More than Academics: Researching Colleges
Senior Advisor Mark gives the inside scoop on how to build your college list based on more than just academics.
2022-02-17 More than Academics: Researching Colleges
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on More than Academics: Researching Colleges. So wherein everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with the presentation. Then answer your questions on a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelist.
So, hi everyone. It’s great to be with you tonight. My name is Mark Seamon. I am a senior advisor and an advisor team lead here at collegeadvisor.com. And I’m really excited to speak with you on this topic about, um, looking at colleges beyond the. Because then what else to be on the lookout for, and how to do that?
I think this is a great topic and I’m really pleased to, to have the chance to share some thoughts with you and to answer your questions tonight. Um, real briefly, just a moment of background on me. I am, this is my 17th year in higher education for 10 years. [00:01:00] I was a professor and an academic advisor to students from a wide range of academic disciplines and from backgrounds.
Um, and so I got very well-versed in, uh, in the humanities and in the sciences and, uh, and in the arts and in business and so forth. And so, um, I, I love doing. That work and working one-on-one with students. That was my favorite part of the job. Um, and then I worked for six years at my Alma mater at Notre Dame, uh, where I earned my BA, um, and, uh, running merit scholarships at Notre Dame and looking at students who were, uh, really competitive at really selective schools and, and helping them make great choices.
And, um, and I really enjoyed that process and working with their parents as well. And so I bring all of that experience here, my experience as a teacher and advisor and admissions professional, um, to college advisor, and is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to, to be here and to be speaking with you tonight on this, uh, on this great topic.
So [00:02:00] as Kenzie said, please feel free to, um, to, to. Submit your questions as we go, I’m going to make a presentation here at the, at the outset to just share some information and some thoughts with you. And, uh, and then we’ll have time at the end to answer questions and, um, uh, and then we’ll wrap up. So, uh, so let’s begin.
Um, well, Kenzie, you take it away here. I think this is your territory. Yes. So first you’re going to start off with a quick poll. So what grade are you currently in? 10th 10th, 11th, 12th, or, um, other. And that could be if you’re a transfer student taking a gap year appearance or any other variation. And while we wait for those answers to roll in mark, can you tell us a little bit about your own experience when you were picking a college and how you went about?
Yeah, I think when, um, when I was, when it was my turn to look, I think that beyond the academics, right beyond the program of study or studies that I was interested in, [00:03:00] I think most people, uh, most of my peers and I looked at colleges basically, based on what do they offer by way of extracurricular activities, um, in terms of clubs and organizations and, um, athletics.
And I think that was kind of the. I think that was the, the, the most basic and common approach. And today it is so much more multifaceted, right? Those things still matter. What kinds of extracurricular activities and so forth are, are offered at schools. Um, um, But it’s just it’s because schools offer so much more today and there’s so much more opportunity for students to create what they want in a lot of respects, um, that there, it requires looking at it at a through know, many ways, a very different lens, um, because while some things are, are the same, some are, are quite different.
So, um, and that’s part of what I want to share tonight is just looking at [00:04:00] some of the, I suppose, more traditional things, um, uh, that, that students and parents often look for when they’re looking at schools, but then being able to identify things that you might not have thought about before, uh, and, and, and being proactive and finding out if they exist at the schools you’re interested in.
And if they don’t, could you invent them? Could you make them happen? And the chances of. Uh, in more cases than not the answer is going to be. Yes. So, um, so that’s part of what I wanna, what I want to touch on. Yes, that’s sounds great. And I’m excited to get started and, um, it’s looking like we have 17%, 10th graders and 83% 11th graders, so it’s a pretty split mix.
Um, but we’re all in a good, okay. So lots of sophomores and juniors then I guess. Okay. Very good. Um, okay, so let’s, uh, let’s begin. So looking at, so a common question we get is when should I start, you know, when should I start researching colleges? [00:05:00] And, um, and it provided this slide here just to give a little bit of a breakdown in terms of ninth, 10th and 11th grade.
So I know I’m speaking to primarily sophomores and juniors here, so in ninth grade, but I will mention this in case there’s a straggler or two, um, that ninth grade is a fine time to begin thinking about. Generally I think, or, or even maybe talking to people like classmates or peers or teachers or guidance counselors or people like that.
And that’s fine, but really, I think the focus in ninth grade should be on adjusting to high school and getting that experience off to a great start and not worrying so much about the college stuff that all will come. So it’s, it’s again. It’s okay. But, um, there, it’s a big jump from eighth to ninth and you need to get used to that and get the hang of that.
And the more that you do that, the better experience you’re going to have and the better position you’ll be in when it comes time to work, to do the college thing, um, 10th grade. So sophomores, this is a great time to begin looking into colleges and identifying [00:06:00] criteria that are, or may become important to you in schools.
The criteria part, I really want to emphasize it, shouldn’t it? Um, I think sometimes students have the impression that they should begin with thinking about schools like individual, like specific colleges or universities. You can do that, but I think it’s a more, I think it’s a healthier and in some ways more productive exercise to begin with the, the list of criteria, what am I looking for?
What do I want in a school? Um, and 10th grade is a great time to start, like sketching that out and thinking about it, knowing that your, your criteria are going to change, they’re going to evolve. Um, but it’s a great time to start thinking about that in terms of, and we’ll talk about this later on, but in terms of a whole bunch of factors, but I encourage you to think about criteria.
What you’re looking for, what you think is important to you in a school, as opposed to a specific school or, [00:07:00] or two, and, and, and not getting too narrow. Um, also in 10th grade, this is a perfect time to become acclimated to the college application process and know what will be and start learning what will become or what will be expected of you when you go through it.
Um, this is, this is very important. So I work with a lot of students, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, and many juniors and seniors who I work with, come to me and do not know what the process is. Uh, they don’t in terms of the timeline, uh, and in terms of the work that’s involved in what will be expected of them in terms of, of writing or any other kind of contribution like that to their application.
And so I think that if you can get all of that or most of it under your belt in the 10th grade of just knowing, okay, here’s, what’s coming in. Basic overview sort of sense in terms of timeline and content and all of that, you will feel [00:08:00] that much more empowered by the time you get into 11th grade and really start drilling down into, into the process.
And then of course, by 12th grade, when it’s time to jump in and actually do it. So I think learning what the college act, uh, admissions process is as a sophomore is terrific, uh, juniors, 11th graders out there. So this is the time. This is a very important year, probably the most important year in your, um, in your college application, life is doing work on researching colleges.
Solidifying your criteria and then building your list and building the list of schools that you have interested. So that one in the middle, again, solidifying your criteria. So up in 10th grade, if are up above there in the slide in 10th grade, if you did some work about starting to lay out what some of your criteria are in a school, by the time you get to junior year, it’s time to start really working with that list.
And what’s really important and, and [00:09:00] which, um, which criteria move, move sort of up on the list and which move down and, and, and all of that. Again, it’s always in, it’s always evolving. It’s always in flux, but still becoming aware of what you want will help guide your research. Of specific colleges and it will also help the, um, the construction of, of a list of a college list.
Um, what you’re doing here is you are, as I say, in the slide, you’re setting the table, um, to be able to focus on your applications in 12th grade, that’s what you should be doing as a senior. By the time you hit senior year, you should be focusing on your applications and all of the writing that you’re going to have to do.
And all of the, all of the work that goes into putting for, um, you know, creating strong, clear, compelling applications, as opposed to researching and looking for places. And where am I going to go and what am I going to do? And all of that, um, you should be able to get a really great jump on that. Um, [00:10:00] in 11th grade, Um, okay, so that’s that one.
Here we go. Um, how to start, how to even start researching colleges. Okay. So there are a lot of ways to do this. There is no one right way. There’s no perfect formula, but here are some things that you can think about. Um, first and foremost, when you embark on this process, I encourage you to cast a very wide net, do not go narrow.
Um, you don’t want. What you don’t know, you don’t know what’s out there. You don’t know there’s over 4,000 schools in our country. You don’t know all of them, you can’t possibly, um, and of, of various shapes and sizes with all different kinds of approaches to education, you have to be an Explorer, um, and find out what’s out there.
So, so approach it with that, um, that attitude, that spirit, that would be my first point of view or my first suggestion. Um, there are some people who are very helpful in this process and depending on your [00:11:00] situation, um, some or all of these may apply. I realized there are, um, it varies a little bit depending on the school year.
And, but first of all, many of you have a, a high school, a guidance counselor, or a college counselor. Of course, that is a wonderful place to begin. If you have such a person at your school to work with, um, to begin talking with that person, um, about, uh, who presumably knows you and your academic interests and abilities and so forth, and can start giving you some, um, some initial guidance on where you might look or how you might go about looking.
So that’s a, that’s a good place to. Um, high school alumni, especially those who are currently in college. So if you know students from your school who have recently graduated, like as in, within the last one to three years, you know, something like that. And they are currently in college themselves. Um, those are terrific people to reach out to.
And I feel like a really under sort [00:12:00] of valued resource. I don’t think enough students take advantage of the, their high school alumni, as in reaching out to them, asking about where they are and asking about how they like. You know, and so on one hand, you’re going to learn from them about their specific school and you’re going to learn, you know, what they think is great about it or what isn’t so great or whatever.
Um, but also in the course of that conversation, you’re going to start to, um, not so much put that school on your list or not, but you’re just going to, it’s going to help you with your criteria, with the criteria that you are building behind the scenes of what you want and don’t want. So if you don’t know anybody or not very many people from your high school who have graduated in the last, uh, couple of years or so ask your guidance counselor.
And if you don’t have a guidance counselor, ask your principal, um, ask for people you can reach out to who are in college, find out where they are and look them up and write to them and, [00:13:00] and, and find out what their experiences, um, that’s a really valuable. Um, young college alumni. So this is, um, this is a little trickier, but depending on your situation, but if you know, some people who are recently out of college within the last year or two or three, uh, so they’re not in it, but now they’ve graduated and they’ve been out for awhile, um, try to track those people down to, or any of them that you can to once again, to ask them about their experience.
What was it like at fill in the blank school? What did you like about it? What was great about it? Um, and if you, you know, just, just get all the information you can from them. Uh, because as I said, whether or not their school ends up on your list, it doesn’t matter at all. Um, if it does. Okay. But if it doesn’t, you’re still that conversation with those students is still really helpful because it’s giving, it’s helping you [00:14:00] identify.
And solidify your criteria of what you are actually really looking for. And I feel like a little bit of a broken record, but I do think that’s really important to emphasize too many students start with, uh, I think specific schools or ideas of schools of what they want and not the criteria that led to those schools.
And it’s much more productive and more successful. I think, to start with a list of criteria that you feel really good about, uh, your peers, uh, the students you are in high school with right now, the students who are your, your classmates, where are you low? This is the power of, this is the power of a single question.
My experience is that when most students are asked this question, they have a lot to say about it. Um, and maybe they have places that they’re really excited about. Maybe they’re unsure and they don’t know where to look. Uh, and maybe a really [00:15:00] productive conversation between the two of you begins about, well, I’m not sure either and well, you’re not, well, what are you thinking about?
And then you just kind of take it from there, but lean on your peers a little bit and ask them what they’re thinking and what they’re doing. Um, it’s healthy. It’s good to know that. And it’s good to, it’s good to help each other, um, identify places and criteria that are. Um, some of you will begin to meet or communicate with admissions officers at different colleges and universities.
You may do this by email and other virtual kind of formats. Like if you attend, for example, information sessions online, like a virtual info session or a virtual tour or something, and we’ll talk about more of those things later, um, you will, you will start to become connected with people. Particular schools and those people can also become helpful resources to you in identifying other schools, believe it or not.
Um, I put the note in there about peer institutions. That [00:16:00] means every, every college and university has a group of other colleges and universities that are sort of similar to them in a good number of ways. Right. It might be about the size of the, of the, of the student body. And it might be about the structure of the curriculum and a couple of other, you know, sort of major factors like that.
And so asking an admissions officer, what are your peer Institute? Peer institutions. And how does your. How does your school sort of size up compared to those and what are the differences and what are the similarities you can surprisingly get a lot of information out of them about, uh, about some of their peer institutions.
And that can be a real useful way to, and then lastly, and I’m sure some of you have done this if you’ve already been, um, if you’ve already taken the initiative is just a good old Google search. Um, like if you type in, for example, liberal arts schools, or let’s say, you know, you want to study psychology. I just picked that one randomly, but like psychology, liberal arts schools, if you did, either [00:17:00] of those as a Google search, you would be astounded how many returns you get that are actually useful.
And they can be filtered in a way that becomes very useful and productive. And so, um, you might start with a liberal arts school search or state university search, um, outside of your own state or within it. Um, and those can be very helpful, very helpful.
Okay. Um, what factors should I consider in my college search? We have two sides on this. Um, the first one geography is one that I think most students begin with. And rightly so, where matters? Where do you want to be? Where in the country or in the world, do you want to go to school? Where do you want to spend the next four years?
Um, and students have lots of different reasons for, um, taking this into account. Some of it, um, has to do with of course, proximity to home. Some students want to be within a [00:18:00] certain distance or. Radius, I guess, of their, of their hometown. Um, other students want to be a certain distance away from their hometown.
Um, if they’ve already, if they’ve grown up in a cold weather climate and are over it and they suddenly want to live somewhere where it’s warm, the climate can be a factor too. So geography thinking about where in the country you just want to be, or the world, um, is, is a helpful first place in a natural place to begin people.
Number two is I feel like one that gets skipped over or missed a lot. So who matters to who are the students at that school and who are the, and who are the faculty who are teaching them? Um, and you can, this tells you a lot about the school. What’s the student body like, and I don’t mean like, what are their, what are their bonafide?
Like, what are their test scores and what are their GPA’s and all of that. But I just mean, what are their interests? What are their interests? Um, what are their, um, [00:19:00] uh, what are the. What’s their sort of culture there together at that school. Like who are the people who are there and then faculty, of course, learning who the faculty are, particularly if you know, or have a feeling about the, the field that you might want to study, learning who the people are there, who are teaching that field is enormously important.
It will tell you a lot about whether or not you’d like to study that field at that school. So I strongly encourage you to do a really good investigation as to who is at that school in terms of students and teachers, academic programs. And I said, plural with a on purpose. Um, so some states. No, uh, when they come to us and we begin working, they have, they know, or they have a very strong idea about what they want to study.
Um, and others, not so much, they either have a flimsy idea or not really, uh, not really one at all and all are okay. It’s okay to be, to be either of those or [00:20:00] anywhere in between, which is why it’s a good idea when you’re looking at schools to think about multiple programs, um, because the number of students, when they get to college who change their major, who changed their program of study is so high.
Uh, the chances are, you could very well be one of them. So when you’re thinking about a school, you might be locked in right now in your mind to. Uh, psychology. I used that earlier as just an example. Um, but what if psychology suddenly ceased to be at that school for some crazy reason? And you had to pick a second course of study, what would it be or a third one?
What would it be? Are there things, are there enough things going on at that school in terms of the curriculum that interests you, that you would feel comfortable, um, moving around within the curriculum, if. Compelled to do so, so it’s really good to explore your academic interests [00:21:00] broadly. It’s okay to have an interest for sure.
Absolutely. But also think about like, not necessarily as a backup, but maybe even as a companion, what would go along with that or what could go along with that course of study that might make you even more attractive by the time you graduate, whether you’re going to pursue, um, uh, employment or graduate school or, or, or anything else.
So, uh, the programs matter size of course matters a lot. The size of the school of do you want to be somewhere that’s really, really small, extra small, all the way up to extra large. And then there’s everything in between. Um, extra small would be something I think in the neighborhood of like a thousand or 2000 students or 3000, something like that.
And then all the way up to like really big state schools that are 50, 60,000 students or something. So, and then there’s every place in between, um, all of them have their, um, pros and cons, right? And so you should sort of develop a running [00:22:00] list and let it evolve and stay open to it. You might think right now I’m going to be comfortable in a bigger place or a smaller place or a medium place.
And that’s fine. But you might find as you jump into this and really start doing your research and visiting, which we’ll talk about later, I might feel more comfortable doing this or going a different direction or with a different size school and being open, letting yourself be open to. Is really important being open to change your mind because you don’t have to have it all figured out right now.
Um, last campus, life and culture. Uh, last one on this slide. Um, so I wrote, you have to learn what I call with my students when we’re talking the vibe of a place. So the vibe is not, what is the menu of extracurricular activities and clubs and organizations that you offer those things matter. And we’ll talk about them in a minute, but what I’m talking about really here is [00:23:00] just, what’s it really like to live here every day, like to go to class there, to eat there, to play there, to sleep there, et cetera.
Like what’s it really like? That’s what you have to find out in order to make a really good and informed decision that is so much more important than do they have a jump rope? Because if they don’t have a jumping rope club or something, you can start one, right? Like you can do that, but you’ve got to know, and like the culture, the life on campus among students, like, yeah, I could go to school here.
I could eat here. I could sleep here. I could play her. I could have fun. All of those things. That’s the most important thing. So I mentioned here, the extracurriculars, of course, these things matter. You ha you sure, whatever your interests are, you should look and see, do they have them? Um, whatever your interests are.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but just the different clubs and [00:24:00] activities and organizations and athletics and the arts and religion and spirituality and all kinds of cultural groups, all kinds of things. So what do they have on offer there? Those things matter. Um, I’ve mentioned the thing about starting clubs and organizations.
I think it’s really wonderful to find out how easy or difficult is it to start a group or a club at a school. Um, if it doesn’t have it, uh, by the time you, when you enroll. Um, and I bet you you’ll find stories about students who have done just that at those schools. A lot of them do, um, another one here, which seems maybe a little counterintuitive to like, what, what else should I learn about my college?
It’s in my campus is how can you leave? How can you get off campus? What opportunities does the school provide for you to get out of there either from time to time on a one-off basis or on a regular basis or on a, on a bigger basis, like a study [00:25:00] abroad. But I wrote it’s more than just going abroad for a semester, although certainly that’s important to lots of students.
So I’m not, I’m not minimizing that, but I’m just saying, are there opportunities to get off campus and into the community where the school is to do any kind of research or service or anything like that? Are there opportunities to travel either domestically or internationally? Um, as part of a research effort or something along those lines, um, being able to leave is really important.
Being able to get out from time to time, um, is important. And I think that’s something that students are well-served to look at. And then last, um, I, I mentioned costs, uh, and I put it last on purpose because of course this matters, but I don’t think you can start here. I don’t think it’s, I don’t think it’s wise to start here.
I think it’s more productive and healthier to start with. All of these other factors that I was just discussing, because it helps you identify [00:26:00] your criteria, but of course, event in the end, you have to consider the cost of, of the school. So cost of attendance, which is a phrase you’ll hear a lot is about the tuition, uh, that the school charges, certain fees, um, room and board or room and meals, books, travel, all of that kind of stuff.
What does that add? There’s a, then the whole piece about financial assistance, which includes need-based aid, uh, merit, scholarships, loans, grants. There are, there’s a lot of different ways to find money to attend a school. And then you have to consider of course, the investment in the school and the, and the return on the investment.
I always encourage students and parents to think about what is the value of the education and the life lived at this institution. Um, you really do have to think about, think of it as a sort of value based. Um, I think transaction, like, what is the value of this? What would I learn? What would I get out of it?
What would it prepare me to do? And who would it connect me with and how would that be helpful? [00:27:00] And that’s, and that leads kind of to the alumni piece. Um, lots of schools, uh, their alumni bases are extremely active and willing to bend over backwards to help current students and young alumni, um, enter the field, enter that they’re interested in enter the profession and certainly understanding what a school’s alumni base is like and how they are active and how they are supportive of their current students is a really helpful thing to know, um, how to determine what factors are most important to me.
Okay. I encourage you to start with this, start with passion, start with if passion, what am I passionate about? Like, not just academically, but, and not just in terms of a career, but in life. Like what do I care most about what are my gifts and talents? How do I want to cultivate them and share them with the world?
Know who you are? Your college will follow it. Like it’ll identify it will, it will rise to the top. So start with [00:28:00] what are my passions, because follow those and you will be happy. Schools will be happy to you’ll you’ll, you’ll be off to a great match. And then if, um, it start with F and just dream big, like if I could have everything I wanted in a college and external factors, like money and where others want me to go, like maybe your parents or your teacher, or your counselor, or your uncle, or whoever were putting all that stuff aside, if none of that existed or mattered.
Um, what, what would those things be? What would you want in a school? Again? It comes back to your criteria. What do you want? So this is a big dreamy question. Be brave, try to answer it and do it regularly. Um, I encourage my students to keep drafts of their answers and date them, and then to watch their progression of thought.
And then you’ll start to see things in what you wrote. You’ll start to see patterns emerge, and that’s how we get to the criteria. And it’s the criteria that [00:29:00] help us build a really healthy, awesome college lists that you’re going to apply to. So those are a couple things. Um, and then here are three. So I’m going to talk about research and, um, and experience and so forth.
So first research, you can learn a lot about a school by spending time on its website, not just its its mission website. That’s, um, that’s kind of the. The welcoming committee, but like, there’s a lot of details on, on websites today about, about academic programs, about what the curriculum is. And very importantly, as I mentioned earlier, who’s teaching this curriculum is for example, let’s say you’re into computer science and you go to a school’s computer science, um, website, and you start reading the curriculum.
And they’re like, okay, if you’re a computer science major, here’s what you take as a freshmen. Here’s what you take as a sophomore and junior and so on. So you get a sense of the arc of [00:30:00] the arc, of the major. And then you look at the faculty profiles and you see who their faculty are and you see what their interests are and their areas of expertise.
And it’s when you start to find faculty who are interested in and have expertise in the things that you are interested in, that you start to that’s when you should start to like. Pretty excited. Like, okay, this could be something. Whereas if you find the opposite, like nobody here like is into the thing that I’m into.
And I don’t know if that’s going to work out so well, even though I think highly of the school. So you have to kind of dig in and find that out. Um, discovering details. Like these will pay off both now during your research process and when it comes time to apply, I want to emphasize this. One of the questions that almost every school asks you to write about in the form of a supplemental essay, that isn’t, that is a short essay that specifically for [00:31:00] them is why do you want to study what you want to study here?
Why do you want us, why do you want to study computer science? It’s a perfectly fair, valid, awesome, great question. You have to have a perfectly great, awesome, clear, direct answer to it. And if you know things about the curriculum and the people who are teaching it, and the reasons why all of that attracts you, you can write about that.
And then it’s, it’s honest and it’s compelling and you have a really good reason for wanting that school. That’s a great answer to that question, but you, you won’t have it unless you’ve done that research. And so you’re setting yourself up to be able to answer those questions, uh, really, really well, um, experience.
So that’s research number two is experience virtual and in-person. Pretty much all schools. These days post COVID [00:32:00] have virtual events and opportunities and all kinds of ways to engage. And I encourage you to explore what those are and to take advantage of the ones that seem of interest to you. Um, so there will be things like virtual tours, um, Which are usually conducted by, uh, current students, um, chats, uh, like sort of live chats with current students and or faculty.
Um, sometimes different people, whether they’re students or faculty or other staff at the university might make presentations on particular topics. And so dipping in for some of those that sound of interest to you is a really good idea. So I encourage you to, to, to leverage that, um, there is a difference between live and, um, prerecorded material and then also social media stuff.
So live and prerecorded. Um, most events are live, but not all the live ones are great because you get to do things like ask questions and have some interaction [00:33:00] with the presenter or the presenters. And that is a, that’s a huge advantage, um, to be able to get. Information out of the session that you want to.
So I do encourage you to do that. Also, the live ones tend to be less scripted, um, and they tend to be just a little more, I think, organic and, um, and I, I, I find that to be useful on, uh, just speaking generally here, um, social media is the content that schools push out there are, is, is generally coming from admissions.
Um, so it’s not all that much different than the content that you would find on their admissions website. They’re just making it more accessible to you on a social media platform. And there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever. I think it’s just important to know what you are digesting, what you’re consuming there.
When you go to a social media website, some schools will do things like, um, we’ll do interesting things though, that are a little off the boards. Like they’ll turn [00:34:00] their social media there. They’ll turn their Instagram, you know, over to a current student for a day. Or something. And then, and then you sort of follow that student like a day in the life kind of thing of this student at this college.
And that’s fun because that tends to be a little more uncensored. That tends to be a little more raw, a little less polished and a little. Sales oriented. And, um, and I, and plus I just love to hear from students because they’re, they’re the best. So, um, so just be aware of what you’re consuming, know, know the source, consider the source, um, in-person visits.
There is no substitute for going somewhere, um, and setting foot on a campus and seeing it and feeling it for yourself, for yourself, especially when classes are in session. Um, when students are moving about moving from building to building and they’re eating in the dining hall and all of that other stuff, that’s the best way to know does this, what’s [00:35:00] this feel like?
And it’s like trying on clothes and it’s like, does this fit, does this feel good? Could I see myself doing this? And usually, you know, that pretty quickly after you spend some time when the campus is alive and bustling. Uh, communication. So reach out to people, um, reach out to peers that we mentioned some of this earlier to current college students and young alumni and personnel at colleges and universities, including faculty, uh, that you’re curious about email them snail, mail them, text them, social media, them be creative, bold, and proactive.
Like if you know someone there, or if you see a teacher there who you think is awesome or interesting, right. Right to them and just tell them who you are and that you found them while you were doing research. And you want to know more about what they do. And you want to know more about the school, where they teach they’ll, there’ll be, there’ll be impressed and they’ll love it.
Be take it to them, take it to them. You can’t ask enough questions, ask a lot of questions, be relentless [00:36:00] about that. And if you do your due diligence here, in terms of research, experience and communication, what will happen is quite organically. Your criteria will come forth and the ones that are most important, the criteria most important we’ll lift up and you will start to be able to build the list that you need.
That is good for. Okay. Um, online sources, um, that can help in the research. So our advising packages and our college hub pages are really good things. Um, college advisor has advising packages, run by people like me. We’ve been in higher education. We know lots of schools and we understand the admission landscape inside and out.
So people like that, whether they are with us or elsewhere, who know the drill are great resources, talk to them, lean on them, let them help you. Um, college advisors, college hub pages show where our students are going, students who work with us. Uh, and it’s great. You [00:37:00] can, you can click on a school and easily find some helpful overview type information, um, including acceptance rates at the school to get a sense of how competitive it is or not.
Um, College board, um, has a website called big future. This is a pretty popular, and well-known one, many, many, maybe many of you have used it yourself in high school. Um, and, and, and so you might start there. That’s a very helpful place to, and then Google searches again. I mentioned this earlier. Um, if you search liberal arts, liberal arts colleges, you’ll get 2.2 million results, but you can really filter it down in lots of ways that becomes more useful to you.
And the more kinds of searches like that you do the better, the better you get at. Um, school list. Um, how many schools should be on initial list on a finalist? 30 is, are kind of about 30 is a good initial list. Um, and it will include lists, uh, includes schools that we consider to be reach [00:38:00] target and safety schools.
Reach schools are going to be very, very difficult for you to gain admission to, um, based not only on your academic profile, but also just because, because those are just reach schools for everybody. Then there are target schools. These are schools that you will be very competitive for admission to based on your academic and non-academic profiles and safety schools, um, schools that you are.
To get into, uh, that we have a high degree of confidence about, um, and there’ll be diversity on the list and as we go through it and you work through it, you’ll eventually whittle this down to a list of about eight to 12. Um, and if you really give a lot of vetting to that list, um, you will feel wonderful and confident and solid about the eight to 12.
Um, because you’ll have removed the schools from the list, the initial one that don’t belong because they don’t fulfill your criteria. And you’ll feel great about the ones that remain because you [00:39:00] know, that. Okay. Yes. So we’re going to do another quick poll. So where are you in the college application process?
Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And, um, yes. So, um, I know a lot of students always want to have their number one school and I definitely did, but definitely that eight to 12 needs to be all schools that you would be willing to go through.
If you got into all of them, if you only got into one of them, all of them should be your top choice, essentially. And just for a quick, um, question about how long do you think it takes to really do this research? Oh, I think, well, it, it depends a little bit if you’re doing it alone or if you got some support in some assistance doing it, but I think, you know, if you can, if you include both the, the online research and then also the, the sort of field work of like maybe visiting schools and doing all of that, [00:40:00] like it can take as long as.
Right. Like, I mean, if you really stretch it out or it can be, or it can be more compact than that. Um, and depending on kind of how early you’re starting, but, um, but giving yourself as much time, I think between six and 12 months to be able to do it, um, will result in a, um, uh, a stronger sort of first stab at a list.
Yes. Thank you for that. And whenever I’m working with my students, I always make sure to let them know to keep their parents in the loop throughout this, especially so their parents can think about cost or location, especially if they’re going farther away, um, as they’re building their list, but not letting too much, your parents make all the decisions for you, but just so that they’re in the note, what you’re looking for and it’s looking like we have 13% haven’t started and 88%, um, are researching schools.
Good. That’s great. Good for you guys. Good. I’m glad you’re doing it now. And the other 13, like don’t be shy and don’t be. Hesitant, like, just [00:41:00] jump in, like you got to start at some point and just, just do it, um, and, and see what you see, what you find. Um, I’m just going to skip a skim through a few of these real quickly here at the end.
And then we’ll, we’ll answer just at the end here. So I can answer a couple of questions. I don’t think that obsessing or worrying about we’re starting with like rankings is a really helpful strategy. Um, nothing wrong with rankings and to know where a school is in all of that or where a particular program is, um, how it’s ranked, but that doesn’t have anything to do with how well that school is going, or how much of a fit that school is going to be for you or not.
And I’m way more interested in fit, uh, than I am rank. And you should be too, um, particularly at the outset. So I would work from fit to rank and not the other way, uh, if you’re even concerned about it, um, and applying somewhere by the way, just because it is. Highly ranked or they have a program [00:42:00] that’s highly ranked.
If that’s your primary or only reason for applying there, that’s not good. And that generally, like that’s not going to be, that’s probably not going to work out well for you either in terms of an admissions decision or an experience, should you get in and go. So I discourage you from, from focusing on that too much.
Um need-blind um, so this came up, what does it mean when a college is need blind? It’s very simple. A need-blind college means it doesn’t can look at or consider your family’s financial situation in any way, shape or form when it is making your admissions decision. So they don’t take into account your ability or inability to pay tuition when they are deciding your application.
That’s what a need-blind school is. And there are about 105 of them in the U S today that are need-blind that do not take that into account. Ah, should I visit a school? [00:43:00] Yes, of course. Like if you can, the traditional model or kind of formula, if you go for a campus visit is an info session given by a professional admissions officer, which is usually about 45 minutes to an hour, and then a campus tour, maybe about an hour conducted by a student tour guide.
Um, and they, they kind of just take you around and show you the thing. It’s great. Um, if you go ask the tour guide a lot of questions and definitely ask students who you run into on the tour, uh, like a bunch of questions to like, just be bold. Like, you’ll be surprised if you just ask them like how it’s going or how they like it here, or why they decided to come here.
Like, they’ll talk to you and they love it. Um, and, and I put this in bold current students. I cannot emphasize that. Current students are the absolute best source of information about a college, any college or university period. So getting connected with them is key because if they are generally a happy bunch, [00:44:00] you would generally probably be happy there too.
Um, if they’re not loving life there or they’re finding it very stressful, very difficult, then that should be, that should send up some red flags. So I don’t know. I always encourage students to like meet a couple and exchange emails or numbers or something. And so you can ask them questions later, like, keep the conversation going.
It doesn’t have to end after the tour or after you leave campus. And in fact, it’s great if it doesn’t keep it alive, keep the ball in the air. Oh, questions. You can ask them. So like, I mean, I won’t go through all of these, but these are just examples of like questions you could ask your tour guide or other students you run into.
Personally. I find the first question. I put it first on purpose because it’s something that everyone has an opinion. Like what’s the food, like, how’s how, what’s it like to eat here? And they’ll like, go man, they will just launch into like, oh man, this is the best, or this is, I don’t like this, or I wish they had that.
I don’t know. Somehow that’s a great first [00:45:00] question is don’t forget to ask them about food. Um, I think as asking them how the school, how they think that, how the students think the school has handled COVID is important because we don’t know what that’s gonna look like in the future. And so how do the students feel about it knowing it’s been a difficult circumstance for everybody, how have they done?
And so, anyway, these are some sample questions, things you could think about to, um, to ask students whether you’re with them in person or by email later on, or, or, or whatever, um, Sydney campus versus college town. This is a little bit about like, kind of like size, like how do you, how do you decide the best thing is to visit and try to get a sense of what each one is like, you shouldn’t have a.
You shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t think that you’re going to prefer one to the other until you experience them in some way. Um, there are many advantages to both. So you, you, if there, if it’s appropriate to you, you won’t be making a wrong choice. Um, but it’s just things like, [00:46:00] you know, do you want to be in or near a big city where there’s an awful lot going on and, and all of that with a bunch of people, uh, but it might not feel like a traditional college campus, like, would that be okay with you or would you rather be somewhere that’s generally a little more quiet or a little more secluded and maybe a little more traditional campus since like, you know, and then there’s kind of everything in between.
I think looking at and thinking about campus safety, um, including COVID, uh, policies, but just safety in general is an access to healthcare are really important things to consider the, whether you’re in a city or a college. Um, some things that have been, uh, helpful to students in the past, um, I’ve, I’ve asked them to identify a school that they know that they don’t want to go to and then list all the reasons why they don’t want to go there.
Conversely list. Tell me a school that you do know you want to go to and tell me as many reasons for that. Um, I do this [00:47:00] exercise with students multiple times and at various stages, because generally the, the answers they give at least at first are not very good. Um, meaning they’re not specific. They’re just like, well, I’m not really into, I don’t know.
I can’t even think of a bad answer. They give, it’s just not specific. Um, and if you go through an exercise like that, By saying, okay. I here’s a school I don’t want to go to. And here are 10 reasons why, and here’s a school I do want to go to, and here are 10 reasons why you’re simultaneously not only working on your college list, but you are identifying and vetting your criteria.
This is about drilling down to what you do and do not want in a college. And why being able to say why you want something or don’t is really important. Final tips, um, be honest with yourself and others about what you want and what you don’t want and about what you know, and don’t. Uh, about whether it’s about schools, [00:48:00] about the application process, about what you might want to study or major in or anything, be honest, don’t pretend you don’t need to be a superhero here.
Uh, there are lots of people to support you. I encourage you to be flexible and nimble and open and prepare to be surprised. You will find things. If you go into this that you did not know, you just didn’t know that you just did not know were out there or that you did not know would light your candle when you discovered them.
So be open to that. Be ready to be surprised, be proactive and creative. Don’t wait for the search process to come to you. I mean, bring the fight to it. Jump in. There are so many ways you can do this by participating in that virtual stuff, by going there to visit by contacting people there by emailing them like, oh my gosh, they love that.
The proactive people be creative. Don’t, don’t be shy about it. Um, take ownership of your college search process. [00:49:00] Don’t let others drive the car for you. Don’t let, um, parents, teachers, counselors, um, like let us help you and let us help you navigate. But you’ve got the wheel. That’s how it needs to work.
That’s when it works best. And then lastly, don’t stop asking questions of her about schools and don’t settle for generic or vague answers like persist until you get specific, a specific drill down. Like what’s again, going back to that sentence. I highlighted earlier, what’s it really like to be there, to live there, to study there, to eat there, to sleep there, to play there.
What’s it really like? And don’t let them be like, it’s great. That’s not a good answer. I mean, it’s great. That it’s great. But tell me why. It’s great. Like you want to get. So, um, yeah, I think that’s my last, does it not? Um, Kenzie. Okay. Very good. Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar.
I hope you found this information helpful, and [00:50:00] remember, you can download the slide from the link, um, in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions you submitted in the Q and a tab and read them aloud before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q and a tab isn’t muddy, submit questions, just make sure you join the webinar from the custom links into your email and not from a webinar landing page.
If you join from the webinar landing page, also known as the website, um, you will not be able to get all the features of big marker. So just make sure you joined through the custom link in your email and yeah. Okay. So now we can get started. And real quick, I just wanted to add onto the list of questions.
One question that my counselor told us to ask on admissions tours, um, to ask students, um, if your bike broke down, what somebody helped you and did that to get a good idea of like, are people helpful? Do they just walk past you if you’re in trouble and get a sense of what the community is? Like? I love that question.
That’s a great one. Love it. So now for a question. Okay. So, [00:51:00] um, how can students, um, experience a variety of colleges without breaking the bank and then are there other alternatives to like doing an actual college store? Yeah. I mean, I think too, like I said earlier, I think mostly both the, to answer kind of both questions I think, um, is to leverage all of the different, um, not only the sort of official like virtual offerings that they are, that they are, um, presenting you with, like, um, whether they’re tours or info sessions or other kinds of presentations, like on financial aid or just any number of topics, I suppose, like those are all really good and helpful and you should do them.
Um, and likewise, you should be monitoring the schools. You should follow their social media if you don’t already, um, both the school and the admissions website. Um, pardon me, usually both the school and the admissions office will have its own. Um, channel or [00:52:00] something and being able to follow that and look for the opportunities.
I always try to pay attention to when’s it going to be a student in the spotlight? You know, like not that the professionals in the teachers aren’t helpful. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying when the, but when the spotlight is on a student and the student experience and the student perspective, I tend to find that to be much more, um, will just helpful in a different way.
And, and so, so scour, both scour their websites, scour their social media, sign up for stuff and, um, and take advantage of it. And if it really peaks your curiosity, then start talking to people there and then trying to connect with them. Maybe people who presented and then maybe there’s a way to. Um, to find a way there, um, perhaps through flying programs, if they’re doing them, if they have them, um, that maybe you just don’t know about, right?
Like it, you don’t know until you kind of dig in and learn and ask. [00:53:00] So, um, it, it pays to do research and to connect with people, connect with people, talk to them, ask them questions. Don’t just consume the material or the content, ask them questions in return. That’s what I would do. Yes. So another student is asking, is it bad to worry if colleges think you have too big of an ego when you’re introducing yourself and they say that they’re in eighth grade, you have too big of an ego?
Um, no, I don’t think so. Is it bad to worry about it? I, um, I don’t think you should worry about it. I think it’s all just about sort of how. Present yourself. Right. And, and, and, and also what you’re asking of them or from them. Right. But to say like, hi, I’m in, um, my name is so-and-so or I’m so-and-so, and I’m in the eighth grade and I’m starting, you know, my college research process and I’m interested in X, Y, and Z or whatever.
And I kind of wanted to [00:54:00] learn more about your school. And I’m wondering if you could help. Like, that’s not, I mean, something along those lines, you know, just in your own words, but like there’s nothing, um, there’s nothing remotely off putting or, or worrisome, um, at all about that. I don’t think, uh, I don’t know.
Kenzie, do you agree with that? I signed my name, Dr. McKinsey, Mary throughout high school. I don’t give an ego. I introduced myself to adults as Dr. Murray. Like most of my teachers called me, Dr. Maria. Um, you can’t really have too big of an ego. It’s more so if you’re saying you’re better than someone, not if you’re confident in yourself, there’s a difference.
Yeah. Right. I agree with like, right. You don’t want to introduce yourself as I’m in the eighth grade and you’re going to, like, you’ve never met an eighth grader, like me or something, you know? Like, no, like that’s, I don’t know. Just, just be yourself, just be yourself. Like, yeah. Going on to the next [00:55:00] question.
How can a student know what type of school would be a good fit? Um, there are, there are so many ways you can know this. Um, I think that, um, I really do believe, um, everyone, who’s all of you who are watching and listening to this, I really do believe the best way you can know of course, is to visit and to set foot and spend some time on that campus to really, you will really pick up the vibe.
You will really feel what it’s like there. Um, but absent that if you’re not able to do that, or in addition to that, I think the most important thing is to connect with and learn from students who are there because the students who are there are the ones who will tell you, like it really is. They will tell you exactly what the experience is like.
And, um, and the more you can talk to them and learn from them, the more you, because they’re going to speak your language and then [00:56:00] the more you will learn, like, yeah, this is starting to sound. Like this is up my alley, or this is starting to sound like I’m, I’m, I’m in the wrong, I’m in the wrong pool. Um, so I really encourage student to student communication as a way of knowing combined with this.
That’s enormously important. Definitely. I knew from it for the first second I stepped on campus. I did not want to go to Yale just because it felt too stuffy for me, like two suit and tie. But when I got to Cornell, it was in the fall, everything was pretty. And I just loved the campus. It definitely being on campus is a good thing.
And then one other thing I would tell my students is to consider like their learning styles and like the type of curriculum and class setting that the school has. So if you’re more of like a visual learner or more of an auditory or kinesthetic does your class off, um, which would be better, would be like, um, a discussion style [00:57:00] classroom or a lecture style, maybe better if you’re visual and auditory, but like a field work class or something where you can do.
More projects, um, would be better if you’re more kinesthetic. And then also thinking about like, if you’re good at managing your schedule or not, um, that can help with determining if you want to go to a semester school or a quarter system school, um, where your schedule is constantly changing. Those are like little details you look at when you’re looking at schools, but also can really help.
Um, and then also if the school has an open curriculum or has a more set curriculum can really help. So like open curriculum, you can kind of choose all your classes for your major and make up something close curriculum, uh, is that this it’s a bit more structured and those tend to be good. If you have a hard time thinking about what you want to do, or maybe you just don’t like having too much room and then there are always schools that are in-between.
So those are other things to consider more the nitty gritty. Like when you get later into the process, That’s right. [00:58:00] So another student is asking, what’s the ideal number of extracurriculars. I need to have a good application. Yeah. So there, there isn’t. And I would say that there really isn’t an ideal number.
I think that you really need to think about this in terms of quality of extracurriculars, as opposed to quantity. Um, and by quality, I mean, um, what they’re really looking at when they look at your extracurriculars is how have you spent your time in high school when you haven’t been in class or haven’t been studying for class or whatever.
So how have you spent your time outside of school? That’s really what they’re looking at. And this varies widely from student to student, from, for some students it’s like, they have maybe a small number of extracurriculars, like one, two or three or something, but they’re all. Um, but they have. A considerable amount of time and they’re related and they demonstrate how passionate the student is about [00:59:00] those, uh, about that area or whatever they, they were focusing on.
Um, and, uh, you know, so, which is great. Likewise, if you have extracurriculars that demonstrate how you are interested in your field, like if you have done research or a cool research project or had some kind of internship opportunity, that’s in the field that you’re interested in, that’s wonderful because it shows them that you, uh, that you’re serious about that and that you’re committed to it.
Um, so I can tell you that on most applications, uh, whether, um, you’re, you’re, you’re not allowed to list usually more than 10 extracurricular activities. There are exceptions to this, but generally they don’t allow more than 10 and it’s not even important necessarily in all cases to get to them. It’s really about, it’s not about filling out that number.
I don’t think as much as it is what’s in those extracurriculars that you did and [01:00:00] how, how committed to them were you and how important were they and, and all of that. So, um, so I hope that’s a helpful answer. Um, so, um, real quick for those in the room who aren’t working with us, we know that the college admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts.
Like mark are ready to help you with you and your family navigate in, um, one-on-one advising sessions in last year’s admission cycles are. We’re accepted into Harvard at three times, the national rate and accepted into Stanford at 4.4 times, the national rate sign up for a free consultation with us by registering for our free web platform at app.collegeadvisor.com their students and their families can explore webinars and keep track of application deadlines, research schools, and more all right on our website.
And that is a very great resource. And we also have other webinars in our catalog that you can view if you want to learn more about [01:01:00] like extracurriculars, um, other aspects of the admissions process and other details. And as our webinar is coming to a close mark, do you have any last minute advice, um, that you’d like to tell.
My last minute advice is for you to, uh, the students for you to engage with, um, with, with people, uh, uh, your, your counselor, your teacher, your peers, uh, people who are in college. Now, professionals like us, like reach out, communicate, start asking your questions and learn as much as you can and absorb as much as you can.
Don’t wait for it to come to you. You go get it. That’s my best advice. Thank you everyone for coming out tonight and thank you to our panelists, mark. Uh, so that is the end of our webinar. We hope you found this information helpful, and we had a really great time telling you about researching colleges.
Here’s the rest of our February series, where we will be talking about different aspects of the application process, and you can [01:02:00] check us out next month as well, where we’ll be giving more strategizing points, scholarship information, and other great topics that can help you navigate this application process.
But also remember that you can join college advisor by going to app.collegeadvisor.com and setting up a free consultation with us, uh, in order to get your own advisor and to be able to ask all your burden questions and get that specialized, um, an individualized, um, uh, support that you need throughout this application process.