AO Advice: What do Admissions Officers Want to See

Join former admissions officer Joanne Pluff for “AO Advice: What do Admissions Officers Want to See.” Joanne will explore the crucial elements that admissions officers are looking for in college applications. Through her expert insights and real-world examples, you will gain valuable knowledge to help you stand out in the competitive college admissions process. Here are the key learnings you can expect:

Understanding the Admissions Process: Gain a comprehensive understanding of how the college admissions process works, from application submission to decision day.

Crucial Application Components: Discover the essential elements of a successful college application, including GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and more.

The Personal Statement: Learn how to craft a compelling personal statement that showcases your unique story, passions, and ambitions.

Recommendation Letters: Understand the importance of strong recommendation letters and how to request and utilize them effectively.

Extracurricular Excellence: Find out how to leverage your extracurricular activities to demonstrate your skills, leadership, and commitment.

Demonstrated Interest: Explore the concept of demonstrated interest and how it can set you apart from other applicants.

Admissions Essays: Get tips and strategies for writing standout admissions essays that reflect your personality and aspirations.

Q&A Session: Have your burning questions answered by our expert.

Join us for this enlightening webinar and gain the knowledge and confidence you need to navigate the college admissions process successfully!

Date 01/17/2024
Duration 49:30

Webinar Transcription

2024-01-17 – AO Advice/ What do Admissions Officers Want to See

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the CollegeAdvisors webinar, “Admission Officer Advice: What do Admission Officers Want to See?” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’re first going to begin with a presentation, and then we’ll have the opportunity to answer your questions in the live Q&A. If you would like to do so, you can actually already start submitting your questions that you may have, and a reminder that you can download the slides in the handouts tab.

Before we get into the presentation, let’s first meet our panelists. Hi everyone, my name is Joanne Pluff. I was a former Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Utica College and Associate Dean of Admissions at Hamilton College, and now I serve as an Associate Vice President at Howard University here in Washington DC.

Alrighty, so let’s get started.

I think there’s a quick poll. We’d love to see what grade you are in and Hopefully we have less seniors, more juniors, sophomores, and first year students in the pile. I remember starting this process, I would say my sophomore year, just to get myself oriented to what was happening and what’s going on. Yes, thank you, Joanne.

Thank you so much for kicking off our poll. I had some technical difficulties. But I do see that our audience is starting to give us a sense of what grade they are in. Um, so it looks like we have 36% that are in the 10th grade as well as in the 11th grade. And then we have 18% that are other. And then we also have some middle school representation as well, coming in with, um, at 9%.

Um, so thank you everyone for sharing with us what grades you are in. And with that, Joanne, I’ll turn it over to you to kick us off into sharing what is an applicant profile. Absolutely. So, um, I know you guys are able to send me messages directly. Please don’t do that. I won’t be able to check them, but my trusty co part, our co pilots here will be able to better assist you with the questions directly in the Q&A.

So when we’re talking about your applicant profile, um, most colleges use what’s called the common application. And even if they don’t use the common application, typically every application has what is known as the applicant profile. So this is basically your demographic information. What the college is trying to find out is who are you, where do you live, what’s your contact information, your nationality, and so on.

Your guardian information who’s helping you with the process. So basically parents, step parents, um, guardians, and then the list of current courses that you are taking. This information is super important. Whatever is on the application is directly transposed into most digital systems. Colleges are reading applications, um, digitally.

So whatever you put into the common app profile is downloaded right into our system. So you do want to make sure that the information that you’re providing is accurate and up to date because it will, um, feed to different parts of the application process itself. So for those, um, students who Let’s say you want to get a jump start on the college process.

You are entitled to fill out a Common App profile even though you won’t be using it for a couple years. So sophomores, juniors, you can go right on and start filling out that information. It’s pretty basic. The only thing that would need to be updated is of course your list of courses and if you or your family moves, um, if you move to a different country, maybe a different part of your state.

So just be conscious of that if you are one of those early students. Typically the common application opens for most colleges around the beginning to the, I would say the end of the summer. So, um, early August, um, the colleges will upload the new iteration of their application. But again, you can go on and start filling out your profile now.

You do not have to wait. So this is a question that we get quite frequently, um, just talking about how students are evaluated. So when we are talking about students that are admissible to any university, the first thing that we’re going to look at and the thing that will weigh the heaviest in our is your transcript.

So we generally have to know If you academically are able to do the work and what is being asked of you at the university. So we’ll talk later about, you know, how to select and curate that list. But the transcript, I would say, holds the biggest weight. The next thing that we look at is the strength of your schedule.

So the strength of your schedule means, did you take four years of, um, your core classes? So English, math, history, science. Did you do well in those courses? Let’s say you’ve taken all your math requirements, but you don’t want to take algebra. To or maybe you don’t want to take health one. Um, just decisions like that are things that we take into consideration.

We will look at what’s called your school profile. So, just like you have your applicant profile, your school has a profile and it will tell us what you’re required to take for courses. Um, what are elective options and if you’re caught, if your high school offers any. Dual enrollment courses, IB courses, AP courses.

So the strength of your schedule is really based off of your high school. Not, you know, every single high school in the country. It really is based off of your high school. We are looking for students who are challenging themselves. So I always tell students, you know, if you’ve had a stellar junior year, you’re rolling in with lots of A’s and mostly, or mostly A’s and some B’s, you don’t want to cash it in.

Your senior year. So while we will see the majority of grades by the time you apply, if you’re applying early, are up to junior year. However, most colleges these days do require your mid year report. So when that mid year report comes, I don’t want to see a bunch of yoga classes, golf, gym classes. That’s awesome.

Greatly appreciated. I love the diversification of your education. However, we do need to know if you’re able to finish the job for all four years. The next thing that we will look at is your writing sample, which is better known as your essay. So that five hundred words or less serves as your, um, your sample.

So most colleges, again, use the Common Application. If you’re familiar with the application, typically the prompts for the Common App haven’t changed in, uh, I would say probably the next, um, The last 10 to 12 years. Um, but the common application writing sample is a way for us to see how you can write. Now I’ll caution students.

I think when you start the process, the thought is, let me write as many big words as I can. And, you know, kind of word vomit onto the page. That’s not really helpful. So if you’re a B student in English and grammar, literacy, and you’re using all of these kind of over the top words, we’ll know that it’s disingenuous.

So we want to make sure that whatever you’re writing really does truly represent you. Answer the question and show us something about you. It’s an opportunity to share with us a little bit of, of you that we typically don’t see. Make sure that you write to see that you’re jumping off the page at us.

There’s many typical essays. There are many typical topics. You should research them. Reddit definitely has some threads on, um, things to avoid, but just remember, again, it’s a sample. Well, yes, we’re going to read it for content. But the actual subject of the essay is not so much important. It’s did you answer the question and how well was that written?

The next thing that we’ll look at, um, if required is testing. Many schools across the country are opting to be test optional, which is excellent. Um, however, there are still some schools that require SATs or ACTs to perhaps apply to honors programs or scholarships. Make sure that when you are starting the process, you do that research.

Testing is something that’s subjective, right? So not every student has access to test prep. Not every student does well on testing. So if you’re a student that’s applying to a selective school that doesn’t, um, require testing, make sure that the strength of your schedule is done well. The next thing that we’ll look at is the list of your extracurricular activities.

So that’s one of my favorite things to look at because it gives me a little bit of a road map when I’m reading a student’s application. Like, what did they do for those four years while they were in high school? Again, I will say, you know, to our juniors, you know, Now is not the time to join a bunch of different clubs and organizations.

It’s not super helpful. We look to see continuity of those clubs and organizations. You know, did you overcommit yourself to a bunch of them or did you have two or three things that you really, um, honed in on? And I like for the extracurricular activities to tell a story of what the student is interested in.

So let’s say I wrote my essay to Johns Hopkins about, um, a research, um, summer internship that I got at the local, uh, community college. Awesome. That’s great. So it would be really cool to see, you know, if you’d participated, maybe there’s a science club at your high school. Maybe there’s an opportunity to shadow a scientist.

All of that stuff is really important and we like for it to tie in together. So the common app allow allows you to put in 10 different up to 10 different clubs and activities. We always tell students that you should come up with 10 things. Now, if you can’t make sure that the things that you’re submitting, are excellent and really do represent you well.

I will also say one of the good things that have happened with COVID is there’s less importance placed on, or I’m sorry, there’s more importance placed on some of those extracurricular activities that you may have done in your personal life. So I’m working with a student now who taught herself a language.

So a few years ago, she self taught. Um, we typically wouldn’t consider that an extracurricular activity, but because we now recognize that not every student has access to, you know, volunteer databases, um, their high schools may not have a lot of clubs and activities. We do want to give students credit for anything that you do, um, that contributes positively to the, to the world around you.

So for the students who perhaps have younger siblings that they have to babysit, we totally recognize that that is a large, um, part of your life. We want to make sure that you get credit for it. Now, Let’s remember that, let’s say, you know, when I’m reading an essay, I see this all the time, a student writes that they make their bed.

That’s an extracurricular activity. Let’s be serious here. Making the bed is not an extracurricular activity, but I’m, I’m saying this in jest, but just think about the things that you’re writing, because again, we do truly read and evaluate everything that’s submitted to us. So think of the transcript, the schedule, the sample, the writing sample, the, um, the testing, the extracurriculars as a big part of a puzzle or a pizza.

So everything is evaluated, especially for those schools that are doing what’s called the holistic review. For schools that do holistic review, it means that we review everything that’s submitted to us by the student. So it could be, um, All of the things that we just listed, your letters of recommendation, um, and any supplemental essays.

We really truly want to get a whole picture of the student. Now, you know, students might say, how do we know if, if we’re being test optional is not being held against us? So by law, you know, there are laws within the realm of admissions. We are held to standards. So if you say that you want us to consider your scores, that’s what you want.

We will do that. If you say that you do not want us to consider your scores, we will not do that. So nobody’s going to be discounted and most colleges these days do what’s called a holistic review. So it’s not just solely based on the transcript. While that does weigh a lot, I’d say that’s like a third of the pie.

Um, the rest of those parts really and truly do make up equal, equal, um, things that we consider into the application process. Alrighty, so what are the stages of review? Um, so the top thing that we look at, like I said, I don’t want to harp on this too much, but it truly is academics. If you’re not able to be successful at the university you’re applying to, then we have no business, um, admitting you.

So while it might be your goal and maybe you had a rough year, I totally get that, right? Like I work in an HBCU. So college access is definitely, um, at the forefront of all the decisions that we’re making. However, not every student academically can do the work at my university. And it’s a disservice to the student to admit them.

What you’ll find is if you have someone in your corner, whether it’s a guidance counselor, whether it’s one of us here, a college advisor, The top thing that we review with students when we’re selecting your college list is academically. Are you able to do the work every college completes yearly? What’s called the student profile.

So it’s the profile of the incoming class. So the 1st year students currently this year, and it will give you. the averages of their incoming GPA SAT scores. So based on that solely, you should be able to tell if they have, you know, a perfect 36 ACT and yours is a 20, likely academically, you may not be a good fit for that university.

So we check out your academics, how many A’s do you have? How many B’s? Was there an upward trajectory? So, you know, if you fell off a little bit, Were you able to bounce back? Maybe you’re applying to a nursing program or a joint health program or a BSMD program. How well did you do in your STEM classes, your sciences?

Then let’s say you’re applying to engineering. How well did you do in math? Um, did you take Calc One, Calc Two? So we have the academic fit that we, again, is the first thing that we always look across. The next thing we’ll look at is fit. So how do you match up and how do you compare to the students at our university now?

So the things that you’re doing, your extracurriculars, the stuff that you wrote about in your essay are those things that our students would say that they’re also super interested in. The big deal with college is we’re looking for students who fit within our college community and will enhance and keep on going.

With the type of culture that we have, so we really try to make a decision based off your application of fit. So academically, personally, the things you’re involved in. How well do you match up with our students? And that creates the final decision of the application review. Just please know this is not something that we take lightly.

Obviously, college admissions kinds of decides a student’s career for years. At my university, every student application is read at least 10 to 12 times by 10 to 12 different people. So it’s not something that’s taken lightly. We really do place a lot of importance on making sure to double check and check to see if students do fit within our community.

Which then also brings up, um, an interesting question. So how long will we spend on an application? So typically don’t cringe. Um, it’s not an hour. You know, I think a lot of parents are like you probably spend hours pining away. We don’t. Um, so we do review basically, um, a group at a time. And that group could be like all of the nursing students, all of the high school students.

And then, of course, um, I’m sorry, all the students from your high school. So a singular high school. There are a bunch of different ways to break things down, but it truly is a variable number that depends on how long you’ve been in the business. So for me, it probably takes me 10, seven to 10 minutes to review an application to garner a decision.

Um, and I like to do things based on the school. And the reason I do it based on school is I know I want to read the The top student from that school, the mix, the middle, and then the bottom for that school. It also truly does depend on the volume of applications. So for colleges now, because we are test optional, it opens a lot of doors, which is awesome.

But it also means that students are applying to a bunch more schools because before, when you had SATs or ACT requirements, that would kind of knock them off your list. So the volume of applications does also come into play during heavy reading season. My team will spend, like I said, between six to seven minutes on an application and then they have to move on.

So it’s truly important that that information that you put on the profile. And then the essay is coming off the page so that you’re enticing the reader. Also, different types of applications do garner different, um, timing. Excuse me. So for students who are applying to more selective programs, honors programs, we definitely do spend some more time on those applications.

The reason being they’re selective, right? We want to make sure that we are making the right decision for the university. Not every student is going to be able to get in. You want to make sure that we give each student a fair try. And then, of course, some students or universities can, um, negate people based on the application requirements.

So perhaps, you know, when we sit down to the computer to review, the student has below the average GPA or SAT, it might automatically put them in a different, um, review format. So it may be quicker because academically, the student isn’t able to. Um, do the work. So what makes an application stand out? Um, for me, it definitely is, uh, grammatics.

So I think the cell phone error, while it has been awesome, and I totally appreciate being able to get a hold of students and the amount of information that you’re able to retain, I think it’s awesome. Um, I think it’s also made us really, really lazy. You’ll never believe the amount of applications that I see.

Um, Where a student uses, I would say, more common slang. Um, and while I can completely get down with rhetoric as it is, it enhances your application or the essay that you’re writing, I would say it’s more inappropriate rhetoric. So. Grammatics is really, really, um, very important. Make sure that you double check, make sure there are not too many periods, make sure that you’re not, you know, writing like you are texting.

That’s not the goal. We know you can text. We want to know if you can write. Okay. And then I like to say that for my students, when I’m reviewing their application, I like for the application to tell the educational and personal journey of the student. So it’s like a little book, right? Your profile introduces you, your essay kind of gives us some more extracurriculars, really tells us the meat and potatoes, and the transcript will tell you It will give you the educational history.

So, I am a big, like, underdog person. I love it when I see a student, not love it, but I appreciate when a student who has struggled in their freshman year really works hard to get all A’s and B’s in junior and sophomore year. There’s nothing that makes me more happy. So we appreciate and can recognize and because we read such high volumes, um, students that stand out and it really is a pleasure to read through them and finally, just make sure that everything is well written.

Um, I think that students need to make sure that everyone. reads, you know, your essay, your application itself. So share that. The Common App allows you to create a PDF, print out the PDF and read it, step away from it, make sure that many people can take a peek to see what you have going on. Okay, thank you Joanne.

So we’re gonna pause shortly so we can um, do our second poll for our webinar. So we would like to know, Um, where are you in the application, college application process? So perhaps you haven’t started, um, maybe you’re in the research phase, getting your application material together. Please let us know where you are.

And then I’m going to check just on technical. To see if the poll is actually showing. Let’s see.

Okay, so actually, we’re having some technical difficulties with our poll. Um, and so we’ll go ahead and continue doing. Are you ready to continue with the rest of your presentation? Yep, ready. Okay, thank you. So we’ll go ahead and start discussing what I should versus I should not include in a college application.

Thank you. Awesome, thanks. So for the students that may have struggled, this is a really important lesson and I think everyone should take advantage. Again, this application is a representation of you, so we want to know if you’ve had some blips in your education. Maybe you didn’t really like math. Maybe you didn’t really like calculus, but algebra is your jam.

Any explanation that you can provide Excuse me. So sorry. Any explanation that you can provide is awesome. So you have the opportunity to use the essay, supplemental essay, or perhaps, There is a guidance counselor who’s in your corner that can provide for us any information that gives us clues about what happened in your academics.

It doesn’t have to be something tragic. It could be something awesome, like maybe you found your love of English after reading 10th grade to kill a mockingbird. I have no idea, but those tidbits of knowledge about students and their applications really do make them stand out. Then what you should skip, and I, again, I cannot stress this enough, I don’t think that people realize the amount of students who will write or submit an essay that hasn’t been proofread.

I get it. You go into it thinking, like, this is really awesome and I feel great about it. Cool, that’s the first draft. You don’t want to send in that essay cold. Make sure that you have someone review it for you. And then another common thing that we see, and we really, really urge students against doing, is submitting an application with incomplete sentences.

And you typically will find the incomplete sentences on the list of extracurriculars. So, On the Common Application, as well as Coalition App, Black Common App, all of those. Again, it allows you to list those extracurriculars. Then it gives you a small text box to just kind of describe that. That’s where you should actually describe that.

It’s maybe a one to two sentence max. It’s not a lot of wording, but it truly does help if it’s like the East African club of the high school. of South Boston. I have no idea what that means. I wanted to know for myself and I want to understand. So don’t write us three random words where it’s like club, hang out, talk about Africa.

Please write a well developed sentence so that, again, we can get to know what your interests are.

So influential factors that go into our decision. Number one is the GPA and coursework. So for us again, know that when we are evaluating your students GPA, most colleges will recalculate your GPA. So yes, you may have a 5.0 on a 4.0 scale, or perhaps you have a 6.0, or perhaps you have a 3.9, whatever it is.

Every college has a rubric that they go through. and redo your student’s GPA. So your 3.5 may not be a true 3.5. Some colleges look at, you know, your AP courses. Some colleges look at just your core classes. We’re never going to tell you how we recalculate, but know that every university, most universities recalculate their GPA.

The next thing that I look to is your coursework. So again, four years of math, science, history, English trends in your grades. Are they mostly A’s? Are they B’s? Are they D’s? How did you do? Um, are there F’s? Are there things that stick out? I’d say lastly is the essay. Again, because we weigh so heavily on the transcript, the essay is kind of just like in addition to, and something nice to see.

And the last things that we look at. are depending on the school. Some schools do look at class rank. So does your high school rank and where do you fall on that rank? Some schools will look at testing and then others will look at what’s called demonstrated interest. So for those of you that aren’t familiar, as much as you’re courting us, we’re also courting you.

And we like to admit students that want to go to universities. Not every student looks at what is called demonstrated interest or school looks at demonstrated interest. Demonstrated interest is have you. proven to the school that you’re truly interested. And that might be attending visits, doing virtual visits.

Did you go to the open house? Did you have an interview? Did you have a campus tour? On the back end of things, most of our systems are pretty sophisticated. We are able to see, you know, if there was an email that was sent out, did you open the email? Did you click on the email that goes from both parents and students?

So know that there are some metrics that we keep, um, in the background. Typically demonstrated interest comes into play for a lot of schools that go to the wait list. So like, how bad do you really want to be at that school? Um, we do measure that and then interviews. One of my favorite things to talk about.

So if you are applying to a university or college that does interviews, you should absolutely take it. There’s two different ways that we evaluate. So some are evaluative where. We are sitting down and in the back of our mind, they’ve given us a list of things to evaluate the student on and then others are informative.

Both no wrong right or wrong answer, but there are two out in the market. Not every student is afforded an interview by university. So recognize like one of my prior institutions. We did over 3,000 interviews, and we had about 25,000 requests for interviews, which is crazy. Typically, interviews are done the end of your junior year, beginning of your senior year, prior to application submission.

If they are evaluative, as well as informative, all that information is documented and submitted with your application file. So while you may not see that information, the AO, or the alumni interviewer, has great information. created a record for you. And it will say, you know, was Tommy engaging? Um, does Tommy know a lot about this university?

It will have a lot of questions. You’ll never see it. But again, it’s something that we do. Um, we do assess and put directly in your application file. If you are invited to do an interview, even if you’re an introvert, you should do it because just think about for the selectivity. If a school is reaching out to you to interview, it means they’re really interested in you academically.

And then in my personal opinion, what is the most important component of the application? So I think it really truly is the GPA in transcripts. So how can that student be academically successful? If you aren’t able to, you know, if you’re applying to a STEM school, let’s say a Polytechnical Institute, NYIT, for example, and we are math heavy, science heavy.

I think that’s You didn’t do so well in those courses. It would give me great pause if the student didn’t do well in, um, their science and tech courses. I would take a step back and really consider if they’re able to fit. Now, again, remember I said that’s like a whole big pizza, and the GPA and the transcript are just a third of it.

Yes, we’re looking at all of it, but again, I will not stress enough that the GPA and transcript are probably the most important thing.

Last advice that I have for students. Um, I would say, of course, you know, check your work. Um, don’t get cocky about it. Even if you’ve checked it, have somebody else check it and then have somebody else check it after that. There’s no too many times that you can review your application. This is one of those, like, when I think about my job and I think about how important college is, it’s insane, right?

Parents, like, it is crazy that. We put in place the importance of this decision on 18 year olds and 17 year olds. So if this is determining your life and what you’re going to do when you grow up, place importance on it. Go into it with the spirit of growth and learning and know that it’s okay to ask for help and it’s okay for others to review what you have going on.

And then I would say, just telling the story, we typically for selective colleges, we do what’s called committee review. So, at some point in the next couple of weeks, um, my AOs that work for me, they’ll sit in a big room and they will discuss the applicants that they’ve reviewed. So, I only give them 5 or 6 minutes to discuss the applications they’ve been reviewing for the last few months.

And I want to know the story about this, your student. So, from profile. To extracurriculars to the essay to supplements of transcripts to letters of recommendation, make sure that you have a cohesive essay, um, and that they can describe you well. And also don’t feel bad about picking selective people for your letters of recommendation.

You want to pick people who accurately represent you. So play to your strengths. Well, thank you so much. Um, so that now Um, in our presentation portion of the webinar. I hope you found this information Uh, helpful, um, as you all were getting really an insider perspective of even how admission officers are, you know, reviewing applications, what they’re looking for, um, the amount of time that it takes, you know, for those applications.

So, I know Joanne gave some really, really great information for you all. Remember that you can also download the slides in the handout tab. So now we’re going to move on to our live Q&A. I’ll read through your questions that you have submitted in the Q&A tab, I’ll paste them into the public chat so that you can see them and then read them out loud before Joanne gives you an answer.

A reminder, if your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar planning page. Try logging out and logging back in through the link in your email. Okay, so we’re going to get started with our first question.

Um, what can I do in the 11th grade year to feel more confident about my application and good enough as a student? So I feel like this is a loaded question. The first thing is, um, first of all, when you are working with your college advisor, Whether it’s a guidance counselor, it’s a teacher, whoever that is, they’re going to pick schools that work to your strengths, right?

So know that they’ve selected schools that you typically would fit into. And then, you gotta do well. Um, 11th grade is that year of building. It’s your year of kind of showing off your goods and making sure that you’re getting those A’s and B’s. Please make sure that you do that. 11th grade is not too late to join a club or activity, but I caution and say don’t join a billion of them because we will see right through them.

But if you join a couple and you really enjoy it, do it. Do it and tell us why you joined so late. Maybe you were scared. Maybe you had to do some more research. Figure out the why, and make sure that you write about it. The other thing is, 11th grade, you can really start honing in on who’s going to be your letters of recommendation.

Don’t wait until the last minute. Typically, every college counselor has to write an essay for every college bound student. So know that you have that one, but also know that your other core class recommender can be somebody that you truly feel like will make you shine. And now’s the time to kind of start picking out that person.

So maybe it’s your chem teacher. Um, maybe it’s your history teacher, whoever that person is, start getting them to prepare to write the story about your academic history as well. And then of course, um, um, Don’t forget to have fun. This college process is really stressful. You could sit and worry about it every moment of the day, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

So think about ways that you can incorporate it into your life, be organized, get started, without it being overwhelming and daunting.

Okay, thank you. Our next question reads, do our personal clubs affect our chances are just graded electives? So again, I’ll read the question one more time. It’s from our registration, um, questions that were asked. Do our personal clubs, I would assume that we participate in affect our chances or is it just based off of like graded electives?

So I think it’s both, um, personal clubs and activities. Like I said, you know, COVID did open the door for that, which is nice, but just remember, it’s like, I learned a language. I played guitar. I, you know, made this beautiful painting, not, I brushed my teeth. So just think about what you’re putting forward on that piece of paper.

Again, we want to give you credit for those personal electives. So that’s awesome. Um, but be realistic with it. And, um, I think the second part of that question was. I was speaking about just like graded electives. How does that kind of weigh in? Yeah, I mean, graded electives are, they’re just seen as another, another benchmark that we’re evaluating.

So personal things are great. We love it. We love to see you grow and learn and try things. Um, but grades essentially are just going to be grades. All right, so moving on to our next question. If you naturally use big words in your everyday speech and writing, that’s awesome. Um, in your essay, should you, should you instead use smaller words so the colleges don’t think you’re quote unquote faking?

No, but, When I’m talking about using big words I’m talking about somebody, I don’t know if you guys have watched Friends, but there’s a Joey’s got to write a letter for Monica and Chandler, right? And everybody knows Joey is probably not the smarter human. And he used a thesaurus for every word from like stop to end, to like lake, all of these different things.

And it was a crazy, crazy, letter that he wrote. If you use big words and that’s how you write, likely the college you’re applying to will have a supplemental essay and we’ll see that that’s kind of their jam. This is how they are. I would just caution for students who typically don’t use like those SAT words.

You shouldn’t just throw them in to throw them in. Make sure that they’re appropriate and somebody who’s reading your essay can probably tell you we can probably use, you know, a basic word here other than laborious or something.

Okay, let’s move to our next question. Um, where do personal statements fall in order of importance? Yeah, so personal statement is your writing sample. Um, for those, one of my universities that I worked at was very, uh, big into writing. So the students were required to take five writing intensive courses, no matter the major.

So, So for them, personal essay was really important because everybody had it right and they placed the thumb on the scale for that. That may not be the same for every university. So the essay is important and to me it’s a component of the student’s application and a bigger part of that piece of puzzle.

Again, I always like to say the GPA and transcript kind of take the largest piece where essays, extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, that kind of stuff makes up the rest of that puzzle. Okay, we’re going to pause shortly. We’re going to do a pause from the questions and answers for me to share more about the work that we do with college advisor.

So, those who for those who are in the room, who aren’t already working with us, we know how overwhelming the admission process can be our team of over 300 admission. Former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it in one on one advising sessions. Take the next step in your college admission journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team using the QR code on the screen.

During this meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular lists and application strategy, as well as discuss how they align with your college lists and outline tools you need to stand out in a competitive admission world. So we will keep the QR code on the screen as we continue with our questions and answers.

So this question reads, what if my daughter One of my daughter’s school doesn’t offer AP classes, awards, honors, society, etc. How can she stand out? Yeah, so hopefully you’re not too far into the process here and you’ll have to make your own opportunities. Um, the other thing too, your student, if they’re able to and you can afford it, another great option is dual enrollment courses at a local community college.

So maybe they’ve taken, you know, all the Spanish or language classes at their university. They should go on and take a college or an English class, um, to help kind of fulfill that time. And just recognize we will never penalize a student because they don’t have the ability to take AP courses, IB courses, dual enrollment, um, just through their high school.

We will never do that. What you can do is make those opportunities. Is there like a good volunteer coalition in town that they can get involved in? charities. There’s different ways to kind of play to your students strengths that don’t have to do directly with the school. It just will take some more work on your end.

Okay, our next question is, do admission officers give more weight to private schools because of their rigor in school profile? So that would be like highly illegal, right? So we We definitely look at every student the way based on their high school, not matching a private to a public. Cause that wouldn’t be fair.

You know, I’m in DC, so we have many highly selective private schools right within the district. So if I said, let me put, let’s say Sidwell, Sidwell is a private school where senators can deal. Obama’s kids went there. Um, Prince’s kids go there. It’s amazing. Right now, if I pit them against one of the, um, Public schools in the city of D.

C. That wouldn’t be fair. Students at Sidwell, they get immersed in the arts. Every student, you know, play some type of instrument. They have, you know, junior varsity sports for every single sport. You can imagine writing clubs, all of these different things with a public high school doesn’t have so much funding.

That’s not fair to the high school. So when we read, we typically review applications by school group. The reason we do that is so that we can look at all of the students from one high school against all the students from that high school, not public versus private. It’s not fair, and it’s inequitable. So we try to make sure that every student is evaluated again, how they come.

And, um, in doing that, we kind of eliminate that like have and have not. So we never take you for granted that you weren’t able to, again, every school submits to us, what’s called a school profile that’s sent along with your students transcripts. So we will always see what opportunities are at your school.

We’re not reviewing them blindly and we never compare. It’s just not fair. Okay. Um, so this question reads. My son has played basketball for three years, but really wants to challenge himself with AP courses in his senior year, such as AP Chem, AP Calculus, etc. Um, he is thinking about not being on, his basketball team his senior year.

Do you have any suggestions on kind of like the balance between, you know, sports and being in those AP classes? Yeah, I, I worry, uh, taking three AP courses in senior year, that’s a pretty big deal. To me, it’s all about being organized. Like I played a sport every single season in high school. I played three in college.

I was never a student that wasn’t doing a sport. So can it be done? Absolutely. It’s definitely about time management and organization. If your student is successful and they can do those things. Awesome. If your student is kind of like a turtle where. You know, the hard stuff comes along and you hide.

That’s not setting your student up for success. Also, we don’t highly recommend them, you know, putting a bunch of courses on the transcript and then withdrawing. So it’s important to make that decision before. I think if your student can take some classes and be involved in the sport somehow, maybe they’re the manager, maybe they’re, you know, still going to practice, but not traveling with the team.

There are different ways around that, and you’ll have to kind of look to see how your family wants to handle it. Um, I definitely think it’s possible. I think it’s good preparation for college. You know, AP classes are the closest to college classes that your students will take outside of community college.

So, I think it’s good preparation. I would hate to see a student who has enjoyed something for four years and then not be able to do that. That’s kind of a bummer, too, though.

All right, next question is, is an internship considered an extracurricular activity? Yes, it is. Yep. We love to see an internship. We also recognize that internships have a very specific end date. So it’s not like you can intern for 10 years or something like that. We recognize that it may be, you know, a summer internship or a three week internship or something.

Okay, and then how about just, um, like, college visits, attending admission, um, presentations. How does that kind of fall in the evaluation process? Yeah, so that would be logged under the demonstrated interest. So typically when an AO arrives at your school or at a college fair, you’re, you know, they’re scanning a QR like you are here, or maybe you’re filling out a, um, an information card.

So again, they definitely keep track of that stuff. I always encourage my students to go to the meetings with the AO, even if it’s a school that they already know they’re applying to, they already know they’re interested, go! This person is If somebody comes to your school, it means that they’re the designated AO for your school, and that’s a direct contact.

When you’re applying to those larger research one or maybe like the flagship, um, colleges in California or even New York, there’s thousands of admissions officers and alumni reps that work for them. So the fact that somebody’s coming to your school and you can get a direct contact is awesome. Once you’re done meeting with them, take their card.

Let’s shoot them a quick email so they know that who you are and that you’ve met. It’s definitely a great way to make a personal connection within the office directly. And then if you have any questions throughout the process, at least you know you have someone you can reach out to. Um, and what if I’m, um, the first in my family to go to college?

How is that taken into, is that taken into consideration as I’m being evaluated as an Absolutely. So we don’t look at it as a discount. We just, it’s just a thing, right? So to me, when I see a first generation student, I know that I enter their space with a little bit of grace and understanding that their parents have no idea.

They did not go to college. They are not familiar with the process. And while it may seem to me very easy to just say, you just go on and fill out the profile. They don’t know what profile I’m talking about. They don’t know that there’s a difference between the common app, a institution specific application, black common app coalition.

They have no idea. Um, first generation, we kind of like, we bring them along with us and we curate and we make sure that they’re able to have success. A lot of universities have. First generation cohorts, they have first generation programming and first generation success coaches, both to help you with financial literacy as well as just like life literacy.

You have no idea what to expect, right? Like when I was going to college, my parents went to college. Um, we’re from a different country, so they went to college there and They’re like, well, in my country. So I technically was kind of a first gen student. Like my parents didn’t go to school in the U S and when I arrived at my university, it was really nice to know that there are other students whose parents were not from here and had no idea what to do.

So it’s just another touch point. We don’t look down on it. In fact, I would say first generation students are very cherished on college campuses. We really tried hard to make sure that they’re successful. Even celebrated on graduation day. We specifically. Purchase first generation stools for all of our first gen students on campus.

So it’s a pretty big deal. Um, I don’t want students to not think that, or to think that they’re less than they’re definitely equivalent. They’re definitely to be in that space and we want to support them. Awesome. Thank you so much. So with that, that now concludes our webinar on AO advice, what admission officers want to see.

So thank you, Joanne, for this information that you have shared. Like I said earlier, you’ve given some really great insider view into what the admission process looks like. I just see one question pop in. I’m going to go ahead and answer it. If my parent received their degree from another country, but the master’s degree within the U.

S. is not available, Are they considered a first generation college student? So technically not. First gen means that nobody in your family has graduated from a college anywhere. Um, I will say that some colleges are trying to be specific with that because again, like I said, my parents had no idea what was going on.

Like they worked at a college, but they were like, what is this process? I get it. Um, I think you’re just a little bit of a separate category, but for our first gen, true first gen means that no one in your family has graduated from a university. Thank you for asking that clarifying question. Um, so with that, I just want to share our remaining webinars for the month of January.

Um, so we do have a college panel that’s going to be happening. We also have a webinar around building your college list. some more inside perspective and just like the top, you know, colleges. And so every month we have a series of webinars are all geared towards supporting you in the college application process.

And if you would like to meet with one of our specialists just to learn more about the work that we do within college advisor, um, please feel free to, um, sign up QR code. There will also be an additional screen that will pop up at the conclusion of this webinar. So again, thank you, Joanne. Thank you audience.

And have a great night. Bye.