Admissions Officer Advice: What Do Admissions Officers Want?

Former Admissions Officer Brian Poznanski shares his insider knowledge on what admissions officers look for in an applicant.

Date 12/06/2021

Webinar Transcription

2021-12-06 Admissions Officer Advice: What Do Admissions Officers Want?

[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on what do admissions officers want to see. To orient everyone with a webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists. Awesome. All right. Well, good evening everyone. Um, my name is Brian , um, and I am a former, uh, admissions officer. Um, excited to be speaking with all of you tonight, a little bit on, you know, what admission officers want to see, uh, when reviewing applications, um, I am a graduate of both Saint Anselm college in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Uh, I studied politics on there, uh, graduated in 2011. Um, and I also, uh, earn am a [00:01:00] proud, graduate, proud terrier, um, uh, Boston university, where I earned my MBA with a concentration in public and non-profit management. Um, did that while I was working at, uh, Boston university. I worked there for six years, um, as an admission officer.

Um, and two years prior to that, uh, worked at another small college in the Boston area called Regis college. Um, so. Total of eight years of college, uh, admissions experience in recruiting and also, um, of course reviewing applications, um, which at BU I did thousands and thousands of application reviews. So excited to chat with you all a little bit, um, today, and, and really, hopefully you kind of peel back the curtain and give you a little bit of an insight into exactly what admission officers are looking for, uh, when it comes down to, uh, the college admission and [00:02:00] application review process.

Uh, so with that, let’s go ahead and dive on in. Oop, sorry about that. And they, Kenzie, I got ahead of ourselves. Okay. So we’ll start off with a quick poll. So where are you in the application process? Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done.

And while we wait for that, um, Brian, can you tell us what your favorite thing about being an admissions admissions officer? Yeah. I mean, I think for me, it was, uh, working as, as, as busy and as grueling as some of those days were, it was working at the visitor center, um, giving presentations and meeting with families and talking to prospective students and answering their questions, um, about everything, uh, at about the school that, that I was working at at the time.

Um, I also should say that I worked for four years as a tour guide at St. [00:03:00] Anselm college. So, you know, I really did enjoy speaking with students and kind of sharing my interests for the institution. Um, I was lucky enough to work at, and I could St. A’s in this, uh, three institutions that I felt very strongly about and, um, was happy to, uh, be employed there and working there and ultimately at two of them be a student there.

Um, and so I liked sharing my love for that institution with, uh, prospective families and, and helping them kind of figure out what. Might be their next, um, you know, step in, in their educational journey. So that would be one of my favorites. Um, I really enjoyed speaking with the students and the parents.

So that sounds great. Uh, so it’s looking like 24% of students haven’t started 37% are researching schools. 15% are working on their essays. 10% are getting the application materials together and 14%, those lucky people are almost done. All right. Awesome. So this, I think this, [00:04:00] um, entire presentation will, you know, really, uh, resonate and be helpful for the vast majority of you.

Um, as you’re starting and thinking about and, um, planning your application process. Um, you know, how does an admission officer go through an application? Um, I, I read that and I was like, well, very carefully. Um, you know, we really, um, as emission officers, the truth of the matter is we really are looking at everything that is submitted.

Um, and so you should start, um, with the, the, the thought process of knowing that the comfort of knowing that the work that you put in will get reviewed. Um, we are trained to do that relatively quickly, which we’ll get to in a couple of slides. Um, but we do look through everything very thoroughly. I did add the fact that it is all online now.

Um, you know, I’m typically on my computer as an emission officer [00:05:00] or was on my computer as an admission officer reviewing applications. Um, that wasn’t the case, um, you know, years ago. And even during my two years at Regis college, um, I literally would bring home a suitcase full of, um, Manila folders, uh, that were applications.

Um, and so literally used to go through highlight the transcripts and things of that nature. That’s not quite the case anymore. Um, but we evaluate each application, um, and take notes on each section. I would say that they’re really probably four major, you know, maybe five major pieces to the application.

There’s the transcript. Um, and that includes kind of the school profile, which gives us the context of what type of school the student is attending. What type of courses are offered, what’s expected of the students at that. The application itself. And within this, I included the essay in that could be maybe that additional fifth piece.[00:06:00]

Some people, you know, it is technically submitted usually in the application. And so that’s why I included it there. Um, but the application, you know, the kind of fundamental stuff that you’re filling out on the common app or the coalition, if you’re using one of those two, uh, application programs, your recommendations, typically we see one from a counselor, one from a teacher, um, certainly multiple, uh, applications or excuse me, recommendations from teachers, uh, come through.

Every once in a while, we’ll see one from an employer or a coach, things like that. But I would say the most important is the counselor and one or two teacher recommendations and then any additional necessary materials, things like, um, art supplements, um, you know, portfolios, um, auditions. If you’re applying to a program that requires one of those, um, some students choose to submit a resume in addition to their application and what is listed under their activities.

Those are all fine. Um, we call it all these notes to make what is a [00:07:00] holistic decision slash recommendation. In many cases, the first reader of an application is not actually making a final decision. Um, in many cases they’re just moving that application onto a committee or a next step, um, so that it can be re reviewed, uh, later on by additional, uh, emission advisors, um, or within a committee setting.

Um, but I also want to really call out this holistic idea. I’m sure this is something that many of you have heard about before. Um, but really what it means is, um, that we review everything and that, uh, All of these pieces go into making an admission decision. Um, I would say when I was at BU that there really truthfully was never one thing that would make or break an application, but it was a variety of different factors that we were establishing, um, especially in the context of an applicant pool of thousands of applicants.

So, [00:08:00] um, I always want to make sure that folks, uh, remember that. Um, so when we look at an application, um, you know, how long we spend on set application definitely does vary from school to school. Um, and what I mean by that is that some high schools have a little bit more robust, um, uh, curriculums and, and school profiles to break down.

And, um, you know, you kinda gotta dig into, you know, what the school offers and it just takes a little bit more, um, time and effort to kind of figure out what exactly is going on within that school. Um, And it also does is kind of can depend on, you know, the program or any extra considerations that the student might need, uh, to receive such as, you know, scholarship, if they’re applying for any scholarships, if they’re applying for an honors program, um, again, if they’re applying to an art, uh, program that requires an art supplement, um, [00:09:00] and again, most applications do get multiple looks.

The vast majority of applications get, you know, multiple, um, you know, two, three or more on, but first look, I would say it’s probably five to eight minutes. I mean, again, we are trained to do this. Um, and when I was at Boston university, you know, we reviewed thousands of applications I would get through probably anywhere between 60 to 70 applications a day.

Um, and so, you know, you really do get into a rhythm of. Knowing what you’re looking for and kind of, um, you know, going through that process, uh, pretty efficiently, um, especially when you’re reading within school groups, if, you know, you get 10, 15 applications from the same school, you don’t have to go into the school profile every time, you know, exactly what’s offered, you know, it really allows you to kind of, you know, go through the process, um, pretty quickly and pretty efficiently.

So, um, you know, we do, we do get through it, um, in, in a [00:10:00] pretty, pretty quick, uh, timeframe. So when we’re looking at applications, I think there are a variety of things that we’re looking for. But I think that there are two main questions that come across every admission officer’s mind when they’re reviewing an application.

I would say that this is probably true, regardless of the selectivity of the institution. And that is. Can this candidate succeed at our college or university. In other words, are they academically qualified, um, to, you know, be part of, and be admitted to XYZ university and B um, will they add to the community experience at our university?

You know, are they going to be a positive impact in and outside of the classroom during their time here? Um, and so to decide these factors, we evaluate, you know, the academics of the student, [00:11:00] right? Obviously the grades that they, uh, have earned in the classes that they have taken, we’re looking at the rigor of their curriculum.

And again, what are the grades that they’ve earned? If a school requires standardized testing we’re using using your sat or act scores to evaluate that as well. Um, we look at your. What have you done, um, up to this point, what have you been involved in? Um, what have you done is a student in and outside the classroom already in high school, whether that be at your school or in your community?

Um, you know, maybe you’re not super involved in school activities, but, uh, you work it’s significant amount of hours or you have family responsibilities at home, or you’re really involved in academic pursuits outside of school. You’re doing research. Um, you know, you’re already started a business. Um, I mean, these are things that, that, that we’ve seen, uh, students do [00:12:00] already at this point, um, leaving high school.

Um, how do you portray yourself? What are you trying to get across? Who are you trying to tell us that you are? Um, and what do others have to say about you? That’s where those recommendations come into play? Um, this can really be beneficial. Some of the best things I see are, you know, every once in a while a counselor or a teacher will say, you know, this student really stands out in my X amount of years of, you know, working in a high school setting, you know, they are at the top of, of students I’ve worked for, or, um, I mean, truthfully, one of the best things that as a counselor or a teacher can say about you is they made XYZ school or XYZ class, a better place because of their presence.

Right. Um, you know, they went above and beyond. Um, they love learning for the sake of learning. You know, these are things that, you know, really perk up a mission officers ears when you read those, um, type of, um, you [00:13:00] know, supplemental, uh, you know, pieces. Those are purlative when they come from a recommendation.

So those are some of the things that we’re really looking at and trying to evaluate, um, So McKenzie, we have another poll here. Yes. So what grade are you currently in? Uh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th or other. And that could be if you’re a transfer student gap year student, or, um, a parent on the car right now.

And while we wait for those answers to come in, um, Brian, so can you tell us, okay, this is kind of a two-part question. How can you tell if a student is really interested, uh, in your school or program? Uh, and or can you really tell if a student’s trying to like game the system by like picking a random major program?

Um, sometimes. Yes. Um, but I think that in most cases I would [00:14:00] say that there is no quote, unquote gaming the system. Um, you know, it really is hard to do so, um, you know, everyone’s getting an evaluation, um, overall, um, and so I don’t really think there’s any way to game the system, but I think that. Genuine interest comes in a variety of forms.

Um, it comes in being able to, you know, visit campus when possible, obviously the last 18 months have not necessarily been super conducive to that. Um, but still showing that demonstrated interest, um, you know, when appropriate applying early decision early action, um, you know, maybe a good opportunity for some students.

And then if there is a, what I would call the Y XYZ university giving specific examples to that school. And what I mean by that is if you get to the end of an essay like that, [00:15:00] and you can take. The school name and put in another school name and it still makes sense. And I’ve said this in other sessions.

So if you’ve heard me speak before, you know where I’m going to say, but if it still makes sense, then you haven’t answered the question. Um, you should be really specific about their programs, um, their opportunities, the faculty, um, if you visited campus feelings that you may have gotten, um, while you were walking around XYZ, you know, building or common or area, um, those really do, because guess what?

The admission officer knows the, all of these things, and we’re looking, we’re looking out for that. So that was a long answer, but that’s some of the things, no, that was great. So it’s looking like 1%, uh, it’s an eighth grade, 6% are in ninth grade, 16% are in 10th grade. 40% are in 11th. Grade 33 are in 12th and 4% are other, so it’s a very good mixture of.[00:16:00]

It’s great. Um, very exciting Mackenzie. I mean, everyone is really in a great, in great shape and, you know, has a lot of, uh, good opportunities ahead of them. So I’m excited that they’re here to learn a little bit more. Um, but what we think, um, as in, in what we’re looking for as admissions officers, um, So how does a student’s transcript factor into, um, a decision?

I mean, truthfully it’s, it’s, it’s heavy. Um, often it is one of the biggest pieces of that holistic picture. Um, I’ll be honest. Typically when I was reviewing an application, the first thing that I looked at was the student’s transcript. Um, actually that’s not always true. I often look at the school profile first to understand kind of what type of courses that student might be enrolling in, um, and what was offered at the school.

Um, but the transcript was really where you got the understanding of is this student going to be [00:17:00] academically qualified? For the programs, um, at XYZ university, you know, do they have good, have they earned good grades? Um, are they earning those grades in a rigorous curriculum? Um, you know, are they taking honors or AP or IB level courses were available where appropriate?

Um, you know, what’s the strength of their curriculum really is what we’re getting at. Um, and we’re looking at all four years of high school. Um, typically most schools are looking at the five core academic solids, which would be English, math, science, social science, and foreign language. I would say that most schools expect, you know, three to four years, um, in all five core academic solids, um, But, you know, it does vary from school to school and, and, you know, obviously there are some strengths in other areas.

Um, but we do look at the level of subject. Um, of course, you know, college prep, honors, AP, IB, um, you know, dual enrollment, um, [00:18:00] and, you know, are there extra courses taken, you know, do you go above and beyond, you know, the rigor of your curriculum, for instance, you know, an example of that, uh, that might be, you know, a student that, um, outpaces the, uh, you know, the math curriculum offered at their high school.

You know, they took, um, AP, BC calculus in junior year and then senior year, they choose to take, you know, an additional, uh, mathematics course. At a local college or a community college, um, that would be kind of, again, an example of going above and beyond. Um, but I think what’s also really important to understand here is that we do look at most cases, look at, um, the rigor again, within the context of what the school offers and what I mean by that is that if a school only offers, you know, five AP courses and, you know, you’re maxing out your, you taking all of them or you’re taking three or four of them.[00:19:00]

Probably taking a pretty rigorous rigorous curriculum within the context of your school. But if your school offers 25 30 AP courses and you didn’t take any, or, um, you know, you’re, you’re not really maximizing your opportunities within that area that may not be taking as rigorous a curriculum or taking as much of an advantage.

And it’s not to say that that’s a bad thing for you, but typically schools are going to be looking at students that are taking advantage of, uh, or they’re evaluating, I should say the rigor of that curriculum. So that’s one of the ways that we’re looking at the students trends. Um, how we look at test scores is really going to vary by institution.

And I should say, you know, school, college, university institution, um, many schools have completely moved away from requiring tests on some, you know, uh, don’t look at them at all, right? [00:20:00] So there’s this idea of test optional versus test blind. So what’s the difference between that? Well, typically test optional means that it allows students the choice of whether they want to submit their tests or not.

But if this day submit they will be evaluated. So if you submit your tests for a test optional, it, it means that the university, the admission office will use those scores, uh, in your admission. If you’re their test optional and you do not submit, they will not hold it against you. They will not use it in your process.

It’s not a trick on, they really are optional in many cases now. Um, and so if they are optional and you do not submit, that’s perfectly okay, that’s your prerogative. Okay. The tip that I often would use, um, in a situation like this, in what I tell some of my [00:21:00] clients that I work with now is typically the school, uh, you know, makes their profile, um, available.

Um, you know, of what the average was of the previous admitted class, or maybe even the mid 50% of the admitted class. If you are looking at that and your test scores fall above. The average or they fall close within that middle of it, or they fall within that middle of 50%. And maybe even the high end of that 50% then maybe submitting your tests will be an advantage and you should consider that.

But if your test fall below the average, then by definition, I would typically suggest, do not submit your test scores because that means that you fell in the bottom half and they may not that therefore may not help your admission. Uh, So that’s kind of the tip that I use. I think [00:22:00] using that average can be really helpful.

And if you’re above, you know, maybe it will enhance your application. If you’re below, don’t submit it because you know, you’re only potentially a detriment during your application. Um, and then test blind is that the school will not use your test scores at all. Whether you submit them, don’t submit them, send them five times.

It doesn’t matter. Um, they are not looking at standardized testing as part of their admission decision. So that’s kind of understanding the difference between optional and blind. Um, if a school does still require tests, uh, they’re used as part of the tool to evaluate the candidate holistically. There are part of that holistic review, evaluating the transcript, evaluating your test scores, evaluating your academic pro your school profile.

Your candidate profile, your essays, your recommendations, the whole kit and caboodle. Um, so they, again are not a make or break decision typically in that admission [00:23:00] process. Um, how do a student’s essays and activities factor in on, you know, again, it’s another piece I hate to say it again. It’s another piece of that holistic picture.

Um, you know, it’s one of the biggest pieces definitely to show who you are though, is how you’re portraying yourself. Again. What you put down as being a, uh, activity says something about you. It says something about how you choose to spend your. Um, and what we should infer from that. Right? So, um, you know, if you are an athlete and you participate in three varsity sports, and that’s what you put down, we know that that’s something that you’re really committed to.

If you put down that you’re doing community service is you put down that you’re working. If you put down that you have family obligations, I mean, these are all things that you choose to share with the admission office to say, this is who. Um, and then again, what others have to say [00:24:00] about you, those teacher and counselor recommendations, they help form the narrative.

Um, they help form, they help frame the narrative. Um, and so those, I gave some examples of, of different things that, that, that I’ve read and recommendations before. Um, those can be really helpful to, you know, get the admission officer to understand who the candidate is, um, because they know you better than we do at that moment.

And so again, uh, that’s one of the reasons why you’re asking them to write you a recommendation.

So in my opinion, um, it’s hard to pick what the most important part of the application is. It really, really is. At really selective institutions, it’s probably gonna be the transcript, um, because there are certain criteria that you need to meet in order to be admitted to those institutions, you know, really selective schools.

They’re going to have, uh, [00:25:00] students that have high GPA’s that are really rigorous curriculums that, you know, have taken, um, and done very, very well on their standardized tests are very involved. Um, you know, so the transcript, um, can be really important and those kinds of situations too, again, um, Divert, you know, of distinguish candidates in a large pool, um, the quantitative metrics, again, GPA, you can quantify the rigor of someone’s curriculum.

You can quantify their test scores. Of course, it’s going to be a lot easier to, um, evaluate something that you can quantify versus something that is quality metric. And that’s really what the rest of the application is. But we do want to evaluate that we want to see how you to enhance our community. And like I said, that’s one of those two questions that we’re asking, how is this student that is also really super smart and really, um, [00:26:00] in a super rigorous curriculum, what else are they doing?

And are they going to be a value add, um, if they were a part of XYZ college community. So those are things that we’re doing.

Um, what makes for a great application is obviously, um, a strong transcript where students push themselves, um, you know, within the context of their high school. I explain that a little bit, um, someone that has shown involvement inside, uh, or excuse me, outside of the classroom, whether that be in the school setting or outside of school.

Um, you know, we want to see that as an admission officer, that someone is doing more than just, you know, going, um, going to class and doing well. Um, because again, we want to know how the student is going to enhance our community. Um, well-written and thought out essays, you know, um, I want to see that you spent time, um, you know, really evaluating your essay and, um, thinking about it and critiquing it and, you know, there aren’t [00:27:00] grammar or spelling issues.

Um, but it’s well thought out and, and that you put the time in. That, you know, there’s really important application deserves. Um, and we love obviously, you know, strong recommendations. Um, you know, candidate will be an asset to your school. They’re enhanced, uh, your community. Um, they made our place a better place.

Um, those are the types of things we’re looking for. I mean, the thing about the recommendations though, that I wouldn’t stress out too much about is that you can’t always predict or understand what someone else is going to say about you. Um, and that’s part of the recommendation process, you know, and, and it’s not something that’s stress out about, honestly, uh, you know, counselors in many cases, um, write recommendations, um, for Canada, That are pretty standard.

Um, you know, teachers, you know, when you’re thinking about asking, you know, recommendations, you know, I often think that, you know, asking a teacher where you not only just got that a and really, you know, [00:28:00] sword, but maybe you got an, a minus or a B plus, but you worked really, really, really hard for that grade.

And you did extra credit and you showed up for, you know, um, you know, uh, you know, tutoring hours after class and, um, you know, things of that nature. That’s gonna show that hard work. That’s going to show that dedication. Um, those are the things that we look for as well. Okay. Um, so it’s hard to say what makes the best, um, application, but again, we’re looking at it from a well-rounded perspective at the end of the day.

You just have to put forth your best effort, um, and, and, and put forward the best application that you can with what the tools that you have and what you’ve accomplished, um, up to this point. Um, so what aspects of the application can raise red flags? Um, there are a variety, um, and they vary, um, from a [00:29:00] couple of different areas.

I mean, to start with academics, I think dips and grades, um, what we call that roller coaster performance, you know, we’re high, you know, freshman year and then a dip sophomore year, and then you come back up and then down, you know, that’s not great. We like to see more consistent or if anything, an upward trajectory, um, you know, working towards your best work in your senior year.

Um, so a swamp in 12th grade is not great. Um, you know, I used to have this admissions joke that, uh, you know, 11th grade is your most important year, uh, in high school. And that’s true, um, until you reach a senior year, um, and then that’s your most important year. So, um, you know, it’s not a great idea to have a dip in first semester.

Um, 95% of the time, I would say schools are looking for some form of a grade report from your senior. Um, [00:30:00] even if you apply early, they typically will seek out, um, you know, first quarter grade report or a progress report or some kinds. Um, and certainly if you’re applying regular decision, um, you know, they will wait in many cases on a grade update and, uh, before making a positive or negative emission decision.

So they want to see that you’re doing your best work, um, in what is probably your most rigorous, uh, curriculum to date. And then lack of academic rigor again, um, based on what is offered at the high school, I can’t stress that enough. Um, you know, if you’re taking advantage of what is offered, then, you know, that’s, that’s the best you can.

Um, you know, students don’t choose, you know, what courses their school offers. Um, but if you’re not taking advantage of the curriculum, um, and you’re kind of just enrolled in a, in a basic, uh, curriculum, um, where, you know, you could have, uh, really kind of maybe taken some more, um, rigorous or challenging [00:31:00] courses that may raise a flag.

A non-academic, I mean, any disciplinary issues that obviously could raise a red flag depending on the severity. Um, I worked with someone in the past that to be quite Frank, if there was any academic dishonesty dishonesty of any kind, they were automatically not going to be considered for admission. And so, um, again, that varies, um, in, in severity of what the situation.

And again, it’s our job to understand that. And so we typically will look into that and kind of try to understand the situation a little bit better. Um, lack of involvement. You know, if, if a student is kind of, it looks like, you know, they’re not really, you know, involved in any clubs or activities or, um, you know, in their application, they didn’t really, um, and this goes to the shore and not well-written essays.

You know, if you didn’t really put the effort into the application that it takes, you know, you kind of maybe wrote down that you did one or two [00:32:00] things on your supplemental essay, which gives you up to 250 words. You write one or two sentences. You know, those are the kinds of things where it’s like, okay, I’m not sure that this student really cares about applying to XYZ school or that they gave it really the full effort that it deserves.

Um, Every once in awhile, we do come across a recommender that expresses hesitancy at offering a full recommendation. Um, you know, and, and so that is, you know, obviously a red flag, again, looking at the context, trying to figure it all out. Um, all of that goes into it. So, um, that’s something that we do. Um, again, we’re going to do our due diligence.

When any of these flags, uh, come up, we don’t just take them at face value. Actually, we really do dig deep and try to figure out where it came from and what may have caused it. So that’s kind of the process typically, uh, admission officers are taking. Um, [00:33:00] and what’s some last minute or last advice that I would want to impart on, um, on all of those listening to me tonight.

I mean, really what I just said, which is put forth your best effort, uh, put forth your best effort, you know, put in the time, um, it takes, um, you know, Review your essays, um, review everything that you write down that needs to be reviewed, um, and, and edited and read to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar issues.

That’s the application itself too. I see spelling errors and you know, all parts of the application. And so you just want to give it the time and attention that it deserves, um, for those in your early years of high school. You know, I think the advice I would give is that every year counts, you know, freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, senior year, we look at all four years.

Okay. So putting forth your best effort every year, setting yourself up to take rigorous courses down the road where [00:34:00] possible and where it makes sense. You know, if you’re in a situation now, You know, you’re about to do course selection for next year and you’re a sophomore. And you know that in order to get into that, you know, pre-calculus course or calculus course senior year, or, um, you know, fit AP physics course or whatever the case may be, you need to take a prerequisite, you know, make sure that you’re doing that.

Um, and some students for some that’s seeking academic work outside of school over the course of the summer or things of that nature, you know, that shows commitment. That shows time, that shows, um, effort. Um, and so taking advantage of those rigorous courses again, where possible, um, is good, be involved in show leadership.

Not everyone. When I say this, I, I say it with a grain of salt because not everyone can be the president of their. I once read no joke, a short story, a short story. I once read, um, uh, some applications from a school that will remain [00:35:00] nameless. Um, but three people said that they were the president of their, uh, class.

And I said, Hmm, that’s interesting because typically only one person can be president of the senior class. Um, so you know, not everyone can do that. Right. Um, and so putting forward effort where you can, um, you know, being involved, not just joining things senior year, just for the sake of joining them, but building up an interest.

And if that interest is one thing, um, that you really like, and it’s not the most popular thing, it’s not, you know, the typical club that quote unquote gets you into school. That’s okay. Like having interests, having passions is totally okay. Um, and you should follow those. So I’d much rather see. A student that did one or two things all four years then did like five or six for like a semester or like a year here and there, quite frankly, um, showing that [00:36:00] commitment and growth within that I think is really important.

So those are some pieces of advice that I would share and I would leave you all with. But I think we’re moving on to, to Q and a here now. So Mackenzie, um, you’re I think you’re going to help facilitate that. Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions.

You submitted in the Q and a tab and published them. Um, so Brian, you can see them under the published, uh, and read them aloud before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads up. If your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure you join the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page.

If you joined through the webinar landing page, you will not get all the features of big marker. So just make sure you’ve joined through your email. So let’s get started. Okay. So first question, what is your opinion on a candidate with a relatively low GPA, but high [00:37:00] test scores or any application on any application where there is an unusual mix of strengths and weaknesses?

I get this question all the time. Um, and I would get it just about every high school visit I did. And just about every information session that I did

the truth is that we would prefer as admission officers, the high test scores and the high grades and an equal, um, you know, profile. Um, but that’s not the question. That’s not the answer that folks want to hear. Um, the truth is that there isn’t a high test score that can make up for a wo GPA or vice versa.

Um, but we look at everything holistically, right? And so. Um, when we’re looking at, uh, [00:38:00] different things, you know, there are a couple of questions that we might be asking ourselves, right. Um, you know, what is the potential that this student has that they’re doing really good academic work in a rigorous curriculum, but they didn’t quite test as well, or maybe they’re not meeting their full potential in the classroom that they’re demonstrating in their tests.

Um, or, um, again, I’m very aware that not everyone has the time ability. Um, What have you to be super involved outside of the classroom? Um, there’s a certain, I’ll be completely honest about this. Is there a certain level of privilege and, um, opportunity that it takes to be in a lot of clubs and activities and athletics and, um, you know, play an instrument and do some of the other things that colleges are looking for.

We’re aware of that. And so we also do check [00:39:00] that to a certain extent. Um, but the truth of the matter is that, you know, at many institutions there, isn’t going to be X that makes up for why. Um, again, the best that you can do truthfully is to, uh, put forward your best application. And then the other thing is that.

I strongly, strongly, strongly believe this. Um, there are schools for everyone. Um, there are institutions for everyone, there are paths for everyone, um, and it may not be, you know, your top choice. Um, but there are opportunities for everyone. Um, and so sometimes, you know, it may not be your first choice. Um, and you may have to take a step back and reevaluate, but another opportunity that I would talk about a lot.

And again, it’s not necessarily the thing that, you know, in applying senior may want to hear, but I would talk about, you know, attending [00:40:00] another school, whether that be, um, a state school or another institution, or maybe even a community college for a year or a semester, and then potentially transferring and reapply.

Um, and those are definitely opportunities that always exist, um, for many students. So it’s a hard question to answer. Completely honest. Um, I get it. I understand it. Um, you know, when schools set certain application criteria, it’s not to, you know, break people’s dreams or make them upset or anything like that.

It’s because we can’t possibly typically the school can’t possibly admit and enroll every single student that applies. And so you have to set the bar somewhere. Um, is it sometimes arbitrary maybe? Yeah. But, um, you know, that’s kind of the way that the [00:41:00] process, um, currently operates and works. Um, and so again, that’s why we’re trying to look at everything that we can possibly have.

So on that note on, this is a quick question, but, um, from the pre panel, um, does it, is it important to like submit your APR IB scores? Cause like I remember I didn’t submit mine, but is that really does it? That’s a good question. Um, I, my experience with most schools is that most institutions, most admissions offices do not look at an AP or an IB exam score for admission.

Um, when it does come into play is if the student is admitted, chooses to enroll and then seeks to earn college credit for said score. Then that’s when you’re going to want to submit your, your scores on. But generally speaking, um, I, as an admission officer, do not care if you got a one, two or a five on your AP bio, [00:42:00] uh, exam.

Um, I care about the grade that you earned over the course of the year that you were taking the. Have your high school teachers trembling to that answer. Okay. On that note, if a student does not take the most rigorous program, a school has to offer, uh, is that a detriment example is not taking IB, but taking AP classes at your high school.

So this is actually, um, I’m going to answer two parts of this question, um, because I’m going to say that the AP and the IB, I think most college admission officers would, uh, agree that they would consider them to be equal in terms of rigor. Um, you know, I, and, and how they’re evaluated. Right. Um, I saw that Mackenzie, uh, how they’re evaluated.

Um, you know, I think that some, you know, you can argue whether one course requires more of another. Um, but how they’re evaluated typically, [00:43:00] um, is, is, is equal. Um, if a student is at one of those schools, that is lucky enough where you can choose from an AP curriculum or an IB curriculum, I personally have not seen a strong preference towards one curriculum choice over the other, but, um, in this situation, I would also say that that’s pretty rare.

I’ve only come across that on in maybe, you know, several dozen, you know, kind of schools that I’ve reviewed over the years. Um, typically, uh, you know, it’s the IB or the AP, um, the, the school is offering. Um, and so is the situation where a student is choosing to enroll in, you know, strict college prep curriculum, or, um, you know, a mix of honors and college prep instead of, you know, taking that, that next book course.

Again, this is not to [00:44:00] say that this is wrong for that particular applicant is just to say that at many schools that are selective in their nature, they’re evaluating the rigor of the curriculum, um, that you’re in. And so. Um, you know, a school would rather see a more rigorous curriculum that you were integrates in.

Um, and that would be perceived to be, um, a higher achievement than, um, earning, um, you know, the same grades in what is deemed to be a less rigorous curriculum. Um, also comment real quickly on weighted versus unweighted GPA. Uh, generally speaking, I always was taught to look at the unweighted GPA. Um, so the value of the grade that was earned in the class, um, we have most schools and most emission offices have their own way of weighting, um, academic rigor, um, and, um, Cases, that’s actually giving [00:45:00] significant, like seriously recalculating GPA and adding, you know, weight to, uh, you know, additional GPA point to the, the course.

Um, some, they have their own system of how they evaluate rigor. So it really does vary by institution, but we’re most are all looking at the academic rigor yes, that I was an IB kid.

Um, but my school had AP and IB and there was like a good mix of everything, but, um, yeah, which call it. Okay. Uh, people in the audience don’t click the vote button cause it messes up the order and I lose where I was at, but, um, we will try and get to your questions with the time that we have, but going off of that question, if I’m talking about rigorous courses, if I take our rigorous classes and get BS and CS, does that count against.

Um, so I’m going to answer this again, kind of the way that I answered the like test [00:46:00] versus GPA question. I mean, you know, typically the question is, right, like, is it a B in an AP course better than a, in a college prep course? And I would often say no, the a and the AP course is the best course of action.

And again, that’s, I don’t say that to be glib or, you know, sarcastic. Um, it’s just that, you know, that is the factor. And so. I realized this because I also went through this process myself. And I think that that’s something that, um, you know, sometimes is lost like EV every admission officer, um, whether they want to admit it or not goes through these answers, reliving their own high school experience and college admission process itself.

Um, and so these are choices that I had to make, right. Did I want to challenge myself or did I feel more comfortable in XYZ level and getting a better grade? And that’s a very personal decision and no one can tell you that it’s the right or the wrong decision. I’m just saying that when you’re talking [00:47:00] about emission to a specific college or university, they might sometimes say that, you know, a better grade in a more rigorous course is what they’re going to be with.

And continuing the theme of what courses to take. Uh, one student is asking our associates degrees, um, taken into consideration by admissions officers. And then other students are asking, is dual enrollment, um, like comparable to AP and IB? Or should they just go at IB? Yeah. So, um, it’s a good question. Um, typically I have heard that dual enrollment or I’ve understood dual enrollment to not be and not carry the same weight as an AP or an IB course, um, for a variety of different factors, um, that, you know, I don’t think is, you know, I’m suited to litigate at this [00:48:00] time.

Um, but with that said, um, It is again, another situation where you’re looking at the context of what is offered at the school. And so, um, there are a couple of schools that I can think of right off the top of my head where, you know, AP us history is not offered. Instead. What is offered is dual enrollment, U S history at the local community college or, or, or school.

Um, and so to be enrolled in that course, when the AP course is not offered, is what is the most rigorous option for that particular individual. So it’s not a black and white scenario where this is always the case and that’s always the case. It’s just not. Um, and then I think the other part of the question was around, um, help me out McKenzie.

It was dual enrollment. And then like if they should take it or, um, AP or IB. Yeah. [00:49:00] Again, I think that if you can take AP or IB, I would lean towards that, that, um, in lieu of the, uh, uh, the dual enrollment course. Oh, I remember what the other question was, which was about associate, um, like if you’ve earned associate level, um, you know, courses.

So if you’re in totally, I’ve seen this where your junior and senior year is fully at a local school, a local community college, and you’ve earned the equivalent of an associates degree. Um, if that is the curriculum that you have used to earn your high school diploma, then that is not credit that typically will count towards college.

Um, and so therefore you typically would not be considered at the associate level if it was credit again, that was earned to earn your high school diploma. If there are credits that are above and beyond. Um, then that is a separate scenario that can [00:50:00] be adjusted on a one-off basis. But generally speaking, what I have seen with dual enrollment is that it is, you know, a student choosing to take their four or five high school classes at the local community college in lieu of their courses at their high school.

And that typically does not count towards future credit. Typically again, institution by institution. Case-by-case I am giving super generalized, uh, answers here. Um, Yes. And on that note, um, before we do a quick ad break, um, I’ve been taught that with, um, dual enrollment. Um, it’s more, it’s better to do dual if, um, you want to stay in state just because your colleges in state will know about the local colleges, you took dual enrollment at better than an, the out-of-state school and out of state school is may question the accredit accreditations of your in-state local community colleges and think their stuff’s pretty much.

Um, so they won’t take it as seriously as the [00:51:00] AP and IP IB program, which are seen as more of like a universal. We know these are good programs. Um, So, yeah, and on that note, once work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free consultation with us, by going to and clicking the green chat button in the bottom right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and life team member will get back to you with a free consultation with us.

And CollegeAdvisor offers a bunch of great resources such as the, these webinars, our blog, and, um, the most important thing, the advisors that we have, which make up both college students, admissions officers, former admissions officers that can provide a lot of great details, especially for these more niche questions about your own circumstances.

And they can really help navigate, help you navigate the admissions process and figure out how to market yourself the best to these colleges. And back to the Q and a. So, um, one student [00:52:00] is asking about, um, you sort of mentioned this earlier, but do admissions officers really care about leadership positions?

And then on that note, another student was asking like, what sort of clubs and stuff do you recommend? Yeah, so, um, yes. I mean, generally speaking, showing leadership, if it exists is good, um, you know, and, and having some kind of leadership, but again, not everyone can be president of their class. Not everyone can be the president of the club.

Not everyone can start their own club. Um, so, you know, that’s all taken into consideration. Some people are just members. Um, but I think talking about what type of member you are, um, or showing what type of member you are is something that that can help. Um, and I don’t think that there are any specific clubs or organizations that are.

You know, necessary. We see, and colleges are looking to bring in all different spectrum, right? I mean, if we only brought in athletes, that would [00:53:00] be, you know, that would impact our student body. If we only brought in folks that were involved in bands, that would be one thing. If we only brought in folks that were involved in student government, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

So, you know, I literally see everything I’ve seen, you know, students that are doing what you would consider to be the standard, typical, you know, um, you know, really impressive stuff, leaders in their school. Um, I’ve also seen folks that again, have started their own business, um, have raised money, um, for, you know, efforts around the world.

I’ve seen students that at first glance don’t appear to have a whole lot of extracurricular involvement, but when you peel back a later and you read the essay and you read the recommendation and you do a little bit more. You see that, um, you know, they have to take care of, you know, their siblings after school and, and they meet them at the bus and they cook for them and they clean up their house.

And, you know, [00:54:00] they’re, you know, essentially an additional, you know, parent or guardian, um, in many cases or they work 30 plus hours a week, these are all really impressive things that, you know, there’s no right or wrong way to demonstrate what you do is just telling us what you do. Um, and when I talked to a student, if they say I don’t really do anything, I just, I don’t believe that, you know, you do something.

It’s just, you gotta think about what that might be. What are your passions? What drives you? Uh, another student was asking, um, about students with like IEP or, um, uh, special needs. Uh, how do colleges take that into consideration? Does that affect admissions in any way? Yeah, I’ll be honest. I’m not the best person to answer that type of question.

Um, and don’t feel the most qualified to do so. Um, typically speaking, you know, for instance, if we see, you know, if a [00:55:00] student submits their standardized tests, um, I don’t generally know whether that student received additional time, you know, on their test or something like that. Um, and west a full on IEP is submitted in the application.

We’re not going to know that information either. So, um, you know, it really does vary. Um, I imagine there are some institutions that look at it much more closely. It was never something that I was super familiar with. So I’ll kind of leave it at that.

Uh, okay. This, if you see any questions that you want to answer, please feel free. Um, So there was one question that I got privately that was kind of about, um, you know, uh, testing within the COVID environment and, you know, the importance of testing over the last two years. You know, I think again, um, as I’ve mentioned, um, most schools are, you know, optional or blind or I’ve, you know, [00:56:00] really kind of reviewed their testing, um, policies.

Um, you know, if there’s a school that’s really holding your feet to the fire, sort of speak about submitting your test. I think that that’s something, um, you know, that you can, you know, deal with on a one-off situation. Um, and this is general advice that goes for every single situation, contact the. Call your emission advisor, email your admission.

Um, officer typically on emission officers are assigned by, you know, territories and regions. And so there’s a specific person that is responsible for kind of answering the questions from your area and, um, from your region. And we also typically have this thing called officer of the day or a counselor of the day.

Um, and so that person over that course of the day, their entire job is to answer the emails and answer the phone, um, as they come in and answer all those questions. So typically that’s something that I really do [00:57:00] recommend going to the source, um, to get that information.

Uh, okay. Um, let’s see again, if.

So someone’s asking a very specific question about whether or not we pay attention to if assume was president of their class prior senior year. Yeah. I just happened to say president of your senior year. I mean, if, you know, I ran for, I was, so I was someone that was involved in student government. I ran all four years with varying success.

Um, and so, you know, I put down the years that I was involved and, and, you know, so if you’re a president of your freshman class, that’s no less impressive than being president of any, uh, any other time. So, um, absolutely. Um, and you know, I believe, um, in terms of writing strong application essays, um, you know, I did a whole session of this [00:58:00] on a application essay.

Mackenzie correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that is available in the archives. Um, but I’ll say, um, you know, put your best effort forward, um, review, spend enough time doing it. Um, tell us a little bit about yourself. Um, you know, and, and just think about what you want the reader to know after they read your essay.

Um, and so I think that that’s something to, um, to think about, um, Uh, for students asking about like essays and essay guides on our, um, on our CollegeAdvisor blog. So if you go to, or go to college advisor and then click the tab for blog, you can find, um, essay guides for different schools, as well as the personal statement I believe.

And, um, there are also other webinars on those more niche topics. And then also there are webinars on test scores and some of these more niche questions, there may [00:59:00] be a better webinar for them with more specific information catered to them. Yeah. Um, okay. But, uh, okay, well, this is kind of a broad ended all question, but uh, one student was asking, uh, how do you, um, improve your application overall or strengthen your application over all to improve your admissions chances?

Yeah, so I think it’s gonna vary, um, This is what I’ll say about the emission process too, on it’s a very individualized process. And so we’re talking tonight about some pretty general things of how to improve or, um, things that we think are important, but it’s so individual, there’s no way that I can possibly say this is the right answer for every single person on this call, because there’s so many different factors to consider, including what type of school you’re applying to all different situations.

So it really does vary [01:00:00] and I hate to be kind of, you know, general about it. But, um, the admission process is not black and white. It’s not in most cases. Um, and so on it is, uh, you know, There’s a lot of gray. Um, and there’s a lot of subjective nature to, you know, the reviewer reviewing your essays or your recommendations and thinking, you know, I really like what this person has to say.

Um, and so I think that that’s always important to know, um, going into the process. And so, um, just knowing that there’s no black and white, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Um, and I’ve seen a lot of people surprised in both a positive and unfortunately not so positive, um, directions. So that’s important to know.

Um, but I think again, putting your best foot forward, um, you know, polishing everything up to the best of its ability. Having other [01:01:00] people review your essays, your supplements, um, thinking strategically and strongly about who is writing your recommendations. I’m starting to think about your, uh, you know, what you want to put on your activity list early enough.

Um, so that it’s not, you know, the week before the application is due and you’re just coming up with your activity list at that point. Um, so that brings up another point. Like not waiting until the last minute. Um, I’ve been working with some, I’ve worked with folks that, you know, were working on their essays literally the day and, and up to the hour that the application is due.

Um, that generally is not the position that you want to be in because you’re typically not going to be seeing it in its best light and, you know, be doing your best. And then the last thing I’m going to say, um, and I really mean this and I really believe it. Um, this is the best piece of advice I can give to anyone going through the admission process is that I strongly [01:02:00] believe there is a place for everyone.

Um, and that you’ll find your fit. Um, it may not be the first choice, um, but you will find your fit and fit means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. It means academics. It means costs. It means location. It means academic opportunities, all different things. And then the other thing is.

Again, it’s a very individualized process. And so my best advice to you is to really go through this process and focus on your process and you, um, put your blinders on. Um, just look straight ahead. Um, don’t worry about who you’re, what schools your friends are applying to, or what test scores, uh, your friends got or what your, you know, we just had, uh, Thanksgiving, we have other holidays coming up, you know, people are going to be asking, where are you applying?

Where have you gotten in? What are you doing? Answer them if you want to be polite, but it really doesn’t matter. Ultimately what their opinion is. Um, if you go through the process for yourself, [01:03:00] um, and you put forward your bus effort, um, and you’re going to be the one at the end of the day, uh, that needs to be successful at XYZ school.

Um, and so, uh, you know, I think that, uh, that’s the best advice I can give is really focused on yourself. And you’ll be happy wherever you end up. If, if you focus on yourself and kind of ignore the noise, I know that there’s a lot of pressure out there. Um, stay off of those college blogs, quite frankly, um, you know, and, and avoid, you know, social media in that regard.

And this is my opinion. I mean, I’m sounding super old doing this, but like, you know, it’s just going to cause you stress and anxiety. Um, and it doesn’t have to, um, you know, just focus on yourself and you’ll be all right. Um, Someone just asked, how did I know what I wanted to be? Um, emissions found me, um, you know, uh, I was a college tour guide [01:04:00] and, and it kinda just, it ended up working out.

I don’t work in college admissions anymore. I do work in corporate recruiting, but, um, you know, it, it is an interesting field to say the least. Okay. Well, thank you, Brian. And thank you everyone for coming out tonight. I hope you enjoyed this webinar and found this information helpful. We had a great time telling you about what admissions, what it missions officers want to see.

And here’s the rest of our December series. Remember that we do have other webinars with more specific details on like AP versus IB, um, different aspects of the application, such as the activities list or test scores. And yesterday I did a webinar on what sophomores and juniors should be doing, though.

It also can apply to freshmen. So if you need, if you want more specific information on what classes you should be taking or what clubs you should be doing, um, there are webinars on that and we will have more in the upcoming week. So thank you everyone. And good night.