How do Admissions Officers Make Decisions

Curious how Admissions Officers make decisions when it comes to admitting students into their college? Join former Admissions Officer, Ferrell Armstrong, as he walks you through the behind the scenes of how AOs ultimately choose which students to move forward with. The webinar will start with a 30-minute presentation and end with a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 05/25/2022

Webinar Transcription

2022-05-25 How do Admissions Officers Make Decisions?

[00:00:00] Hi everyone. My name is Rachel D’Amato. I am a Northwestern university, 2017 graduate and your moderator today. Welcome to How do Admissions Officers Make Decisions? To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.

You can download our slides and you can also start submitting your questions right in that Q and a tab. Now let’s meet our panelists. Hey everyone. My name is Ferrell ArmstrongI have been working in admissions now going on my 13th year, which is difficult to admit to you with these growing cavernous wrinkles on my forehead.

Uh, but I started my career at the university of Georgia as an admissions officer, and then later moved on to Vanderbilt where I served as the head of international admissions for a period of time, uh, as well as being one of the five voting [00:01:00] members of Vanderbilt’s admissions committee. Uh, very excited to sit down with you this evening and kind of walk you through how different offices are making their final decisions.

Wonderful. So before we dive into, um, Pharrell’s presentation, we’re going to do a real quick poll. Um, the poll is asking, what grade are you in? It is about to populate on your screen, um, for the parents in the room, feel free to mark the grade of your student. Um, so Pharaoh, while we’re waiting for responses to come in, um, I’m curious to know, what would you say is the number one thing for folks to be mindful about when crafting their college application?

I think it’s expressing her voice. I think in fact, I was just having a wonderful conversation before joining this evening with the family where I think a lot of students are hesitant to vocalize themselves because I think they’re afraid of coming across as perhaps arrogant, maybe too forward. [00:02:00] And what I want to remind all families of is that this is very much a competition.

And if you don’t project your voice, if you don’t allow yourself to be heard, you’re not going to be known by the admissions officer that committee to begin with. So it’s, you know, being coming competent with this idea of it’s okay to talk about myself in the context of my admissions, applica. Wonderful.

Thanks so much Ferrell. So I’m about to close that poll. Now it is looking like we have 1% of folks in the room in the eighth grade, 9% represent the ninth grade. Um, 23% represent the 10th grade, 60% are in the 11th grade and we have about 6% who are in the 12th grade. Um, nobody else has other, so I’m going to go ahead and close that poll and pass it over to you.


Well, you know, first and foremost, it is a pleasure to kind of go back and go through, you know, my old stomping grounds of what I used to do for so long. And, uh, if you will join me, I’m, [00:03:00] I’m actually enjoying a cup of coffee this evening, just because as I have, uh, gone through this process so many times before I’ve consumed countless cups of coffee as I was going over the data and the numbers that our institution needed each year.

Um, and, and I think that’s really a great place to start is schools are going to be making decisions based upon their own needs. And I think that’s one of the most important things that is getting overlooked by families and students today. Um, what may have worked just last year may not be the same thing that’s gonna make you stand out this coming year.

And that’s because, you know, different institutions have different needs as time passes. So I want to start by talking about departmental needs. I think one of the more important things to understand is that different. Are going to be looking to either grow certain demographics of that particular area, uh, or perhaps they need to let something shrink.

Right. So there were many times when I was at both Georgia and Vanderbilt, where I would hear a certain department let’s just use [00:04:00] engineering, for example, say, Hey, we’re, we’re a little heavy in mechanical engineering. We need to kind of dial it back a little bit on the admits or mechanical engineering this next year.

And really try to get more involved in like computer engineering or maybe even computer science as well. So individual departmental needs perhaps being overloaded or not having enough to begin with underserved, um, is going to be one of the most, you know, I think dramatic. Driving factors in the selectivity process per each individual school, within a university.

Um, that being said, I think there is another thing that needs to be looked into and that’s, you know, relationships and I don’t want to start a debate or a conversation about politics, but I’ll be very honest with you and say that there are relationships that matter to these schools, right. Um, you know, they, by day, I mean universities and colleges, they have long standing relationships with schools and they want to make sure that that relationship is being maintained.

And so if maybe a school right, has not fared so well in our [00:05:00] process over the last two or three years, maybe we take an extra kid that we might have been on the, you know, the line of admitting or denying. Maybe we take that extra kid to kind of pad the relationship a little bit with that other institution that’s out of your control.

Right. And that’s not something I want you to be stressing about. It’s just something you should be aware of. Right. That’s how these schools are gonna be making them. I know there are also programs like QuestBridge, right? Third-party programs that different universities are a part of. And if accepted, they agree to fully fund these individuals, these students.

And so there are some admissions opportunities that are basically spoken for, uh, through like the national match program at QuestBridge. Uh, and there are similar programs that exist out there as well. So not every decision, not every applicant, especially at one of the more elite schools in the country, top 50 top 60 schools, not every applicant will actually be coming in through the early decision or regular decision process.

They might be coming in through the QuestBridge selection program as well. The other thing that I’ll talk about when it comes to university needs [00:06:00] is geographic represents. It is important for a school to have a fair representation of their primary sector of the country, right? So maybe it’s a Southeastern school.

They need to spread the love around to a variety of different Southeastern located states. Um, but maybe it’s a school that is more nationally recognized and they want to have that national presence because they view that to be crucial to their recruiting needs. So I used to make the joke when I was at Vanderbilt, because we only had six kids from Wyoming.

If you wanted to guarantee yourself admission to Vanderbilt, just moved to Wyoming. Now, of course I was being facetious, but the idea did spark some interest if I’m being honest with you. So to that end, just understand that some schools are gonna be looking to grow certain markets. And so the reality here in this process is that there are other things that are actually out of control, um, from the admissions office.

And what I mean by that is enrollment caps being. It’s upon a school by state legislatures. And so if it is [00:07:00] a public institution, a lot of state legislatures will place enrollment caps from out-of-state enrollment. An example, be the university of Georgia, where I started my career, um, UGA, approximately as a 46 or 47% acceptance rate currently, and many families will view that to be a mid-level, you know, acceptance rate, more of a target school, not a reach school, but a target school.

But the reality here is that if you are outside the state of Georgia and applying to UGA for admission, it does not matter how academically talented you are. The acceptance rate is sub 18% out of state, and that is all influenced by the enrollment caps placed upon UGA by the state legislature. So these are outside influences that will be taking part in your.

And then of course, what is the financial situation of a school? Uh, something that schools are not going to tell you about is, are they tuition dependent? Uh, and that’s where I think doing your research and, and getting significant guidance in this process matters in make sense, because you could land at a school [00:08:00] and this has happened that shuts it stores, right?

And then you have to go re potentially repeat a certain amount of coursework or at least transfer, um, because that school shut down, uh, and unfortunately as times have gone on, you’re starting to see more and more schools either try to merge to stay open or shut their doors. Um, there are very prominent schools, typically more regional schools that very prominent schools that are in financial difficult times right now, schools that have lost a hundred million dollars over the last 13 or 14 years from their endowment, uh, due to.

Bad management practices, a variety of different things, certainly things they’re not gonna tell you about. Uh, but that is going to influence their ability to admit you or not. Uh, if you need financial aid, which brings up the need-blind or need aware scenario, um, many of your top schools in the country today by top and referring to U S news and world report, you know, ranked school list, a lot of your top 30 schools today, and even a lot in the top 60 and [00:09:00] 80 will be what’s known as need blind.

In other words, whether or not you need financial assistance to enroll at that school, they will not utilize that in their admissions to see. On you, your application. Uh, but other schools are known as being need aware of need aware is directly influenced by certain pieces of that school financial situation.

Right? So need aware. Schools are typically those schools that don’t have the ability to award as much financial aid, uh, as others might be able to, uh, or maybe they’re in a, a unique three or four year kind of gap. And they’re waiting for some transitional pieces to be made in their financial planning before they can start awarding more financial aid, again, due to growth purposes or growth.

And so the reality here is that you need to be prepared to understand the differences between need blind or need aware if you’re an international student, almost not almost, but majority schools in the U S are need aware to international students. Um, more and more schools are slowly coming around to go [00:10:00] in the blind.

Dartmouth recently just went need-blind for all international students, which I think is a wonderful, wonderful move. And I do expect more schools to be making that decision shortly. Um, but it’s something that you need to be tracking and finding out about and your school research. Um, this is not something for the record, my junior, this is not something that you can put off.

These are conversations that you need to be actively having right now, because if you’re a junior and you haven’t finalized your school list, I’m telling you that you’re behind and that’s not to scare you. That’s just because of the increase in applications. And the fact that you’re within five months of your earliest application due dates in October.

So you want to start figuring this out to make sure that these. Our schools that are, you know, ones that make sense for you that you’re comfortable with and that you’re going to fare well in their process, based upon if they’re going to be need-blind new. So as we move on, what are some of the other things that we’re going to be making decisions based upon what the number, one thing that influences your outcome is your personal applicant profile, [00:11:00] things that influence your personal applicant profile are things like your personal schools rating.

So most schools across the country today that are in the top one 50 to 300, they are actively rating establishing a rating for your high school. They all have their own ways of doing it. Um, but depending upon your school’s rating, that could start you higher or lower in the process. I know that in and of itself is going to start the date right there.

Uh, but that is fact, okay. So depending upon your school’s rating, it could start, start, you hire or. In a particular university’s review process. Um, your race United States, Supreme court states that race is allowed to be utilized in the decision making process. Affirmative action has been forever, so schools, not all schools, but a variety of schools choose to practice affirmative action in their decision making process.

Um, other schools do not, you should understand if the schools on your list and their approach to that decision, um, because that will have some out sh I should say some input in your final decision. If the [00:12:00] school does practice affirmative action to that in gender, you know, a lot of people will, you know, come talk to me and say, well, how do these schools, how do they always just seem to come up to like a male to female ratio of, you know, 50, you know, 50 to 50 or 52 to 40.

They don’t, you know, the schools will tell you that it’s, it’s natural. It’s not, they are actively selecting and building and maintaining their population. Right. So that can influence your decision. Hey, we’re, we’re a little bit light and female engineering right now. We need to increase our female engineering enrollment.

That’s an influence in this process then of course, your rigor of curriculum. Okay. This is the big one. And this is one that I do expect to probably get some questions on. So I’m gonna be very clear about this. Your rigor of curriculum matters. Okay. And if you are. That offers a variety of different course opportunities, such as standard, then honors, then AP you, if you’re targeting, you know, any school in the top 50 or 60, you need to be planning on [00:13:00] taking the most competitive and challenging curriculum that you can handle.

Um, and you need to be doing well. Right? So when I was 23 and arrogant and stupid, I used to tell students, Hey, you know what, if you choose not to take AP and your school makes it available to you and you’re not getting into Vanderbilt. And as I’ve gotten older, and I think a little bit more wise, I realized that that was a sharp way of saying that to people.

So I want to encourage you to make sure that you’re taking the best core flow that you can handle and still academically performing high level. So that means if you can take three AP classes and maintain a 4.0, awesome. If you can take six and maintain a 4.1 out awesome, but let’s say your school doesn’t offer AP courses.

And the highest level of availability is on honors and take honors. Right. But you have to maintain that higher level performance. A lot of times I’ll get the question of does dual enrollment impact. Yes, it does many schools today will actually prefer AP or IB over a dual enrollment program. Okay. Um, and that is [00:14:00] you because AP is contained to control all across the country.

You have to be certified to teach that coursework. Same thing with IB, dual enrollment. They don’t know who’s teaching a course in a given semester. So the inconsistency is pretty significant, a lot of dual enrollment programs. Uh, so to that end, a lot of colleges, universities today would prefer AP and IB over to dual enrollment, even public institutions.

Now, when I was at UGA. We told students all the time, we would still prefer that you do AP over dual enrollment and we are governed and maintained by the state legislature. Um, to that end, let let’s discuss GPA. Obviously, you know, I kind of alluded to it here in talking about course rigor that is going to be influencing.

So if you’re doing well, obviously that’s a positive. If you’re at 2.2 GPA, uh, and things aren’t looking good for you, then you need to be looking at a school’s middle 50% GPA range and being honest with yourself. Okay. Um, if, if you’re saying that it’s going to be Yale or Harvard, you know what, that’s probably not gonna be the [00:15:00] best fit for you if you’re sitting on a 2.2 and that’s not me trying to be rude, that’s me trying to help you and not have you spend a significant amount of time on something.

That’s probably not going to go the way you want it to go. Okay. So then we of course jump into test scores. And this is everyone’s favorite topic right now as a result of the pandemic. So the pandemic did something that a lot of people have been advocating for for some time. And that is. For schools to not require tests, almost every school across the country went test optional.

Um, and some have now made that permanent university, California did it for a lawsuit purpose, but they are no longer looking at test scores ever again. Harvard is not looking at test scores through 2027 now, uh, outside of those schools and the course, the Cal state system, almost everybody else is remaining optional just three weeks ago.

MIT announced that they’re going back to mandating sat and act. So is it really that optional? No. If a school is willing to accept the test, I would encourage you to take [00:16:00] test prep and do your best and submit that test score. As long as you’re in the upper echelon of the middle 50% testing averages. If after test prep, you’ve still not tested.

Well, then I might consider going test optional. But if you get a strong test score for that particular school, it will only help you in the process. So keep that mind. And then of course, what are you applying for? Are you applying for engineering? Are you applying for computer science? Those are one of the same, by the way.

I think a lot of families miss that. And so computer science applicant is going to be held to the same coursework expectations as a mechanical engineering applicant. And so at a school like Vanderbilt, MIT, duke, Yale, Princeton, if you don’t take physics in calculus and you’re a computer science. You’re most likely going to be automatically denied.

So you need to be making sure that for your particular major of interest, you have the coursework, the specific classes that they are kind of and saying are a prerequisite. Um, those are things that you need to be taking [00:17:00] note of. Now, I ran through all of these rather quickly, and that’s because they’re looking at all this at one time together.

And so when we start to review your application, what we’re doing is we’re utilizing your school rating to determine where you start in our rating scale, because we are actively rating you. We’re going to be giving you a variety of different ratings. And so your school rating kind of determines where you start in our process and that school rating along with your GPA and rigor of curriculum and test score are the ones that have kind of that initial input of, okay, this person may be starting on a scale of one through 10.

They may be starting out. Okay. And if you were below a seven, you might fall to the automatic deny bin because based upon your school rating, based upon your test score, based upon your, maybe your class rank, you did not rate highly enough to be considered to be reviewed. And so you get automatically denied, but maybe based upon your school rating and your GPA and your test score, [00:18:00] uh, you’re at an eight or a nine.

Well, now you’re going to be automatically at some schools considered for scholarship even before the admissions officer has reviewed you. So all of this is based upon algorithms and computers as we’re going to discuss next. And so, as we’re going through this, the reality here is that these ratings are coming across five primary.

Points of impact. Uh, the first is academic. So there’s an academic rating. Then there’s a personal rating. At most schools. A lot of schools will have a school fit or a community rating, an activities rating. And then one kind of summary rating, which I just naturally default to calling overall. So your academic rating, as I mentioned earlier, is influenced by your high school’s rating, your test score, perhaps your rank, and then the rigor of your curriculum that initiates where you fall in our process to start.

Now, once I start to go through your, your applica. Now I’ll start to be establishing the remaining ratings that you see below. So personal school fit activities. And then [00:19:00] overall, what influences your personal rating perhaps will be what you share about yourself and your assets, right? What, where are you headed?

What is your goal? What are you trying to get to? That’s going to influence your perforating with me. Same thing with any, you know, activity leadership roles that you might have, you know, you might have significant leadership role. So I give you more of a, or I should say higher personal rating. I increase your point allocation for the personal rating, because you have 2, 3, 4 significant leadership roles.

Your letters of recommendation are gonna influence that. I, what do your teachers, what do your school leaders think of you? What do mentors or coaches think of you? How did they see you interacting with your peers? That tells me a lot about your persona that tells me who you’re going to be with. You know, community, which is why those letters of recommendation also influenced your school fit rating.

Now, are you the right fit for this school community? Are you going to be adding to what we have going here? We going to be benefiting by your presence. I mainly determined most of that from your letters recommendation and your activities, um, descriptions, but some of it is still [00:20:00] influenced by your essays.

Okay. Cause it does kind of show me your essays are your best way to eliminate your pathway and get me to understand why you’re specifically choosing my school. Something that about 80% of applicants really don’t do well. Okay. If you can get me to understand specifically why my school I’m way more likely to accept you.

Okay. Because there are dozens of engineering programs. Let’s just be honest. There were thousands, there are thousands of, you know, political science programs. What is it about mine? Your essays are the best opportunity to make me understand why my particular political science department. Okay. Same with your letters of recommendation and perhaps even your activities.

Finally the activities rating in and of itself, obviously it’s going to be influenced by your activities. Um, but some influencers here are unique and they need to be addressed specifically. One of the more unreported pieces of college admissions today is what we’re talking about here. The fact that we are rating you when we get to the activity section, as admissions officers, we do something in a very narrow-minded [00:21:00] way, in my opinion.

And that is that we start looking through the activity description, um, and we’re really only looking for a few key things. So first of all, the application, as many of you probably know, limits you to only sharing 10 total activities. And the activity description is capped at 160 characters. So you essentially have 29 words to make yourself seem as the more unique applicant with that particular background, perhaps out of thousands of other people that have a similar activity.

So it comes down to the keywords and phrases that you use to describe your involvement and your achievement. So I’m awarding you more points based upon what I find in that description. I’m looking for keywords that indicate the level of performance or participation, right? Did you compete at the school level, the county level, the regional level, state level?

Did you compete at the national level? Did you participate in something at the national level? Perhaps it wasn’t a competition, but some you did had national touch national reach. Those [00:22:00] different thresholds of performance participation will allow me to award you more. And the more points that you acquire, the more likely you are to be admitted, same thing with your, um, leadership roles, right?

The more significant the leadership role, the more points that you might get, or you president of something where you, a member of student council, or are you an elected position of student council? Right. There’s a difference there. Um, something like showing elected or selectivity appointed to appointed by my school’s leadership team, those are key words that indicate the rarity of something, right.

Something that is not, you know, for everybody that everybody doesn’t have a chance of taking part in. And then of course the other piece is LinkedIn involvement. So what I will tell you is that I love good strong indication of time management skillset, and I love committed. In general. When I see students that are jumping from club to club or activity activity, you know, six months [00:23:00] to a year at a time, where’s the consistency in that.

There’s something there that indicates perhaps, and this will be probably something that’s not popular when I say this, but to some schools and indicates a maturity issue, that’s just how some of these schools look at that. They want to see long-term commitment to something. I would much rather you be involved in something for, you know, four years straight and only have three or four activities than you having 12 or 15 activities.

Again, you can’t even put more than a ticket on the application for the record. Okay. So to that end, the length of involvement matters. Um, but it’s also what you do within that timeframe where you just, uh, a member to be a member, or are you actively involved in engaged? Were you doing something, you know, rebuilding something with that team or within that passionate.

That’s what I’m looking for to figure out and your activity description and the more involved that you are, the more points I’m also going to give you. The other thing I want to talk about is, you know, something that may have been started by yourself. I’m certainly not taking away from anything that you can go join, whether it be, you know, national honor society or host [00:24:00] of all wonderful organizations that I would encourage everybody that’s here this evening to join.

If that’s what you’re interested in. Um, but there’s something to be said about doing something for yourself and starting something from the ground up. Passion projects are significant to me for this reason. When you do yourself, a built something with little assistance from other people and you’ve grown it.

Getting a lot of, you know, involvement maybe locally, or maybe even outside your local area that shows a significant, normally commitment to your area of interest, but it really shows your ability to manage time wisely, um, and obviously perform at a higher level academically yet still do this to the success that you have for, to reach the level that it did.

So you building something from the ground up, shows a lot of grit, right? Um, and that’s something that I like to see now, please, don’t start using grit in your conversations with your family and friends every other year. There’s a new term in college admissions. It’s fit, it’s grit. It just needs to in an it.

And it’s essentially like the new college admissions term of the year. Um, but grit [00:25:00] really does show me something. And it’s something that I always appreciated when I was seeing another thing I’ll say about activities as job experience. I loved it when I saw students holding position. Um, if you had a job, if you started your own business, I always gave you a higher rating in the activity section because of the maturity that I, I viewed that.

Folks. I’ll just be honest with you. I read hundreds and thousands of applications and hundreds and thousands of applications listed Netflix as an activity. I hope you can understand why I don’t view that as an activity. Finally, the overall rating, right? You got to bring it all together. So what we’re trying to do with the overall rating, now we’re trying to say, okay, from the academic, the personal, the school fit in the activities out of the scale of one to five or one to 10 or one to eight, depending upon the school, where would you place this student within our scale of someone that we would want to knit?

Is this a, you know, a 10 that we do not want to miss on? Is this our average student, that’s probably that six, six and a half, or is this a, you know, pretty significantly above average student that we really want to, you know, take a strong look at it, maybe [00:26:00] 8.5. That’s how we do that overall. So as we come into the final stages of the review, it’s important for you to understand what goes into this there’s the pre-screening process.

Okay. Something that has only, I think, caught wind, uh, recently in with the masses is that algorithms have been used for quite some time. Um, the top 40 top 50 schools have been using algorithms for about 12 or so years on the, on the back end. They really use them to determine your likelihood of enrollment, but with the pandemic now algorithms are being used on the front end.

So prior to the pandemic, there were physical humans that were doing a pre-screening process by typically looking at your GPA, your rigor of curriculum, and your test score that determined if we reviewed your file, or if you were sadly placed in the automatic dive, then excuse me, denied. Then now an algorithm is doing most of that for these schools.

So this is explaining why application review went from about 12 to 14 minutes prior to the panel. To about four to four and a half minutes on [00:27:00] average now, post pandemic. And so with that, being the case, when students talk about, you know, wanting to copy and paste or using template essays, where they changed the name of the school or the professor, the professor’s pronouns or a class, he, she, or they teach at that school and they want to do that for all their different school essays.

You’re risking it with the algorithm because that algorithm may not sense enough unique information about that school to trigger and send you up for an actual admissions officer to review your file. So if you make it through the pre-screen process, you weren’t denied there. Now it comes to me, right? It comes to somebody that’s at the admissions officer level, and they’re going to do everything that I just went through in the previous slide.

They’re going to completely read your file. That’s what we call your application. They’re going to add those ratings. And they’re going to comment on those ratings to support why they gave you the ratings that they did. They have to be able to back it up. They have to warrant their recommendation of admit waitlist or deny, uh, and why they specifically gave you the point allocation that they did.

After the admissions officers are done reviewing [00:28:00] files applications. Now we, the leadership team admissions committee, we enter into something that many of our different institutions were for something to day to day. And this is where we go determine the standards for which applicants, which files qualify to be discussed at committee.

Some students are going to go ahead and get denied right there. It didn’t get high enough ratings. And so we denied them from that moment on some students are actually going to go ahead and be admitted because they’ve had such high ratings. We know that it’s not going to be a kid that we’re going to pass on.

They were vetted by at least two people or comfortable with that. We’re going to go ahead and put them in the. Slotted for admit for now electronic for the records nothing’s done on paper anymore. Um, and so to that end, then the day-to-day kind of sets the final guidelines of who is in that little murky middle that we, the committee want to hear to discuss.

And so anyone that falls within those ratings now gets brought to the committee and a little Mel gets an S thunder dome event takes place for you [00:29:00] younger generation with us this evening, you probably think of 300 and Sparta. You get word. This is where the notch come out. Okay. This is where debate really happens.

And we sit down and we go after it for our students. So an admissions officer will be asked to bring in how ever many of their students qualified to be discussed with the committee and the committee. However big it may be at Vanderbilt. It’s five people at Princeton. It’s 10. Um, that admissions officer comes down and sits in front of everybody and goes, Hey everybody, this is Ferrell .

Here’s why he needs to come into Vanderbilt and they start putting it all out there for us. And then start getting peppered with questions by the committee to understand why they rated them the way that they did and why they strongly believe that we should take that student or not. I for the record have been thrown out of the admissions committee before I got a little passionate about one student that was for the record.

Incredible. Um, and uh, I heard a question that I took perhaps the wrong way, heard in the wrong tone. And my point of telling this story is that we were passionate about you. We [00:30:00] want you to do well here. I’m not a bad person. I don’t want to do. Um, we do get connected to you by reading your stories and your essays.

Uh, it’s something that really gets me excited, as I hope you can tell. Uh, and, and we do get connected to you because of what you share in these essays. So I encourage you to share on not just in your essays, but your activity descriptions, because that’s, what’s going to make me want to fight more for you when it comes to that Thunderdome moment.

Uh, and the admissions committee discussion. So, um, it’s not all knives and fists. It’s, uh, pretty, pretty cool, pretty laid back up. And then sometimes it gets a little heat and we want to really, you know, make sure that our top applicants are getting accepted. And then after the admissions committee has kind of run its course, now the leadership team will sit back down and they’ll do one final review.

And now basically they’ve already slotted students from the committee, review the committee process for the , the waitlist and the denied. But what they’ll do is now they’ll run predictive modeling. Okay. And now they’re going to be using the science of admission, which I’m going to talk about here in a [00:31:00] second, which is called enrollment management to model several different admitted classes.

So we might’ve made four total admitted classes in the span of 18 hours in a single day, and then played around with which students to take and why based upon certain ratings or running an algorithm to determine how likely this particular group of applicants was to enroll. If we accepted them versus another group of applicants, we’re going to re model everything to determine of the students that we talked about in committee, if who are those students that we should admit to give us the best and final outcome that we’re looking for.

And so that could take a student that’s already been slotted for admit out and put a student that’s been slotted for denying in and all that’s happening with data analytics and predictive modeling. Okay. So. This is the science of emission. This is enrollment management and legitimately, um, you know, this is a data-driven process that has been tried for years now, and you really have to have a plan for [00:32:00] it.

And I think what, you know, so many students and families are shocked to hear, and this, this is not to make you feel better. It is the truth. Most schools are denying applicants, pins that are more than qualified, but they’re making decisions based upon their strategic needs at the given time. And perhaps you were just turning left on the day.

You should have turned, right. Essentially, you know, that’s kind of a specious joke, but my point being is that your application just didn’t hit it the right time in many cases. Uh, and it’s because maybe you applied regular, but that particular school you May 3rd, better earlier. Or maybe at one school, you applied early action, but your applicant profile would have fared better in regular decision.

That’s why having a plan for this matters. And this is not something that families are really able to do on their own, unless they’ve been tracking this data for years at a time and not just one school’s data, you have to track the data for at least all the schools that you’re going to apply to. So for you, sophomores that are in the room this evening for the freshmen, right?

You gotta be [00:33:00] tracking data for 20 to 30 schools. If you’re gonna apply to, you know, potentially 12 or 13, and you’ve got to have multiple years of data to make these informed decisions and understand how to target the school to equal what they’re going to be making their decisions on. So just like you, sorry, excuse me.

Just like they’re going to be making informed decisions on how to admit and who to. You as applicants need to be able to make an informed decision on how to target a school. So you should be interpreting admissions data from the last three to four missions cycles based upon your applicant profile and figuring out, Hey, at Vanderbilt, believe it or not, I need to go regular decision as opposed to early decision.

That’s my best shot of admission for my applicant profile. That’s how you determine and strategize your best way to be accepted to a school. So I think one of the things that you need to be planning for is do you have deficiencies, you know, are these areas that you have questions upon these areas that, um, you need to get some assistance or at least some deeper guidance on you need to seek help and seek help immediately.[00:34:00]

This is not something that’s. Waiting on what I’ll tell you before I kind of end this evening is, you know, time is, time is a very quick thing. And for the juniors, I’ve already said it you’re under five months from your applications being due, but you need a full plan for all of this sophomores. You should start writing your essay essays by this coming January.

And I’m not kidding. If you apply to 10 to 12 schools, you’re looking at 30 to 40 essays minimum. The average school is looking at three to four essays today. So to that end, without understanding the different aspects of this process, you’re at risk and you do need to be taking the right steps to try to figure out where your areas of shortcoming are so that you can address them and become the applicant that you want to be.

So you have the outcome that you want, but as I come and transition to my final slide this evening, I want to, I want to encourage you to do one thing, getting help. And the reality here is that getting help right now with applications being at the highest they’ve been in years with a 90% increase in applications over the last two weeks, getting help makes more sense now than never [00:35:00] has before, but do this as a family, be excited by the fact that you get to do this as a family that you get to be with your son or daughter or your grandchild, uh, and that you get to walk in this process with them because unfortunately not everybody has that opportunity.

Some families have to do this on their own. And what I would encourage you to do is enjoy that time that you have with your family as you do it. So you learn about one another in the process and you don’t just focus on things that don’t really matter in the end, make this a family driven process.

You’ll have a greater and more enjoyable experience doing it. And you’ll probably learn a lot more about yourself as well. But get help for the answers that you don’t have. It’s not something that I would encourage you to wait on. So if you’re interested in getting some assistance, our team is ready to go.

We’re more than happy to help you and answer some of those initial questions with you. And we do have over 300 advisors here at CollegeAdvisor that are ready and waiting to constitute down and lead you through what you may be struggling with, or to answer some of those gaps for you. If you’d like get some assistance that, you know, have a reduction in time, or if you just wanna [00:36:00] kind of figure out where you stand, just where your areas of need may or may not be, feel free to give us a call.

Um, if you’d like to meet with me specifically, my email is there at the bottom of the screen, please feel free to email me directly. And I’d love to set up a time with you and kind of walk you through, you know, where you are at the moment and what my personal recommendations might be for where you can improve.

Uh, but so excited to have been with you this evening. And I am looking forward to getting some of your questions here.

Wonderful. Thank you so much, Pharrel. Um, so before we move on to questions, I also have here on the slide, um, you’ll notice I have a QR code. Um, so in addition to what Ferrell  we’re sharing, you know, we, we do have a wonderful team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts who are really ready to help you all navigate the admissions process and one-on-one advising session.

So you can take charge of your, your admissions journey or your family’s admissions journey by signing up for a free 15 minute strategy session [00:37:00] with an admissions expert using this QR code on the screen. So this QR code will stay throughout, um, the Q and a portion of tonight’s webinar. So, uh, don’t worry about missing it on this slide, but again, if you, if you’d like to get in contact with us, either email feral or, um, scan this QR code for more information, So that is now the end of the presentation part of tonight’s webinar.

Um, I know I found this information incredibly insightful. I hope it was helpful to you. And please do remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. I’ll also note that this webinar is being recorded and will be available to watch over again

Um, so now moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through the questions that that is in the Q and a tab, paste them into the public chat so that you can see and then read them out loud. So that before Pharell gives you an answer, [00:38:00] um, as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, make sure that you join the webinar link through the custom link in your email from big

Um, and not from the webinar page. It’s. So Ferrell  I’m diving right. In the first question we got was how do you make your essay stand out from the rest of applicants? So it’s not necessarily about having to stand out from the rest of applicants, as much as it’s about bringing the right attention to you, right?

When you have schools like UCLA that are going to have over 170,000 applications, how, how does one person stand out? But it’s, it’s pretty difficult to what you want to make sure that you’re doing is you’re bringing the right attention for you. And so you should be gracefully, um, advocating your pathway right now, advocating, excuse me, illustrating your pathway, letting these schools know what you’re in pursuit of what you’re trying to, you know, pursue within their institution.

Um, and making sure that you are giving them the right reasons to add you to their community. [00:39:00] You need to tailor. And this is, I think the number one thing I can tell you is you need to tailor your essay to the school. You should incorporate your knowledge. At that school’s culture and community within your response.

And I’m talking a lot more than just going and Googling it. Professor’s name on their website. Um, you should really be talking about current events that are taking place. Um, and I think that’s what draws a significant amount of attention to you. Because if I, if I could see a student or if I reviewed an essay where the student shared their authentic self within the idea of my school’s culture and community, I was going to take them as long as they were academically.


Great. Thank you. Ferrel. Next question we got for geographic representation. Do admissions officers generally prefer in-state applicants versus out-of-state applicant. That’s in the context of the schools in particular needs. So, you know, if it’s an in-state school, that’s being limited by their state legislature.

Yeah. Uh, again, UGA, they’re gonna, you know, [00:40:00] be more, you know, heavy on their in-state applications, uh, that they’re going to accept because of what the state legislature, places on them. Um, more, you know, private schools now they’re private schools are typically more open. Um, if you go look at, you know, UCLA Vanderbilt, Princeton brown, I mean, they’re, they’re global obviously.

Um, even if it’s smaller private schools, like where I went to school, Sanford university in Birmingham, um, they are, you know, they have students from all across the country. Um, so it really does depend on the particular school. Um, and you’re going to feel it more at a public level than you are a private level.

I will say this though, any school does want to try to be the dominant school in their state. Um, but there’s also, uh, a recognized level of competition between a school like a UGA, uh, and a school and not, not bad knowing a certain school and a school like SCAD. You’re going to go to SCAD. You’re going for arts, right?

It’s a wonderful, amazing program for that. It’s not in direct competition for UGA, so different schools want to be the leaders in their own states for their primary areas of focus. [00:41:00] Fantastic. Thank you, Pharrel. Um, next question we got was what is a high school rating who rates them? Should I move my child to one with a higher rating?

Yeah. And that’s why I always struggle bringing this to public knowledge, but you’re not going to ever know what your rating is. They’re never going to tell you. Okay. And so I bring this to you. So you are understanding that there are things that are completely out of your control. Um, in a high school rating is based typically upon average GPA, average sat or act scores of a graduating class.

And they will average that over a 5, 8, 10 year period as well. Right. Um, and so they look at all of that and these different schools will establish the ratings with some of that. Some schools will add more to their high school rating. What justifies it. Um, but if a high school, you know, one school may start at a five, another school may start at a four.

And if you were to five, you might start here in the process. And if you were four, you might [00:42:00] start right here in the process, just underneath it, depending upon the school, it could be an advantage. It could be a disadvantage, the reality here, and this is the piece I specifically, you leave out until the Q and a is that you’re never going to be compared to a school that you’re not going to.

You’re only being the process of what was available to you. That’s what you’re being judged against. Right? So even though you are, if you’re at a lower high school rating of the school, yes, you may start a little bit lower in the process, but from an academic performance perspective, you’re only being judged against what was able to you at your school only, but don’t move schools, especially in the middle of your high school career.

We’re saying you can do. Thank you. Thank you. So next question we got, which I’m going to read the first question, which is a little more specific and then add on a more general question to the and feral. So it is where does the French BAC fall in the rigor consideration and to generalize that I’m for the international folks in the room, kind of, how does international curriculums, um, [00:43:00] you know, how are they read by admissions officers?

Yeah, that’s a solid question. I’m going to make a general assumption here and perhaps I’m wrong that this may be coming from an international applicant. Um, French back, totally acceptable view. Just the same as international baccalaureate. Um, someone I saw did ask the question, what is IB? IB stands for international baccalaureate.

Um, it is a curriculum, um, that is, you know, just like AP is a curriculum. Um, French baccalaureate is a French based curriculum. Um, so it’s viewed and accepted by all schools in the. Now the one thing that will tell you is that if you’re going to a French back school on your transcript is not an English a, you will have to get that translated over to an English transcript.

Uh, so you should be prepared for that. Great. So, um, next question is, do top schools require four years in the five different academic areas. Um, and yeah, what, [00:44:00] yeah. Let’s, let’s keep it there. Yeah, no. So you should, so your kids all the time, you know, we’ll be told like by their school counselor, well, you only have to take two years of foreign language.

Sure. But if you want to go to Yale, Princeton, UCLA Vandy, right. You have to take at least three years of foreign language. Outside of foreign language, everything else you should have four years of, but I would even argue now that you need to be doing four years of foreign language as well. So I would say each of the academic programs, you do want to have a full four years worth if at all possible.

Great. Thank you. Um, and just a quick, uh, PSA to the attendees in the room. I ask that you please do not vote for your own question. It does, um, mess up the order of the submitted Q and a, and I do go in order. And so it does not, um, it doesn’t make it more likely for your question to be answered by voting for yourself.

Um, so next question that we got feral, someone’s curious, [00:45:00] what do you do if you are undecided and the career trajectory or major that you’d like to move forward in? Yeah, so I I’ve actually, uh, recently kind of gave an answer to this about four or five months ago, and it was an unpopular answer, but I’m going to give the same answer and that’s tries many different things.

Okay. Um, I use the example as a martial artist. I do Brazilian jujitsu. Uh, we talk always about having a white belt mentality and the white belt is the lowest level belt that you started in martial arts. And you kind of have to walk in and throw out everything that you think, you know, so you can start to learn.

I encourage students that are undecided, you know, explore four or 5, 6, 7 different things, even things that you don’t think you will enjoy, because it may cause a spark, right? It may cause something that you say, I actually want to explore that more. And I had a parent go well, that’s probably, probably only going to tell my kid what they don’t want to do more than it tells them what they do want to do.

And my answer is fantastic. Now you don’t waste any more time on that. Keep finding new things to try. Right? So [00:46:00] what I look for in an applicant is if you don’t know what you’re wanting to do, I’m looking for you to prove to me that you’ve been trying to figure it out. And if I can see that you’ve done 2, 3, 4 activities, job shadows, internships, and you’re actively able to describe it to me in your essays.

It’s like, Still trying to figure it out, but let me show you what I’ve been trying to do to make my decision. That shows effort to me that that shows dedication not being that Netflix activity student. So speaking about activity, federal, and the question we received is, is volunteering the same as job experience with regards to the way that it’s looked to admissions officers?

No. Um, I’m going to say something that is probably going to be viewed as blessed. There’s not any single school in the United States that looks for requires volunteer, work on their application. Um, it is one of the larger rumors. And please do not feel bad about that question. I’m glad you’re asking that question because I want you to focus on, you know, a [00:47:00] variety of different things.

If you have significant volunteer achievement, that’s wonderful and you should absolutely listed on your application. Um, but it is not any better or any worse than having a job experience. It does not in my opinion, equal one or the other, if you have both, that’s even, that’s great. That’s phenomenal in my book.

Um, but also I want to take that question to address the rumor of volunteer hours. Don’t don’t think that you have to have volunteer work because it’s not required by any specific school. Awesome. I wish I had you Ferrell  when I was in high school. Cause I would’ve saved a lot of time, uh, volunteering and could have maybe focused on some, some things that I was most passionate about to really graft a while, uh, crafted admissions.

Um, Application. Uh, so next question then is, um, how often do colleges reject slash waitlist qualified students? Because they don’t have a high likelihood to enroll. And the followup with [00:48:00] that is do colleges consider campus visits interactions with college mail on website in determining a student’s demonstrated interests?

First part of the question, the answer is all the time, right? Um, it’s we are gonna take the risk on the students. I say risk. We’re going to try to target the students that we are confident are going to enroll. That’s that’s what our expertise that’s what they pay us for is to as efficiently as possible, keep the school fully enrolled.

So we will deny the kids that we don’t think would be the right fit. I want to be clear here, guys, folks, not guys. Excuse me. We, we deny students with perfect GPA and perfect. All the time without blinking. I don’t say that to brag. It’s just part of the process. Um, this is a business and they make business decisions on what’s gonna be best for the school, um, to that end.

Uh, what was the second part of the question again, Rachel? I just wanna make sure I address it correctly. I’m sorry. Second part of the question was I think I moved into the answer section one second. Um, I think it was with [00:49:00] regards to, yes. Do colleges consider campus visits interaction with college mail website and determining a student’s demonstrates interests?

It is a, I’m sorry for forgetting that already. Rachel. Yes. The answer is yes, but it’s a school-by-school basis. Some schools will track that some schools will not track it at all. Once again, it’s a case by case, um, you know, UGA tracked. It meant everything to them, Vanderbilt, not at all, uh, UNC track it kind of, but not significantly.

Um, you go up to Princeton, not really, um, You go actually over to UT Austin. Yeah. They want to see it. So it’s always going to be a school by school basis, but it’s something I would encourage you no matter what, for all schools to be taking official tours, to be interacting with admissions officers, you want that because if you’re in their mind, if I have three or four interactions with you, even though I’ve had a few concussions, I’m still probably going to remember you.

And that sparked something for me in the admissions.

Great. Um, next question we got, which I’m sure is one that is on a lot of different folks [00:50:00] in mind. Um, it’s going back to standardized testing, um, for all it’s, you know, if a person has really strong academic marks, AP scores are high, but their standardized testing with regards to the sat or act it’s a little on the lower end, especially below kind of their, the schools, their, their reach schools that they’re looking to apply to.

Um, if those schools are optional, should they still submit, take the risk and submit, or if it is a little on the lower end, right underneath kind of that average of what the, those IB top schools are looking for, should they just not include them at all? So I’m going to answer this. I’m going to sound skeptical, and that is not my intent here.

Okay. But I, I have learned that I am skeptic because my wife loves her money. Um, but what I’ll tell you is that. Um, you have to be honest with yourself, if you really are the student that has fantastic AP scores, so fives, right. And you have multiple thoughts [00:51:00] and you have a very strong GPA within the AP curriculum, right.

Or you have an IB curriculum and you have multiple sevens. Sure. Go test optional. Yeah. A hundred percent. That makes sense. In that case, um, frankly sat act, it’s the only test in your life that tests you in the main of that, those tests. Do you, don’t take another test other than your finals, semesterly finals.

Um, that’s, you know, past one semester’s worth of material, right. Yet the sat and act quiz over three years worth of material material. So yeah, that’s a perfect case for it. If the profile the student you’re describing is the case a hundred percent, that’s a great opportunity to consider test optional.

Fantastic. Um,

Just going through our questions, um, should slash 10, um, students build a relationship with the admissions officer who gave their card, um, to them at a campus visit. Yeah, I mean, sure. Absolutely. And don’t, don’t hear me shut my [00:52:00] shoulders and say, you know, sure. Why not definitely do send him an email. Cause again, some of the schools are gonna track that and it’s gonna matter something to them.

And again, if you have one or two internationals with me, I’m probably gonna remember you to some degree. Don’t just for the love of all admissions officers out there having done this job for as long as I have, don’t be the one that emailed me and says, I’m going to email you every single day for this entire application process.

Uh, because I’m going to remember that. Um, so yeah, it’s a balance, you know, and that’s a true story. I did have a student tell me that one time. Um, it it’s a balance establish that relationship. Sure. Um, but you know, just keep it, keep it professionals. And I kind of follow up on that feral say, um, you know, you didn’t, you, you were never able to interact with the admissions officer at a campus visit.

Is there a way to reach out to the college to get connected with the admissions office? Certainly it is. So you can pick up the phone and call. Um, you can always get on the school’s website and look for your, your area representative. A lot of schools are listed by [00:53:00] state. Some schools are listed by city.

Like when I was at Vandy, we had three counselors alone for Chicago because Chicago was the most was the second most popular area of interest for Vanderbilt. Um, and so when I was at UGA, we did it by states. Um, and so it’s always kind of done that way. If a school does not have that actually listed on their website, you can always just call and ask to speak with the person that is responsible for your.

Great. Thank you. And a quick follow up again on standardized testing, just to clarify feral, if someone doesn’t submit their scores for a test optional school, would admissions officers just assume they did poorly then? No, no. Some students choose not to test at all. Right. So if, if a student, if a school is giving the option to be test optional, they should be training their staff to remove that from their bias.

Right? So now unconscious bias is a real thing. Let’s not, not to be devil’s advocate here, right? But on unconscious bias is a real thing. Um, but the reality here is that admission [00:54:00] staff go through regular training every single year, typically two times a year, getting ready for the, what we call application review season.

And that is going to be something that’s going to be brought up. If a student elects not submit a test score, they’re going to be other things that they’re going to be checking you for, but they are not to impose any judgment based upon the fact that you’ve gone test optional. Great. Thank you. Um,

I’m just scrolling through, since we are limited on time, I want to get some questions towards the end. Um, since I B isn’t as common as AP, is it weighed heavier or differently, um, in the admissions processes process in comparison to AP uh, school by school basis, but yes, um, a lot of the schools and the top 30 top 50, we’ll give a little bit more credit to an IB curriculum, but again, that’s only in comparison to a student at your school, right.

So if you’re coming in with IB over student with honors, [00:55:00] that’s it, I’m not comparing you at school a to student B at school B, because you are in two completely separate curriculum, right? So it’s based on what’s available to you at your school, what you would like to take and how well you did. Thanks so much.

Carol does enrollment in community college courses while I’m high school, make me look better to call it. So that that’s dual enrollment. Okay. And most schools in the top, you know, top one 50, top 300, they’re going to tell you that they’re going to prefer that you, if you have AP available to you or IB, they would prefer that you take that AP or IB course first before dual enrolling.

If that, if you don’t have an option, perhaps there’s a certain type of course, that you want to take, that’s not offered at your school. And your only option to take that is to take dual enrollment and take it makes perfect sense then. But if you have an option in the AP or IB curriculum available to you, your school go that route first.

[00:56:00] Um, two other things, one thing to tack on here, there’s been an uptake and it’s been happening internationally for years, but it’s happening domestically as well. There’s an uptick in students taking AP test when they never took that AP class. So. Don’t do that schools. Aren’t going to give you the benefit for it.

Cause you did not take the class. There are actually many cases more concerned about your overall performance, um, over the class period of a year, versus you taking a test that you may be studying a couple of weeks for. So you’re wasting a lot of valuable energy that you could be allocating elsewhere in the process.

Thanks Ferrell . So with regards to, um, you know, meeting with an advisor, say here at CollegeAdvisors, someone asks, is it Y slash helpful for, um, a student to meet with an advisor as they go through the different grades in high school in order to determine the best course of action for the students a hundred percent.

So we actually start working with students as early as seventh grade here at college adviser. Um, and that is because you can [00:57:00] look on paper, uh, and tell the difference in someone that’s had a plan from the beginning stages, the very beginning of high school all the way through. And that’s because you’ve been able to essentially cater everything that you’re doing and make it unique to the schools on your.

So the students that we begin working with as freshmen and sophomores, one of the things that we’re gonna help you do early on is start determining what it is that you want to pursue, but also starting to explore schools for those options as well. The sooner that you can narrow your list down the quicker that you can start making your application unique to that school, based upon your course selection and your activity selection.

So we actively walked through this process, like I said, as early as seventh grade, the conclusion of high school with families, depending upon when they start with us. And you will see in many cases, better outcomes, the earlier that you start and then a followup to that, which I’m seeing here in the question, is it too late for a junior, um, to get connected with CollegeAdvisor to get help when the application process, not at all, email [00:58:00] me tonight, be happy to help.

So we have a lot of students that are. Having that moment of, oh, and, uh, we’re ready to stand in place and help you walk through that process so that that’s not something that we can totally help you with now, but I, I wouldn’t wait. Right? You need to have a plan before summer really hits before you get consumed by summer and get distracted because teenagers, summer ice cream, that’s all you need to hear distractions all day.

So get a plan in place before you get consumed by summer and get active in the process and you’ll have the outcome that you want. Great. On the last question I’m going to ask today, Ferrell  is how can we obtain that specific data of. Analytics for the various schools we’re interested in, um, like acceptance rates, tests provided applicants.

Um, you know, just like those colleges are performing analytics on us, where can we go and find that data? So some schools will release with there and they all public schools have to release what the common data set released, but that’s typically published at about every year and a [00:59:00] half. Um, and. Private schools are not forced to post that data most try to, but private schools are not forced to publish that data every year.

And that’s one of the reasons why we exist. So we track that here at CollegeAdvisors, so we can make informed decisions of how our students should be targeting each individual school. Um, and we’ve been, you know, accumulating that in the years that we’ve been around. So the difference is if you’re a junior asking that question, you still got to go find about three or so years of information.

So you have historical, you know, you know, record to compare against if you’re a sophomore or a freshman, you’re only gonna have about two years worth of data before you really have to start hammering out the process. So it’s difficult to do it, and it’s difficult to find the data that’s two and three years old at this point, if you don’t already have it, um, certainly worthwhile endeavor.

Um, but it is very time consuming that something that we try to, you know, take a lot of pressure off of you. Great. Well, Ferrell , thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today and kind of give a little more insight into how admissions officers make decisions. [01:00:00] Um, my apologies to those who didn’t get their questions answers today.

We got a lot of questions submitted again. If you are interested in getting connected with our team, scan this QR code, um, to schedule some time with us or email Ferrell , and I’ll go back to his slide just so you could see his email once more. It is Um, And that is the end of our webinar tonight.

So again, thank you, Ferrell . Um, if you were interested in learning more, we have some final, we have a final webinar next week on maximizing your admissions odds as a first-generation student. And we will be publishing to our website in the next few days, our hosts of June webinars, which will include a Q and a with former admissions officers, um, as well as some other really awesome strong webinars to check out.

So again, thank you so much for joining feral. Thank you for your time. Um, and I hope everyone has a great rest of their night.[01:01:00]