CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Creating Your College Applications Timeline

Join former Admissions Officer Chelsea Holley for an exclusive CollegeAdvisor Masterclass on “Creating Your College Applications Timeline.” During this webinar, Chelsea will provide you with valuable insights and strategies for creating a timeline that will help you manage the college application process effectively. In this webinar, you will learn: – The importance of creating a personalized application timeline – Strategies for organizing your time and priorities during the college application process – How to identify and meet application deadlines for different colleges and universities – Tips for managing stress and staying on track during the application process As a former Admissions Officer, Chelsea has extensive experience helping students navigate the college application process. She knows what it takes to create a successful application and will share her insights and expertise with you during this masterclass. Whether you’re a high school sophomore who is just starting to think about the college application process or a junior who needs to get organized quickly, this masterclass is perfect for you. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn from an expert and make the most of your college application experience.

Date 11/12/2023
Duration 1:00:17

Webinar Transcription

2023-11-12 – CollegeAdvisor Masterclass: Creating Your College Applications Timeline

Anesha: Hi everyone and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator today. Tonight’s webinar is a CollegeAdvisor Masterclass on creating your college application timeline. Before we get started, I just want to orient everyone with the webinar’s timing.

We will start off with a presentation and hear some guidance and tips from our panelists and then we will answer your questions in a live Q&A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab, and you can start submitting your questions whenever you get ready in the Q& A tab. But first, let’s meet our panelist, Chelsea.

Hey, Chelsea, how are you doing?

Chelsea: I’m doing well. Good evening, everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley, and I serve as an admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor. I have worked in selective admissions for over 12 years at a number of different institutions, large publics. liberal arts, women’s colleges, HBCUs.

Um, so I hope today to provide a college application timeline that can kind of, um, span, uh, no matter what college you’re interested in. Um, you should be able to apply these tips, um, across different institutions.

Anesha: Great. We’re looking forward to hearing from you, Chelsea. First, we’re going to do a quick So folks, please let us know what grade level you are in.

If you are a parent or a teacher, we are happy to have you, but you can go ahead and select other. You don’t have to select the grade level for your child or student, but, um, please let us know where, um, what grade level you’re in. As we wait for the polls to come in, I guess I’ll ask a question, um, generally from you, Chelsea, of what do you feel is the ideal time to actually start working on a college application?

When should students really start the process?

Chelsea: The word start is so subjective. Um, but, um, I think I would say 10th grade, maybe towards the end of 10th grade, marks the beginning of actually doing things that are going to come in handy when you actually submit, uh, your college application.

Anesha: Yeah, I know. I start was like a fraught term of like what start which part.

Um, but, uh, um, I agree with you in that general timeline. All right, we will go ahead and close our poll because we do have a ton of responses, but it does look like the majority of folks. So about 64 percent are 11th graders that are with us today, followed by a lot of 10th graders. So maybe some folks getting that message that you were just sharing about 21 percent are in 10th grade, followed by others.

So a few parents, 9%. Our parents or teachers, welcome again. And then we have 3 percent of 9th graders and 2 percent of 12th graders here trying to figure out probably what they need to wrap up. Um, but the majority of folks are 11th grade. All right, I will stop talking and hand it back over to you, and I’ll be back a little bit later.

Chelsea: So that is a wonderful breakdown. Um, it looks like many of you are already starting or thinking about starting this process and are looking for some additional guidance. Um, so during this masterclass, we will spend the next 20 minutes talking about, um, how to begin your college application and what you need to do through each of the phases from your freshman year, um, all the way until your senior year.

Um, in addition to that, we will have some time for Q&Aa, um, so feel free to use the Q&A, or, um, once we wrap up the presentation part, I am more than happy to answer as many questions as you all have. Um, so for a quick overview, freshman year, um, it’s all about focusing on grades and course selection.

Um, this is a very important time. It kind of sets the stage for what will happen for the next four years, but it’s relatively low pressure. You are getting used to high school. Um, you are determining the types of courses that work best for you. Um, the types of courses you are most interested in. Um, it is literally your introduction to this process.

Sophomore year, you are still focusing on grades. You are still being incredibly mindful about course selection, but you’re also seeking out involvement and leadership. So how can you make this new school, your high school, um, really a community for yourself? In somewhere that you can be involved and then junior year, you actually begin to prepare for the college admissions process.

This can look like research. It might be building relationships with teachers, but you’re actually beginning to do the work in your year and then senior year is. Absolutely. Crunch time. You’re putting the finishing touches on your admissions application, and you are navigating the admissions process, which can feel very confusing and cumbersome and long.

So this is an activity in itself. So, again, freshman year is all about grades and. For selection sophomore year, we’re seeking out involvement in leadership junior year, preparing for the admissions process and then senior year, actually navigating that admissions process. So let’s break down each of these years and kind of talk about what you would do before we go into year by year, the college applications timeline, I want to talk about the key components of the college application.

It’s incredibly important for you to understand what information. Colleges are seeking from you so that throughout those four years, you can make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward in each of those areas. Um, and also challenging yourself in some additional areas. So, the 1st, 1 is education.

This 1 seems pretty obvious. Um, so it is all about the high schools that you’ve attended. Um, if you are taking or planning to take dual enrollment courses, um, any college credit will also be asked of you. Um, they’re not interested in anything that happened before ninth grade. So I know that we have ninth graders on the call and even some 10th graders.

You may have done some really amazing things in middle school, um, your eighth grade year. It is a clean slate once you get to high school in that your college application should only include, uh, things from your high school years. The only caveat is if you participated in the activity, um, maybe it is Boy Scouts and you’ve done it through middle school and now you are still participating in high school.

You absolutely can share the breadth of which you participate in the activity. Um, in addition to, uh, those transcripts, we are looking at grades, um, not just the GPA, but line by line, course by course, what grades did you take? Um, so course rigor is incredibly important here. Your most recent year courses.

So seniors on the call or even juniors, if you are applying early action or early decision, you know that the last semester that colleges see from you is your junior year. Um, so that is an incredibly important year if you are planning to apply early, because that is the most up to date courses we see.

So when we say most recent year courses, that typically is a junior year. Any honors or community based organizations that you’ve participated in, and colleges actually also ask about your future plans. So what type of profession do you want to have when you grow up? Um, this is not meant to make or break your application status.

This is meant to understand a little bit more about you. Testing. So testing includes IB exams, AP exams, and then of course standardized tests, either SAT or ACT. You are able to share all of those in your college application, depending on the policy for standardized tests at the institutions that you’re applying to.

We’ll talk a little bit more about that briefly. Um, activities. What else did you do other than go to school? Um, so I think when students think about extracurricular activities, the things that most come to mind are being president of the robotics club, um, or being a varsity athlete. When we say activities, we truly mean all of the things that you did outside of the classroom.

And so on college applications, not only are Sports and clubs, but you’re also listening, um, a part time job, or maybe you babysit younger siblings during the week. All of these things can count as activities, so definitely start doing inventory of all of the things that you spend your time on. And then last, writing.

Um, the college admissions essay is a big part of the college admissions process. Um, if a school does not have an interview process, it’s one of the few opportunities you get to actually speak to the admissions community. Um, and so writing, whether it’s your personal essay or a supplemental. requires. Um, this is a great opportunity to show who you are, um, and stand out from the rest of the applicant pool.

So let’s dive into sophomore year. Um, one of the most important things that you can begin doing your sophomore year, um, is to make sure you are building strong relationships with your counselors and your teachers. Um, this does two things. One, if you are building strong relationships with your teachers, these are people that can potentially write a recommendation letter for you.

Most selective institutions are going to require one or two teacher recommendations. And you want to make sure that you have teachers that are excited about writing that recommendation letter. I work with students all the time, um, and when we talk about recommendation letters, It never fails. There’s someone that says, well, I don’t know who can write a recommendation letter for me.

I don’t know any of my teachers that well, that is automatically a red flag for most colleges. We want to see students that have sought out relationships. with faculty as well as counselors at their high school. So if you do not currently have at least two teachers that would be excited to write you a recommendation letter, I challenge you to identify those teachers.

Um, soon. One way that you can do that is go to their office hours, um, schedule some time to talk to them, let them know about the colleges you’re applying to and you would love for them to write a recommendation letter. Okay. One of the best ways to prepare them for that letter is to hand them a resume or a brag sheet that gets their mind flowing and gives them some insight into what you do outside of their class or outside of your meetings if it is a high school counselor.

The second piece is exploring rigorous courses. Now this means something different for students across the nation. We have students that are at high schools that have. 30 AP courses available to them. We have students that are at high schools that maybe only have three AP courses. And then we have schools that have no AP courses at all.

Um, for a holistic admissions process, we are looking at students in the context of their needs. Educational environment. So what that means is that you will not be held, um, in penalty for not taking rigorous courses that you don’t have access to. So one good question is to go to your high school counselor if you’re not already in advanced level courses.

Um, inquire about what courses are available at your high school. And that’s it. Talk with them about what your goals are, the types of colleges you want to attend, and you can ask, what are the typical classes that students that apply to X college take at our high school? This begins a conversation about exploring rigor if you are not already tracked into rigorous courses for middle school.

If there are parents on the line, your students are not currently in rigorous courses, courses. Sometimes it takes parental advocacy. Um, so encourage them to start the conversation. But don’t hesitate to advocate for your students. Um, if you think that this is a good fit for them, the other side is true as well.

Um, not every student needs to be in the maximum level of rigorous courses. So it is often beneficial to take one or two, see how you do and let that inform the rest of your high school courses. And then last, um, take the PSAT. For many high schools, this is available, um, free of charge and in school. This is a great way to see, um, if You are a good tester if you’re going to do well on the actual SAT.

Um, it also can give you some insight into if you have any, um, testing accommodations that are needed or if you have test anxiety. Um, there is a growing number of test optional colleges. In fact, the vast majority of selective four year institutions at this point, um, allow you to choose whether you want to take a standardized test score or not.

And so the sophomore year and actually taking a practice test allows you to begin the process of deciding how are test scores or testing going to play into my college application timeline. Am I going to take it as many times as I want? Am I going to avoid it like the plague and only apply to schools that have a test optional policy?

This is where that conversation begins.

So sophomore year extracurricular activities, what are you doing outside of the classroom? So I think the most important one is to start with your interest and your passions. Oftentimes when we are speaking with students or when webinar like this one, the questions are What types of activities do colleges want to see?

What should I participate in? And unfortunately, this depends on the student. The activity that is going to be most beneficial for you is going to be most closely aligned with your interests. So I encourage you to think of the, um, classes that you enjoyed the most in high school. Um, think about the books that you’ve read that you enjoyed the most, even TV shows.

Um, what are your favorite hobbies? Nine times out of 10, the things that you enjoy doing the most are the things that you are going to succeed in. Um, and so that is a wonderful thing to do your sophomore year. Find what you’re interested in and passionate about, and hopefully you’ll be good at those things as well.

The second one is stick with something. So notice this doesn’t say stick with everything, um, but you’re able through exploring your interest and passions to find one or two things that you think to yourself, I really like doing this. Not only do I want to participate this year, but I would love to participate throughout my high school career.

This is incredibly important. Colleges are not looking for involvement in kind of one off areas that seem disjointed. They’re wanting to see you find something that you like, um, and progress in that area, which leads me to our third point. Look for leadership. Leadership can be formal. Um, so an example would be running for office.

So a vice president or a secretary of an organization or leadership could be informal. Um, maybe you play on the hockey team and you’ve taken some real leadership in practice or in games with your teammates. Um, so think of leadership in that way. Um, and I, I would say that this also can depend on the college.

There are colleges that will explicitly talk about how they want you to show up as a leader in the application process. and what they value as leadership on their campus. Listen to them when they say that. That often gives you some insight into what colleges are looking for in the admissions process.

Either way, leadership is good and it’s going to be something highly beneficial for you in the college admissions process. And then the fourth one is making an impact. When we talk about the value of extracurricular activities, which ones are better than others, oftentimes it boils down to impact. Um, through you participating in this organization or this activity, what impact did you have on yourself, the team, your high school, your community?

The state, the nation, right? So impact has many different levels. And so as you’re participating in these activities, um, think about where impact is for you. Um, and again, it could be as small as your classroom or your family, um, or it could be much larger.

So the summer between your sophomore and your junior year is also a critical time and a great time to kind of squeeze some things in while you’re not in school. So one of the most popular things that students will do between their sophomore and junior year is attend a summer program or a pre college program.

I want to just give a little caveat as someone who has worked for many years at pre college programs, um, Do not think that you must attend the pre college program at the Ivy League institution or top 25 institution that you want to apply to in order for it to be meaningful. Yes, that is helpful, in that you get some experience on campus, you might get to connect with a faculty member there and really understand more of their mission and their values, but attending a summer program at anywhere shows that you have interest in the topic that the program is on.

It shows that you were excited and going away from home. If there was an application process, it shows that you have been accepted into that program. Um, so I encourage you to really, um, keep an open mind when it comes to which summer programs you might attend. The second one is getting a part time job.

Um, so some students decide to get a part time job, um, because they need to help support their families. Um, we have other students that might get a part time job because they are on the swim team during the year and they enjoy lifeguarding during the summer. No matter what the reason is, a part time job looks really great on your college application because it shows that you have discipline and maturity.

Um, and so that is also a great way to spend your summer. If you are able to identify an internship, that can also be a, an impressive way to spend your summer. Um, internships for high school students are few and far in between. Um, most of the students that I see, um, that end up snagging an internship it’s through someone they know, a family friend or, um, a friend of their parent.

Um, um, and so. Internships are great, but not everyone has access to get an internship. There are tons of other things that you can do in the summer to impress a college admissions team. You can take a dual enrollment course. So whether it is at your local community college, um, or a four year university in your area, um, there’s also colleges that offer these dual enrollment courses online.

Um, these are all opportunities for you to get some exposure to college credit. Um, this is also a great way if you have not taken a lot of rigorous courses at your high school, taking a dual enrollment course is a great way to show that you can handle college rigor. Um, and just a good, uh, exercise to kind of keep your brain going during the summer.

And then last, work on a self guided project. Um, this one I think has been, um, Talked about a lot lately. So the idea of a self guided project or a passion project, um, really started. Um, so students didn’t have to be in a formal activity in the high school to actually create something or do something. Um, so it happened really organically.

Now I hear students asking me more and more. What should my passion project be? Um, and so. There is no mandatory passion project. Think about the slide before this. Explore your interest in passions. When you find them, you may be a good candidate to have a passion project. Examples of these could be if you are a writer, um, deciding to write a series of short stories over the summer.

Um, if you are interested in computer science. We see a lot of app design and coding over the summer. Um, if you are interested in architecture, it could be working, um, on a small rendering of your family home. Um, so the list kind of goes on and on, but the idea is no one is making you do the project. You were doing it simply because you’re interested in it.

It’s something you can put on your college resume. It gives you essay content. Um, and it’s all around just an impressive thing for a high school student to do.

Anesha: Okay. We are going to get to another quick poll, um, in order to give Chelsea a bit of a break, uh, in talking. Um, so please let us know where you are in the application process. It’s totally fine. If you have not started, especially for those who of you who are not seniors. But as we talk about it, maybe a lot of people have started again, given that starting is subjective.

Um, but let us know if you’re researching schools, working on your essays or close to being able to submit. And as we are waiting, I was trying to please let us know if you have been able to correct your audio issues. There are a few folks who were having some audio challenges. And I tried to address it in the chat.

If there are still some issues, please let me know. We have this doubt time. All

right, it’s not pulling. Yes, all right. I will go ahead and close it because we did get a bunch of responses. And so, um, just for your context. Chelsea, uh, about the majority of folks are researching schools, so about 56 percent are looking into schools, 26 percent have not started, and again, that is totally fine, um, especially if you are younger or in the lower grades, 9 percent are working on essays, good luck to y’all, we have a bunch of essay workshops coming up, um, in the webinar series, and then 8 percent are getting materials together, 3.1 percent are almost done, so good luck to all those people. Alright, I will be back for our Q& A, and I’ll hand it back over to you.

Chelsea: Okay, so moving on to junior year, um. We’re returning back to the standardized testing point, um, set a plan for the SAT and or ACT and the plan is either I’m going to take it or I’m not going to take it. If you are going to take it, you want to get a sense of, um, how you’re going to study for it, how many times you might need to take it and make sure you’re planning that out in accordance with the college admissions timeline.

Um. One of the things that you need to do in order to set a plan for the SAT or the ACT is know what colleges you are applying to and know what their testing policies are. And so the 2nd point here is begin building your college list. This is 1 of the most important pieces of the college search process, and it’s actually 1 of the most fun pieces.

This is where you get to picture yourself at. An institution for the next four years, you get to determine whether you need to be somewhere that is, um, a 20,000 person student body and has football games, um, on the weekends, or are you looking for a smaller liberal arts college that maybe only has 3,000 students, but your classes are super intimate.

This is where you envision where you are going to succeed. Um, and so building that college list, one of the things that we always say is that your college list should be balanced. If you are currently working with CollegeAdvisor, we spend a lot of time on building college list. Um, and we think about schools in a few different categories.

So you have your target schools, your safety schools, and your reach schools. Your target schools are institutions, um, that you likely have a chance to get in. So you might be right around their GPA or academic profile, um, and it’s a good fit for you. Your safety schools are the schools that you, um, are pretty sure that you’re able to be admitted to.

So a safety school may be the public state institution, um, near you. Um, it could be, um, another institution, um, that you’re interested in that maybe is a little less selective. Um, and then of course you have your reach schools, your reach schools typically are small. Um, low acceptance rates, and then there is a caliber of school that is a reach for every student.

So we always include our Ivy League institutions and top 25 institutions and that reach category, um, just because the sheer number of applications they receive and the low acceptance rates. So understanding where your list is. What your list looks like, how many of those schools, um, in each of those categories you need, um, regional diversity, how financial aid plays into the conversation.

All of these things are super important. The third one is visiting campus. Um, again, another really fun thing to do, um, your junior year. I, um, encourage you to, of course, um, book campus tours, but also look at fly ins or open house events. This can give you a little bit more content for your time on that campus that you can really get a feel for the community there.

Um, also, I know visiting campuses are, um, it can be time consuming, um, and also a strain on resources. Um, if this is a challenge for you or your family, think about also visiting campuses. in your area. So let’s say you live in Michigan. Um, maybe you’re not interested in attending school at the University of Michigan.

Um, but maybe you are interested in attending school at another large state flagship in the Midwest. still visit Michigan, get a sense of what that looks like. Um, a lot of colleges have some basic qualities in common depending on their region, their size. Um, and so you can begin to kind of generalize and think which types of institutions you might do best at.

The last one, identify external scholarships. Um, are there external awards or fellowship programs that you’re interested in? Um, this is a good time to understand those as many of these may have, um, some really, really, um, early deadlines to be eligible. So going from junior year fall semester into the spring semester, it is officially.

Crunch time. Um, so remember, I am, I mentioned earlier, junior year second semester is the last semester of grades that colleges will see from you. If you are applying early action or early decision, this means finishing your junior year strong is incredibly important. This is when you should actually be mentally identifying which teachers you are going to request a recommendation letter from.

Um, it also wouldn’t hurt to let them know, hey, I’m going to be coming to you in August for a recommendation letter. Um, I’m really excited about this. And then last, have conversations about financial aid and scholarships. These are conversations with the, um, admissions officers that you’re interacting with on visits.

These are conversations with your high school counselor, but most importantly, these are conversations with your parents or guardians. You need to understand early how financial aid, how cost of attendance, how all of that is going to play into your decision making process. Um, no matter where you are on the household income structure, your student needs to know how this is, how this is supposed to work out, how you are imagining that this works out.

Um, for some families, it is, they have a certain dollar amount that they are willing to and happy to contribute to their student’s college education per year. Um, and so students are having to kind of look at institutions with a cost of attendance where that makes sense. For other students, they may be looking for institutions that meet their full financial need.

Um, and that means that they will have a good amount of funding in order to make this possible. And for other students, it may be full ride or bus. So they are looking for places that are going to offer them a full ride scholarship to attend. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, having this conversation now is important because it helps shape that college list.

in a meaningful way. Junior year, spring, um, June to August, summer. Um, so research deadlines for applications. Um, brainstorm your college essay topics. This is really important. You can actually begin building outlines during the spring. Um, you want to actually notify your recommender in August or whenever you go back to school.

Um, I would say two to three weeks in, you should be knocking on their doors. sending them an email, letting them know that you are formally requesting a recommendation letter and telling them when you’ll need it back. And then last preparing a list of activities and involvement. I think this should be a consistent exercise.

So from freshman year to senior year, you’re keeping this running list. iPhone notes is your friend of all of the amazing things that you’re involved in. So that when it comes to the time to sit down and write an application, you already know everything that you’ve been involved in. Um, somewhere else that this is helpful is to give your recommenders.

So if you have a list of activities, um, I use the word. May, but even have to be as formal as a resume. It can just be a list. This is something great to hand to a recommender to say, Hey, here’s a little bit more about me outside of your classroom. Do not hesitate to put this into my recommendation letter.

So let’s talk about enclosed, just a general timeline for four year universities. Applications typically open August 1st, um, of your senior year. So August is when all of this begins. So you’re able to see your essay prompts. Then, um, you can review all of the requirements. A lot of admissions offices make changes to their application each year.

Um, so just because it is the same this year does not mean that it will change that it will not change next year. So you want to make sure you are viewing in August. This tells you everything that they need from you. You will need to pay attention not only to early deadlines, but also document deadlines.

So typically there is a day when your application is due, and then there is another day when all of your supporting documents are due. Supporting documents include those recommendation letters, Your high school transcript, um, and anything else that the institution requires from you to complete your application after you actually submit your application, um, and submit your documents.

Um, if you’re early, if you’re applying through one of the early deadlines, this could be as early as October 15th and as late as January 31st. That’s typically when those early deadlines are. Um, students that app apply, apply early, also are notified early about their decision. Um, when you apply early, um, typically you are either admitted, denied, or deferred.

If you are deferred, um, that means that the institution is not quite sure about admitting you at this moment, but they are going to push you to regular decision, um, and review you once they have all of their applications. So it means that you have to wait a little bit longer. Regular decision deadlines are typically from February 1st, um, up until March 15th.

Um, and so during that range, you have much more time to actually complete your application. Um, institutions also get to see the first semester grades of your senior year, um, and then they’re able to make a decision on you. Um, so whether you are a deferred early applicant or a regular decision student, You’ll typically get your admissions decision sometime in late March or early April.

Um, this is really important because it is a tight turnaround once you get to the spring of your senior year. So all the things that we were talking about, um, that you should do are going to help you Once you get to this, this phase, whether you’re admitted early or admitted regular decision, most colleges will have a deposit deadline of May 1st.

And this essentially means this is when you have to make up your mind about where you are going. This is the deadline to say, thank you for admitting me. Yes, I want to attend or thank you for admitting me. No, thank you. I’ve chosen somewhere else. Um, and so leading up to that May 1st deposit deadline, you should be visiting campuses, comparing financial aid award letters, um, talking to your family, um, about how you’re going to make this decision.

Um, and then that deposit deadline after that, you are technically, um, a student, uh, a deposited student. Um, and then you would Move in and go to new student orientation. I did add waitlist on here. This is relevant, particularly for seniors that are on the call. Um, it is possible to go through much of this timeline and still end up on a waitlist.

Waitlist essentially means that, um, there is not enough room in the class and should room become available that you might be offered a spot. Waitlist typically go into the early summer. Again, this is really crunch time. And so if you are offered a spot on the waitlist, you should secure a deposit, secure a seat at another institution.

The waitlist must be your backup, um, because there is no way of knowing whether you’ll get pulled off of a waitlist. For most schools, this is not a numbered list, so it’s not like I’m number 10 on the wait list. Um, they are able to pull whoever they want from that wait list. Um, so these are kind of all the statuses that you might fall in, um, for the beginning of the application cycle, all the way to the end, right before new student orientation.

So I know you all have some questions. Tons of questions. Um, so I will hand it back over to you.

Anesha: Yes, we definitely got a lot of questions. I’ve tried to organize them into categories and have a bit of a flow, but we’ll see how it goes. So the 1st question I’ll ask is related to college list research and part of what you were sharing towards the end.

So the student asks, I live in a state in a different region than where I want to go to school. Would it still be a good idea for me to visit some state schools, even if I’m not interested in attending them?

Chelsea: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s such a great idea. Um, again, colleges have their own unique flair, but a lot of, a lot of, um, qualities are similar.

So you can get a sense of whether you might like this type of school versus that type of school, even if it’s not a school that’s on your list. Um, absolutely. In fact, I might encourage you attend, uh, All the visits in your backyard first and then venture out.

Anesha: Uh, the next, next few questions will be about extracurriculars.

Um, as a junior, how do you recommend seeking out leadership?

Chelsea: So if you are a junior, um, you should think about the activities that you’ve been involved in thus far. Um, what are you most interested in? What are you most passionate? What is an organization or an activity that would be most organic for you to assume a leadership position?

Maybe you’re really good at something that is done in that organization. Um, it’s really just raising your hand. Um, I mentioned. Trying to find that leadership in an activity that you’re already involved in because There is a sense in admissions committees that if you all of a sudden join something your junior year Or god forbid your senior year That you’re doing it just to be strategic for the college applications process.

We know that this is not always the case But you don’t want it to appear that way. Um, and so looking at things that you’re already involved in, um, typically is a much more kind of compelling leadership trajectory, uh, than just volunteering or joining something your senior year.

Anesha: And our next question is, how should you start writing your resume?

Chelsea: So I would say a list. So a resume is nothing more than a list of the things that you have done in a short description. So I would keep it incredibly informal at first, as I mentioned, pull out your iPhone notes and just start making this exhaustive list of all the things that you’ve done. The next step would be to add a description to each of those activities.

And then the third step, quantifying it. So I was. participating in this activity for two years or two hours a week for the entire year. Um, so make a list, add descriptions, and then quantify your time.

Anesha: Uh, this next question is from a parent and she asked, how can I encourage my child to participate in ECs?

No, um, volunteering, no sports. So,

Chelsea: um, I would think about what motivates your student. Um, if there is a college that is a big motivator. So, um, I went to attend school X or school Y. Um, I encourage you to go to their website. Missions and value statements tell you a whole lot about what institutions value.

Um, and you will see involvement in the community and leadership service. Um, and so even if you do have to make this kind of really, transactional connection between if you want to go to this school, these are the things that you need to do. Um, I think it will be a beneficial exercise, especially if you have a younger student that you’re trying to get the ball rolling for it.

Anesha: Uh, the next question, last one related to extracurriculars for passion project. Should I be getting worldwide recognition or should it be stated that I’m doing something that I’m passionate about? So how do they go about trying to make sure they’re picking the right thing, I guess, or discussing it in the most effective way?

Chelsea: So You don’t need worldwide recognition, although there are some students who somehow get that. Um, like I said, it could be classroom recognition, high school, community wide, um, whatever the impact is, you just want to be crystal clear about the impact that you’re making. Sometimes your activity impacts one person.

But that can be a super powerful story for an essay, um, or a short answer question. So I don’t think there’s any end goal with the impact other than making sure that it’s authentic.

Anesha: Then we’ll move on to a, an essay question. Um, so the question is for college admissions essays. Do they look at more, do they look more at what is said or how sophisticated it is said?

Chelsea: I saw this question early on, and this is such a good question. Um, so Somewhere in between, um, the goal of the college admissions essay is not to sound smart. It is to sound like you. So if you find yourself sitting down to write your essay and pulling out a thesauruses or trying to substitute words, that is the absolute wrong approach.

Um, you should be trying to write the thing that is grammatically correct that sounds most like you. Um, Another thing to think about is oftentimes your college admissions essays are read by admissions officers. I think sometimes high school students picture the vice provost of engineering sitting down to read their essay, um, and they want to impress this person.

Um, and so, I encourage you again, go to your College of Choices admissions page and look at the admissions team and look at their faces, look at their hobbies. These are the people reading your application. So yes, you wanted to We format it well to be solid writing, but no, it is not about sophistication.

It is about showing who you are and having great content.

Anesha: All right. Looking at what, where we are in our presentation, I’m going to take some time and do a quick PSA. So you all have a lot of great questions, a lot of thoughtful questions. And so obviously you are seeking out support in this college admissions process.

So for those in the room who are not currently working with us, We have a team of over 300 former admissions officers like Chelsea and admissions experts like myself who are ready to help you and your family navigate it all through one on one advising sessions. You can take the next step and sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team by using the QR code that is on the screen.

During that meeting, we’ll review your extracurriculars, Talk about your college list and alignment there and outline any tools that you need to stand out in a competitive admissions world. All right, so please reach out to us. Use, take advantage of the QR code that we’ll leave on the screen as we get back to our questions.

My next question for you is going to be around letters of recommendation. There are a few here. Um, so for letters of recommendation, does it have to be a teacher or a counselor, or can I submit more than one or two? And then I’ll combine that with. Would a letter from a family friend also be a good idea?

Chelsea: So, um, typically colleges will explicitly tell you who they want the letters from. So it may be one counselor, one teacher, it may be two teachers only. It just depends on the institution. Um, I would say a general rule of thumb is that you want to ask someone to write a letter who knows you, you know.

academically, um, or in a leadership capacity or professional capacity. So the family friend letter may not hurt you, but I don’t think that that would be a helpful recommendation letter. Um, if the basis of the recommendation is personal, um, then that is not a helpful reference for the admissions committee.

So think academic, extracurricular or professional.

Anesha: Um, the next question is around letters of recommendation. How can I build a relationship with my counselor if I’ve never talked to them as a sophomore?

Chelsea: So this, the first step is to talk to them. Okay. So you may be at a high school where the counselor to student ratio is not in your favor.

And that makes that really, really hard. Um, but choosing an opportunity, whether it’s an annual kind of required checkpoint or setting up a meeting, literally just to say, Hi, I just wanted to introduce myself to you. maybe have some questions about, um, the next semester courses. Um, there’s some organic times where you can check in with your counselor, but also to your point as a sophomore, you may need to just make an ad hoc meeting.

Anesha: All right. Uh, I’m gonna, I know you said this before, but I’m going to repeat it as it was the most recent question. Can you, can I submit more than two recommendations?

Chelsea: Oh yeah. And I think I glossed over that. Depends on the college. In the five colleges that I’ve worked for, we did not like to get a bunch of extra recommendation letters.

For the most part, um, we’re asking you for the things that we need. Um, also think about the more selective the institution is, the more applications they have. They may not have the capacity to review all three or four recommendation letters instead of two. Um, so again, I don’t think it’s particularly helpful.

Will it hurt you? Probably not.

Anesha: I’m going to move on to talking a little bit about course rigor. Um, so how critical are honors classes versus AP classes? I want to boost my GPA, but managing schoolwork is difficult. Can you start heavy with honors and AP’s and then taper off in later years to lighten the load?

Chelsea: Absolutely. Um, and I think that that is a reasonable approach, um, to try and build that rigor in earlier on in the high school career. If you have a chance, and if you have the opportunity, um, it’s important to note that oftentimes at your schools, there’s hierarchy. between honors and AP and IB. Like there’s a, there’s a school understanding of what is more difficult or more challenging.

Um, that school understanding does not always apply to the college admissions committee. Oftentimes when we look at your transcript, we are looking that you attempted something higher than the on level course. It may not always matter whether it’s an honors, an AP, a dual enrollment. We just want to see that you challenge yourself.

Um, and so if there is a way for you to build in, um, some rigorous courses that might be a heavier lift and kind of mix them in with some rigorous courses, um, that you think might be a little easier for you to add in, um, that’s going to be in your best judgment. Um, remember you don’t want to take a bunch of advanced courses at the detriment of your experience as a student.

And then of course, At the detriment of your GPA. Um, so starting out early, um, that gives you enough time to self-correct. If it’s just too much for you.

Anesha: Alright. Um, as a senior in high school, I plan on attending a two year college right after I graduate. Um, should I still apply to, I guess she said my main colleges, but to four year colleges now, instead of just finishing my last year of community college?

It sounds like the student is dual, dual enrolled and wondering what they should be doing right now.

Chelsea: So if you are dual enrolled and have not truly graduated, so if you’re dual enrolled, you’re still a traditional first year student. You’ve graduated from high school, you would be a transfer student. Um, so If you are dual enrolled and you’re a traditional student, um, I think it depends on the colleges you’re interested in.

If you are interested in staying in your state and you’re currently at a public community college, there’s probably a lot of transferability to other public colleges in your area. It could be beneficial to save the money and finish out that, that year at community college. If you are looking at transferring out of your state, or going to private institutions, there will be less transferability.

Um, and so it may not be a value to stay an additional year to finish out, um, those courses. So that one, um, it really depends on where you’re in school and where you’re planning it.

Anesha: Right. And if you could speak, so I think you spoke about Honors v. AP. Can you talk about AP v. dual enrollment classes? That seems to be a question coming up.

Chelsea: Oh, Same, um, again, the college admissions committees are not typically privy to what your counselors are viewing as most rigorous or what they’re encouraging. Um, we have students who may not take, may not be able to take AP courses because they didn’t take a certain math in eighth grade, but they have access to dual enrollment courses.

Um, so again, all of those are considered in this process as higher than on level. Now, if you are looking at increasing your GPA, you want these weighted courses, um, then that’s another story. Um, the AP courses are typically the highest weights in those

Anesha: systems. Okay. Um, sorry, there are a few international student questions and I know they’re complicated, so I’m trying to figure out how to, the best way to ask them.

Um, when should an international student apply for college? Um, Um, in order to be aligned with high school, the end of American high school, I guess they’re trying to figure out what is the comparative point. Yeah.

Chelsea: So, so sometimes international years in, in the middle of when American students are still going to school, um, you all’s applications timelines.

For American universities are still the same as the other students that are already in the United States. Um, so that timeline that I shared applications open in August deadline somewhere between October and mid February, depending on, um, the deadlines you choose. All of that’s going to be very standard.

May 1st will be when you need to commit. Um, So that timeline is standard. What happens more often than not is I see international students taking a gap year depending on when they finished. Um, and so you might have more time out of secondary school. Um, before you actually apply or attend an American.

Anesha: Yeah. So I guess it has to be the last in some point in the last year of your, your secondary education, wherever you are, if the next thing for you is going to be college at some point during that year aligned with the U S calendar is when you have to figure it out. Okay. Um, I was just trying to clarify your response to make sure I was following.

Yeah. Um, okay. Um, Oh, do deadlines differ for athletes?

Chelsea: Um, so athletes still follow the admissions deadline. However, the admissions timeline is running in Lane A and the athletics recruitment timeline is running in Lane B. Eventually, they cross paths and the athletic coaches talk to the directors of admissions and they might share, Yes, I’m recruiting the student.

Do you want to offer them a scholarship? And so they speak, but you still have to meet. All of the admissions deadlines for that institution.

Anesha: I’m going to shift into a financial aid question or a couple towards the end here. Will it get counted against me if I’m not if I’m not in financial need? I’m mid to high socioeconomic.

Will that, you know, will that hurt? Should I worry about stating that?

Chelsea: So you may not have an, a choice on whether or not to state that. Um, so there’s two places that you disclose financial information. Um, you disclose occupation and education of your parents. Um, typically on the college application and then on the FAFSA, um, you would disclose actual financial information.

Um, long story short, um, more students are negatively impacted because they have low income than students with higher income. So I don’t think that’s something that you have to worry about. Now, if you are speaking about scholarships and funding. I would explicitly ask those institutions what scholarships are available for students, regardless of financial need.

Those are typically called merit scholarship.

Anesha: Uh, all right. So I’m going to ask this backwards. You mentioned merit scholarships, and I want to come back to that, but the student asked, can I get Both an academic and an athletic scholarship.

Chelsea: Yeah, absolutely. Um, oftentimes the smaller, the athletic program, um, they may not give full ride athletic scholarships, and so they’ll give you a little bit of money on the admission side and a little money on the athletic side so that it is an affordable option for you.

Anesha: All right. And then last question on where is the best place to start applying for scholarships? Where can I find them?

Chelsea: Um, so there is a long list. I think I like old school fast web, which is like the Google of scholarships. Um, but I think, do you have a list that you can drop in the chat?

Anesha: Um, yes, I can find that. Or. Yes. I think I did that last time and I forgot to pull it up. Um, yes, so I will drop a bunch of stuff in the chat, some search engines for folks. Um, if folks are listening and can’t see the chat, they are going, Mary scholarship owls scholarships 360 and N-S-H-S-S Foundation.

Scholarships are the resources that I just dropped in the chat, so there are a bunch of different ones. there but saying them aloud. All right, um, I’m gonna go back to some essay questions in order to round us out. Um, someone said,

what would be a few, okay, what is something to focus on when writing the college essay?

Chelsea: Um, you want to focus on grammar, structure of the essay, and actually answering the question or addressing the prompt. Sounds easy enough. It is very important. Um, so those are three, like, basics to focus on.

Anesha: Uh, going back to college visits, um, oh, how do, how do I organize my college visits? Is there a strategy, I guess, to, to planning them out?

Chelsea: Um, so I always encourage families to visit campus when campus is lively. Um, and so summer, yes, you are off of school. Um, but many college campuses also are away from classes as they, as they typically are during the year.

It could be a very dead time on college campuses. Um, I love a spring college campus visit. Um, there is a lot going on. The weather is nice. Um, so you really get a feel of, of the campus that time of the year. Um, also I, I talk to families all the time that kind of like build college visits on top of each other, like they’re going on a whole road trip, um, which is a great way to knock them out.

But parents tell me they start to run together. Um, so if you are going to see a bunch of colleges back to back, take detailed notes and pictures of each of those places so that when you get back home, um, you can differentiate one from the next.

Anesha: All right. Um, how do I get a feel for what colleges I would qualify for academically?

Chelsea: Great question. Um, so one of the best ways to do this is to look up the academic profile of the schools that you’re interested in. Um, most every college publishes an academic profile and essentially that gives you the average GPA, average test score, if they have it, of the students that were admitted the previous year.

Now, I will tell you the more selective the institution, the more this academic profile is a little fuzzy because in addition to just meeting those quantitative measures, they’re looking for all of these other things that would make you a competitive applicant. Um, but that is a start on knowing if you’re even in the ballpark for that institution.

Anesha: All right. We will leave it there. Um, as we have reached our question, someone asked if I could put the scholarship list in the PDF. I cannot because the PDF was pre created. Um, so I’m so sorry, but please take a picture of the chat and, um, try to find it that way. I apologize. Um, but yes, thank you so much, Chelsea, for joining us this evening.

Really appreciate all of your thoughtfulness and your wisdom as usual. Um, and you can definitely join us. to get some of those questions answered. There were a lot of essay questions I had to leave on the table, but we will be having actually a series on supplemental essays, tackling Stanford supplemental essays on November 13th, Harvard essays on the 15th, Yale essays on the 19th, and we’ll also have a session for wrapping up the UC, the University of California applications, actually this week on Wednesday, November 15th.

We have a lot of sessions coming up to get to answer some of the questions we missed today. We hope that you will join us then, but until next time, take care and have a great evening, everyone. Bye, Chelsea.

Chelsea: Bye, everyone.