Handling College Application Stress
Is the application process feeling daunting or starting to make you stressed? CollegeAdvisor is here to help! Join CollegeAdvisor Admissions Expert Ferrell Armstrong as he presents Handling Application Stress. This will be a 60-minute webinar and Q&A. Our presenter will share their tips and tricks on how to minimize stress so that you can submit your best applications possible. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-09-14 – Handling College Application Stress
Hi, everyone. Welcome to this evening’s webinar. We’re so excited to have you with us at CollegeAdvisor.com. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a Senior Advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Uh, today’s session will focus on Handling College Application Stress. To orient everyone to the webinar timing we will do a presentation for the first 30 minutes or so, and then we’ll transition to a live Q&A for the last few minutes of the session. On the sidebar, you can download our slides, uh, for this, for this presentation. And you can also start submitting questions via the Q&A tab. Whenever you get ready.
Um, now let’s move forward and meet our great presenter, uh, Ferrell Armstrong. Ferrell, do you wanna take a few minutes to introduce yourself? Sure I don’t know about “great” Uh, but that’s a really nice introduction. Thank you. Uh, my name’s Ferrell, I’ve been involved in college admissions, my entire career, almost 13 years now, which is where these wrinkles in my forehead populate more for every day.
Um, love everything about college admissions. Um, I’ve spent most of my time working as a university admissions officer. So I started at the University of Georgia, but from there went to Vanderbilt. And while at Vanderbilt, I became the Assistant Director of Admissions, uh, and later became the Head of International Admissions as well.
So, um, during that timeline, I was promoted to the admissions committee. Which made me one of only five people that got to vote on who is accepted to the school. I’m really excited to be with you this evening and kind of go through what I personally think is a good way to kind of strategize this process and to make it less stressful.
Great. Awesome. Well, we are happy to have you. I think you’re great. I enjoy having sessions with you. Um, so we will get started first off with a quick poll. So again, the session’s about managing your stress. So tell us, let us know how. How are you feeling? Um, sorry, let me make sure that one’s going all right.
Are folks feeling relaxed and ready? A little stressed, somewhat stressed, very stressed, so stressed that you want us to send help. Um, let us know how you’re doing. And I think I, I can’t notice any of the wrinkles you’re talking about Ferrell, so I think, I think that’s all well, uh, maybe, maybe I get Botox. I don’t know.
Maybe I dunno. That shouldn’t couldn’t do it. oh, well, I, you know, I think you’re aging gracefully. Um, so we’ll go ahead and close our poll next to the folks who have submitted. Um, and it’s interesting to find that folks are, are so much stressed or very stressed. We have a majority of folks about 60% saying they are very stressed right now.
40% say they’re somewhat stressed. No one is at the point where they’re sending help. So maybe this is a great point of intervention. Um, so let’s go ahead. I’ll stop talking and let you get started on helping folks manage their stress in the application process. Well, you know, I, I think my first slide might actually create more stress.
Uh, but you know, I think one of the first things that comes up in this conversation is, you know, what parts of the, you know, or I should say what factors in the application process can be particularly stressful. Uh, and the reality is that all of it can be, um, the reason that that’s the truth is that if you don’t give yourself enough time, um, in, in purpose in this process, every single aspect of this can give you, I, I think.
A pretty rough go and, and leave you feeling as if you are kind of stuck somewhere and not making any forward progress. So what I try to encourage every family to do is to really value your time. Um, I, I think families that have been through this process, you know, 2, 3, 4 times can speak from experience and say that this begins and ends quicker than you even really can, you know, think about it.
And I’m someone that traditionally wears a watch every day on my wrist. And ironically, I’ve taken an off today before this presentation, but I wear a watch because it reminds me of the importance of time and time in this process is your best friend. Um, the more time that you provide yourself, the more you’re able to spread this process out and really think things through and make greater informed decisions.
As opposed to putting it off to the last second and having to make very quick decisions and be rather rushed in the overall process. So the, the way that you can avoid stress in general, the number one takeaway from tonight’s session, I’ll just go ahead and give it to you is to start early and, and give yourself a balanced, you know, pipeline, if you will, or timeline to work through this, you know, journey in now specifically, it, it, this really does need to be about pacing yourself.
And, and I think that starting early, when I describe it surprises, most families that I, you know, come into contact with. I think a lot of families believe they’re doing the right thing by starting this process as a junior. I would say, if you can avoid that, you should. Um, the reality here is that starting this process as a junior is frankly, just too late to be starting.
I ideally, you’re starting this process as early as ninth grade. Um, and really getting, you know, focused at the earliest stages of your high school career. Um, the reality is, is the quicker that you become focused on this process, the quicker that you can narrow your school list down activities down. Now you’re more balanced in the process in terms of which schools you would end up applying to.
And I’ll go into greater detail about that here in a few minutes, but I want you to be planning this in, in phases or, uh, stages. If you. So that you can separate this and kind of be giving yourself many goals. So having one to two goals for this process, you know, throughout each year of high school is a really strong plan.
And so for me, I try to work towards, you know, maybe, you know, a six month process to a, to a 10 month process, if I can, uh, when, you know, guiding families through the application journey. The other thing I wanna remind you of is it’s important to take breaks. You know, I, I make a joke there at the bottom about ice cream solves problems.
Um, not to be disrespectful. It does if you’re not lactose intolerant. Uh, but my point being is that be sure to give yourself the time that you need to, you know, still be a student, still be a teenager and parents still be a family. I, I, I don’t want this process to take away from those opportunities for you.
I, I, I really want you to be able to spread this process out and not live the stressful experience that most applicants do. And so if done properly, by structuring this around your schedule already, probably very busy, uh, with a variety of courses and of course activities, and then parents, your, your work schedules.
I, if you can properly structure this around that scheduling, you’re really gonna give yourself, I think, a much happier experience as a family and students, you specifically, you’re really gonna be able to learn something about yourself in this process. You know, this, this does not have to be something that is overly time consuming and it, it honestly doesn’t have to be something that creates a, a lot of unnecessary stress, but that comes from starting early.
So as we kind of transition, I’m gonna start to break it down by the different phases that I think you should be really focused on. Keep in mind that these are recommendations that I personally suggest. Okay, everyone’s gonna have something of a different opinion on this, but if you just kind of listen to me this evening, I think you can understand why now I I’ve tried to recommend this pathway be done in the following, you know, route, if you will, first and foremost, I really want families to understand the importance of getting a hot start, uh, in, in the high school.
Now I first phase I, I kind of relate to being focused on activities and personal brand development. The other thing I should have included here is academic performance, right? If, if you are not starting off well enough with your academic performance, then you’re already in a whole, um, that is quite difficult to dig out of.
So academics should be a primary important, excuse me, should be a primary focal point for you throughout your entire high school journey. Uh, but that being the. As it relates to the specific college application process. I wanna take a few minutes to focus on your activity, selection and brand development.
So what is a brand well, a brand in this case, it’s what you’re passionate about. It’s what you’re looking to use your life for. And it’s what you’re willing to do to go after that. Now, as, as soon as I start talking about this and the moment I start saying that you should be trying to figure this out, you know, from ninth through 11th grade, um, you’re really gonna be, you know, stressed, I think, right outta the gates.
Most families, most parents specifically start to look at me and say, well, wait a second. How is my son or daughter supposed to know what they wanna do with their life experience? And, and I’m, I’m not saying that everyone’s gonna know, but if you can start to narrow it down instead of having 15 or 20 things that you, you know, have an interest in, if you can get it down to two or three, You’re really putting yourself in a much better position.
So ideally you start to get more experience starting from ninth grade, um, and not starting this process in 11th grade. So let me explain I, if you are going into to your ninth grade year right now, you’ve just started your freshman year or perhaps you’re just starting your sophomore year as a 10th grader.
The sooner that you can start to identify activities that relate to what you’re feeling called to do, what you’re feeling motivated to pursue academically in college, or maybe even in a career field, the better off you’re gonna be. Because the sooner that you start getting very specific with your activity development, it can all now start to relate to what you are in pursuit of what you wanna do with your life, your brand.
So the importance of this is leveraging time to seek out multiple opportunities. The way that you can start to narrow down what it is you want to specifically pursue is by having multiple experiences across different types of activities. So these can be internships. These can be research opportunities, shadowing experiences.
You know, a lot of times students will come to me and they’ll gimme, you know, I wanna be in the medical pathway, but they can’t tell you what they wanna do in medicine. Or they wanna do something as it relates to engineering, but they don’t really know what they wanna do in engineering. So getting experience in different subfields within the medical, you know, pathway or within the engineering pathway is very beneficial for you to start kind of narrowing this process down and developing that brand for yourself.
But it’s those activities that are gonna facilitate that quicker for you. The sooner that you can start experiencing new opportunities and exposing yourself to, you know, different academic or, you know, career opportunities as a ninth grader, The quicker, you’re probably gonna know what you wanna apply to school for.
I, I get a lot of pushback from parents on this and typically, and I mean this with total respect, the, the parents that are typically pushing back on this that are, are saying, how, how should my son or daughter know what they wanna do? A lot of cases. That’s the students that have not, these are parents of students who have not done a lot with their free time.
And, and I wanna respectfully encourage you to be maximizing as much as your free time as possible to be exploring multiple different avenues that might have the slightest interest for your child. It, it’s very important that you at least explore it. And if it doesn’t, you know, work for them, then great cross it off the list.
Uh, but it could be something that they end up queuing into. So I want you to be focused on using your time around that, but the sooner that you start to narrow down your activity list, the sooner that you’re able to really become very particular with the more higher level experiences that you’re probably gonna do with that summer after 10th grade and.
Perhaps that summer after 11th grade, going to senior year with those probably higher level research opportunities that you might be targeting over the summertime, things like that, or higher level internships, like the NASA summer internship. Um, you actually have to have a portfolio of experience that you’ve done over ninth and 10th grade to, to really be competitive for some of those more selective internship and shadowing experiences.
So important to keep in mind now. Moving on in, into school exploration and list build. Now, I, I will be honest with you and tell you that I would even normally recommend that you start exploring schools as early as ninth grade, uh, but for your mental sanity and probably for mine, um, I’m comfortable recommending that you start this process as a 10th grade student, uh, but you absolutely the latest need to start exploring schools as an 11th grade family.
The reason I would suggest starting to try to explore schools as early as possible, is that the sooner that you get a more refined school list down this kind of defaults back to, uh, phase one being activity and brand development, the sooner that you get your school list refined down to the schools, that you’re pretty serious about applying to now all of your activities and other experiences that you start to get involved.
Are now cater to those schools and what they’re looking for out of an admissible applicant. So the way that we really suggest that, you know, building a school list and exploring schools is first and foremost, don’t go off of name and rank. Okay. Uh, the, the first thing that I, I, you know, try to, you know, stress to families is you’re creating stress for yourself by only targeting big name and popular schools.
There are thousands of schools across the United States today over 6,000 to be specific. And, and with that being the case, there are a lot of wonderful opportunities out there. A lot of great institutions with. Very strong programs, but just because they’re not in the top 50, a lot of people won’t consider them.
And I think that naturally places, a lot of stress on families, it’s it’s students specifically, that’s completely unnecessary. I want you looking at 30 to 40 schools so that you can find the right culture and community for you as the student. That’s important because the happier that you are within that culture and community, the better you are gonna perform as a student.
And, and I don’t think that that’s something that can really be balanced. I mean, your happiness is probably the most important part of this, you know, journey and the search process, but also once you get to school, your happiness is the most important part of your school experience. So really giving yourself a variety of options to look through is important.
Now, how, how should you be doing this? Well, one of the things that I think a lot of families and students make the mistake of doing is they don’t really get to know a. They take this school’s website as kind of cold hard fact. And I mean, they’re not lying to you, but you know, a school’s website or a school admissions officer, they’re recruiting you.
And, and that’s something that I want you to be very, you know, cognizant enough is that these schools are in fact recruiting you. So again, they’re not lying, I’m not accusing any institution of lying. What I am saying though, is that they may not be giving you the complete image, perhaps certainly giving you a sliver of the perspective they want you to hear so that you apply.
We would suggest here at CollegeAdvisor that you’re getting in contact with current students and recent graduates. The benefit to you of this is twofold. One. It allows you to be taking on the opinion or listening to the opinion of someone that has invested themselves personally, in that school’s community and culture and hearing about their own experience from someone specifically the benefit of this.
Excuse me. Lemme say that again, doing this with the current student that is specifically not affiliated with the school’s website or excuse me, uh, tour guides program or admissions office staff is quite impactful because now they’re giving you their own experience that they’ve invested themselves in financially.
They’re not being paid to speak with you. And I think there should be a lot more weight placed upon that fact that these individuals that are current students in recent graduates, not being affiliated with the schools in any type of financial way in terms of payment should bring you more value and comfort based upon what you’re learning about that school.
So, in my opinion, it’s the students, it’s the conversations with current students from recent graduate. That should really do most of the influence on is this the right, you know, fit for you as a student and parents, is this the right place that you feel comfortable sending your child off to school for the next, you know, four to five years?
The second benefit to this is that when the timeframe comes for you to start evaluating and developing your essays, it’s these conversations with current students and recent graduates that should be influencing your essays. When you are able to incorporate real time information into your essay responses, it really creates a significant level change for your application.
Because once again, most students are just gonna be utilizing information that they find on the school’s website, not necessarily very, you know, personalized information that you’ll get from connecting with current students. So doing this sooner, rather than later, I’m gonna repeat myself on purpose here.
It really allows you to start to narrow down your school list. And as you start to narrow your school list down, Ideally by the midpoint of sophomore year, from that moment on every other activity that you get involved with should be related to what these schools and what, again, that they’re specifically looking for out of an applicant and believe it or not, some schools are looking for prerequisites.
You know, an example would be engineering applicants. Um, there’s not a school in the top 50 that if you do not have some type of coding experience and you’re applying for computer science, you’re gonna be denied automatically. They won’t even look at you. Same thing for academics, you’re able to shape your academic course selection to match these schools that you are interested in.
Applying to another example, again, is engineering. Most schools in the top 50 top 60 are going to expect you have taken physics and calculus to be admissible or to even be considered for, you know, admission at all. Um, and if you don’t have that on your transcript or you, if you will not have taken that by the time you graduate, you are not admissible and they will not review your application.
But a lot of these schools. Are kind of, you know, trying to keep that in the dark. Some of them won’t promote it as much. So by getting to know the schools on your list or getting to form a school list early and getting to know what the schools on your list are looking for early, allows you to really script your academics and your activity selection to fit their interests and needs of their most, you know, admissible applicants.
So obviously tours influence this as well. Um, look, there are great virtual tours today. You know, the pandemic has, has made us, you know, all default using virtual tours and they are a great. But there’s nothing like getting on a school’s campus. And I will tell you out of experience, um, you can’t control the weather.
Uh, but that being the case, if you do go to a tour one day and it’s an absolute downpour, try to book a second, visit it, it will change your experience. Um, rain has a way of changing people’s moods, as I’m sure we all know. So do you get the school a fair chance and try to go back if you can, uh, on a least, at least a non rainy day, cuz you will see different experience in most cases at the end of things, as you finalize your list, I, I really suggest that you keep your list at 10 to 12 schools.
That is what we typically suggest here at CollegeAdvisor. And, and sure, we, we have students that we work with that are applying to 15 to 20. Um, but I don’t think most students and families are prepared for what 15 and 20 school applications. Bring with it. You know, the average school today is gonna ask you to complete between three and four supplemental essays.
So I tell most of my famous to be budgeting right off the 40 essay mark, just for 10 to 12 schools. When you go over the 17 application mark, you’re looking at 72 plus essays on average. So by getting the right list in place for you, you actually increase your chance of ignition, but decrease the amount of work you have to do.
So you should be building a list based upon reach target and safety categories. Um, one of the ways that you can guide yourself on what truly is a reach, a target and a safety is understanding what qualifies as that a reach school is any school that has an acceptance rate of 30% or less a target school is any school that has an acceptance rate of 55% or better.
And a safety school is any school that has an acceptance rate of 85% or better. Now respectfully, I’ve had some conversations with families before saying, well that this such and such school is not that good of a school. Why is it a reach school? Just because you may not have a high opinion on a school doesn’t mean it’s not a reach school, right?
So if it follows those percentages of ignition, that’s how they’re going, how you should be identifying them. So again, 30% are less acceptance rate is a reach school, a 55% or better acceptance rate is a target school and 85% better or 85% acceptance rate or better is a safety. Now as we move on to stages three and four, you need to be developing an application strategy in phase three.
So what is an application strategy? I think this is very important. I think a lot of people make the mistake of listening to the rumor mill. And when it comes down to determining how should you apply to a school? Most students fall victim to the rumor. That early action is always better. Uh, this is not always the case at some schools, depending upon what you’re applying for.
You may be very well off, uh, by going in the early action process. But at another school, you might actually be better off going through the regular decision process. You need to be studying three to four years worth of admissions data per school, to tell you what your best shot of admission is per school.
The other piece to this is being honest with yourself. Um, and, and I’m trying to be as, as nice in, in delivering this as possible, but I, I get wanting to be at an amazing institution that has a great history to it. And. I do think sometimes families are not honest with themselves. I, if you have a 2.75 GPA, you’re, you’re not gonna get into an Ivy league school.
And I don’t say that to be rude, hateful or upsetting. I say that because I see a lot of families with students in those GPA ranges that are overly stressing themselves to get into something that they’re not simply going to be admitted to. So being understanding of what your academic credentials are, and being truthful with yourself about where that places you within different schools that you may be interested in is gonna save you a lot of time.
And a lot of stress. Now, the fourth phase is obviously gonna be essay development. The reason I say that application strategizing should be done in 11th and that essay development should be in 11th is that I want you to start your essays ideally by January of 11th grade. And the very first thing that most people tell me is, wait a second, schools don’t release their topics until the summertime.
Well, that’s surprising because most schools will keep their topics for two to three years at a time. You just have to call and ask them a lot of schools will have it on their website. So any school that’s reusing their essay topics in the autumn of the year that you’re applying as long as they’re at the beginning or middle of that essay cycle, and they’re not changing them, you can start writing them immediately.
So getting to understand that is to your benefit because the sooner that you get to start spreading out your essays, the better it’s gonna be for you. So by developing your application strategy in the, you know, latter part of first semester of 11th grade, determining, Hey, are we going early action to this school or regular decision to this school?
Now you understand the order that you wanna start working through your essays in by school. Okay. So when it comes into your essays, it’s important to understand what you need to be implementing into them, into them, excuse me, what you should be implementing within your essays, so that you stand out. And I think the biggest mistake today, and I’m gonna go ahead and skip to it is the second point is.
Purposely reusing essays across schools. A lot of people call it recycling. Um, a lot of students today are writing six or seven essay templates, and they’re changing the name of the school out, maybe the name of a professor in a class that they might teach and they think that’s gonna cut it. And it’s not, especially if you’re looking at the most selected schools in the country, you you’re just wasting your time where you’re gonna stand out in this process is by tailoring your essay to that school’s culture and community, the better off, excuse me, you are better off by getting to know these schools at a much earlier stage in your high school career, so that you have that knowledge and you can utilize that to influence your essays.
That’s how you’re gonna give yourself an impact point in the review process. So the sooner that you understand the individual cultures of each school, The sooner you’re able to start your essays as long as they’re using the same topics. Now, the big thing here is understanding that while two schools, again, might have the exact same topic verbatim, certain schools might want them to go in different directions, which is another reason why you don’t wanna be reusing your essays.
So you should be building out individual outlines and creating different narratives for each one to give you the best chance of admission, because that’s gonna create a better impact for you. One of the things that kind of influences essays though, is this unwillingness to start. And a lot of times when I talk about an unwillingness to start, what I’m actually referring to here is a lot of students will say that they have trouble coming up with ideas.
It’s not in my experience that students have trouble coming up with ideas. It’s that they come up with ideas. They just don’t like the way that they sound. In other words, they start to write. They don’t like the way that it sounds and they stop and they. They, they think they have writer’s block, but they really don’t.
They’re just quick, early what that student is doing in most cases is taking a brick layers approach to the writing process. Any professional writer will tell you, you cannot be a perfectionist as a writer. You have to really get a lot on paper to work with before you start going back and going through the editing and polishing stages.
So what we encourage students to do here at CollegeAdvisor is to become a bulldozer with your writing. Even if something doesn’t necessarily make sense, keep going with it. Try to get four to five paragraphs before you start going back and looking at your work and trying to edit it. That actually gives you something to work with.
And now you’re able to start massaging different pieces into place and really polishing the. Most students, and they’re not quitting per se, but most students are stopping because they just flinch at, oh, this doesn’t sound great because they don’t trust themselves enough because they take that perfectionist attitude.
I appreciate that willingness and desire to be the best of your game. But you have to be honest with yourself first and understand that you really, by having a couple of sentences or a single paragraph, you’re really judging yourself too early. You really don’t even know what you have at that point. So give yourself something to work with before you’re saying I, I, I don’t, I’m struggling with an idea here.
You probably do have an idea. That’s good to go. You just need to get something on paper first and then maybe have someone tell you. No, that’s good. And here’s why, so that’s where getting a little bit of support really starts to come in to be influential. And of course the big piece here is about taking.
Once again, I make my little ice cream joke, but it’s important for you to understand that when you are doing these essays, the worst thing that you can do is to do them over top of one another. That is another reason why I suggest starting your essays as early as January of your 11th grade year. The more that you can start early, I’m sorry.
Let me repeat that. The earlier that you can start your essays, the more breaks that you can take. And in my experience, the better quality essay you’re gonna write when you’re able to be taking breaks in between each essay, you’re allowing your brain to reset. It’s resting. Therefore, when you’re starting to develop your next essay, your creativity is functioning at its highest.
This is a way that you can structure your work around challenging AP or IB courses. When you have a lot of assignments at different parts of the year, the mistake that I think too many families make is they shove the essay development. Or they say, they’re going to shove it into the, you know, little eight week period of time that we like to refer to a summer in between 11th and 12th grade.
Um, but in the 13 years I’ve been doing this again, my entire career, since I graduated college, it typically doesn’t work that way. It typically ends up bleeding into the, to the, you know, autumn of senior year because students and I did the same thing are easily distracted by the summertime and all that comes with the freedom of summertime by developing a process for yourself and working out of a schedule, you’re going to be able to slowly work through this at a leisurely pace.
And you’re never gonna feel the pressure and the overwhelming sense of running outta time as if you would, by starting later. So start this process by the middle point of 11th grade. That’s how you’re gonna be able to spread these essays out and really take a lot of that stress that comes with the process away from your, your family experience.
Now the final phases to go over briefly are gonna be, you know, the scholarship and financial aid process and making your final enrollment decision, um, scholarships in financial aid. I, I think it’s important that I I’m very clear here about what I’m suggesting. I’m not saying to, to not start applying to scholarship until 12th grade.
But what I am saying is that that’s when the majority of your scholarship applications should be focused on, you need to be getting into school in order to apply a scholarship. So that being the case, um, I, I really want you to. Spend most of your time in, in junior year, focus on your missions applications through that, you know, spring of junior year, summer, and fall of, you know, 12th grade, autumn of 12th grade, um, you should be picking up your scholarship applications, um, pretty heavily, you know, by the middle point of your first semester of 12th grade, most school specific scholarship applications are due by December 15th.
Therefore you need to have applied to that school well before them so that you can get the topics and, and write your essay responses and submit them. So even if you might be applying regular decision to a school, which historically those are due in January, it’s in your best interest to get that regular decision application submitted by October 1st or October 15th.
So you can basically give yourself from the middle of October through the middle of December to do all of your school specific, uh, scholarship essays quite important. Now, one of the things that I, I wanna address is. Understanding the overall cost of school. Um, I, I think a lot of times students and families make a, a very big mistake and they, and I’ll talk about this again here in a little bit, but they, they put the financial conversation off the last second respectfully.
Don’t do that to yourself. It, it causes a lot of unnecessary conflict and emotion. Um, and I know it’s a more challenging conversation to have. And again, we’ll talk about this here in a second, but you should be exploring and utilizing each school’s financial aid website by federal law, every school must maintain a net price calculator on its website.
And typically the net price calculator will give you within a 5%, um, within 5% accuracy of what you can expect to pay, to attend net school. Um, the other thing is, and you can do that at any time. Um, the other thing that you should be planning on doing is starting your FAFSA. Now, the FAFSA, the federal application for federal student aid, um, that is your application for federal, uh, financial assistance.
Um, that goes live August one of your 12th grade. Okay. So that will be something that you, as a parent or guardian will need to start doing the beginning of October. But leading up to that moment, you should be gathering all the required documentation that you may have to be entering information for.
Okay. So any tax returns, things like that. And then of course, you know, when should you be targeting general scholarships? Well, again, you can use some of these during that junior year. Um, you know, understanding though that a lot of your scholarships are, you know, still gonna be active for seniors. So you wanna make sure that when you are doing any scholarships, you know, applications during your 11th grade year, that this will apply to you, um, when you’re actually enrolling at that school a year and a half later.
So keep that in mind. There’s some great websites like niche.com. Uh, there’s fast web, understand that some of these websites like fast web have a lot of people using them. Uh, but they are very real, uh, and they have lots of different opportunities there. You have to commit to the process though. And, you know, I think a lot of students and families think that they’re gonna apply to six and seven scholarships and that’s gonna be it.
If you wanna have any success in using these mass scholarship websites, you need to be planning on applying to dozens of scholarships. But if you put the time in, you should see something. Um, when I was at university of Georgia, my first posting as an admissions officer, one of my colleagues got a $14,000 scholarship, uh, from a scholarship that she found on fast web.
Uh, so it’s a very worthwhile resource, just like niches, um, other great, uh, scholarship, um, area, not areas, but other great scholarship generators. Uh, if you have a membership with, uh, NSHS, Great resource there. A lot of great scholarships listed through that program. Uh, very affordable membership. That makes a lot of sense in my experience with the resources that that program offers you.
And then of course, really being detailed and thinking outside the box. Um, there are not scholarships for blonde and blue eyed people. Um, there are not scholarships because you wear glasses. These are legitimate rumors. I have heard since I was in high school myself. Um, and those are not to sound rude, but those are hopeful conversations and, and.
Comments that are being made by people that are desperate in many cases to find any opportunity for a scholarship. I get it. I, I was desperate to find scholarship when I went to school. Um, understanding though that the reality is, is that scholarships are created for a purpose to honor someone or to benefit maybe a, an organization.
So understanding what scholarships that might only be available in your local area, a great example would be your place of worship. Many places of worship will have endowed scholarships, your local city, many local cities have endowed scholarships for students that are graduating from that city alone.
Um, so contacting your local city official your local city manager and seeing what is there, um, parents or guardians looking through any professional memberships that you maintain? You know, association memberships. My mother, uh, was in the grocery business for 20 plus almost 30 plus years. And she was a member of the Tennessee grocers association.
I was able to apply to a scholarship that was only available to members, children, um, through the Tennessee grocery, the Tennessee groceries association, uh, they actually had three different scholarships that members children could apply to. So exploring those opportunities are, are quite important, but I think get very over very frequently overlooked because that’s, those are the ones that most people don’t tend to think of right now.
This is gonna be on the internet. Good luck. I don’t know. Uh, but my point here is that those local ones are the ones that typically get missed. It’s the big ones, like the Coca-Cola col uh, the Coca-Cola scholarship that are getting the, you know, tens of thousands of applications for look locally. And you might be surprised at what you’ll find and turn up for sure.
Now the final part of the process is making an enrollment decision. And I, I think the, the last piece of this is you need to be prepared to make this decision pretty quickly. Um, even though I say mid to late of 12th grade, depending upon the school that you’re wanting to enroll in, um, many schools, housing fills up pretty quickly.
And so the sooner that you respond the quicker that you’re able to secure your housing, uh, but make sure you’re, you’re honest with yourself as a family and as a student, first of all, are you excited about that school? If, if you’re not jumping and excited about going to that school, being a member of that community for the next four years, and that’s a problem, don’t do it.
Okay. You should be excited and, and really motivated to be there. Um, if it’s just this, Hey, great. I got into a top 50 school. That’s not a reason go to that school. Okay. Um, I, I think the other piece is making sure and double checking yourself, Hey, is this the right community for myself? Does this have the resources I’m looking for?
Am I gonna be supported and, and covered? Um, am I gonna be able to, you know, be a contributing member of this school society? Or am I maybe not gonna be able to do the things that I enjoy on a regular basis within this community? Those are worthwhile questions to be asking yourself before making that final decision.
I, again, I think the biggest piece here is, are you comfortable with the cost? The last thing I wanna see anyone do, and obviously this has been a huge topic of debate lately in our country, um, is to overburden yourself with school debt. Um, I personally want you to go to the best school for you. I don’t want you to necessarily overburden yourself for the next 30 years by paying off a quarter to a half a million dollars in undergraduate school debt school debt makes sense.
Absolutely. Um, but there’s a certain amount that you should be comfortable with. And I would be encouraging every family to decide what that line in the sand is gonna be for you and try to stay within that limitation that you’re setting for yourself. And of course, any type of final school visit, one more round of, you know, current student interviews will benefit you, just making sure that you’re, you know, dotting your eyes and crossing your Ts to just do one final gut check that that is the right place for you.
Don’t leave any stone unturned on this because you really do have one shot at this. And, um, I never want someone to end up somewhere where they’re they end up regretting later on.
We will go ahead and give you a little bit of a break and we’ll do another quick, um, poll for everyone. I appreciate you sharing the ice cream, ice cream comments, multiple times. That has always been a good tool and trick, uh, for my students as we’re going through the process to have some ice cream and take some breaks and step away from things throughout, uh, the application process.
So I, I second that as a strategy, uh, for addressing stress and then also at the decision time, um, having a s’mores party and burning some of those rejection matters um, has always also been a cathartic, um, sweet space process for some of my students. Um, I have a sweet tooth. I’m guilty, so I’ll wave that flag.
Uh, I am a dessert guy for sure. But, um, I have found that ice cream brings people together for sure. Yeah. Yes. Um, alright, well, thanks folks for letting us know what grade your, uh, you are in or your child is in. Uh, that’s very helpful context for us, and it makes sense, uh, given some of the stress levels that folks tracking about that 80% of our attendees are in the 12th grade.
So you’re right in the midst of it, trying to figure out how to balance all of these things, moving into what it seems was phase four or phase three of the process. Um, and in getting ready to prepare for phase, uh, phases five and six, or, or getting a leg up on phases five and six. So, uh, thanks for giving us that content.
I will content our context rather. Um, I will head it back over to you Ferrell, to finish this out for the rest of the presentation. Cool. So, I mean, I think one of the big things that I, I do wanna focus on parents or guardians is specifically for you is. Understand that a lot of times a student really won’t start this process without, you know, your encouragement.
So I, I want you to try to take the lead here as much as possible. Granted, please hear me say, I respect you. You know, I’m a, I’m a parent myself. I have two little girls, you know, you’re very busy providing a roof over the heads of your children. You know, being able to support your family by putting food on the table.
And that comes with a lot of time commitment and a lot of stress. I, I hear you. However, I think a lot of students today get caught up in their school experiences and all the other things that are going on. And a lot of times they just right past this process. And so you trying to get out front of this and trying to get, um, your son or daughter, um, on a pathway early will be to your benefit.
And, and so the quicker that you can kind of get them in this, the better it will be, but once you get them started in my experience, most students kind of run with it once you get them started. I, I think it’s. Polite to say that you should be an accountability partner. And the reason I say polite is I never wanna tell anybody how to be a parent that’s for sure.
I’m only in the first couple years of it myself. Um, but you honestly do have a very similar amount of work to do in this process, uh, as your children and. What I mean by this is when you’re starting to look at the, you know, costs of paying for school, um, you know, how you’re gonna pay for it, what you’re comfortable with that that does take a lot of work.
And, um, I, I really want you to use each other as accountability partners to say, Hey, how are you progressing with this? Are you comfortable with what you found out about this school’s community? And then students, I, I want you going back to your parents and saying, okay, like these are the schools I’m, I’m looking at, um, you know, this is the cost.
Like what, what do you think? Right. And, and, and having that conversation, and the sooner that you can start down that road of bouncing ideas back and forth off of one another, it’s gonna keep everybody in the household focused on this process and keep everybody accountable. But I think the thing here that I, I do wanna be very specific about is the people that are more overwhelmed in this process are the parents.
And, and that’s because in, in most cases, when I get on a call with a family looking for assistance, it’s. Mom or dad or, oh my gosh. It, you know, my child is a, you know, is a senior. I, we don’t have a school list and you know, it’s September of my 12th, my, you know, daughter’s 12th grade year. What do we do well at that point, it’s a very different process.
It’s, it’s a sped up process that a lot of ideal parts that you wanna make up, you know, happen in your journey have to get cut out just so you can get your applications done in time. So parents, I think for you or guardians, it is important that you understand that you can limit your stress by holding your student accountable as well.
And even though I’m, I’m asking you to both be accountable, accountability partners together. I think a lot of the stress that I’ve ex you’ve seen coming from parents in, in recent years is parents giving their students a little bit too much room in this process where it’s like, yeah, mom, dad, I got it. I got it.
I got it. And then they really haven’t done anything. Right. So I would encourage you to be on Overwatch if you will be frequently checking in and, and having a plan on doing that is important. You know, when we work with families here at CollegeAdvisor, one of the biggest reasons why I suggest any family get our assistant is because we work with you through a student portal where we physically track all of your work as a family, from essay development to list, build out all that’s done within your own private portal.
And it takes away a lot of the stress of not knowing where your child is at. So getting that assistance is going to help you in that process and kind of give you a resource and making sure that your student is, is doing what they need to be doing in a timely manner. And the final piece I wanna, you know, talk about in terms of, you know, offering support to your student, the process as a parent or guardian is, is having the financial conversation.
I’ve said it earlier, I’m gonna end with it here tonight. This is the most stressful part of the application for most families. And honestly it has been the source of some of my most difficult. As an admissions officer. Um, the moment that I remember the most in my time is I had a very sweet lady, uh, that I had, you know, been interacting with for several months while I was at Vanderbilt.
And, um, the lady’s granddaughter was accepted to Vanderbilt and she picked up the phone after her granddaughter had been accepted and calls and says, Ferrell, we got in we’re so thrilled, but please help. I can’t afford to send my baby to her dream school. And, and that crushed me, right? That, that, that crushed me because here I was, I had this relationship with the family, cuz I had been actively conversing with him multiple times, um, throughout, you know, that, that cycle of the admissions process, not one time had the financial conversation come up and here I was unable to do anything to assist them.
The financial aid processes between you and the federal government. So I want you as a family to do this as a family nuclear unit. I want you to be supportive of one another. I want you to be open and honest about your particular family situation. It’s okay. And I think as you do this as a family, it’s going to allow you to become closer together.
You’re gonna appreciate one another’s truth and honesty more, and you’re gonna be making a decision. That’s not just best for your student. But’s best for you as a family overall. And that’s the number one thing I want to come out of this process. This should never be a burden from a, a stress or a time perspective.
And it certainly does not need to be, uh, a significant financial burden, um, by going to a school that may just not be the right fit for you financially. Right? So please have that tough conversation earlier and avoid a lot of that stress that comes with it by doing it later. So final part here is you are truly in complete control of this process.
You need to use your time to your benefit. And the reality here is that everything comes down to you. It’s up to you. It’s about you. It’s on you. If you put this off, you’re not gonna have the outcome that you’re gonna want to have. If you put this off, you’re gonna have more stress than what you need to have.
This is really about you taking the charge as a student, but your parent or guardian needs to be there to support you. They’ll be there to support you, but they can’t do it for you as a student. So students might advice to you is to put a plan in place. Look at your schedules. What are you committed to and start planning around how you’re gonna operationalize these different phases around what your current commitments are and what your plans are over the next several months to next couple years, depending upon where you are in the process.
Uh, with that said, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you this evening. And, uh, I do look forward to taking some of your question.
Thank you so much. Um, thanks Ferrell for that great presentation. I do think it was great. I learned some things in there. there were some tips and, and tricks that I had not been thinking about, especially around the essays. So I appreciate you. And I also just want second, what you shared about the financial conversation.
It’s absolutely one of the hardest conversations to have with parents and with students. So the earlier you get it out there, um, the better, uh, but yeah, so that is the end of our presentation. Part of the webinar. We hope you found, um, throws presentation helpful. And again, a reminder that you can download the slides from the link on the handouts.
Tab, we’re gonna move on to the live Q&A. I have a couple of questions already sitting there. If you would like to ask a question, you can go to the Q&A tab. I will, um, paste them into a public chat so everyone can see, and then I will read them aloud to give an opportunity to give an answer if the Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions.
You just wanna double check that you’ve joined using the link in your email address. Um, and you might have to log out log back in, or you can just paste the question in the chat. All right. So let’s get started the first question, which I think relates to your conversation on phase phases five and six, and some of the financial is if you could give some clarity on school debt, where does school debt come into the equation and how do they kind of manage the stress of those conversations?
When perhaps there are loans that show up on financial aid award packages. So understanding the, the school’s average cost of attendance, understanding. Uh, what a, an average graduate of a school’s debt load is, is very important. Um, you know, one of the things I was most proud of when I was at Vanderbilt to give you some context here, um, I used to actually use that as a recruiting device because at Vanderbilt, the average debt of a four year graduate was only about $14,000.
Uh, the national average is I think it’s $34,000/$36,000 and that’s a five year graduate. Um, so a lot of schools aren’t as forthcoming about wanting to publish that information for you. Um, but being, being forward in pressing admission, processs on that information, that data is to your benefit. Um, so that’s how the debt comes into this process because you need to understand if, if you are relying upon financial aid, as I was, when I went to school, you need to understand what, you know, the ramifications of that are gonna be 5, 10, 15, even 20 years down the road.
Um, that is something that should be influencing your decision. Um, also understanding a school’s financial aid. um, estimate a lot of schools like two lanes, a good example, and I’m not trying to throw Tulane under the bus. It’s an incredible school. We’ve had a lot of success at Tulane. Um, Tulane, when they will give you your financial aid estimate, they will, it it’ll say, well, you’ll probably get six to $7,000 in grants, but where’s that grant coming from is in most cases, that’s a loan.
So you also need to be understanding when each school is giving you their financial aid estimate that all, what those different numbers are and where it’s coming from. Is it a scholarship or is it a grant? Is it a loan? What is it? And understanding what is gonna have to be paid back and what isn’t gonna have to be paid back.
And the last thing and something I should have made a part of the conversation. You need to be looking for need, um, you know, need blind schools as much as possible. You know, schools say that are need blind will not utilize your, um, your financial situation in their admissions decision about you. The other thing is a lot of need blind schools, not all of them, but a lot of them are what we call loan free.
And so any loan free school, if you qualify for financial aid, whatever it is, whether it’s a thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars or more, whatever financial aid you qualify for a loan free school will cover that for you. But it’s a gift that you never pay back over time. So, uh, Vanderbilt is an example of this whatever financial aid that you qualify for as a family, you would never have to pay back over time.
Um, some schools do it with certain limitations like U Chicago does it. Um, they are loan free up to a household income of $125,000. So if your family household income is 125K or less, And whatever financial aid that U Chicago gives you, you never pay back in your lifetime. So that should be influencing your school list as well when you’re putting your list together.
Thank you. That was helpful. And, and thorough. Um, I wanted to ask a question regarding, um, majors. So one family asked, is it okay to enter college without knowing what to major in? So how do you think what the students wanna major in career pursuits and all of that influence? And when is the best time to perhaps start having a conversation about majors and how majors might influence the colleges you choose?
So my, my answer to this is very unpopular. Okay. Um, cuz I, I, I default to the student of the better in all cases. Um, if at all possible you want to avoid being an undecided applicant. And, and let me explain why currently in the application space, there are three common types of applicants. The two most predominant applicant types are undecided applicants and then psychology applicants.
To be clear, I’m not speaking negatively either of those two, but let me be clear about where I’m trying to go with this undecided or psychology applicant. Don’t answer that. Um, so, um, undecided applicants are very common because it is challenging to lock into something it’s, it’s hard to commit to something at that age.
I get that. However, when, when you cannot give a school some semblance of direction, they don’t have as much excitement about you, your application, and you indicating a particular major, really gives a school a better idea of why you’re applying to them and kind of the direction of where you’re trying to go with that.
And it gives them a better understanding and a better reason to a better understanding of why you’re applying and a better reason of why you’re wanting to be there specifically. Okay. So to that end, being a more defined applicant, Is to your benefit. Okay. We’re always looking for a reason to admit you and knowing specifically why you’re wanting to be here is a very strong reason to admit you, okay.
Being a psychology applicant. Look, my, my wife is one, so I’m not saying anything negative about psychology applicants. But what I am saying is that 65% of initial psychology applicants do in fact change their major. So if you’re a psychology applicant, that’s gonna stick with it. Cool. But I do wanna be clear and tell you that a lot of schools can sometimes be a little hesitant about any major.
When a student doesn’t have some type of definitive proof that they’re serious about it. So you’re better off being the third category, which is that defined applicant. If possible, because if I can look at your, your activity section of your application and see three, four, even five activities, clubs, experiences that directly relate to the major that you’re applying for.
Now, I know why you’re coming here and I have greater trust that you’re gonna stick around with it. Because you’ve given me historical proof, most applicants today, they’re just saying, Hey, I’m gonna do this, but they don’t have any proof to go with it. So the more definitive you are makes me a lot more likely to take you in the significance of this is I’m in charge with not simply admitting you to schools as an admissions officer, I’m charged with maintaining enrollment.
Okay. I’m gonna trust that a student has three and four activities that relates to what they’re applying for. I’m gonna trust that they’re probably not gonna change their major. And if you’re willing to change your major, you’re also willing to transfer. That scares me as well as an admissions officer.
So I’m gonna focus more on that student that has more locked into something. Going back to the initial part of the question being undecided is not bad, but it’s not the best. So if you have to go in undecided, you at least need to be trying to show these in, uh, these institutions that you’re trying to narrow it down between two or three things.
And the way that you can narrow that down is by showing the different types of activities that you may have been, you know, getting involved with to try to make a determination about what it is you wanna major in. So to the second part of the question, it’s, you know, how should you be, or when should you be trying to determine what this is, ideally, you’re trying to narrow your major down by the end of sophomore year, because freshman, sophomore year, if you can weaponize that time and try to get a variety of different experiences and a variety of, you know, shadowing experiences or different clubs, you know, different research opportunities that is, you know, really your foundational time in high school to start helping you identify what it is you want to pursue.
Again, this is best case scenario. Okay. So that’s what we try to shoot for so that you can use the entirety of your junior year and the very first part of senior year to become very focused in on that one thing that you’re applying for.
I love all of that. I think, I think I’m a little scared, but like heartened at the same time of like narrowing down major by sophomore year. Um, or at least having an idea, I think, um, that does, that would help. And I’ve seen a lot of seniors struggle when they haven’t really stopped to have that conversation and think about it and be thoughtful about it.
And they’re trying to like, Scramble, you know, as we submit to think about something. So I think that’s an interesting part of the conversation and something I’m definitely gonna start doing with my sophomore students. Um, and I guess I’ll just make our PSA at this point as well. For those of you who are in the room and not currently working with us, we know the process can be overwhelming.
We know there are a lot of components of it that can be stressful regardless of when you start the process. So our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts ready to help are ready to help you. Um, and your family navigate this process through one-on-one advising sessions. You can’t take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with us using the QR code that is on your screen.
During that meeting, we will review extracurriculars, application strategy, discuss alignment on your college list and outline some tools you’ll need to stand out in the competitive admissions world. All right, thanks for letting me do that quick co. Uh, we’ll get back to the questions. Um, one, one person that was asking for clarification on financial aid packages for international students and just cuz it’s a quick one.
So they said, um, international students will get a loan, um, a scholarship potentially that’s not refundable and a grant. That’s also non-refundable from the, from the colleges. Is that correct? Are there any other possibilities for international students? They also asked about interest rates, but I think that might be harder to answer.
Yeah. I, I can’t answer an interest rate question that’s between you and the lender. Um, but the for school. Okay. So for schools that do offer, um, you know, financial aid to international students, most of the time, the schools that do that, they’re not really offering financial aid. What they’re gonna do is if you need financial.
You’re an international applicant. Most schools, when they accept you are gonna cover your areas of need, uh, that’s what essentially what they’re pledging to do. Um, so, you know, when I was at, um, you know, Vanderbilt, if we accepted a student, it was there coming in and if they needed a hundred thousand dollars, you know, per year, then they got a hundred thousand dollars per year.
At the time. It was not that expensive. Now, I think maybe 75,000 a year. Uh, but that being the case, we would cover whatever they needed to include airfare, right. Uh, to include, we actually gave them a stipend so that those students that, you know, may not have the. Financial means we’re able to still go out and be a, you know, a student with their peers in the local community, you know, buy a meal off campus.
Um, I really appreciated that about Vader road and it’s such a, it’s a rad school. Love it. Um, but for me, it, it is gonna be a very situational thing by school. Um, some schools or international applicants will, will not provide financial aid. Uh, some schools will be need most schools or international applicants will be need aware, and that can be used against you in the selection process.
Slowly more and more schools are, are becoming need blind for international applications. Dartmouth just did it a couple of weeks ago, which is a big win. Um, and so that is changing. You sourcing a loan for school, um, that is gonna be as an international applicant in most cases through a third party and, uh, through a third party.
And I, I’m not an expert on that. I cannot speak to that and I cannot speak to any interest rates. So. Thanks. Thanks for that clarity. I mean, yeah. I feel like the, the answer is kind of like, it depends on you and the school. Yeah. Um, yeah, I think, oh, I guess one question that we might have time for is how do we navigate timeline and expectations when recommenders aren’t willing to align with our timeline?
So for example, I know I’ve had some families where they wanna get everything locked into junior year and the recommenders are like, Nope, you have to talk to me when you’re in 12th grade. So how do you kinda stick to your own timeline when perhaps folks you need externally don’t want to adhere to your timeline?
I, I know this is, this sounds surprising considering I’m very like da, da, da, very structured, but like just move it. So do everything, but that, and then just move that down to 12th grade and roll with it. It, it’s not something that I want you to be stressed about. It is what it is. And look, we deal with lots of students that are doing that.
And if their recommenders are gonna just be. That way about it. We need to show them the respect because they’re still taking the time to write you that letter of recommendation. Okay. Um, one thing that was not part of your question, um, when you are selecting people to write these letters, recommendation for you, pick people joking aside that do like you, but pick people that are really actually gonna take the time to give you a real letter of recommendation.
Um, pick the person that you have a relationship with that really knows more about you than what your GPA is. That’s.
I love that. Yeah. I think recommenders can be a saving grace for sure. They always help. Uh, they’re very rarely hurt. So be thoughtful about, um, who you’re, who you’re asking. Um, well thank you so much Ferrell. Thank you for, uh, answering our questions for sharing a lot of really helpful tips and strategies that is the end of the webinar tonight.
We hope you gained some useful, um, Advice on handling strep for youth stress for you and your families as you make your way through the college application process. Uh, although we also, we hope you’ll join us for some of our future webinars later this month. Next week on the 19th, we’ll have a session on understanding the FAFSA and the CSS profile.
Um, some key financial aid applications specifically for folks who aren’t in the us. We’ll have sessions on Writing a Personal Statement and Supplemental Essays on the 20th and the 21st respectively. And we will also end the month with the session on preparing for the PSAT, SAT and the ACT on the 28th.
Uh, so we’ll hope to see you soon until next time. Have a great evening. Every one.