Fine-Tuning Your College List

Are you a high school student getting ready to embark on the exciting journey of college applications? Are you a parent seeking guidance on how to support your child in this crucial process? Join for an insightful webinar on “Fine-Tuning Your College List” designed specifically for high school students and their parents.

In this webinar, we will delve into the essential steps and considerations to help you create a well-rounded and personalized college list. Our former admissions officer Joanne Pluff will provide invaluable guidance and practical tips to ensure that you find the right colleges that align with your goals, preferences, and aspirations.

Key Learnings to Expect:

  • Understanding your priorities: We will explore the importance of self-reflection and identifying your personal and academic priorities.
  • Researching colleges effectively: We will discuss various resources, such as college websites, rankings, and virtual tours, to help you gain insights into the institution’s academic offerings, campus culture, and extracurricular opportunities.
  • Exploring academic programs: Discover the significance of aligning your academic interests with the programs and majors offered by colleges.
  • Considering campus culture and environment: We will discuss the importance of evaluating the campus culture, student organizations, and overall environment to find colleges where you can thrive socially, emotionally, and intellectually.
  • Assessing financial factors: Understanding the financial aspects of college is crucial. We will explore ways to assess the affordability of colleges, including financial aid options, scholarships, and grants.

By the end of this webinar, you will have the tools and knowledge to fine-tune your college list effectively. Join us as we navigate through the college application process together, empowering you to make informed decisions and set the foundation for a successful academic journey.

Date 09/19/2023
Duration 57:06

Webinar Transcription

2023-09-19 – Fine-Tuning Your College List

Joseph: Hi there, everyone. My name is Joseph Recupero, and I am your moderator for today’s webinar. Welcome to “Fine Tuning Your College List.” to orient everyone with the 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 hand it over and meet our amazing panelists.

Joanne: Hi everyone, my name is Joanne Pluff. I have been in the realm of higher ed for just under 15 years. Um, I currently serve as the associate vice president here in Washington, D.C. at Howard University. I’ve worked at smaller private liberal arts colleges as well as a state school, so I’m super excited to get to know you all and hopefully you find this information useful.

Joseph: Fantastic. So I’m going to send you all a poll on your screen just to get an idea of what grade you’re in, just so we know kind of who we are working with this evening. Um, and Joanne, to start off, what do you think is one of the, the biggest things people forget when they’re building their college list?

Joanne: Um, I know this is going to sound weird, but I think people often forget themselves. I think it’s really get easy to get caught up in what your parents want. You know, the excitement of going to college, but at the end of the day, you really are. It’s kind of like selecting shoes, right? So I wear a size eight and a half at Nike, but at Adidas, I may wear an eight.

So you have to figure out what shoe on what path you’re running on, um, works best for you. So it’s really important to keep in mind who you are throughout the process and the things that you want.

Joseph: Absolutely. Well, it looks like we have, um, a few people joining us this evening. It looks like split between 10th, 11th and 12th graders.

Um, and so this information will be relevant for all of you, especially through your college process. I’m going to hand it over to Joanne and we’ll get started.

Joanne: Thank you. So when you’re thinking about, um, the college you want to attend, it’s really important to create a list. So I’ll start talking to the seniors and the juniors and sophomores.

We can have a discussion, a quick discussion about both sides of it. So for our seniors, um, those of you who have, maybe you haven’t started the process, maybe you’re in the middle of the process. Maybe you’re kind of finalizing the process of creating what your list will be. So. When we talk about, um, where you want to go and what you want to do, we’re always talking about fit.

Fit is a word that you’ll hear tossed around in higher education, and basically it means, like I say, it was saying with the shoes, do the shoes fit the person? Um, do the, do the shoes represent that person? So in terms of your college list, and when we’re speaking about fit, the number one thing you need to look at is your major.

So this could be a big school, it could be a small school, it could be a Jesuit school, it could be a Catholic school, it could be a Baptist school, it doesn’t matter. But if the school you are dead set on attending does not have the major for you, I would reconsider that decision. So college is one of those cool things where You know, whether it’s a two year option or a four year option, or maybe you’re going the long haul and you’re going to get an advanced graduate degree.

It is one of those times in your life where you’re curated and you learn who you will be and about the, the realm of work that you will be working in. So if you don’t have that basis for that work. You’re not able to do so. Now, I am a big proponent of the liberal arts, and I would argue with you that it definitely is about having a well balanced curriculum and the ability to study many things that assist in your career.

But when we’re talking about your actual list, it’s important to narrow down to schools that have the major or the idea of the major that you want to study. The next thing that I think is really important to students right now, um, is big hot topic of the students that I, uh, Um, advise is the size. So, yeah, you could see, you know, let’s say Florida State on television, and it may look like a jolly good time when they’re at their games and, you know, their homecomings and things like that.

But for some people that could be really overwhelming. Um, I was a person when I was doing the college search process, size didn’t really matter to me. I truly didn’t care. I looked at very large research one institutions and I ended up at a small private liberal arts college. I didn’t cross anything off my list.

Um, for me, it was more about the location and access to the things that, um, I was looking for in terms of my major. Then of course, let’s talk about that location. So there’s a couple of schools of thought, right? So if you’re a student that’s a homebody, you’re definitely not looking at schools across the country.

If you are very close to family, you have to think about, um, the ability to see your family on a day to day basis. I was a recruited athlete and I often talk about that I was going to go play division one. I was very happy to do so. And on one of my recruitment visits, I remember my parents saying to me, you know, this is a plane right away.

We cannot take a flight to see you play every single game. And for me, a little light bulb went off and I said, I don’t know if I can do this because my parents have gone to every single soccer game, track meet, lacrosse game. It would be bizarre to not have them there. So for me, the location was important because I wanted to be accessible to my parents.

And then, of course, I’m trying to be hip with it. I would say the vibe is also super important for students. So if you talk to many college students and those who have just gone through the college process, they will likely tell you that, you know, it’s just a feeling and something just clicked when I was on the campus, or I was talking with the students or connecting with the faculty, or perhaps it was alumni, whatever that thing is that, you know, makes you get the warm and fuzzies and excited to be there.

very much. That’s the feeling I’m talking about when we’re when we’re speaking about five. So when you’re creating your list, you want to pay attention to these things, um, and really have an idea of what it is you’re looking for. So if you again are not a large city person, I live in a large, very thriving metropolis.

Not every student is about that life, or perhaps you have lived in the city for your entire life and you want to give more of the urban or rural countryside. An option if that’s really important to you, make sure that the schools that you are putting on your list, um, have those components. So when we are talking and your guidance counselor is talking and probably like likely your parents, um, reach target and likely are the three buzzwords that I think are quite important to your search process.

So we’re reach school is a school that is probably academically a little bit of a stretch. Um, a target school is dead on. So It’s exactly your GPA, your SAT requirements, and then a likely school, a likely or sometimes people will call it a safety school. So it’s a school that you know if you apply to, um, likely you’re going to be admitted.

And the way you determine, um, if the school is a reach target or likely is I highly recommend taking a look at the SPARC. The prior year school profile. So at this point in the admission cycle and higher education, many schools should have an academic profile for their current incoming class. So basically it gives you the minimum GPA, SAT, ACT, even AP scores, as well as an idea of the classes that students took to be admitted to that school.

So when you’re doing your research, you want to match yourself and you have to be honest, right? So. If you have a 3.2 GPA and you’re looking at a school that has a 3.7 GPA, likely that is a reach school for you. Target schools mean that you fall at the high end or to the top quarter of the range of the academic profile.

And again, every single school will spell this out for you. So you should be able to research. Any of these, um, any of this information. So speaking directly to the seniors, um, who are in the group, you want to go on right now and take a look to just confirm or deny, uh, if you fall within the ranges for the schools that you’re applying to.

And then of course for our juniors, sophomores, and even parents who are just trying to get their feet wet, um, the thing that you have to note is the academic profile might shift from year to year. So typically schools are pretty dead on. However, I think COVID and testing, um, and taking testing out of the mix has shifted the academic profile.

So just make sure that you’re paying attention when your student is prepared to apply. You do have to research that academic profile for the prior year.

Alrighty, um, so this is a question I think we often get daily here at CollegeAdvisor. So what’s the ratio of each school and why is the ratio important? So I don’t know if anybody in the audience has ever seen the, um, Netflix show. Never have I ever ratio is really important because you don’t know how the chips are going to fall.

So I’ll set the scene for you. Um, Davie is a star student. I think she’s number 1 in her class. She has a perfect 4.0 GPA taking every single tests or, you know, course possible. Excellent on her ACTs. I think she got like a 1580. She’s amazing, right? She is involved in her religion. She volunteers, president of the paint team.

She’s excellent. So Davy goes on to apply to every single Ivy league school in the country and spoiler alert, um, she does not get admitted to those universities. So I say, that’s a say. The ratio is very important because we want to make sure that you’re getting positive results. So typically, when you are looking at how you fall in the academic profile, you need to pick five to seven schools that you fall within their range.

Now, let’s also remember, On the common application, you can only apply to 10 schools at a time. I do not suggest doing this. I did have a student who applied to 24 schools. That is a lot of work. It is a lot of unnecessary work. You can craft and curate an excellent list of 10 schools to apply to. So we suggest 5 to 7 target schools, 1 to 3 reach schools, and 1 to 3 likely schools.

So make sure that you have a great day. Mix of that ratio so that you are not the Davy of the day, waiting until the national deposit deadline, which is May 1st to determine you know, where you’re gonna be that fall. That is not the game that we want. So make sure that you pick the targets that you want.

Then pick your reaches and then go off, go forth with your likely schools.

So, um, how do you whittle down and narrow down your college list to a reasonable number? So again, I’m always going to lead with major because it’s the reason that you go to college. It’s, and I will say this, any parent, you know, college is about 65 percent academics. And then there’s a other percentage that really represents your student growing up.

So it’s like life skills, um, internship and all the things that kind of make up a college experience. So check those majors. Every single college has amazing websites and they put that information out there so that you can do your own self research without having to call a billion people. So check and see if those students who have graduated from the major you’re interested in, if they’re gainfully employed.

Gainful employment means that they’re employed within the fields that they attended the university for. So, my major is public relations. It was really important to me to do an internship. I made sure that that was included in all of the curriculums of the colleges that I applied to and then. I wanted to know where people worked, so I wasn’t so keen.

It didn’t matter to me that, you know, big, um, public relations firm. But what did matter is that they did. They were employed and they were employed quite well. And then, of course, the interesting thing, I think right now is. Um, the idea that you don’t have to be something for every single year, likely your student will change their mind when they attend college.

And, you know, perhaps they will do 3 or 4 years at working in a research lab and decide that maybe I want to be an entrepreneur. So the university that I attended, you can. Go back to the university and say, Hey, I’m changing my pace a little bit and I would like to, um, work in the fields. Maybe it’s film work and they will work with you, um, after graduation, even after you’ve graduated to support any kind of life changes and career directional changes, which is excellent.

Next, of course, you’ll want to look at. Um, the monetary value. So how much is the school offering financial aid? I will sing this to the cows from home. Every university has what’s called a net price calculator. If you go to the financial aid portion of their website and you put in realistic numbers of your students, GPA, S.A.T. As well as your Um, income information, it will generate for you a average of a financial aid package. Can you 100 percent bank on it? No. However, it will give you an idea of some of the aid that’s offered. And then, of course, when we’re talking about aid, there’s also need based aid and merit based aid.

So you do want to explore to see if the colleges that you’re applying to, um, do have both of those. Another term we talk about is meeting full need. So, uh, for parents who are filling out the FAFSA or the CSS profile, the both circumstances will generate for you, um, a dollar amount of how much the government basically thinks you can pay for your student to be in college.

So, let’s say that need is 0. and you, your student is dead set on this institution, you would want to know how much support, financial support the college is willing to spend. And then another big thing for our students, because we don’t want them to be ballooning in debt, is look at the loan indebtedness of the recent graduates, which really ties back to the, um, gainful employment.

So typically majors with gainfully employed students. Don’t have a large loan indebtedness number, meaning their students are able to pay back their loans and or, you know, private funding if they needed to do then. The important thing to look at is also personal value. So, if perhaps if the school is a school where many people in your family has gone to, or it really isn’t a city that you’d love to explore, figure out what it is you’re looking for, um, in a specific college and make sure that that value.

really is represented on your college list that you’re narrowing down. And then finally, I always tell my students, you have to look at student needs. So do they have support services? Maybe you have a IEP or a 504. Maybe you need extra timing on testing. Maybe you need, I don’t know, uh, you have a wheelchair.

There are many different things. So make sure that whatever that extra need is, the school is able to support. Student to faculty ratio is also quite important. So I did not want to go to a school where I sat in a class with 200 other students. That my sister, that was her jam. We were very different in that aspect.

I wanted to be able to speak to my professors. I wanted them to know my name. So that was very important to me. I did have some larger lectures. So it’s important for you to find out if that’s what your student wants. That’s what they can get. If it’s not what they want, make sure that it’s not what they’re getting.

And then in terms of, um, you can even go as far as housing. So if you are a student that’s coming from a different part region of the United States and you need housing, you know, do they provide housing for two years, three years, any years, um, is off campus housing affordable? Uh, can you bring your car?

Whatever it is, that’s important to your student. Make sure that that, um, is included with the list. Um, of colleges that they select. So, uh, when should students have finished their school list? So for seniors at this point, you really should, uh, have whittled it down. Um, we are well underway into your senior year.

And for many of you in a couple of weeks, applications will start to, to come, um, being due. Typically early action, early decision deadlines are around the, uh, November 1. 15th deadline. But with t university up their application submit a couple of months. I know right now. She’s applying and I think Florida state last week.

So we are done For the juniors and sophomores, um, truly, you should have a great understanding by the summer of your senior year. The reason we encourage that is many colleges will have either research programs overnight programs that you can check out and they’re usually free and you can take advantage of those for the students who are looking to be athletically recruited.

Truly, this list should be done in preparation for your senior year, depending on your sport. So I played soccer. I played in the fall. It meant that my coach could the coaches that were coming to see me could come and see me my senior year. Let’s say I was being recruited for lacrosse, which I also played.

lacrosse season is in the summer, so I needed to make sure that the teams that were recruiting me for lacrosse saw me play in the summer, or sorry, the spring of my junior year. So all that stuff is something that you’ll need to take into consideration. For our juniors, don’t fret there, or sorry, our seniors, don’t fret, there is time.

Of course, you do have a couple of weeks, and the Common App is open for about 98 percent of the universities, so you can go ahead and start working on that list. Um, while still working on your,

looks like we have a poll.

Joseph: Yes, absolutely. And it is so important to get that list, you know, narrowed down so you can really focus in on your applications. And, and speaking of those applications, we want to know where you’re at in the process. Um, so I’m sending another poll to your screen, um, except that I just closed it instead of sending it.

Um, Oh no. Here we go. So yes, I am sending a poll to your screen. Um, let us know where you are at. That’s in the application process, um, so that we have a general understanding of, of how things are going. Um, and what do you think is a very uncommon factor that sometimes factors into a student’s school choices?

Joanne: Uncommon factor. Um, I think for the trend that I’m seeing right now is like libraries are really important to students. Um, I had a student who was solely picking schools based on how many libraries they had. And I was like, Lily, I don’t know if we can bank our livelihood on this, but I will go with you on this journey.

And we found a school that she’s attending now. It has five libraries. So she was looking for. She wanted to have a space where she could change scenery. Um, she was a nursing major, so she realized that she would always have to be in the lab, um, and or studying. So she wanted to be able to, you know, shift it up a little bit.

So again, if that’s important to you, that’s your jam, go for it. I don’t knock it. It’s just, we’ll go down that road. You just got to be willing to work for it.

Joseph: Having done my master’s at Columbia, I very much understand the library hopping trend. It’s just something that is, is part of the university life.

Joanne: Yeah, absolutely.

Joseph: It looks like most of our students are in the essay writing phase at the moment. A couple are still researching. The most seem to be writing their essays, which means they are hopefully finalizing that list or in the process of kind of narrowing down. Um, so this is a great time for this webinar.

All right, I’ll hand it back over.

Joanne: Yeah. So, um, this is the, my favorite question to answer, right? So how will you know if a school truly is for you and is a good fit? So you will know, um, I don’t know how to verbalize this for you, but once you have collected the things that you’re super interested in, so let’s say it’s libraries and sports and, um, in a small college town and it has your major, And it’s a medium sized school.

You’ll do your visits. You’ll be able to do virtual visits. So many of the universities now are presenting virtual options to be able to go to open house and you’ll be able to talk to the people who walk the halls that you hopefully will be walking in the short future. So I always recommend that students do their visits twice.

So if you’re able to do a visit in the fall and then after decisions come out and it’s accepted student daytime, go back and do those visits again. The reason being, you’ll see things with different eyes and bring a different person because they’ll bring a different perspective. Always talk to current students.

Um, alums, I think are excellent. I mean, everybody knows an alum that’s attended, you know, such and such university, but know that the students do change and the university does take on changes themselves, um, through the years. So it’s important to talk to current students. But then I would say the last three or four years, because they know the beat and they understand the vibe of the actual university and make sure you talk to students within the major that you’re going to study.

So if you are super against research, and you’re going to a school for biology, where they, Only do research projects that’s not going to work for you. So you do have to talk to the students who are going to study what you’ll study. Um, I can’t harp on this enough, the importance of attending visits. So even if your parents cannot go, find somebody to go with you.

I Highly suggest again doing double visits. If you’re able visit around, you know, the open houses, go on an off day, just go when you can, because the visits really do set the stage and tell you and give you a lot of information about what life is like again, must have your major and make sure that you’re happy with the location and size.

And that’s definitely part of what’s wrapped up in the push for visiting. So if you have an idea of what a college is, you know, some colleges feel smaller. And that’s a term that my students have said, like, yeah, it’s a suburban campus, but it feels smaller than X, Y, Z school. And I can’t figure out why. I am not the judge of that.

I just am the holder of that information and will remind you of that through the process.

All right, so what makes a student, um, or an admissions officer think a student is a good fit? So the number one indicator, of course, is going to be academics, right? So when we sit down to review applications, I think I’ve reviewed thousands of applications at this time, the first thing that we’re looking for is academics.

Um, some would argue that that’s not fair and, you know, it is disadvantaged to the student, but we need to know if you can do the work and if you have the ability to do the work. So, For the juniors in this process, if you have started off your junior year, it’s really important to set the stage because we will see most of your, one semester of your senior year and the rest of your academic history.

So do you have all A’s? Do you have A’s and B’s? Is there a blip on your transcript? Make sure that, you know, it’s been an upward trend with your grades and that you’re challenging yourself. So we will make sure that, the academics hit right on the target. Um, for students who are applying to more selective universities, we do like look at demonstrated interests.

So have you interacted with us personally? Have you gone to a virtual visit? Did you do an interview? Have, did you supply the supplemental essays? Have you done high school visits, open house, accepted student days? Show us why you belong to be here and that you really want to be here. So as much as you’re courting us, we are also courting you to see if you would fit into our student population.

So typically, if you’re a cold student and you have not done any of those things for a school that does look at demonstrated interest, That’s something that will negatively impact your application. Um, and then extracurricular, uh, we like to say at Howard that we are looking for students that will enhance our campus community.

We have over 300 clubs and organizations on our campus, and that’s not even counting some of the major related clubs. So. We want you to come to our campus and join those clubs and participate and go to the activities and, you know, go see the movie in the woods or go hiking or go boating. We want to see that stuff on a college campus.

College, again, is 65 percent of it is academics, but the rest of the time you do get to explore and figure out who you are. The way to do that is to be part of the community. So if you’re not one of those people, You know, it, it definitely won’t bode well. So typically admissions officers when and colleges when they’re reviewing applications, you’ll hear the term holistic review, meaning we’re not just looking solely at your academics.

While that is a large piece of the puzzle, we are looking at everything that’s been submitted. So, you know, some schools will, or some people will say, well, you know, Howard received 32, 000 applications last year. How did you or Why did you actually how did you read them all? Did you guys even read them? No, we do.

Um, we review every single application. And in fact, each application is reviewed 5 to 6 times. And that is typically the same for most universities. So, yes, applications, the academics is the target, and then we’re looking to fill in the rest. So when I go and review with the admissions officers, um, at selection committee.

Your admission officer should have basically a two to three minute spiel about the student that you may be. And the way to fill that in is your application, your academics, and all the things that make up who you are. So capitalize on your list of extracurricular activities. Make sure that you fill out the supplemental essays.

If there’s like a fun, you know, suggest a book for us to read, do it. There’s no harm in that. And anything to enhance your candidacy is definitely Um, worth it. And we really enjoy seeing it. So what’s the last advice you’d give to students fine tuning their list? Um, the top thing I would say is to be honest with yourself and your family.

So I recognize that college’s family decision is an expensive decision. However, it’s a very expensive decision to go to a place where you’re not happy every day. Um, Students change their mind. Mental health definitely takes a toll on you. So imagine waking up and going to a place where you just didn’t want to be every day.

That’s not what we want. College should be one of the best four years of your life, or five, or eight, however you, you know, decide to go. So it’s really, truly important that you don’t waste anybody’s time. It’s a tough decision to speak with your family about, you know, Um, the decision of where you want to go to college.

I completely understand that, but I truly, truly, truly push that you should be honest with your family so that everyone is on the same page. You don’t want to get those acceptances and, you know, mom’s thinking that you’re going to go to, University of, you know, Utah and she’s dead set on it. And you’ve talked about it and really in your heart, you want to go to Utah state.

It doesn’t matter where the college is. What matters is that your needs are being met and that you’re honest about what your needs are. Be selfish. Um, this is one of the. few times in your life that you get to be where and you get to say where you want to be. So don’t feel bad about being picky. Um, students who have tough times making decisions.

It’s okay. It is absolutely okay to be picky. To not know, but hopefully I gave you some tips to help you figure out. And then, of course, let’s be realistic. Um, you do need to pick schools that you fit pretty well within their academic profile. I don’t want you to end up like our friend on. Never have I ever, um, we want you to go to college.

We want you to be successful. But if you’re not going to be realistic about it, it’s not going to be a fun couple of months for you.

Joseph: All righty, well that brings us to the end of the presentation piece of our webinar. I hope you found the information helpful. Um, I know I did and I think the presentation was fantastic. And remember that you can download the slides from the links in the handout tab. We are going to move on to the live Q& A.

I’ll read through the questions you’ve submitted in the Q and A tab, paste them into the public chat so you can see, and then read them out loud before our panelists gives you your answers. Um, as a heads up, if your Q and A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.

All right. Um, so we don’t have any questions yet. Um, but I do think something that you brought up, um, about visits is really important. And so when visiting a campus, who do you think are some of the most important people students should try and speak to when they’re visiting a campus? That’s

Joanne: a great question.

Um, I always want to talk to somebody within the major. Um, and I’m not saying like the dean or somebody that high above, talk to a faculty member who’s actually teaching the classes. Because I think there’s, there’s a big difference between a dean who’s kind of overseeing things and somebody who’s actually practicing.

Um, so talk to them about their teaching style. Like, how do they conduct classes? Is it seminar style? Is it discussion? Is it more lecture? Is it free work? Is it group work? Like, that’s information that you want to know. Um, and not every school is made equal when it comes to that. Some are, you know, we read a chapter, I’m going to spit regurgitate this, and then you take a test.

And that’s not for every student. So definitely talk with people within the major. And then, um, this is not a secret. Every university has student ambassadors. They’re excellent, right? They’re the creme de la creme, the best of the best, and we train them to be amazing. There’s an army of 125 student ambassadors on my campus, and we make sure that they’re tip top.

They will not tell you anything wrong. That being said, that’s their job. So after your tour, after the admissions, um, open house or whatever it is you go to, find a student who’s just sitting, you know, we call it the yard, but most Commonly known as the quad. Find a student who’s sitting on the quad and ask them a question.

So you want to hear the real salt of the earth answers? Go to the people. Go to the masses. Usually students who love to be at universities love talking about their experience. So go talk to them. They ask them crazy questions. Ask them what their favorite thing to eat. Ask them what their least favorite part of community bathrooms is.

Whatever it is you’re looking for, just make sure you ask them.

Joseph: Absolutely. This is a very good question. How should someone go about approaching building a reach target likely list, especially when they’re just really interested in one particular school?

Joanne: So a reach target likely when you’re particularly interested in one school.

So I mean, obviously the school should be on the list, right? But also with the caveat, figure out where they fit into the process. So is that school a target? Is it a reach? Um, is it a likely? I would say, once you’ve placed that school, now build the rest of the list around that particular school. Don’t go into it.

Don’t go into it with one school. Don’t go into it with all Ivy League schools. Just make sure that your list is balanced. Like, I cannot stress that enough. We never want to set you up for failure and having an unbalanced list will make you fail. Because if you’re only going to pick reaches, my kid’s awesome.

I love her. I know that there will be things that she just cannot do. So when I get to this point, I will remind myself of this and say, academically, you know, this is. This is not going to be realistic. So you’re doing yourself a disservice. Um, we put universities put out the class profile information specifically so that you know where you fall within that.

It’s not a secret. It’s not a bait and switch. We are as, you know, a forthcoming with that information as possible. So I would say plug that school into, um, you know, where you want to be and give it your best shot. Right, so like do those essays, submit those song lists, do those interviews, give it your best shot.

You never know what can happen. That’s why we call it a reach.

Joseph: Absolutely. This is an interesting question. How much should a student be listening to their high school counselor when it comes to narrowing down their school list or their college list?

Joanne: Yeah, I would say if you have a counselor who you feel is supportive and knows you well, yeah, go for it.

But I definitely, I went to a large public high school. There were 1600 students who graduated with me and there were seven guidance counselors. I don’t know that my counselor truly knew who I was. So for me, I was kind of going it alone. I was lucky though. My parents worked in higher education, so they had a pretty good handle on kind of like the company biz, but I would say take it with a grain of salt.

Um, luckily there’s people like me and Joe here who can, um, help you determine what you need to do, but there’s also other free mechanisms to help as well. Right? So like, um, Your common app or not common app college board account should be Suggesting schools for you if you’ve taken the SATs, ACTs, or AP tests That’s something that is based off of actual facts in the college profile So if they generated a search for you based on the things you’re looking for They’re telling you like hey, these people are interested in you and you would be a great person for them Um, there’s many mechanisms But I would say if you have a great guidance counselor who really truly knows you.

Yeah, go for it. But just know, um, it, this is, this is your, you’re the driver in this case. This is your dream. This is where you want to be. Um, you should definitely take your own voice, um, to, to be driving the process as a whole.

Joseph: Absolutely. Um, good question here. What is the difference between Early action and early decision.

And what is the point of doing either of these options?

Joanne: So early action, early decision, early decision is the binding contract. So when you apply to early decision, it means this school is it’s, it’s it for you. It is the highest indicator of interest to any university. Um, and it means you’re applying quite early.

Typically early decision is due right around that early action time, but early decision is usually due around November. end of October. Um, and the reason it’s binding it, it is a contract that says if you are admitted to that school, you have to attend. So let’s say I’m applying to Harvard and I get admitted early decision, regardless of whatever the cost is, I’m supposed to attend, which is why the net price calculator comes so to be into play.

And so important because If you can’t afford it, you’re going to need to figure out what you’re going to do here. You’re only allowed to apply to one school early decision. The common app will only allow that. If you’re using other applications and you’re applying early decision one, it’s kind of unlawful.

It’s like an unspoken rule. The universities will be quite upset with you and we do talk to each other. So, Just know that that happens on the back end. Early action though. I am a huge, huge, huge supporter of, I am a planner. I wanted to know where I was going to college ASAP, as soon as possible, early action and early decision, both yields and they will let you know rolling into like Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, that time of year, whether or not you’ve been admitted.

So if money is a factor. If, um, you’re being recruited as an athlete, if you just want to know, because, you know, you have other things to do, and you just want to be done with the process, early action. I think every student should apply to many, many universities have early action or early decision, but my number 1, um, recommendation is early action because it allows you.

more time to work on planning. So let’s say things don’t go so well in early action. There’s still so much time and so many other colleges you can apply to if you didn’t get the decisions that you wanted.

Joseph: Yeah, I second everything there. I’m such a strong proponent of those early action applications. But early decision is, is a big decision.

So really think it through, talk it through, and make sure you know. And then, of

Joanne: course, I forgot to add with early decision. It is, I would say, a little bit more stressful because it requires your guidance counselor to sign as well as your parents. So that’s how important this application is. I don’t want to scare anybody.

I think it’s a great option for students who really know what they want to do and know where they want to be. But with that being said, we, um, We place the importance and we require all the signatures because you really truly need to know if you want to be there.

Joseph: Absolutely. Um, so this is another great question.

So what if we have a student who has stellar grades, but because of family situations, they’re not really able to get involved as much. Is this a factor that’s considered and is it a fact that should be shared when applying to colleges?

Joanne: Yeah, that’s, um, so I think one of the things that the Pandemic has really shed a light on is the ability for students to have like personal Um activities and personal ways to be involved in their community So obviously during covid, you know students couldn’t volunteer.

They couldn’t do internships. They couldn’t do clubs and organizations They couldn’t do sports. But what you could do is You wanted to play the guitar or take Mandarin lessons, you could do that on your own. So we really take a look to, to make sure that if a student does have like babysitting, right, or working at a family store, that’s important.

Um, being a babysitter or a lifeguard for your neighbors because they, they needed help. Your, your neighbor had a pool. Any of that stuff is taken into consideration. I would just generally say, you know, with the common app, it allows you to put a little bit of a blurb on what the activity is, write a full sentence or two sentences if it allows, so that you can explain that activity.

So while it’s not an official club or, you know, debate team or the soccer team, you should still put it on there because you deserve to have credit for it.

Joseph: Absolutely. And all of these are really great specific questions about the process, and that is why CollegeAdvisor does have a team of over 300 former admissions officers, just like the two of us, and admissions experts who are ready to help you and your family navigate the admissions process through one on one advising sessions.

We’ve already helped over 6,000 clients in our college, in their college journeys. After analyzing the data on those clients, um, since 2021, we found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3.6 times more likely to get into Stanford, 4.1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt, and 2.7 times more likely to get into Harvard.

So if you’re ready to increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey, you can sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team using the QR code on the screen. During this meeting. We’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they align with your college list, just like we’ve been talking about today, and outline the tools you need to stand out in a competitive admissions world.

Joanne and I have both done this, so we know how helpful advising students and how rewarding advising students can be. So we definitely encourage you to take advantage. We do not have any additional questions at the moment. However, I do think, um, it’s worth asking. We, we talk a lot about connecting with universities and I know sometimes high school students can be a bit nervous to reach out to professors or admissions officers.

What, what are some tips and tricks for kind of doing that outreach and building those connections?

Joanne: Yeah. So, I mean, uh, I don’t know many. different universities that don’t do this, but typically admissions offices are broken up by region. So you can usually go directly to their website and there is a counselor.

So I grew up just south of Boston. I knew the admissions counselors that were for the region that I lived in. You will typically get emails and things like that. Um, they’re typically mass generated, but, you know, set with the spirit of. We’re sending this on behalf of the counselor and we read all those emails.

So I do think that students should, once they figure out who their counselor is, send them a little note. You know, I’m excited to apply and I’ll be visiting or I’m going to be joining this virtual session. Do you have any tips or tricks that we can utilize to, you know, enhance our application? And everybody will give you some tips.

you know, kind of an answer. Um, the interview process is also a great one. So if you, um, if you end up doing an interview, typically they’re matched by region as well. So that gives you a moment to definitely, um, connect with that person. What I will say is don’t be the student that’s always emailing them.

Right. So application submission time and reading time is a very hectic time in admissions office. So constantly saying, you know, I just want to let you know that I got an A on this project or, um, I, you know, did da, da, da, da, da. Well, that’s not really necessary. I would say you can reply back to the emails that are sent.

Um, definitely call if you have any specific questions. High school visits also come into play as well. People are still doing high school visits where they go directly to your schools as well as college fairs. So go and get to know the people in your region, um, but do it without bothering them because there’s nothing worse than an inbox full of emails.

And the question is, I was just, you know, reaching out to say hello, like, awesome and super appreciated. However, reach out with a purpose. Don’t just send a note for the sake of sending a note.

Joseph: Absolutely. This is a good question. Um, do colleges allow service animals or emotional support animals? Um, and how can this factor into a school list?

Joanne: Okay. So I have a very funny story about emotional support animals. Um, so one of the universities I worked at, I was the associate dean for, um, admission and diversity recruitment. And I worked specifically with QuestBridge. I had a student who, He emailed me over the summer and he was like, I have this snake and he’s like, you know, my emotional support animal.

I’m like, okay, you know, snakes are not my thing. Sorry, snake lovers out there. And we worked with student services who usually takes care of this process and housing to get, um, the snake documented. And dimensions of his, I don’t know, snake box, whatever you want to terrarium, whatever you want to call it.

And, um, John Wong called one day when I was sitting in my office, I’ll never forget it. It was a beautiful fall day and his snake went missing. So we searched and we looked and we looked and we looked and we looked, we couldn’t find the snake and it was like a whole big to do in the school newspaper.

Everyone was looking for the snake and a young lady found it. It was sleeping. Under her refrigerator, she heard a weird rattling sound. It was on the reality sink. But I say this to say, every university is going to have a different policy. So the school that I’m at now, we, I’m in the middle of Washington, D.C. You cannot bring snakes to our campus. But, you know, small pets, sometimes it’s a bird, sometimes it’s a fish. Fish. It could be a frog. It could be a hamster. There’s all different types and every school will have different specifications. Um, you should every university has some type of student support center.

So they assist with any kind of accommodation for housing for classes for if you have a wheelchair, all of that reach out to them directly. Um, and they will exist. Do not bring the snake to campus. It’s never a good idea. We learned that lesson.

Joseph: This is a good one as well. I also, I just love that people at my undergrad didn’t have emotional support animals, but they attempted to Adopt the squirrels on campus as their emotional support animals.

Don’t do that.

Joanne: Yeah. Don’t do that. Don’t don’t bring a squirrel in your residence hall. It’s never a good idea.

Joseph: Okay. So if, if the net price calculator for a school shows a considerable expected family contribution, does expanding the college list in a wider geographic way ever impact, um, those outcomes?

Joanne: I think it’s going to depend on public versus private, to be perfectly honest.

Um, if you are unhappy with the net price calculator, you may, and you’re solely looking at state schools, you may need to look at private schools. Typically, private schools do provide more, um, merit scholarships because they’re more expensive. So they may have the ability Support your student that way. If you need to cast a wider net because cost is truly a factor, then unfortunately you would need to do that.

I, um, I’m working with a student now who’s I’m working with, three of them. They’re triplets. So for them, you know, net price calculators, if it doesn’t fit, unfortunately that school is out. This mama has three students to send to school that are all college bound. Um, so for us, when we’re reviewing. If the school isn’t able to, you know, give that sibling discount or give a significant merit scholarship, unfortunately, we have to remove it from their list at this point.

We don’t even let them fall in love with the schools. I’m like, don’t worry. We will find another 1 that is just like it because there are so many universities in the country.

Joseph: And I think that actually leads us into a really great, um, Question, and it kind of segues back to what someone asked before about being in love with one specific school.

What is a good way to take the things you love about a school and find it in other places?

Joanne: So you unfortunately just have to look, um, this is one of the reasons guidance counselors come in candy because they have, I would say, in their repertoire, um, access to knowing the different kinds of schools that their students are attending were admitted to, and they know the current student population.

So I believe on College Board, you can do a highly specific search. And it’s outside of solely just major and GPA, like you can literally search for schools with 10 libraries and those colleges will come up schools that were, you know, I had one student who wanted to go to a school that was at least 100 years old.

She was a history major like that makes sense. So we looked at schools that were over 100 years old in the Northeast. So you just have to put in the research. Um, I don’t know how you. Typically organized, but when I’m working with my students, we create a massive spreadsheet, right? So it’s got the name, location, the size, amount of students, student faculty ratio, financial aid packages, do they have early action, early decision, all of this information, and then you add in your yes or no.

So like, can you bring your car on campus? Yes. Do you get your own room? No. Do they provide, um, you know, four years worth of housing? Yes. Do they have, uh, a football team that is division one? Yes. Whatever those things are, go through and start checking them off. And honestly, you highlight. Green, red, green, red.

Once you find your greens, you take the reds out. That is the basis of your college list and then start curating from there.

Joseph: Absolutely. I do it in a very similar way. I always have my students start with, I’ll get them, make sure they have links to all of the academic departments. And the first thing I tell them is if that academic department doesn’t sound interesting whatsoever, you’ll find a different biology department.

somewhere else. Um, because I think people often fall in love with school names. Um, so they won’t realize that, um, for example, doing, I’m an anthropologist by background. So doing anthropology at UPenn. really just means doing archaeology. So if you want to be a social anthropologist, UPenn is not where you want to end up.

Um, but they don’t, you really need to look into those things. Um, this is a good question about extracurriculars. Do all of your extracurriculars have to be related to your major of interest? Um, and does this really impact, um, college decisions?

Joanne: So absolutely not. Um, we basically care if you do other things and do you have the capacity to balance those things.

You know, life and being a student. Um, personally, I, like I said, I studied, I double majored in public relations and marketing with a minor in communications. I played soccer. I played the piano. I played the cello. I think I was in like key club. None of those things have to do with public relations at all, like not even, and I wasn’t even like social media coordinator on any of those.

I did not do any of those things. Um, it really is about your commitment to those activities. I played my instruments for 13 years. I was on the, the soccer team for six years. So it really is about your commitment to whatever it is. And again, if you are doing a personal thing, like Working at your family store or, um, babysitting your siblings, like that’s important too.

And obviously I would hope that you’re committed to doing those things, but you should definitely list those as years of commitment if it’s something you’re doing consistently. Absolutely. And that’s just one quick thing about the extracurriculars, like making your bed, things like that. That’s not an extracurricular activity.

That’s just like a life skill. So don’t even go there with that.

Joseph: Yes. Just because you play poker a lot, Doesn’t mean that playing poker is your extracurricular. Correct. Um, so now I’m, I’m trying to think, um, we don’t have any questions at the moment, but I think something that could be useful is for you and I to kind of talk through some of the factors that people may not often think about with colleges.

I know for me, the first one, food, the food’s gotta be good. Um, you know, do, but also do the colleges handle dietary restrictions? Well, you know, these are questions you need to ask. What, what do you think are some of those? important factors outside of academics.

Joanne: I think housing is a big one. Um, I think students really get hung up on the fact that like you came from a household where you had your own room or, you know, you’ve never shared a room with someone.

I think you should look for, uh, a university that has housing styles that you like, but also realize you’re with college, you’re the little man on the total So you’re not going to get, you know, the Taj Mahal. Upper Classmen housing from day one, but it’s important. You know, if I start in the traditional quarter to tour room, where is it that I want to go?

And where is the housing? Like, where is it on campus? Are you okay with public transportation to get to school every day? Um, like NYU, they don’t have housing. So. Are you okay with being in New York City and not having to be on campus? So like, that stuff is important. I second the food. I have a lot of food allergies.

So for me, um, I think my parents were terrified when I was like, Oh, I’m going to go away to college. It’s going to be fine. And they’re like, Oh, you’re going to manage this. And I had to, right? So like, I had to make sure that I was comfortable taking care of, eating every day because you don’t recognize how important a role your mama plays or dad or guardian when it comes to that.

So, um, and then downtime I think is also important too. So yes, the clubs and organizations will eat up a lot of your time in the, in the games, but like what do students do when there aren’t any of those things going on? Like, is there a big game club or are there activities to go for a walk? Can you go running?

What are the wellness options? So

Joseph: all that stuff. Absolutely, and Listen, um, dorm life is a ritualistic experience. It’s just something that’s Keep it moving. Yep. We’ve all done it. You just you just got to do it. Um, I think this is a really great it’s probably going to be the question we wrap up on Um, so what advice do we have for students who don’t necessarily have the financial means to visit campus in person?

Um, but want want the opportunity to make those connections and learn about the campuses

Joanne: Yeah, so the key would be, um, student ambassadors. So almost every single website, you know, has an admissions portion. Usually you can find a student’s name or contact information and your admissions counselor would love to connect you with a current student within your major.

I would reach out to them and let them know. But because of the pandemic, we’ve all given virtual options. So there’s the general virtual tours. Um, and many colleges have different kinds of smaller events. So at Howard, we have in the spring. We call them herd huddles because we’re bison. And they’re on all these different topics.

So like the college of fine arts has a herd huddle and they get to meet with Dean Rashad, um, the Dean of the college of fine arts, they get to watch the dance performance. Um, there’s a herd huddle on literally taking transportation where it’s a student on a selfie stick. And she goes, you know, on a scooter.

We live in a city, so she takes a scooter, shows you how to get to the dining hall, goes to her residence hall, and then herds, uh, hops on the Howard Herd to go to different parts of campus. Um, virtual events are definitely key. There should be recorded information sessions. There should be recorded, um, ways for you to connect with students, but reach out to your admissions officer and make sure that they give you the name of a student to chat with.

Students love talking about their universities. I would say that’s probably the number one reason they go there is to gush about it. So I know that your admissions officer can find you someone to chat with about that.

Joseph: Absolutely. And there are also some, depending on where you live, there are some local organizations that do help sponsor college visits.

Um, so it’s something you can speak to your guidance counselor about and just see if, see if those opportunities are available for you. And we are just about at the end of our time. We don’t have any more questions at the moment. So I think this is a pretty good place for us to wrap up. But I do want to thank you for such a fantastic presentation, Joanne.

I think you keep this fun and light, but also get so much important information across to everyone. So I think this was really fantastic. Um, thank you everyone for coming out tonight. Um, that is going to be the end of the webinar. We had a really great time telling you about how to fine tune your college list.

We will be hosting a lot of additional webinars throughout September. So feel free to check those out. We have some college panels on schools, including UPenn, um, ultimate guide to your supplemental essays, possibly talking about how to start early and stand out early. So make sure you check those out. Um, and we really appreciate you joining us this evening

Joanne: and I’ll be back in October for others.

So hope to see you all soon. Bye everyone. Bye. Have a good night.