Harvard, Yale, and Princeton: College Panel

Join us for an insightful and comprehensive webinar where we bring together a panel of alumni to discuss their experiences at the prestigious Ivy League colleges of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. This webinar is specifically designed for high school students applying to college and their parents, providing valuable information and guidance to help you make informed decisions during the college selection process.

Our alumni panelists include Theodore Longlois (Harvard), Stacey Tuttle (Yale), and Manuel Stefano (Princeton) who will delve into their unique experiences and opportunities offered by the Ivy League institutions.

They will explore the following key topics:

  • Introduction to the Ivy League: Gain a deeper understanding of what makes the Ivy League colleges renowned and highly sought-after educational institutions.
  • Academic Excellence: Discover the academic programs and resources available at each Ivy League college, and learn how they differentiate themselves in various disciplines.
  • Campus Culture and Student Life: Explore the vibrant and diverse campus cultures within the Ivy League, and learn about the extracurricular activities, clubs, and student organizations that contribute to a well-rounded college experience.
  • Admission Process: Understand the nuances and requirements of the admissions process at Ivy League colleges.
  • Alumni Network and Career Opportunities: Discover the extensive and influential networks offered by Ivy League colleges, and understand how these connections can provide invaluable career opportunities after graduation.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to gain exclusive knowledge about the Ivy League colleges. Register now and secure your spot in this enlightening webinar!

Date 03/25/2024
Duration 1:02:26

Webinar Transcription

2024-03-25 – Harvard, Yale, and Princeton/ College Panel

Hi, everybody. Welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Today’s webinar is Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, a college panel. Before we get started, just to orient everyone with the webinar timing, our presenters will introduce themselves, share a bit about their experiences at their respective institutions, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions.

in a live Q&A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides under the handouts tab, and you can start submitting questions whenever you get ready in the Q& A tab. Now let’s meet our presenter. We are missing our Harvard rep right now, but I will stick, stand in for them. But let’s meet our Yale and Princeton folks.

So Stacy, kick us off. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. Yeah, thanks Anesha. So, uh, my name is Stacey Tuttle. I’m currently the Director of Student Affairs and Registrar at the Yale School of Public Health. My alma mater is Yale University and that’s why I’m with you all today to talk a little bit about my experience applying and going to Yale as an undergrad.

I did major in psychology with a concentration in neuroscience during that time and I eventually got my Master’s of Public Health later in my career from Southern Connecticut State University. So yeah, really excited to share a little bit more about my journey. Thank you, Stacey. Manuel. Awesome. So it’s great to hear and see, um, my fellow colleagues here.

My name is Manuel. I graduated from Princeton in 2020 in political science. I later did my master’s currently doing my PhD in public administration. I’ve worked as a consultant for the United Nations. I’m currently a political advisor for a couple of organizations. in my home country of Colombia. And I’m also really excited to share my journey and everything that I learned in the application process.

We’re looking forward to hearing from y’all. But before we get started, we’re going to do a quick poll. So if you are out there, just let us know what grade level you are in. Um, and I will get us kicked off as we’re waiting for the polls to come in with a question.

So that someone asked in the last webinar that I feel like is important to ask right now, which is, do you think you would be where you are today if you had gone to a different non Ivy League school? Um, I guess I could kick this off. I don’t know. I think this is a tricky question because I don’t think my path would have been precisely the same.

A lot of my journey has been about. The connections I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned from my undergraduate career. And so philosophically, I feel like I wouldn’t have taken the necessarily the same path, but I think I always would have ended up in education. It’s my. passion area. Um, I don’t think I knew it at the time going into my undergraduate studies, which is pretty common, um, for young people to say, and for a lot of my colleagues who work in education, um, to reiterate as well.

So I do think I’d end up where I am, but I think my path would have been very, very different. I think it’s, um, a difficult question, definitely. So I would try to answer it in a way that I would value the institution that I graduated from. While also valuing myself and my capacity or my work ethic or, you know, whatever other characteristics I believe that I have.

Um, I mean, it would definitely be different. Things would not have been exactly the same. I, I do have to admit that graduating from Princeton definitely made a lot of things a lot easier. Um, but with that being said, I do believe that ultimately, um, my drive or, you know, the person that I am would have led me to where I am today as well.

Yeah, it’s a tough question. I like it though because I feel like it speaks to this idea of like, At least I say this to myself of like, I went to Harvard because I’m smart. I’m not smart because I went to Harvard. Um, and that like, I think to the, what you were trying to the balance, you’re trying to strike Manuel of like, it’s the institution plus the person.

There’s something that the person is bringing to the institution as well. That is also really important. Um, Okay. All right. I will go ahead and close our poll. So we have a small group with us tonight, but the majority of folks, about 56 percent are in the 11th grade, 30 percent are in the 10th grade, and then we have a couple of freshmen with us.

So welcome. We’re excited to talk to you. I will stop talking. I’ll kick it over to Stacey to get us started. If our Harvard person doesn’t show up, I’ll backtrack and talk a little bit about my experience, but we’ll go from Stacey to Manuel, and then we’ll see where we are at that point. Yeah, awesome. So my experience, I was a first generation college student.

That means that I was the first person in my family to go to college. I mean, for a bachelor’s degree seeking institution, essentially, um, And I had to seek out a lot of information on my own because of that. My parents had no idea what the college application process was like. They were very hands off about it.

They let me drive the ship, if you will. I was doing that process. My guidance counselor gave me a little bit of insight, but because I went to a public school, um, they didn’t have a lot of students applying to the top 20 Ivy League schools all the time. Maybe there was a couple who were shooting up in that range every year, but not many.

And so I did. Do a lot of that research on my own. I ended up applying to about 12 schools. And even though at the time I was doing it all on my own, I ended up by complete happenstance, having a balanced list of colleges. And so what I mean by that is I had some top, you know, 20 and Ivy League schools, meaning their admissions rates were very competitive, very low, um, more difficult to get in institutions, academically, very rigorous institute institutions.

And then I also have what we would call, um, match school schools that really matched my academic profile. Or I felt as though I was maybe a little bit above their average applicant pool in terms of my academics. And so these were schools where I felt like I would like very likely get into them because my academic profile was so close Um, they weren’t necessarily what you would call um a lot of People will say safety or likely is another category when schools have very high admissions rates Um, meaning you’re very, very likely to get in.

I did have a mix of those as well. I had some local state schools on my list that I, I pretty much knew I was going to get into. They had relationships with my high school where they admitted a lot of students. And so I had this nice um, spectrum of schools where there were some I was definitely going to get into, some I was very likely to get into because I matched very closely, and then also these ivy league schools where I wasn’t sure if I was going to be getting in, not because I I don’t think my academic profile match theirs, their admitted student profile, but because That’s the nature of Ivy League schools is that, you know, they get a lot of highly qualified applicants.

And so you’re sort of always kind of playing a statistical game when you apply to these schools as a result, they’re trying to create an incoming class. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to fit that profile for them. But I ended up fitting at least Yale. So that was really good news for me. During my, um, research, I prioritized the name of the school, which is something that I highly advise my students against doing, not because I don’t think going to an Ivy league school is valuable in terms of networks and resources and the like, but because I think in doing so a lot of students.

forget the importance of the other factors about a school and helping you achieve your academic and professional goals. Do they have majors and programs that you’re interested in pursuing? Do they have organizations, research centers, campus life that’s going to make you happy? These were things that I placed lower on my list.

And in retrospect, I think it was really important to place them high. Luckily, I ended up Somebody that was really high on all of those factors and I matched really well, but I didn’t really think about that. And so I like to advise my students to really consider all of those other factors. I also considered location.

So I wanted to go and stay. I lived in Connecticut, still live in Connecticut today. I wanted to be close to my family. And so that’s where I prioritize my time. I did spread out a little bit into the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York area. So not very far. I stayed close to home. I also wanted flexible curriculum.

So Yale has a very flexible curriculum where, um, you have to fulfill a set of core requirements in different departmental areas. So, or, um, skill set areas. So quantitative courses, you have to take a certain number of those science courses. You have to take a certain number of those, but you didn’t have to take.

bio. You didn’t have to take chem if you didn’t want to. Um, that said, you would need to take certain courses for the major you ultimately ended up picking. And so that would drive your courses in another direction. But in terms of fulfilling your mean requirements for the degree, it was quite flexible, um, with electives and, and all of those distributional requirements.

And I also prioritize STEM majors. So I was interested in engineering. I didn’t end up going into engineering, surprise, surprise, but I was looking at schools that had really good engineering programs. I loved math and physics, um, and all of the sciences. So I was really excited, um, to look into engineering majors.

I went on a lot of college tours. I spent a lot of my summer in junior year, at the end of junior year, touring colleges in the area. And that actually was really important to making my list. I, um, ended up removing some colleges from my list as a result of those tours. And I actually ended up adding colleges to my list as a result of those tours.

I would maybe hit a school in the area that I wasn’t necessarily considering, and that would change my perspective. And so it’s really, if you can do it, I would recommend visiting a lot of these colleges that are on your list to get a better sense of what campus life is like, life is like, excuse me. At the end of my application process in senior year, I applied to all of my schools in early fall, and I ended up getting an interview with Yale.

Um, I remember this being such an important part of my experience at the time, this was years ago, over a decade ago, um, well over a decade ago. And the interview process I think was a little bit different back then. I think, um, they were rare experiences and they were more weighty part of the application profile.

So, um, I’m not just, it’s not to say that interviews are important now, but I do think it made a really big difference in my final decision in terms of getting into Yale. Um, and I did apply early action. So that meant that I, Found out my decision early in December, and I knew right away that that’s where I was going to go.

I was considering other Ivy League schools, so I mentioned I looked outside of Connecticut. I was looking at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, but above all else, Yale was my top choice, so I was really excited about that. Um, important factors that I considered Financial aid. A lot of these top 20 and Ivy League schools, one of the major benefits to applying and getting into, say, these institutions is they have very generous financial aid packages that focus on your need.

Um, so generally speaking, you’ll get a need based aid package. Some of these schools, it’s exclusively need based, so you’re not getting merit based aid. And that is because all of the students getting into these institutions are academically so qualified that a merit based. scholarship would be very difficult to, you know, allocate to one person versus another.

Instead, they focus on need based aid packages, um, and for a number of other reasons, often to internal institutional factors that drive whether or not, you know, that financial aid package makes sense. In the grand scheme of the business operations of the school, but the need based aid package was super generous for me to the point where it was less than my state schools, um, were, and that was excellent for my family.

It was such good news for me. Um, and so that was really exciting. I was able to make that decision really easily. Um, flexible curriculum. I mentioned that was really important to me. The distributional requirements were really easy to fulfill. Um, location, campus feel, want to go on those campus tours, get to know the campus a little bit better.

Academic resources. I remember being stunned at the libraries on Yale’s campus. Some of the largest and most well equipped libraries in, in the country. The nation, if not the world, exist on that campus. And so, um, there was a lot of really great academic resources, old, new research centers, faculty. I was just really excited to be a part of it.

Post grad opportunities, career opportunities, um, their career services and current and or career management offices. It’s been rebranded over the years. Um, but overall their career resource center was, um, Extremely impressive. I felt very supported when talking to that staff. I still felt supported talking to that staff.

Um, once I was an undergrad and after as an alumni, so I knew that students were getting really great career plan placements for meal. And therefore, for me, that was a good investment in my education. Thank you. determining I would go someplace that I knew and felt confident that I would have post graduation employment in the area that I was interested in.

Student life, um, Yale has, like many other Ivy League schools, has a residential college system. So you get placed into a residential college, which is like a microcosm. Of the university. And so you have this larger university that you’re a part of, but then you’re assigned to residential college. Some people, you know, Kim, these two Harry Potter houses is kind of like that in concept, but not really.

Um, but essentially you end up in a smaller population of people that you can really bond with and get to know. And, and that was a really appealing model to me. Um, extracurriculars, there’s tons of amazing extracurricular opportunities on Yale’s campus. They showed me this during admitted students days when I went to visit.

Most schools will have some kind of admitted students days, uh, in the spring after decisions are released. And so that could be a really great time to learn more about the school that you’re interested in or schools that you’re interested in. If you didn’t get a chance to go on tours earlier, peer mentorship, every freshman gets a freshman counselors group and a freshman counselor.

So it’s an older, um, upperclassmen who gets assigned to a group of freshmen, and you’re able to connect in those early days, that first year that you’re at the institution. And that support system was really valuable in getting through. Freshman year, which could be a really tough year for some students as they transition to college life from high school life, right?

And then the alumni network for Yale is extremely strong, which is, is really helpful once you are post grad and looking for opportunities and looking to network and learn more about opportunities and areas that you’re hoping to grow in. Um, so ultimately I chose Yale because it’s closest home. I love New Haven.

It’s an area that I’m very familiar with. And my second choice. Interestingly enough, was not an Ivy. I was actually debating between Yale and Northeastern. At the time, I don’t think Northeastern was as competitive as it was now, but I remember visiting Northeastern, and they had an honors program that was very attractive to me.

I was really interested in their practice experiences, and I was really interested in, um, The programs that they offered and the designs of the programs that they offered to their students and the post graduation employments, again, employment opportunities again. And I really liked the area as well. So the location was really appealing.

Yale was my top choice and I, and non Ivy was actually my second choice. So, in terms of next steps, if you’re interested in applying to Yale, I would say talk to current students, alumni, and admissions officers to understand more about, um, the different components of campus life, academics, what you’re interested in.

Ask those important questions, do your research, and then if you can’t find the answers. Talk to people. Get the pros and cons of what their experiences were like. People who have lived it. Take that campus tour or visit campus, if you can, to get a feel for student life. Ask yourself, first and foremost, I would say, what programs or majors at Yale actually align with my interests?

Because at the end of the day, you’re going to these undergraduate institutions to achieve a An academic goal towards a professional goal, a career goal, and something that would help you achieve that career goal would be a program or a major that aligns with that career goal. And if Yale does not have that to offer to you, then maybe Yale’s not the right fit.

Or if Yale has many programs or majors or great pipelines into the careers you’re interested in, Yale would be a good fit. So these are really, this is a really important question you should ask of any school you’re interested in. Be when you’re applying, be focused and clear in your writing. Um, and by this, I mean, make sure you’re answering the question.

You’re answering the prompt at hand. And something I always say to my students is I shouldn’t be able to pick up your essay, put it in another school’s application and have that same essay work because a lot of Schools essay prompts are very directed about the school. And so you want to tell me more specifically, why Yale?

Why does my program make sense for you? What do I have to offer to you as a school that aligns with who you are so much so that I should admit you, this is a perfect match. So be very clear, be very focused in your writing. And ultimately, to your benefit, you should be authentic and true to yourself in all components of your application.

Because If you embellish, or if you try to sell yourself for an area that you’re not really interested in, or as somebody who you really are not, you’re going to end up at a school that actually doesn’t meet your needs or your interests, and it honestly might not even be a strong application, because admissions officers won’t get that passion from you through your essays and your writing.

And so, being authentic and true to yourself will make for the strongest application you can possibly create. Now over to you, Manuel.

Awesome. It was great to hear your story again, since we’ve done these conferences every single time I learned something new. Um, so yeah, to get a little bit into my personal story and journey. Well, in the beginning there was a lot of doubt and uncertainty. I was also a first generation low income applicant, meaning that, you know, nobody in my family had I’ve been to university before, so I really didn’t know how to do any of this.

I knew that I had, uh, the goal or, you know, the, the dream of applying and getting into an Ivy League school, but obviously I did not really feel confident or I did not understand the process. Um, looking back, if I knew what I know now, I think I would have, uh, saved myself a lot of gray hairs and a lot of stressful nights.

Um, so even though I did seek guidance from counselors and teachers, which, which did help. For the most part, it was a lot of, you know, doing things on my own, researching on my own, and kind of just trying to figure this out on my own. I ended up creating my list of dream schools, which is what you would call like a reach school.

A school that even though you might kind of be on par with what they’re looking for, nevertheless, they’re very competitive and it’s difficult to get into with a few targeting safety schools target being a school that you match well with. But that is maybe not super competitive and a safety school, which some school that you feel that you would easily get into.

But I always put some important conditions, those being You know, that the program was something that I felt that was sufficient, that I would actually be happy with what I’m studying. Um, that at least the university had some sort of reputation in, in, in the sense that I would feel that I’m in a place that’s important.

And then a couple of things like financial aid, because I was, you know, a low income student. Obviously, the cost of admission is something that I definitely thought about quite a bit. Um, I started my process pretty late. As I said, I didn’t really know how to do this. So in my junior summer is when I began to prepare for my applications.

Um, not super recommended. If you’re able to get started from now, uh, those that are in 11th grade or those that are in 9th and 10th, if you can get started from before, obviously a lot better. Um, I began to prepare, um, you know, just by understanding I had to take a standardized test or I have to have a certain list of extracurriculars, different things like that.

I just just began to understand the process a little bit and then throughout the senior fall. It was pretty tough. Um, I played football. I played basketball. I did track. Um, so I didn’t really have a lot of time. So there was definitely a lot of late nights, everything dedicated to essays and making sure that every component of the application is well done.

Um, it was definitely a very stressful moment. Again, as I said, if I knew how to do this before, I would have saved myself quite a bit of anxiety at that, uh, at those moments. So I ended up applying to a lot of Ivy league schools and some others like Stanford and in March, ultimately I was admitted to Princeton, which is a Columbia and Stanford and obviously.

I chose to go to Princeton. Um, what was I considering for the most part with Ivy League schools at the time and what made me settle with Princeton? So before I knew where I was going to get accepted to, I was mostly looking at Harvard, Columbia, and Penn. Um, oddly, I wasn’t looking at Princeton cause I really didn’t think I was going to get in.

So I wasn’t really even considering, uh, kind of that option. I was looking, you know, maybe getting into, into the other schools. Um, but the things that I was looking for. for the most part was a location. Um, for me, it was important to at least feel that I was close to an urban setting. I didn’t need to be within a major city, but at least that I could be close enough to one or have access to one.

I didn’t want to feel kind of out in the woods and by myself, just me particularly, not maybe What I was looking forward to the most, um, financial aid, as I had said before, the good thing is that as Stacy had mentioned, you know, Ivy league schools tend to be very, very generous in terms of financial aid.

Um, kind of like the requirements that you would have to, uh, go above to not qualify for financial aid are pretty high. Um, so for the most part, it is something that can. Uh, cover a lot of students and even then, you know, if and when you get accepted to one of these schools, their financial aid offices tend to be very, very welcoming.

Uh, they do listen and they do kind of give you the opportunity to give your case. And I’ve known of a lot of colleagues that even though they technically didn’t meet certain requirements at first with what was on paper after, you know, kind of telling their case and, you know, their situation. There was always an option that was given.

So that was something that was very important for me. Um, sports, sports culture. I mean, at the time I was an athlete, so this was something that was important. And I wanted a place where I felt that under undergraduates were going to be, uh, You know, sense of focus that I was going to feel like not just another student, but someone that was going to have the opportunity to be one on one with professors or to have different opportunities to really learn or to travel or to participate in different programs.

And lastly, uh, definitely, you know, uh, rank or prestige or however you want to call it. That’s something that was on my mind. Um, but it was definitely kind of at the bottom of my list. Everything else was. A lot more important. So ultimately, when I was accepted to Princeton, I was able to get full financial aid.

I didn’t have to pay anything to go. So everything that they offered me was definitely the best of everything that I was looking for. So I was super, super happy to accept it. That offered to go to Princeton. What advice would I have? Um, you know, what I did, do your research, obviously in CollegeAdvisor, we’re here to help in that process where that to be the case.

Um, but definitely do your research. Um, and that has to do everything with, you know, where the school is, what the programs are like, um, where it’s located, everything that you can. And as Stacey had mentioned, if you can visit these, these schools better, getting a feel for campus, there’s. Is something that you can’t really get otherwise, but obviously, you know 3d and virtual tours are also Very, very good, but obviously do as much research as you can.

Uh, plan ahead. The more organized that you are, the more that you can kind of really set your time to do things with focus and trying to be as efficient and as effective as possible is always better than cramming and doing everything at the last moment or spending long nights, you know, finishing every single essay.

The more that you can plan ahead, the better your application will be. I would definitely say to start creating your student profile. Um, everything having to do with your extracurriculars, your activities, your passions, your interests. Have that be something that has a purpose, that kind of folds all into a narrative that speaks to who you are, why you’re unique, why you’re interested in the things that you’re interested in.

All of these things are going to bode very well for your applications. With that, I would definitely say make strategic decisions. You know, sometimes a student applicants ask, should I be in 10 clubs, should I be in one club or different things to try to see maybe what is most strategic, but I would say that if you kind of start getting a feel for what profile you want to portray, that’s when you can have the information needed.

To really make those strategic decisions on what passion projects that I want to pursue. How do I want to use my summer? Do I want to do an internship doing this thing or doing another thing? Um, even what courses am I taking? Where do I want my APs to focus? What do I want my curriculum or my, or the rigor of my curriculum to say, et cetera, et cetera.

All of these things are also very good free applications. And then ultimately invest time on the applications, especially on your essays. I always say at the essays. are the most important part, they’re kind of your opportunity to stand out, to be unique, to speak about yourself, um, to say everything that the application itself can’t say.

And at least in my experience, that’s what kind of draws the attention of admissions committees more than anything else. Um, with the rest of the things that are a part of the application, the components obviously want to meet those expectations. But knowing today that this process is so competitive and so many students are also meeting those requirements or meeting those expectations, the essays are kind of where you can Set yourself apart from the rest of the applicant pool and really kind of make that proposal of why you would be the best choice for them to accept.

And then lastly, visit if you can visit. Um, I had the opportunity. To visit Princeton and Columbia, um, after I was accepted, definitely helped a lot with the decision that I wanted to make. Again, I know that it’s not something that maybe everyone will be able to do. I know that there’s financial constraints.

I definitely had those when, um, when that time came around, but I do remember that Columbia and Princeton did help. They did help for me to be able to visit the campus. So, um, even if it’s after being accepted or before being accepted, if you can get a chance to be on campus, I think that would also.

All right. So since we are missing, uh, Theodore, I’m just going to go back and give, um, you all can check out Theodore’s slides, but I’m just going to talk over them and talk about my own experience. So what I’m saying will not match what is on the slide, but I wanted to give everybody just some insight.

Um, I guess two Harvard experiences. So my college application process similar to Theodore, I also applied early action to Harvard, but it was not my first choice. Um, my first choice is actually the University of Chicago. I applied early action because strategically I was advised to. Um, and so that’s what I did.

Um, I only applied to six schools. Especially because I got into Harvard Early Action, and so I didn’t need, I knew, I knew I had that kind of in my back pocket. So I was a little bit more thoughtful about where I applied for regular decision. And I did still want to pursue some other schools because again, University of Chicago was still my first choice.

My mom really wanted me to go to Spelman. Um, so there were a few other applications I needed to submit for regular decision in order to apply. Make everyone in my life happy. Um, I will say my process. I think I’ve been a lot more thoughtful about my students process than I was about my own. I kind of tripped into my college applications.

I applied early action to Harvard literally two weeks before the deadline, um, hit because that’s because someone was like, Oh, you should apply early. And I was like, Oh, When is that deadline? And they’re like two weeks. Um, so I, I kind of got it together and, and thankfully it worked out. Um, so that was my kind of process.

I knew I wanted to avoid, I knew I wanted to avoid suburbs. I wanted to be in a city for sure. Um, and I wanted to stay on the East coast. And, um, other than that, there weren’t too many other implications that drove my decision. Um, was I considering any other IVs as I mentioned? No, I was not. Um, Harvard wasn’t even on my really radar.

It was suggested. Um, and so I moved forward with it, following up on some of the advice that I had gotten from my, my particular advisors. Um, what made me settle with Harvard? So again, people have already, both Stacey and Noah have talked about this, but the visit. Um, I visited University of Chicago and Harvard back to back.

And just having that very, very fast juxtaposition of those two experiences, I knew it was Harvard hands down. For the community, for the city, I liked Boston. I was a little bit more familiar with it as well then with Chicago and just the people that I met, no shade to anybody at the University of Chicago, but I just had better relationships.

I had more fun, honestly, with with the folks that I met at Harvard. And I will say the other thing was that at the time I was very interested in becoming a museum curator. Curator. And so Harvard has about 12, I think, maybe 15, um, you know, um, museums attached to the university. And so for me, I was thinking about, you know, how do I get access to, um, this career path that I am excited about or was excited about at the time.

Obviously, I’m kind of different direction, but, um, I, that was my kind of motivation for landing towards Harvard. Um, What advice are you interested in applying to Harvard? The biggest piece of advice I have for folks applying to Harvard is know why you want to apply to Harvard for some reason other than that it is Harvard.

Um, I think I see a lot of very weak and honestly boring applications because people cannot say, Speak to specifics about the institution. They cannot speak to things that they actually wanna chase. Um, there, I think talking to people who went there is very good, is a very good way to learn about the experience there.

And honestly, think about the resources that you have. So, like I said, I was very specific. I could. speak to the museums that I wanted to work at, the museums that I wanted to visit. Um, and that was rare, I think, especially for, um, a high school student who’s into museums. So, um, you know, I think the more that you can get specific and personal about what you’re trying to get out of all of these institutions, Harvard, you know, or Princeton or any Ivy League, um, I think the stronger application will be in the more authentic it will come across.

All right. So that was my speed talk through my own perspective on Harvard. Again, you can See Theodore’s, um, slides there and take my commentary for whatever it’s worth. Um, and we will go ahead and move on into our questions. So that is the end of our presentation portion of the webinar. The Q& A will work in that you can go ahead and some folks have already been submitting questions.

Um, I’ll read them aloud and give our panelists a chance to respond. to answer. Don’t feel pressure to answer the question if you don’t have anything to add or if you don’t have anything that contrasts it. Um, but there are some questions that I think are open for all of us and then some that, you know, I think one person could wrap up.

Um, do, do, do, do, do. All right. So the first question I’ll ask just staying on the topic of everyone’s process. Someone asked, what were the topics for your college essays? And I think, Manuel, you mentioned, uh, that there’s so many topics in the college application, which is absolutely true. I’m, you know, go revisiting my process.

I remember very distinctly that there were these individual school questions, right? Which is still the case today. And that varies from school to school. So you have on the common app, the mean. Personal statement. This is the heavy hitter. This is the one that all the schools are typically seeing And so you want to make sure that’s strong and really representative of you And then you have the school specific questions where the schools might ask you additional essay prompts that will vary in length Um, but will be things like why yale?

Why princeton? Why harvard? Um, what do you want? Why this major? What what is one instance where? You had to overcome a challenge like there’s so many types of essays out there that you’re going to see And so it’s a good idea to go through essay writing strategies. Um, if you have a counselor or if you’re working with some CollegeAdvisor, they’ll usually help you work through strategies where you’ll prepare potential answers to questions you might typically see in the application process.

And once you have some, you know, key anecdotes, key stories that underlie your narrative, the story that you’re building about yourself, you’ll have those ready for your application when it comes time. And If you do wait until the college application opens to start working on that, that’s, that’s okay. Um, you’re just gonna really have to put your nose to the ground and work very, very hard to write all of those essays during the application.

Season and keep yourself organized and on target, um, which might mean you can strategize less about kind of what parts of yourself you’re highlighting and making sure that you are appearing with all those points that you want admissions officers to see. I will say that my personal, I can only really remember my personal statement this many years later, and Anesha, I think our personal statements were maybe about the same thing, if I’m not mistaken, um, so Anesha and I were both theater kids in different capacities.

Um, so Anesha was. stage management. And I think I was more like on the stage, right? Oh, actually, that’s my activity essay. But yeah, we were we were we were aligned in our interests. We would have been friends in high school. Um, I think I think we would have. But so I was actually a theater kid and I was interested in engineering.

And I think this was a key to my success in the application process because my Um, interests were so aligned with the probably the goals of the university and fulfilling, you know, a certain number of students in an engineering major who might also have this intersection with the arts and yields very arts focus.

It’s very liberal arts focus. And so they, you know, Probably didn’t see my application and think, wow, she’s really going to engage with all the resources and the groups and such we have here. And so I do think that I didn’t know it at the time. It was just who I was authentically, right? That was who I was.

And that happened to be the case that that aligned with Yale and what it was at the time. So, Manuel, what was your, do you remember what your personal statement was about? Um, I definitely remember the personal statement just because, I tried kind of writing, um, I kind of tried writing it beforehand, kind of thinking maybe what I would wish that I would be asked.

I ended up getting asked the kinds of questions that kind of leave you to be very creative in how you want to answer it. I think in terms of the essays, the personal statements tend to be, you know, Um, those that give you options and they do kind of leave it almost open ended if you would want it to be, which I think is great.

Um, but definitely the supplemental essays is where the bulk of the work come in because there’s a lot of different essays. Um, and then, yeah, kind of with what Stacy was touching on since I did not prepare. I definitely had to dedicate quite a bit of time to answering every single one of those. I do remember too, I, I completely agree with that there’s always going to be the questions of like, why this school or why this, uh, academic interest, which definitely, you know, goes to the point of understanding yourself and why you want to do, why you, why you want to do and why you want to go where you want to go and all of these things.

But sometimes you get kind of like left out. Uh, or like curveball questions, left field questions. I remember two in particular. I don’t know why I remember them, but I just do. Um, one of them was, what was the last book that you had read and what did you learn from it? Um, I was definitely not ready to answer that question.

I could, I had no idea what was the last book that I had read. Reading was not a passion of mine, so I really had to think about how I was going to answer that. The other one was, um, who is the most influential figure in your life? Um, so there’s always going to be these sorts of questions that I think kind of what admissions committees want to do is get, give you the opportunity to say something about yourself.

to share who you are. So they give you like these different ways of kind of sharing bits and pieces of yourself. Um, and I think maybe that’s kind of the goal. So, if I were to go back in time and want to prepare for my essays, I think that’s what I would do the most to reflect quite a bit. Who am I? And what are the things that I like?

And, and why? Um, how would I explain to someone else who I am if I really wanted them to know? To get to know me and more if I wanted for them to like me or or to kind of see good things about myself, obviously being unique, um, but obviously also being true to myself, not selling a version of myself that doesn’t exist by trying to highlight, you know, the things that I know that are good about myself.

I think the more that I would have done that I would have been more prepared for all of those Essays that I wrote. Uh, I’ll just add in. I, my, so my personal statement was actually about just like self-discovery and growth. I don’t even know how to summarize it now, but it was being from like two worlds.

I was, I’m from Brooklyn, I’m low income, and I was at this very elite, uh, boarding school at the time for high school. So I was just talking about the need to kind of be two different versions of myself, which is now just called code switching. Um, but uh, so that was what my essay was about, and then my.

only activity essay, which is what, it was just the personal statement and activity essay for Harvard back then. And that’s where I wrote about theater and all of my extracurricular activities therein. So the one thing I’ll say that I think sums up what everyone has said, there’s no special topic.

There’s no one topic that you need to be thinking about when it comes to the IVs. Write about yourself. They are giving you the questions not to annoy you, not to make the application more difficult, but because they actually do want to get to know you. So, um, answer the questions thoughtfully. Honestly, there’s no trick to it.

Um, just talk about yourself. Someone asked the question, um, how do you suggest getting into these colleges and paying for them without taking out any loans or damaging my family’s financial stability? Very good question. I think my well gave an answer in the chat, but I will just add, um, take a look at net price calculators because they can also give you a pretty good estimate of what you might get, um, in your family’s expenses.

Um, so I’ll drop it in the chat just as a resource. But if you’re concerned and you want to figure out how to kind of estimate what you might be eligible for, that might be one good strategy. And then also consider a very thoughtful scholarship strategy. I have a student who we flew through her college applications and we spent most of our time working on scholarships, honestly.

So, um, that is also the other avenue to pursue to think about private scholarships outside of the institutions that you’re applying to. Okay, uh, let’s get back to our question. So similar on the application front, and then I’ll wrap this up and kind of move into some other questions. But someone asked about extracurriculars and classes.

So if you want to give a quick rundown of any advanced level classes you took that you felt like were helpful, um, and someone asked specifically what extracurriculars and classes did you do in high school that you think prepared you best for, um, your applications or ultimately for college? so much. Um, whoever wants to start with that.

Manuel, you want to start with this one? I think you gave a pretty great answer there. Sure, sure, I’ll start with this one. Um, so, you know, as I answered here, so I definitely do think that it would depend, you know, on what it is that you want to do and study. Typically, you know, the courses that are going to best prepare you for college are the courses that are similar to what you want to study in college.

You know, if I want to study economics, you know, if I do econ, if I do math, all of those things are going to be very helpful. Me, particularly, I definitely do think that in terms of the courses, because I ended up wanting to do politics or any sort of social science, Anything that has to do with writing and or research super helpful because that’s basically what you’re going to be doing in college.

Um, the difference, I think, mostly in terms of curriculum in comparison between, you know, high school and college is that high school, you’re kind of given all the information and you work with that and you’re kind of. Given a boundary, like this is where you’re supposed to be. University, those boundaries are taken off.

Kind of like when you go bowling, you know, if you don’t bowl that well, you put the little things on the side so you don’t, you know, uh, I don’t even remember what that’s called. Humpers. Humpers, yes, exactly. I love this metaphor. University is basically like free reign. And I need you to actually explore.

Find academic literature. How do I do that? That’s the point. Figure it out. So I feel that any course that kind of helped me with that definitely prepared me quite a bit. In terms of extracurriculars, I mean, I think there’s two ways of looking at it. The way that I wanted to answer it is just kind of what characteristics my extracurriculars built.

So in terms of being an athlete, I mean it definitely made me very organized. I had to be. I had no more time. So it was kind of like sink or swim. You have to be more organized. There’s really no, no choice. And I think it did make me quite disciplined and maybe pretty persistent. You have to be that to be an athlete at least if you really, really want to dedicate.

And be successful in athletics, you know, those are the things you typically have to do. So that helped me a lot, just because in university, since you’re given so much free time, and you’re not really being chaperoned by anyone, if you don’t go to class, you know, that’s on you, no one’s going to be following you or asking you, hey, where were you?

You need to be organized, you need to be disciplined, and you need to be persistent, because if you kind of let things just fall by the wayside, you could. No one’s going to stop you. And then obviously that’s not going to be good for you. So if you can kind of do things yourself and really push yourself to do things, that helps a lot.

Um, in university or in college, those are kind of like the two, um, the two ways that, that, that I would look at it. The other extracurriculars that I did were like very community service and things that kind of, you know, Um, gave me happiness. I don’t know if that quite prepared me for college, but it’s just something that I continue doing anyway.

Um, but these are the two things that I would say in terms of classes or extracurriculars. Yeah. Um, yeah. Uh, so I guess let me talk about extracurriculars first because I sort of already touched on this. I do think Manuel, I, I agree with you on all points, and I actually think doing the things that you love to do will help inform some of the more meaningful essays that you’ll likely write for college too, right?

There’s so many parts of yourself that you can realize through the things that you love, and so I would never, I always tell my students, um, don’t activity collect, because, and what I mean by that is, you know, don’t pursue an activity for the sake of pursuing it because you think it’s going to look good on your college application.

You’re going to be miserable, you’re going to strap yourself for time, and guess what, you actually can’t list all of the things that you’ve ever done throughout the history of time on your college applications, even though you might think you can, you cannot list 100 activities. You can’t. There’s a limited number of spots you can list, um, and there’s a limited number, a number of characters or words that you can use to describe those things.

And so focus on quality over quantity. is my best advice when it comes to extracurriculars. Um, my most meaningful extracurricular again was theater and it was one of those occasions where I realized something about myself that I never knew before I did it and that was that I needed more confidence in my abilities and it gave me public speaking.

Um, experience and experience with people and above all else, it’s something like a lot of the experience I had with theater care. I carry with me today, um, in everything I do, actually, in all the work I do, some part of my theater experience shines through me. And so that was really formative. And it carried, I carried those things with me through college, but I think.

In terms of the classwork, um, it does vary, like Manuel was saying, the things that you would like to do, um, academically are going to align with the classes that you choose. Uh, something I would caution against is, Trying to in the same same vein as activity collecting avoid AP course collecting Um, you know, you need to focus on your mental health and your ability to balance everything, right?

you don’t want to collect so many high level courses that that it’s the detriment of your GPA and your extracurriculars because That’s not going to make for a great college application either And so i’ll tell you that I had other AP courses available to me from term to term You I actively chose not to take one or two every semester, um, or every term because I knew I, I would make myself crazy if I did all of them.

Um, and so don’t feel that pressure to take them all if you can’t. If you can, great, good for you, but you could still get into a top tier university even if you don’t take them all. Do challenge yourself when you can to take those more rigorous courses because they’ll prepare you better. for college.

They are college level courses in some ways. So, um, or they’ll help you place out of maybe some of your requirements once you get to college. So there’s some benefits there at times. Not all universities will let you do that, but it could be beneficial. Um, and actually, interestingly enough, manual stats, I think is, I actually wrote a letter to my stats professor, my stats instructor from high school when I was in college stats.

And I was like, thank you so much. So much for preparing me for college. Um, so stats was a really formative experience, especially if you’re interested in research. Yes, that’s very good. Um, I, the classes. Okay. So classes, I would say, I’m sorry, I’m reading questions, trying to answer some, um, classes, I would say a push and AP lit were the best preparatory as far as being prepared for reading mode.

I think even college still probably doubled those reading modes, but I think the expectations at least that my teachers had of like how we were meant to be engaging with the text, um, and managing it. So I would say APUSH and AP Lit were the classes that I felt best prepared me for, um, what I was going to face in college activities.

I, similar to Stacey, I, well, Maybe not, but I I did too many activities. Um, if you saw my resume, you would call me a try hard. But also my school is very small, so I had to do a lot or else we wouldn’t have had a lot of groups. But the one thing I will say that I think my resume demonstrated, which I think is more important, um, was that I took it.

I came from an under resourced background and came to my High school and did everything. So I took advantage of the resources that were available to me. And I think it demonstrated that when I got to college, I would do the same. I would be involved in the community. I’d be involved in art and music and theater and things like that.

So I think again, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long list, but think about what overarchingly would your application or what the activities that you participate in say about you, um, on the I’m going to do a quick PSA, um, because it is that time of the hour. Um, so We, CollegeAdvisor, has a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts, like all the folks on this call here today, who are ready to help you and your family navigate the process in one on one advising sessions.

We’ve helped over 6, 000 clients in their college journeys. In our 2021 through 2023 data, we found that CollegeAdvisor students were two four times more likely to get into colleges like Stanford, Vanderbilt and Harvard. I don’t know if we have the numbers for Princeton and Yale, but we’re doing well with those.

I’m gonna assume it’s transitive. Um, uh, increase your, you can increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up. For a free 45 to 60 minute, uh, strategy session with an admission specialist that’s on our team. You can use the QR code that is on the screen. And during that meeting, you’ll receive a preliminary assessment of your academic profile, along with some initial recommendations.

By the end of that conversation, you’ll learn about the premium packages that CollegeAdvisor. offers and be paired with an expert who can support you in building your college list, editing your essays, and so much more. So we will go ahead and leave that QR code up on the screen and get back to our questions.

Um, I feel like the next set of questions that I have can kind of go any to anybody. They’re kind of more general admissions questions. So, um, whoever wants it can take it. Um, Is it good to use? Um, is it good to, is it a good use of time to study for an AP test? Who’s subject you’re interested in but your school doesn’t offer?

Do you need to be just out here taking random AP tests is the question. This is a really interesting question actually. I’d love to hear from all of us. I know that we’ll take up more time, but I find that the answer varies. And so my advice to students is if you have time to do it, and it’s a subject that you feel would help you toward your academic goals.

Go for it because regardless of whether or not that helps you on your application. It’ll help you in your academic pursuit of your goals, right? Um, I don’t think it makes a difference in the grand scheme of your admissions application if you self study for an AP score in a massive way, right? Um, it’s one component of a whole application that an admissions officer is going to be reviewing.

There are strategically situations where it might benefit you. So like, if you’re not really strong quantitatively when you do that. Take a test like the sat if you could take ap calc or self study for ab calc and get a really good test score That might help balance that out that lower test score on the sat strategically So sometimes it is case by case, but I think in general if you’re academically very strong I would not put the stress on yourself to self study for an ap test if you could be doing like an extracurricular activity Or improving your test scores for acs just as examples, but manual any show You Do you have different opinions, different experiences?

I would tend to agree with what you just said because I definitely think it’s one of those questions where it depends on the case. There might be the case where this is completely unnecessary. It might be the case where this can actually help. So I feel that it’s one of those things where I would say, don’t feel that you’re obligated to have to do something like this.

Just a hundred percent. I have to do this. Um, and don’t think that if you don’t do this, regardless of the case, that’s going to, uh, Negatively or very, uh, harshly affected. Your application as a whole. I think it’s more about a strategic choice, but then it would really just depend on the specific case. I think, I mean, I would basically just reiterate everything that Stacy just said.

I have nothing to add. I would agree. I think I would agree in far less diplomatic terms. So I was like, let’s defer to the format business officer. Okay, I see you’re answering a question in the chat, Stacy, that I was gonna ask next. So I’ll just go ahead and ask it aloud. So a student said, I’m looking for research opportunities as a high schooler, but I’ve been able, unable to find some in person opportunities near me.

I looked into online opportunities for the summer. What are your opinions on this? Were you able to get any research opportunities in high school? Manuel, I don’t want to take up all the talk time. Do you want to field this one? Uh, sure. I mean, so I didn’t do just upfront. I didn’t do any research opportunities when I was in high school.

Again, my thing was athletics. So everything that I did was, it was based off of that. Um, I would say nevertheless, having advised quite, quite a bit of students. I don’t want to say hundreds, but quite a bit of students. Um, I don’t think that it so much matters whether it’s online or not, or what, I guess what I’m trying to say is that if your profile is one in where you want to portray that this is important to you for whatever reason.

It doesn’t matter what the method was, whether it was virtual or not, because what you’re doing is that you’re demonstrating your passion or your interest for a specific thing. So if you would want to do online, uh, research opportunities, because that really aligns with what your profile is, the things that you’re interested in, the things that you want to pursue in college, awesome.

Um, if that’s something that doesn’t really fit with what you are trying to present, then But you feel that it’s just something that you need to do because it’s a box that you need to take for your application, then I would say maybe think about it a little bit more. Because you don’t need to specifically do research opportunities in high school as an extracurricular activity or as something over the summer.

Um, to be able to get it. There’s a lot of different activities that you could do. There’s internships, there’s community service, there’s so many different kinds of activities, and it really just depends on how it aligns with you. So I would say don’t stress if that’s kind of the only opportunities that are available to you, well then take advantage of them.

Um, you’re not going to be penalized because you don’t have the same opportunities that someone else might have had. What admissions committees are looking for is what you’re interested in and how you’ve demonstrated that interest not so much exactly where you did Or how you did the things that you were interested in doing.

I think maybe that’s kind of what what I would answer I’m, i’m bored with that response. I I align entirely. I didn’t have research experience in high school and I agree with manuel. I think You can have a successful application without having a research experience. I remember You agonizing over declining a, um, it was like a conference of a women’s conference opportunity and I just was so burnt out and I said no and it was such a hard decision and I still got into my top choice school.

I mean you don’t have to do everything and it is okay to have a summer vacation. It is. I give you permission to do so but when you do have time, when you have downtime, Um, consider doing things that are meaningful to you in terms of your personal goals. And that will make for a better college application.

Yeah, I agree. I also did not do research. Um, I don’t think it’s a requirement. The only pushback that I would give to that is potentially if you’re looking at BSMD programs or competitive pre med programs, it might be nice to have research on and in order to help you stand out. Um, but They are hard to come by.

As someone who has gone through two cold email campaigns this semester of reaching out to professors at various universities, they are very, very hard to come by. So I think however you can get them in is a plus. And I don’t think you have to stress too much because they’re not looking for you to come in with a CV of being published in various journals, etc.

So, um, It’s nice, not a, not a must have. Um, and however you can get it is good. Uh, someone asks, can you complete either IB or dual enrollment course while still participating in high, regular high school? So I guess, um, this person’s like, ask questions about how do advanced level courses work, anyone? So I think this is a fairly straightforward answer.

I hope you all would agree you can absolutely enroll in dual enrollment courses while also in your high school courses. Some schools will have formal programs or relationships with local colleges or universities that allow you to dual enroll while also being in high school. Um, I’ve seen some students take college courses over the summer term too, if that’s not the case, if they can’t balance that alongside their regular academic coursework.

Um, does that help answer the question? And you shouldn’t I mean, you want anything to add? Yeah, no, I mean, I mean, the question was a little weirdly worded. So I think, yes. My thought, my only thought would be, I guess, to add a little bit of color to it would be that you If the classes are not being offered in your high school, you don’t need to go chase them down necessarily.

Um, so you will be evaluated based on what is available to you at your high school. Um, so I, people don’t believe that students don’t believe that, but they will judge you based on what classes are at your high school. They will look at your high school. Profile and know what’s available to you. So if you do not have I.

B. If you do not have a P. Do not stress if you have the chance to dual enrollment, I would definitely say to pursue that, especially if you don’t have I. B. Or A. P. At your school. Um, but if it’s not at your school, don’t feel like you have to go find it someplace else. Um, in order to fill out your application.

All right, thank you so We’re coming down to the last question. So I will ask it because I like this question. Um, in reflecting about our institutions. Um, so what did your college have not have that you wish it did? And what would you change about your college if you could so we can answer both or one or the other.

Okay, can we do one is sure. So, yeah, we’ll just we’ll just go on. What did your college not have that you wish it did have? So I think we spoke a lot about our institutions having a lot of resources being very well resourced. But was there something missing at your institution that you wish you had? Um, This is a tough question.

This is a really tough question. I think, you know, academically, um, I know that before I entered Yale, they had, I work in education now and I know they had an education program. I had an education track before I entered and they got rid of that. So it would be lovely to see them return that on like an academic front.

But I do think academically, you know, I felt really supported. Everything was very strong once I was at the school. Um, I think Maybe having more guidance in navigating like the I think like the rooming situation like I think I filled out my, my roommate survey like a little wrong. I was like maybe a little too honest and therefore I didn’t.

Like I got matched with somebody who was just like me and I really wanted to like expand my horizon So it took me time to like meet those different people and that’s where I really thrived I don’t know. Maybe overall that’s like a university level problem is matching people based on surveys is maybe not the best idea Maybe you should just do it at random and see how life goes because that is how life goes I don’t know.

I’m a big believer in that. So maybe that’s My feedback on campus life. I mean, it’s a hard question. I actually wouldn’t know how, because my experience was pretty positive. But, um, this may sound weird, because it would be like, why do you want to make things harder for yourself? I would have loved to be able to double major.

I did three minors, so I feel that I did enough to be able to To have a double major. I don’t know why anyone would want that, but you know, if you do, I think that maybe that’s something that I could have had, um, aside from that, I mean, I think, I think Princeton was, was pretty, pretty accommodating with everything.

Um, maybe the only thing, and it’s, you know, it’s something that, you know, while I was there, a lot of us made jokes about. That there was hardly any air conditioning. Oh, the air conditioning! The plight of college. In dorms, right? And it gets pretty hot and humid in New Jersey. Um, I was lucky enough to, at least in some of my years, to be in one of the newer buildings that had AC.

But I would definitely say, Y’all need to get some AC. Yeah, all of you. I’ll invite you. Uh, yeah, there’s also no AC, but there were a lot of elevators. So I’d never lived in a building that didn’t have an elevator, which made me very lazy. But, um, things that I, I wish, I know that there are things that I wish Harvard had that it did not.

I probably, I think for me, I just wish Harvard was smaller and that it wasn’t as, you know, or my college experience. I wish I’d been at a smaller school and not one that wasn’t as competitive for everything. I was having this conversation with other people. I think I hated that I had to audition for practically anything that I wanted to do.

Yeah, it’s very hard to walk into anything. Everything was competitive to joining a choir, to doing theater. Everything was just like prove yourself in every step. And so it was very, very difficult to engage in things that I once enjoyed because I was constantly competing with other people in order to get access.

I see. So I would lower the barrier to entry for extracurriculars, um, or have some, um, in some way, shape or form Harvard, if you’re listening. Um, all right. So that is the end. That is the end of our webinar. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks to Manuel and Stacey. Um, sorry that Theodore couldn’t join. I hope my fast talking Harvard experiences were at least helpful to some folks in the room.

Uh, we do hope that you enjoyed the opportunity to hear from some Ivy league folks. And that you will join us for our future webinars. So we’re going to end the month. We’re going to end, um, March with a session on building a strong extracurricular resume. So for folks who were curious about, um, what resumes should look like or what extracurricular activities help you stand out, uh, join us tomorrow for that session.

But until next time, take care and have a great evening. Happy to see you tonight. Bye everyone.