, for your presentation. That is the end of the presentation part. We are gonna open up to Q&A.
Just a reminder, you can download the slides in the link, um, under the handouts tab. And again, please make sure your questions are general. Please do not ask us super specific questions relative to only relevant to only you. Uh, as we are in a public space, if you’re not able to log in and submit a question, you may have to log back out and log back in and make sure you’re going in through the link that you received via your email.
All right, so the way that it’ll work, you all have sent in some questions. I will publish them in the chat and then I will ask Chelsea and give her an opportunity to respond. Um, Chelsea, I’m gonna start off with a really quick question that I know will, um, Be a softball. So a student asked if I’ve taken the SAT multiple times and I scored higher in my math and scored higher in the English on the second test.
Can I submit both scores? Yes. So most schools do a super score, um, and a super score allows us to take your highest score from one test, um, in one component, your highest score from another test in another component, and add them together. Um, so the idea is that we’re giving you the best chance to be successful by matching your best scores across multiple test taking.
Um, and regardless, you’re able to submit multiple scores to a school over and over. And they’ll automatically use your best scores. Thanks. Um, so this is a question, this is a longer question in the chat, so I reworded it. Um, but essentially the student said There is an alignment between my activities and the passions and interests that I discussed in my essays or my academic major.
Will that disparity put my application at a disadvantage? So I don’t think so. Um, but what I would encourage you to do is reflect on your major. The courses you’ve taken and the activities you’ve participated in, I can just about bet that there is some alignment or more alignment than you might think.
Um, I know that your original question mentioned, um, Spanish and theater. Are there any moments where those elements were, had some overlap or you were inspired to do things in theater that you might have learned in class or in other areas? So I’ll say no, but I do really encourage you to self-reflect about ways that you may have some connection that you may not be thinking of.
I think your mute. Yes, I am. Sorry. I was trying to be quiet while you were answering. Um, there’s another question, um, that related to activities. Um, so the student said, I’m a junior, due to some circumstances I was not able to participate in extracurricular activities. What should I do? Yeah. So, um, interestingly enough, a lot of students have been in that predicament due to covid.
Um, so there is a specific place on the common app where you can address, um, the lack of participation in the covid years. Um, if you think that your lack of participating in activities span beyond covid, um, I would say that it’s not too late. Um, so it’s your junior year, you. Um, the summer is a major opportunity to do something meaningful.
Um, you also would have first semester of your senior year as an opportunity. Um, but what I would also say that activities and extracurriculars are much broader than students think. Um, they are by all means, uh, sports, um, being a member of an organization or a club at your high school. Um, but they’re also, uh, having a part-time job or babysitting your younger siblings, um, or even, um, writing or sketching in your free time, um, playing an instrument in your free time.
So don’t think that it’s just some organized sport or club that is hosted by your. Think of everything that you do that is not, uh, coursework. Those are your activities. Those are your extracurriculars.
Thank you. Um, I’m gonna switch gears and talk a little bit about academics. Um, so folks have asked a variety of questions related to the different types of schools they might be in, but, um, if you could speak first to, do colleges look at kids with GEDs differently than they do high school diplomas?
Great question. So it depends on the institution. So, um, you do wanna find out, um, what the course requirements are for the institution that you’re interested in. Um, a pathway for a student, um, with a GED that’s not admissible through a normal freshman um, application process might be to go to a community college or a two year college for a year and then come in as a transfer.
Um, so. I would say that one depends completely on the school. Um, but if it’s something that you wanna do, you could literally go elsewhere for a year and certainly apply as a transfer student. Um, so this might be similar, but one student asks specifically about trade schools. So our trade schools seemed differently.
Um, when students are applying to those, when the students are apply, it depends on the courses that required for you to graduate. So that’s it. It’s in the same vein as a GED. Um, we’re focused on what courses did you have to take to get your diploma. And so I don’t think these exist anymore. Maybe 20 years ago there used to be a choice between like a college prep diploma and a trade or a technical diploma.
And essentially the technical or the trade diploma would have fewer college preparatory courses, um, for people that weren’t looking at going to a four year school. Um, so in that case, that diploma was not setting you up to be admissible into a four year college. So the question that you wanna ask is, am I meeting the graduation requirements for someone who went to a school that wasn’t a trade school?
Um, and you can reach out to an admissions counselor at any institution and they can talk to you about that. The transfer admissions counselor might be a good place to start because they can also advise you if there’s a different path you should.
Being on academics, uh, we got this question in a few different ways, but how highly are freshman grades considered in the application and another student kind of posed, I didn’t do so well in my freshman and sophomore year. Um, how can I make my college application a little bit more appealing? Yeah, so the good news is I would say the freshman year is the least important year.
Um, so we are expecting that students may have had some trouble or difficulty transitioning into high school. Um, so if you are going to get lower grades, It is better to get them your freshman year, um, than any of the other years. Um, generally speaking, colleges are looking for an upward, uh, trajectory when it comes to your grades.
So if there are lower grades, we’d like to see them freshman year, sophomore year. But when it comes closer to your junior year, that then becomes a predictor of how you might do in college. So the closer it gets to the time for you to graduate, the stronger your grade should be.
Thank you. Um, sorry. I’m trying to find, okay. How is an application without standardized test scores treated? At test optional schools. So it depends completely on the institution. Um, but generally speaking, if a school has a true test, optional policy, your application should not be reviewed any differently than an application that has standardized testing.
If we go back to discussing the academic review, um, A student who has test scores, their test scores would be included in the academic review. A student who does not have test scores, they’ll just be missing. And the admissions officer then will depend solely on your transcript to inform your academic review.
Um, so I encourage you to get to know the policy. So you’ll hear test optional. You’ll, you’ll hear test flexible. Um, so you really wanna know your policy. Um, but if a school is a true test optional institution, um, then it should not harm you to choose not to submit your scores. And then one more, I guess, academic test related question.
Um, I guess the students deciding between taking the CL to test out of Spanish or taking AP Spanish four. So when it comes to those testing out, um, options or taking the more advanced class, should they stay in and take the AP or test out and take different classes? Yeah, so there’s, there’s choices that are beneficial for you as a student and a future college student, and there’s choices that are beneficial for you.
As a college, uh, applicant, if that makes sense. So, you know, for example, um, taking the AP exam is great in passing it because you get to place out of that test, uh, place out of that course when you get to college. Um, taking the AP exam and passing it is not really beneficial for how a college admissions officer is going to look at you.
They are really just looking at the grade that you got in that AP course. So, to this particular question, um, again, testing out means that’s one less rigorous course that you have to take. That can give you some, um, uh, more downtime your senior year. Um, however, are you in a high school? Where everyone around you is taking tons of AP courses and have you taken enough AP courses to be competitive in that educational landscape?
If you don’t know what competitive looks like, again, I would talk to your high school counselor. They can give you a sense. Um, but that’s really the question you wanna ask. Do I need this additional AP to bolster my college admissions application or can I do without it? Um, I would say if you’re at a school that has tons and tons of AP’s, typically if you’re in that over eight range, um, that is someone who’s taken AP’s, multiple AP’s each year of high school, um, you might be able to bypass.
Thank you. Um, and I love that answer because I think it’s reminding students to understand that they’re being evaluated within the context of their high school. So you’re not going to be put up against somebody else who doesn’t, who has a ton of AP’s or who doesn’t have AP’s. They’re looking at you within the context of the high school that you attend.
Um, Before I ask the next question and have another quick announcement to share. So for those of you who are not in the, who are in the room, who are not already working with CollegeAdvisor, we know it’s a lot. It’s an overwhelming process and, uh, the admissions process can bring you a lot of questions.
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Um, the next question that I had for you was, are students who studied through an accredited online school program at a disadvantage compared to those who went through the regular schooling system? Um, so short answer, no, not at all. Um, Our students who apply to colleges, uh, graduate from a variety of institutions.
Um, so I, I wouldn’t even say that there’s a such thing as a regular or normal high school educational experience. Um, we have homeschool students. We have students, um, that took, uh, classes online. We have students that moved, um, three times due to no control of their own. So they have a number of different curriculums on their transcripts.
Um, so not at all. Um, we are able to see, again, your school profile, um, even our online institutions. Um, we’ll share a school profile that give us a sense of what’s offered there, the type of school it is. Um, and we can make an informed and equitable decision that way. Getting back to extracurriculars, there a lot of kind of extracurricular related questions.
This is a quick one. How long can a resume be. Um, so one page is typically the standard, um, for students that are in high school. Um, I have seen longer, but again, go back, think back to, um, my guidance around, think of admissions officers. As HR directors, you have a couple minutes to catch their attention for them to soak in the information.
So you want it to be concise. I would say a one page resume, um, is the best thing visually for us to grasp the information. And with the one page, that doesn’t mean like 10 fonts. Really, really tiny. It should be one page, 12 font, um, and shifted well on that singular page. Absolutely. Um, one question was, well, talking about service hours, I feel like community service was very big in the past.
I’m not sure how much attention is given to it now, but the student, the student asked how much are service hours recommended or do they overlap with extracurriculars? So they absolutely overlap with extracurriculars. So on the common app, you would, um, uh, list your community service under activities. Um, I will say that there are institutions that will explicitly ask about community service.
Um, there are, are institutions where that is more important, um, and there’s institutions where that’s less important. So you wanna know how the school that you’re applying for, um, looks at community service. Um, but absolutely. Again, those are all the things that you did outside of going to class. So, um, service hours are certainly extracurriculars.
Um, someone asked this earlier and I wanted to get back to it. Um, the question was how can, how do I get closer to an admissions officer? But I wanted to rephrase it as what are the channels and opportunities where I can connect with admissions officer? Yeah. So, um, one of the easiest ways is send them an email.
Um, so most admissions counselors, uh, contact information is public. So go to that institution’s website that you’re interested in. Go to their admissions page and go to the meet us, contact us, find your counselor. Um, and you could send a simple email message, introducing yourself, maybe asking a question.
Um, but it could just be introducing yourself and letting them know you’re excited about applying. Um, so something as simple as, as that is easy. Um, also taking the opportunity to see when they will be in your city, or certainly at your high school and making sure you attend those events, um, are ways that you can, um, also get some face time and, and start building a relationship.
You had a variety of questions that talk about asking about the essay. What should folks write about? So I’m gonna ask maybe off the top of your head if you have like three key tips around the college essay rather than try to get into questions. Yes, so college essays. Um, so I think one of my biggest tips or one of the things that I see often, so the common App prompts are very broad.
If you haven’t seen them, you can look at them. They don’t change much from year to year. Um, so they put you in a position where you can really write about almost anything. Um, and what I see students do for the personal essay on Common App is they write about everything in one essay and it becomes the story of their life or the story of them.
Um, and it doesn’t answer the question. It’s all over the place and its information overload. Um, so the best essays that I see, focus on one little thing, one main mundane idea, or one main mundane experience, and they really dissect that experience and you get into their thought process. You get into, um, how they solve problems, how they, um, move through adversity.
Um, so again, not as broad, not talking about everything, but really focusing on one idea, um, and making sure you’re answering the question. Um, that’s a big one. Um, the second one, this is not a measure of how many big words, you know, at all. Um, so you can leave the source out to be honest. Um, we want to read something that sounds like it’s in your voice, um, and you know, when you’re writing something that’s not in your voice, um, and so do we.
So, um, if it is not in your normal dialect to use, um, words that are super long or that are just outside of common words that people use every day, don’t feel like you have to do it in your essay. Um, and then last tip formatting. Um, a lot of students, um, write their essays in another program, Word Grammarly, and they copy and paste them over.
Give us some spaces. We don’t just need one block paragraph. Um, if you copy and paste from word to common app, it automatically bolds your entire essay. People don’t really notice that. Um, so make sure Toold and, um, make sure the formatting looks good. Um, that just again, gives us more opportunity to really focus on your essay as opposed to trying to sort through any, uh, formatting.
Thanks. I have a few, I guess, quick questions or questions that I know, um, will be quick. What is the difference between early decision and early action, and can you change your mind? Yes. So short answer, early decision is binding. That means, um, this is my first choice. If I get in, I will not apply to any other schools and I’ll withdraw any other applications I have.
That is early decision. Um, early action. You find out whether you are admitted early, but it’s non-binding, so you can still have a normal. College application process and apply to schools after you’re admitted, um, can you change your mind? You are at the discretion of the institution at that point. Um, so if you want to change your mind, you can email your college and, and request that, but they are not, um, obliged to, to accepted.
So you, if you’re doing early decision, you wanna be pretty darn sure that that is the, uh, application cycle that’s best for you. I saw a quick question came in. I get, I think in response to your, um, comments around the essay, should the essay be in MLA format? Good question. Um, no. So the common app is pretty much plain text, plain formatting.
There’s not much that you can do. We’re not expecting you to give references or subtitles. Um, so as long as you’re just using general, this is a paragraph. That works. This is a, a good question. I realized we had some younger folks who may not be familiar with the term, but what is the common app? Yes. Okay.
So the Common app is certainly something that you want to be familiar with, um, as you’re getting into this process. The common app is one website. It’s a web based college application site where you can apply to multiple institutions on this one site. Um, a lot of the information is standard across institutions and then schools have the option to add their individual questions in addition.
Um, so it really is to make this process easier for you. Um, less time consuming and kind of all in one place. Um, does the second semester of senior year. Um, yes. So it, it doesn’t matter as much as the second semester of junior year for those of you that are juniors. Um, but it does matter. So, um, for one, we are able to see your in progress classes.
So let’s say you’re a little low on AP classes. I might look at your in progress for second semester and say, oh, look, well, He signed up for three AP classes second semester. We don’t know how well those are going to go, but I like to see that that’s what’s on the schedule. Um, another thing that can happen in your second semester, let’s say it goes really, really poorly.
Admissions offices do rescind admissions offers pending second semester grades. Um, so these are like F’s in major courses, D’s, um, so you wanna just kind of continue the status quo if you’re admitted. And, um, if you’re admitted before your second semester of senior year, um, they’re assuming that they’re gonna see more of the same your senior year.
Um, so make sure you give them more of the same and nothing too. And so someone asking colleges, now you admission after accepting you that is what we’re sending an offer would mean is that you were initially given an acceptance, but they saw your senior year grades and maybe there were some concerns that came up as a result of that.
And I just wanna say that that is not a myth. I have had unfortunately, two students who have been in that circumstance. So definitely be as consistent as possible when it comes to your, um, grades, especially for second semester senior year. Consistency, I think is key. Um, as Chelsea said, uh, there was a question that, that was, how many extracurriculars are too much?
Is there, can you do too much? Yeah. So, um, one, if you’re doing too many, you’re likely spreading yourself thin at some point. Um, but more importantly, There’s not an unlimited list on college applications. So for the common app, um, 10 to 12 is the max that you can list on the common application. Um, for the UC schools, I think they go up to 20.
Um, so there’s, there’s a max on applications. So a lot of students have to pick and choose what ends up on their college application anyway. Um, I would say quality over quantity. Um, I would rather see a student in six extracurriculars that have huge impact, multi-year involvement, progressive leadership, than seeing someone in 20 activities.
It just doesn’t. Makes sense. There was one more great question I wanted to ask, but we are out at time and so I’m so sorry, um, to all the folks’ questions I did not get to. But I do wanna take a minute and thank you Chelsea, for your time, um, and thoughtfulness today. Thank you to, um, everyone out there in the audience for coming out.
We do appreciate it and we do hope that you’ve gained some insights, um, on how admissions officers will review and read your application. We also hope that you’ll join us in the future. We have several. Workshops and webinars before the year ends. Tomorrow, we’ll have an admissions officer come in to speak about acing the personal statement.
So for folks who have those essay questions, definitely tune back in tomorrow. We’ll talk about Developing a Personal Brand On December 6th, we’ll offer some tips on Navigating the SAT and the ACT on December 14th and before the holiday season. We will offer some strategies on Crushing a College Interview on December 14th.
Apologies again that we couldn’t get to all the questions, but thank you all so much for coming out. We hope to see you soon. And until next time, have a great evening everyone. Thank you all.
Thanks Chelsea next time. Thanks, Chelsea.