Picking Your Perfect College: Building Your List

Embarking on your college journey? Join our webinar, “Picking Your Perfect College: Building Your List ,” to gain essential insights and strategies for creating a well-informed and tailored list of colleges that align with your goals and aspirations. Former admissions officer Joanne Pluff will share her tips and tricks for creating the best list for you.

During the 60 min webinar, you will:

  • Learn how to identify personal and academic factors that matter most in your college selection process.
  • Identify effective techniques for efficiently researching colleges to find the best fit for your needs.
  • Gain insights into creating a balanced college list that includes ambitious, realistic, and safety options.
  • Explore how to align your academic and career goals with colleges offering the right majors and programs.
  • Understand how to factor in the financial aspect and consider schools that align with your budget and financial aid expectations.
  • Learn to assess campus culture, extracurricular offerings, and the overall environment to ensure a comfortable fit.

Don’t miss this opportunity to simplify and enhance your college selection process. Whether you’re just beginning your exploration or refining your list, this webinar will equip you with the knowledge and strategies needed to build a college list that sets the foundation for a successful academic journey. Register now and take the first step towards your ideal college experience!

Date 01/23/2024
Duration 1:00:08

Webinar Transcription

2024-01-23 – Picking Your Perfect College: Building Your List

Hi everyone, my name is Stacey Tuttle and I am your moderator today. Welcome to “Picking Your Perfect College: Building Your List.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation and answer your questions in a live Q&A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab.

So now let’s meet, without further ado, our panelists. Joanne, I’m going to turn it over to you for an intro. Awesome. Hi, everybody. My name is Joanne Pluff. I am a former admissions officer and associate dean of admission at Utica University now, um, and Hamilton College. And now I serve as an associate vice president for a university located in Washington, D.C. Wonderful. Thank you for being with us tonight. I’m really excited to hear all the great advice that you have. And this is a really great time of year to start building your career. And thinking about college list for those of you who might be at that stage and in order to get a sense of who in the room might be at that stage, you’re going to see a poll appear in front of you.

Now, give us a sense of what grade you’re in. Are you. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, are you not yet in high school, perhaps in eighth grade, or are you in another category, are you perhaps a parent, or a guardian, or a counselor, somebody supporting a student? Let us know who you are.

And yeah, I don’t, I don’t recall when I was in high school all those years ago, if I made my college list. That early, but I do advise my students to make their list around like juniors going into senior year, making their list really start thinking about that around now, um, Joanne, do you agree? I know you’ll probably dive into this in terms of timing a little bit more, but this seems to be the first step.

step in that direction is this January/February period. Yeah, I think it just makes things easier too on the student and the family. It’s such a big decision. So to think that you could create a list in August and then start applying in September is a little insane. So the more lead time the better and I think more colleges, especially the ones that I interact with, are gearing up.

Like February, March visits towards juniors. So it really is a good time. And I think just the visit opportunities, the virtual opportunities, they’re pretty abundant right now for students that have just started their search, even though sophomores first year, I would say, hold off for now. But sophomores and juniors, I think, are Right now is a great time to start building.

Yeah, I think that’s really well put. And, you know, getting started early means that you can plan your summers too, in case you do want to visit in person and not virtually. Um, so it looks like we do have a lot of juniors, not surprising. We do have some in the other category. So welcome to those of you who fall into that, that group.

Um, and we do have some sophomores, a few freshmen, and we even have somebody in eighth grade. So that’s great. Thank you for being with us today. today. So, Joanne, I’m going to turn it over to you for the main part of the presentation. Cool. Also, kudos to the person in eighth grade, because I don’t think I would have had the attention span to sit through a presentation.

So, I’m highly impressed by your tenacity and your go get it action. So, if you need something at Work at Howard, just let me know. So yeah, we’ll go ahead and get started. I’ll just tell all of you it’s easier if you send this questions right in the Q and A and not directly to me because I will miss them.

But I’ll make sure that we leave some time at the end just to discuss whatever you think is still on your mind. So we’ll go over a bunch of different things. But again, I’m happy to reiterate. And just recognize, you know, every student’s circumstances quite different. So I’ll try to be as specific as I can, but also I have only worked at, um, five other institutions.

So I can only give you my professional judgment. Um, if you have deep burning questions, I always recommend reaching out to the schools directly. So let’s get going here. Um, so what makes a good college list? Um, there’s, I would say four things that really go into that decision. The number one thing, which Every student needs to be conscious of and family when you’re applying to universities or colleges is the major, right?

So the end goal with attending college is that you’re picking out the place that will foster and cultivate the person and the job that you’ll have for the future. So if, you know, University of Auburn doesn’t have your major and you really love it, it doesn’t seem like that’s a good fit for you. You have to make sure that the major is the one thing that you can do.

Let’s say you’re undecided and you have no idea what you want to study, but perhaps you have a couple of ideas. It’s important to look at schools that have, um, decent and, and pathways for undecided students. So are you generally taking, you know, a lot of core classes within the first semester? Is it a STEM school where, you know, everybody’s on the same path and by junior year you break off into different, um, concentrations?

So definitely taking a look at that. I don’t want to discount our undecided students. Um, they say the average student will change their major at least one to two times when entering the college process. So if you’re one of the few students who knows what they want to do, you’ve figured it out, awesome.

Um, that’s not the case for everyone. So make sure that whatever university you apply to has a few things, if not the thing that you’re interested in. The next thing to consider would be the size. So, you know, oftentimes I’ll speak with students that have like large research one flagship schools on the top of their college list.

Sometimes it’s based on affordability. Sometimes it’s just based on, um, the other students from their high school that have gone. So that’s all fine and good. But if you’re a student that thrives in more of a lecture based, um, class setting with 50 to 60 students where you’re Bouncing ideas off of each other.

Awesome. That’s great. If you went to a large high school and you’re really looking for more one on one experience with, um, you know, a smaller student to faculty ratio, you don’t want to look at those universities. So size is super important. I think when I was going through the process, I really didn’t care about what size, um, college or university I went to.

I went to a pretty large high school with 1,600 students. So for me, I was like, it doesn’t matter. But for some students, that’s super, super important. Size also determines some of the student support. So if you’re from a smaller school where you have access to your guidance counselor, your professors, um, you know, a coach, things like that, you’ll definitely want to take that into consideration.

Because on the college side, while a lot of All that support is there for you. That support may look different based on the size of the institution. The next thing you want to check out, of course, is the location. So are you okay with being in a more rural setting? Do you enjoy seeing the rolling hills and snow of upstate New York?

Or perhaps maybe you’re a suburban yuppie, maybe you’re an urban dweller. whatever that is, make sure that you can handle it. I always tell students when you’re looking at big institutions in large cities, the city is not for every student and it takes a large amount of maturity to be able to be in the city.

So if you and your parents are thinking, you know, we really think you do better maybe in the suburbs, maybe in a more college town. Definitely look at schools like that. There’s no shame in that game. And the cool thing about the college process is there are thousands of universities and colleges across the country and internationally, so you’ll find your home somehow.

And the last thing, um, I know it seems silly, but it is truly important is how do you feel on that campus? So if you are a nerd and you’re proud of it, I have some great nerds, um, that I’m advising this, uh, this season and they’re proud and they really want to go to school where, you know, there is a Harry Potter club.

There’s a Quidditch club. There’s a stem and research opportunity. So, again, if that’s what you’re interested and you want to. to be a part of. Awesome. On the flip side, I have some students that are looking for large schools with really big, um, athletic followings. So specifically one of my seniors this year wanted to go to a school with a division one football team.

Should I don’t care where I go? I don’t care where it is. I wanted to have a division one football team. So to each their own. So when you take those four things into consideration, I think that it’s kind of what can start your research. And you can literally Google, Google, you know, Medium sized colleges with da dum da dum major or, um, smaller institutions, um, that have this club and organization.

So you can be as specific as you want with your search process when you’re list building. So something you’ll hear, um, from your high school guidance counselor as well as anybody within this process, is talking about target reach and likely schools. So those are the three categories that we here at CollegeAdvisor like to break things up into.

And that is a way for us to determine and how to build your list. So reach schools are academically, well, let me back up a minute. So every year, um, actually around this time of year, colleges will spit out what’s called the student profile. Basically the student profile will tell you the profile for the incoming or current first year class.

So what were their GPAs? Um, what was their average test scores? Where did they come from? Uh, what was the average class rank? Um, you know, what were their top majors? What were their top cities? It’ll give you a lot of information. So based on that, you can generate for yourself, um, in your own GPA and SATs, you can formulate how you would fit into that class profile.

Profile. Typically, the class profile determines how students are admitted. So once we take a look at that, we can then evaluate how strong you are academically for that school. So a reach school would be, let’s say I’m a senior in high school. I’ve got a 12 80 SAT And an 89 GPA. And I am looking at a school with a 93 GPA and a 1380 SAT that would be a reach school for me. So while I’m close, I am outside of the academic average. And when you’re building your list, we really want three to four, I would say two to three reach schools on that list. So are there your dream schools? Cool. Awesome. They’re the ones that you’re going to take a chance on, but remember we’re padding that list with target and likely schools as well.

Likely schools are schools that you’re academically 100 percent meeting that academic profile of the student. So did all of those students have An exact 89 or, you know, 88 GPA, as well as a, um, similar SAT score. Those schools we want to have you apply to around four to five of those schools. And then, of course, the likely schools are schools that you fall well above their academic profile.

So, perhaps, The average student coming in has an 86 and again, you have that 89 with that 1280. It means that likely you’re going to be admitted there. We like to ensure that our students have at least two to three likely schools. And again, just because they’re likely does not mean that they’re academically at a disadvantage or Nobody wants to go to them.

It just means you make the academic profile. I think I talked about this the last time. Um, I was doing this webinar and it’s really important to build your list appropriately. So if you guys haven’t watched, never have I ever on Netflix. I talk about it all the time to students. Um, it’s about a high school student who’s applying to college.

She’s excellent. She does all the AP courses, presidents of clubs, debate team, all of these things, amazing writer. And she makes her college list with. Only reach schools. And lo and behold, they’re all private schools. They’re all Ivy League schools, and she was denied from every single one. So that year for her around this time when decisions were coming out was pretty stressful.

So she was waitlisted, which is a whole other nuance. But I say this to say you can’t just have reach schools on your applications and it’s really important to be honest with your parents and realistic about the choices because what we want is for you to get into college. We don’t want you to be applying to Harvard if you don’t have Harvard GPA and SATs.

Harvard is not for everybody. Harvard is for some students. And while we would love for every student to go there that wants to, Harvard is not for everybody. be realistic with academics so that you do have a wide variety of schools to choose from, um, to go to next year. So, um, I was just talking a little bit about the ratios.

Um, so just notice as well, if you have not started doing any research on a common application, so typically the common app is used for the vast majority of schools. schools across the country, right? And if you’re applying to a school that has a school specific, specific, uh, application, awesome, don’t worry, it’s not a big deal.

There’s also the co, uh, Coalition application and the Black Common application. So those are three different options for students to apply. The Common App itself allows students to apply to ten schools. So as you’ll see, uh, With the mid range of all of those, we’re suggesting that a student applies to 10.

Now my first year CollegeAdvisor, I had a student who was, I would say, intense. She applied to 24 schools, which takes a lot of, um, I would say, let’s see, patients practice. Um, we were constantly adding, removing schools after deadlines and things like that. So that is not highly recommended. Um, we recommend you stay in that 10 range.

It’s easy to manage. And it again has a large population of your target schools. One to three of your reach, and then one to three of your likely schools. We want to make sure that there’s a good balance, and again, we want to make sure that you have a place to go in the fall. So if we don’t have a place to send you, um, you know, those targets or those reach schools are not going to come in handy.

Typically with target and reach schools, it also means you fall within the criteria for their merit scholarship programs and or honors programs. So again, you know, we want to go. Don’t discount the target schools. It means you’re dead on and you’re the absolute right student that they’re looking for. All right, so how can students narrow down their college list to a reasonable number?

Yeah, so college visits are really important, but also doing your research on your own to prepare for the visits and then just generally so you know. So when you’re researching, like I said, the number one thing is the major. Um, we typically, your CollegeAdvisor will help students. Build a really large Excel spreadsheet that tells the college, the location, the size of the school, if it has your major, you know, are they an early action school and early apply school?

Are they in the common app? There’s a bunch of things that we put on there. Right. But when you dive down deeper, what’s the most important thing is our students gainfully employed after graduating from that school. So I’m sure, you know, parents and other people who are on these webinars with students can say they know someone who studied biology and now is working as, you know, uh, a branch manager of a bank, which is totally fine.

When we’re talking about gainful employment, that means you’re employed with the, um, job that you attended the college for. So that means you went to the school and you are a biologist or you are the scientist. I went to school for public relations and public speaking and communication. So I think I’m kind of doing that jam.

So they count me as gainfully employed. Also what you want to take advantage of, um, and know is the internship opportunities. The job market right now is insane. Um, I’m sure any of the parents can tell you. And for students who are entering the job process right after college, you typically need about two years of experience, which is insane.

So you want to make sure that there are internship externships, um, ability to shadow, all of those things kind of make up the puzzle. And then after college support is also very, very important. Usually the university and college will have some type of career services department. So how do they support graduates after graduation?

So my university alone, um, anytime I decide, like if I decided I want to go back to school and wanted to go to med school, they would help me with my med school applications, which is pretty awesome. Um, so you want to check out and see what benefits there are, um, after college. Of course, the big thing right now is the cost and the rising cost of higher education.

So the monetary value is super important. How much financial aid does that school offer? Like I was saying, you’re going to create a very large spreadsheet and you’ll be able to detail this information on there. So do they offer merit scholarships and how do you qualify? Are there, um, just like this college profile, their top, there probably are, um, bans for the merit scholarship.

So what do you need to get to get the, let’s say, presidential scholarship, which typically is the best. So what do they offer in financial aid? Do they match out of state tuition if you’re applying to a state school? Um, is it a private school? So they have a lot of endowed scholarships. Do they meet full need?

Um, meeting full needs means, like, let’s say the cost of the tuition is 25,000 and your family can only, um, pay per year, you know, 10,000 which would be 5,000 a semester. Will the school give you scholarships and or loans to cover the rest? And then a not a really big number. I think students are quite nervous about, you know, rightfully.

So is the loan indebtedness of graduates. So for students who went to a university, maybe it was a nursing program, you know, those nurses in the marketplace. Are they upside down on loans? Are they ever going to pay them off or are they able to, you know, get past it and, and actually be able to contribute towards, um, their own future, whether that’s a house, a car, whatever, what have you.

So are they able to pay and are, are they in default on their loans? That information again can be found on the financial aid portion of the website. Additionally, there you’ll be able to find what’s called the net price calculator. So every university is required by the federal government to have the net price calculator.

So basically, you’ll take your family’s income, which is, you know, the new FAFSA that’s come this year, which is very interesting. We could have a complaint. conversation about that. So you’ll take that information that you’ll generally put in. The net price calculator will ask you your student’s GPA, SATs if they’re submitting, or ACTs, and then again just some family income questions, and they’ll generate for you a general financial aid package.

Of course, knowing that this is not something that’s written in stone, but it gives you an idea. So doing that financial aid net price calculator will also give you Some information on, um, what the school would offer you. And then of course there’s personal value. Um, the L word in admissions legacies kind of frowned upon these days just because we don’t want people taking advantage.

Um, but you know, how important is this school to your family? Are you a student that has, you know, seven people that have attended in the last 10 years? Is the. Is this your favorite high school or college football team? Like, what is it that’s the value for you? Make sure that you take that into consideration.

And parents, that’s something that’s going to be important to the student. So, while your personal value could differ, remember it’s your student that’s going to go to the college and not you. So, yes, this is definitely a family decision. We encourage families to participate, but it really is the student that will be there for all four years.

And then the next thing that we, I always talk about too, is for student needs. So, does your student need support services? If they do, when I’m talking about support services, do they have a 504, um, or IEP? Do they need, um, tests? that are read to them, transcriptions, whatever the circumstances, any kind of accommodation.

Do they, um, accommodate students and is it free? Do you have to pay for it? How do students get them? Do you not have accommodations? All of those things are very important. Um, the location, so Is the college close to your family or is there a family member within the city limits that your student can reach out to?

Are they a homebody and like to be home every, you know, Saturday night for dinner? That’s important to you. Make sure that you’re able to do that. I remember when I was going through the college process, um, I was a recruited athlete and I don’t know why, but I had it in my mind that wherever I went to school, because remember I told you guys I didn’t care about size or location, um, that.

My parents would come to every single one of my games and it was a really harsh reality that November when my applications were submitted and my parents were like, just so you know, if you go to school in California, we actually can’t come to every single game. So if that’s really important to you and you need, you know, mom or dad to be there, make sure that they’re able to get there.

If you are a student that wants to be able to take long weekends, do it. It’s your cup of tea. It’s whatever you want. Then the class sizes, again, like I said, if you are going into a school and you are okay with large lecture halls, awesome, find those schools that have it. If you’re not and you do not thrive in that environment, don’t do that.

It’s again, what is personal to each student and what makes you successful. So if you don’t have those things, then, Finding find another school. So when should you have your school list finished? So I would say by the summer of your senior year, you really should have started and completed your list. The reason being summertime of your senior year is a great way to get to know the universities.

Now, remember, I’m suggesting you start with about 20 to 25 names. Whittle it down to that 10 to 12. Um, and the summertime will give you the, uh, option if you’re able to do some of those summer visits. Summers are, you know, quiet on college campuses because students are typically not there, but it will give you at least a taste of what life is like.

For those students who are being athletically recruited, know that that timeline is, um, pushed up quite a bit because typically your applications have to be in for at least early action or early decision deadlines. So May is around the time that I really think, um, students should have that idea. And then you can spend the summer going on in person visits or virtual visits if you’re able.

So this, um, unfortunately this poll is not available to us at this time. I’m experiencing a technical issue with the current poll. We do have a different question for you all. Um, and I’m hoping you’ll Bear with us and follow along with the current poll as opposed to the one that’s on the slide. Where are you in the application process is what we want to know.

Um, I can imagine given the number of juniors in the room today that we are going to see a lot of individuals researching schools. Um, Joanne, do you remember, given the question on the screen, do you remember what your preferred college size was? So I actually didn’t have a preferred college size, which is crazy.

So I Um, so if you’re from the East Coast, I looked at small liberal arts colleges because I was like, I just want to study everything and liberal arts allows you to do that. And then I would go the complete left and I was being recruited by Auburn. So my parents were like, this is not. I did not systematically fit the goal and the mold that we’re talking about.

Size was not so much important to me. What I was looking for, um, was because I wanted to live away. The big important thing for me was a campus that people didn’t go home on the weekends. Like I knew I was going to go out of state. I was committed to that. I wanted that full experience. So I used to kind of like skulk around on weekends, like Friday afternoons and See, you know, where students were.

So for me, it wasn’t size. It was for the out of state students. What could we do on the weekend outside of study? Because while that’s really important parents, I’m going to say that it’s important, but I think, you know, a good 40 percent of college is figuring life out. So I wanted to check out cities and go on road trips with my friends and sightsee.

And I didn’t want to be in a place where I was doing it by myself on a Saturday. Yeah, that’s totally fair. And I do, I do want to reiterate to that. It’s okay to not necessarily have all small colleges or all large colleges. There’s definitely other factors, right? And I hear you. I don’t know if I really considered size when I was setting my list.

It’s something that we emphasize a lot, but I don’t know if students really put that at the forefront. And it, it really does matter when it comes to your class setting and Yeah. Um, your ability to network and things like that. Yeah, and like I was that student in high school or high school, but maybe like kindergarten that they’re like she talks so much like she should not be with friends.

So I was like, yes, like I was there for the large lecture halls because I knew like those, you know, moments when you. When you look at colleges, um, on TV and the, the professors like calling someone out and they’re kind of like, you know, rolling with each other. That’s what I was looking for very much. So, so I know it’s crazy, but there are so many different portrayals of colleges and universities in the media, but that’s kind of how you get the idea of where you want to go.

Like, do you want to be more one on one with a faculty member? Is it like a more writing like Oberlin, right? So they only accept so many students to their, their writers, um, their writers program. So are you fine with sitting in a room of 10 students who are writing, literally writing, moment to moment. And if you’re not, then that college isn’t for you.

Yeah. Really, really well put. And, you know, even within these are questions that you’ll learn more about on your college tours, but even within a, an individual school, your size of class can change as you may pick your major and you go on in your program. So in any case, Sorry, we can talk about this all day.

Moving on to the poll results. So we, of course, as I mentioned earlier, we have a lot of folks researching schools. We do have some, some individuals who are almost done with applications. Makes sense. Getting application materials together. We have a good chunk who haven’t started. Makes sense. We have some freshmen software and we got that eighth grader in the room, right?

So we’re going to move forward. Thank you for bearing with us with the poll, and we’re going to move on to the rest of the presentation before our Q& A. Yeah. So, um, knowing the particular school is a good fit is it’s this is a crazy thing, right? Like I tell parents that I work with all the time. Um, college is one of the my job is the craziest thing because it is The success of my job relies on 17 and 18 year olds.

So we basically in this country, we tell them like college is so important and we place the importance on this and we kind of set them free. And the way to figure it out really is you have to visit and you have to talk to the people that attend that school. So I cannot emphasize the importance of visiting.

You know, And if you’re not able, and perhaps it’s a funding issue, so many schools are doing fly in programs or will sponsor students coming to visit their campuses. And then, of course, there are virtual visits. And the creativity that we’ve seen that COVID has given us, you know, forced in, um, in this particular field for creative ways of visits is amazing.

So every school will have a generic virtual visit, but there are all sorts of zooms and ways to connect with students, connect with alumni. There are so many different alumni clubs across the country for all of these universities. So the importance of the visit is it’s just, it’s like paramount. Um, In the fall of your senior year, typically schools will have an open house in September or October.

And then if you’re admitted at some point in the spring, they’ll have an admitted student day where you’ll meet the faculty, you’ll talk to the students, you’ll talk to the students who have internships, you’ll speak to the students who live in the residence hall. So it’s truly important to go and check them out.

So as a person who oversees, so one of my departments oversees our university visit suite, what I would always tell people is on the days of visits, you got to recognize, right? Like our students are creme de la creme. It’s very hard to be a student ambassador at any university and they’ll tell you and they’re prepared to answer whatever question you throw at them.

The students you need to talk to are, let the visit die down and you know, do your thing and know that everything is coming from a place of like honesty and truth. Go and walk into, you know, the I’d say the chemistry building. If you’re interested in chemistry and talk to a student who’s just sitting studying, ask them about their experiences.

Um, those shy students, those, those introverts that that aren’t out there. Maybe they’re not, you know, causing ruckus on the yard or, you know, in the quad, go and talk to the current students and see what, what things are about. Um, typically with your admissions process, you’ll be given a, um, a direct contact, a regional rep and talk to them and they will connect you with other, with current students who are from your area and they can talk to you about living away or commuting to school or, you know, transferring in whatever the population is that you fit in.

There are students on that campus that fit that mold. You just have to find them and I recommend you do, um, attend the visits and don’t cash it in. So if you are spending the money and your parents time to go to, you know, a three hour drive to visit a university, even if you feel like it’s not worth it, go because it will help you decide and learn what you don’t want to do.

So. Go and typically they’re free. Um, again, I cannot stress this enough. It has to have your major. Um, we highly frown upon students just going to schools just because they like it. That doesn’t really so much work. And it’s also a huge waste of money. So if the school doesn’t have the major or path that you want to go, then that’s That school is not for you.

Um, I think pre med programs, pre dental, anything pre professional is pretty debatable, right? Like at my university, you could study history and still be pre med. It doesn’t matter, but make sure that at the end, there are students who have done what you want to do successfully. It’s typically hard to be the first.

Not saying that you shouldn’t be, but it is a little bit harder. And then of course, happy with the location and size. We just talked about this a lot. So location was, uh, much more important to me than I realized when I started the process because I truly didn’t care, um, and the size to me didn’t matter, but it was more access to my parents that I was most concerned about.

Alrighty, so when we’re talking about applications, this is a question I actually get a lot. So what makes an admissions officer think a student is a good fit for their school? So to be perfectly honest, when we’re evaluating, the number one thing we look at is your academics. So the strength of your schedule, um, is something that always comes into play.

So for students, students who are applying, let’s say it’s fall 2024, you’re going to start the application cycle. So, you know, already any of those early applications, what will happen is we will see all of your grades up until that point. If you’re applying for that November early decision, early action, or some of the Florida schools and some of the other big state schools down south have pushed their timelines to, um, September, but those three years, like people have been harping on you and telling you really are important.

We, those are the only academics we have to go off of. And then of course, on the common app, what you’ll do is report your, um, Um, your current classes. But at the end of the day, if your academics don’t fit within what we’re looking for, that’s kind of a big indicator for us. Now think of your application, um, the parts of your application is like a big pizza pie.

So it’ll look at your academics taking the largest part, then your extracurriculars, your essay, the strength of your schedule, um, and any kind of other interactions that you’ve had with the school. So yes, can you get in if you’re slightly under? Sure, but there are other things that kind of make up the application.

We typically do in admissions what’s called the holistic review, meaning we will evaluate everything that a student sends in. So if you send in your SAT scores, we will evaluate that, but it doesn’t discount the other students. It just means we’re looking at everything. But the SATs and that’s fine with us.

So the biggest thing, like I said, is the academics do have to be on target and that’s where that school profile will come into play. Um, for schools that are highly selective, uh, checking out your demonstrated interest is something that you may want to consider. So, Have you interacted with the school personally virtual visits again, they’re very easy.

You can just check those off, sign up for them. And I think most schools offer them year round interviews are excellent. So it’s an opportunity for the school to learn about you. Some are evaluative and then others are informative. Typically, schools don’t really tell you which one they’re going for, but if you’re offered an alumni interview, it’s highly suggested you should take it.

Not every student gets the opportunity to interview for a university, so this is your time to add additional information to your application. So, just please recognize for Universities, the lack of tests or the prevalence of tests optional means that more students can apply everywhere. So if you have the opportunity to submit an interview or to have an interview, it definitely helps us.

Supplemental essays, um, they’re not, they’re not recommended. They’re strongly suggested. Students that I advise, I require them to do it. So I get it. You’re tired. I’m tired too. This process is long. It is hard. You can write the essay. So that’s why we say you can start early. The earlier you start, the supplements will come out.

Typically applications will reopen at some point in August and all of those supplements are there. On that spreadsheet again, I can’t harp on the spreadsheet more, um, I usually list if there are supplemental essays and how much. Sometimes the supplemental essays could be like, give us your 10 favorite songs and we usually will compile a big Spotify list.

Um, and listen to them while we’re reviewing applications. Other times, it’s a 500 word essay. Stinks, it is what it is. Be specific, do some research, don’t make it generic. That’s all I gotta say. And then, um, another interaction would be a high school visit. So, in the next couple of months, during the spring semester, and then heavily in the fall, colleges and universities will travel to your high school, and it’s an opportunity for you to meet with an admissions officer.

We definitely keep track of that, so if someone comes to your school, You should go and see them. And then any kind of other yield events such as open house or accepted student days where there are opportunities for you to come on campus, definitely are ways for you to personally interact. The next thing we look at is, are your extracurriculars similar to those within the community?

So at my university, we are, our motto is in truth and service, meaning we are honest and we are always giving back to the community. Our students, about 95 percent of them participate in the alternative spring break. So if you don’t like volunteering and building houses and, you know, helping, like the one I went on last year to California was we went to a community and we built beds.

If that’s not your jam, this probably wouldn’t be the school for you. But if there is a school that has the awesome club and organization that you love, go join it, be a part of it. Now, let’s not to say that. You can’t, um, create your own club or organization, but based on your extracurriculars, we want to make sure that you’re able to enhance our community.

So are there, you know, there was a cupcake, a young lady who won cupcake contests. We want her in our community, right? She makes cupcakes like who doesn’t want that. So think about that when you are applying to those schools and for the younger students, the eighth grader, the ninth grader, Let’s say your goal is Johns Hopkins.

You probably want to think about having some research opportunities or some type of STEM internship on your, um, application in your list of extracurriculars because that does stand out for that specific school.

Ooh, last advice I would give to students. Students crafting their list. Um, first thing is to be honest, I firmly believe that this should be a student’s decision. I think parents can definitely weigh in, but at the end of the day, I would not recommend sending your student to a place that they don’t want to be.

Um, if you’re not happy there or you truly don’t want to be there. Don’t let your student waste their time. This is four years, right? Four years is a long time. That’s, that’s high school. That’s college. Four years is, we’re four years past, almost four years past COVID. So it is a very long time and it’s a lot of money to waste.

So if you need to have that conversation with your parents, I’ve had that conversation many times with my students and their family. It’s a tough conversation to have, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t force my kid to go somewhere. that they wouldn’t want to be for four years. That’s, that’s really hard.

It’s really hard. So if it’s affordable for you and your family can do it, Make it a positive family decision and support your student. This is the one time where you get to be selfish and you truly get to have and do the thing you want to do for four years. Don’t feel bad about being picky. Don’t feel bad about, you know, nitpicking and, and looking for that one specific thing.

You should do that. This is four years and it’s like a 200, 000 investment and it’s an investment in your future. And then of course be realistic. So no, on the backend for every student applying, we will recalculate your GPA. So I don’t care if your GPA is a 6.0, it’s a 5.0, it’s whatever. Every university will recalculate your GPA, and you have to know that going into the process.

So, for students who are creating their schedules, those sophomores, those juniors, yeah, we take into consideration you taking three or four sections of advanced pottery. Not great. Make sure that you have four years of math, science, English, history. Carry that out through your senior year. Do not show up to senior year with a bunch of study hauls.

It does not look well. If you have tested out and you’ve done, you know, all the sciences you need to, all the, the math you need to. Go to a community college and get some more classes. Take AP classes, do dual enrollment, challenge yourself. It’s not the time to take your foot off the gas. So I appreciate that you finished early.

Cool. Love it. Awesome. But, um, make sure that you’re being realistic. All right. Thank you so much. That was so helpful. So that webinar. And I hope you all found that to be as informational as I did. Um, Joanne always comes with. Such great tips and advice really useful real world steps for students to take and to consider as families and remember that you can download the slides.

That we’ve gone through tonight from the link in the handouts tab. So now we’re going to move on to the live Q&A. I’ll read through the questions you submit in the Q&A tab, and I’ll paste them in the public chat so you can see them. And then I will read them out loud before Joanne can give you an answer.

As a heads up, if your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. So to get started, we do have a couple questions in the chat. This is actually, um, this question is a point of clarity for me too, Joanne.

Common App allows you to submit up to 20 applications. I know you mentioned 10 during the webinar. So it allows you to submit 10. So the student that I was talking about, um, high achieving, right? So she was a little bit of a go getter, definitely after scholarship dollars. So what she would do is she would submit her application to the school and contact them to see if they had downloaded it.

Once they downloaded it, she removed the school from the Common App and added another school. So it takes a lot of like planning and foresight and drove me absolutely insane. I do not recommend it. What I will say is if the school has Common App, do it. And then if there are like five or six others that you’re applying to or two or three, do it.

If any of, take a, take a look. If any of the schools have a school specific application and Common App, definitely use their school specific application and then put the Common App schools with just the Common App. It is very like checks and balances and that was a rough cycle for me. So I don’t recommend applying to that many schools.

It’s unnecessary. There’s a home for everybody. Um, she just really wanted to, to make sure she was making the right decision. So we, we did that. I hear you. And I do think there’s something to be said about maintaining sanity during this process for everyone involved, you, your parents. Yeah. I’ve gone through similar procedures with similar types of students, and it is not good for their mental health to be wavering back and forth between their school choices.

And it’s not good for their mental health to, uh, Onward so many schools when you have to, you know, keep up your grades in senior year, you have to focus on your extracurriculars. Still, you have to have a social life. I mean, senior year should be enjoyed to write Joanne. So absolutely. And I think the thing that bothered me the most about her applications is for some of them.

I knew she was just applying to apply. Right? So like, yeah. It depending on how selective it was, she was taking a seat from another student. So unless there is like, maybe you’re not getting the financial aid that you need. And you’re only, you’re now applying to rolling cool. I get that, but 20 right off the back, just for the sake of saying that you applied, that’s kind of a waste of your time.

We don’t need that many. I promise there’s a school for everybody. Yeah, I totally agree. And I would say my question is always if you got in, would you go and a lot of the times the answer is no, the next question I usually have is why is it on your list? And you can’t immediately give me an answer probably shouldn’t be on the list.

So thank you for that insight. Um, the next question in the chat is how can schools know? So this has a lot to do with, you know, enrollment management and engagement with students. How does the school know when you’ve engaged with them? How does the school know when you reached out to an admissions officer, gone to a fair?

And in this case, the question was attended a virtual visit. So we’re really tricky, right? So you typically schools use, um, some type of, you know, people management software that once you have entered their system, whether you’ve, you know, signed up on their website to receive information or. Maybe you took the PSATs and you fall within their range, they will start sending you info.

And what we do, and it’s just not us, it’s every university, we’ll send them out and then we get what’s called a read report. So then I’ll know, How did Stacey read my email and how long did she read it? I know it’s really soccer ish. It just is what it is. It’s kind of, it’s marketing. So just like you’re courting us, we want to know if you’re courting you.

So any event that you’ve signed into the student is typically you putting their name, their email address, their phone number, that email creates a record. That record will now connect to their common app. So when you open Stacey’s profile, like I have a student today who said, You know, our decisions went out back in December, and she’s like, I didn’t see my decision.

I was like, yes, you did, and you clicked it, and this is when you clicked it, and this is how many times you clicked it, and That’s just how computers are cookies. You know, they tell you to accept them or not. We just know. Um, so that engagement is really important. And for the selective schools that look at demonstrated interest.

Yeah, they’re basically they want to know how important are you in, um, Are they in your life? So and parents that goes for you too. They’ll send you the marketing emails. They’ll want to know if you’re reading the information about financial aid and the FAFSA and the parent portal. They definitely are recording you too.

So we unfortunately record it. Stalkers or not, it just kind of is what it is. Yeah and there is a A whole math behind the enrollment process, Rachel, and where, um, it is somewhat of a science for the admissions team to calculate yield and your likelihood of matriculating and that data gets used and that decision making.

So, and understanding your likelihood of coming to their school. Yeah, it was like, if you go to the virtual event and you do an interview and you write the supplemental essay, it seems to us, it would seem like you’re really engaged. So we, we use that to, to determine how hard we should be pressing your student for information to complete their application to, you know, to, to join us on campus for, uh, a dance audition.

It’s important. So don’t take it lightly. Absolutely. Um, I did have a question that isn’t in the public Q and A. It came to me separately. Is the, are all of the pieces of advice that you’ve given tonight. The. Same for students hoping to transfer from one college to another when they’re doing transfer applications.

Yeah, it’s pretty similar. Um, I would say transfers are, they’re a little bit of a different breed depending on the school. Um, not every school can accommodate transfer students, and some schools have really specific times of year where they, they look at transfer students. So I would say it’s pretty trend transferable.

The information, um, But if you’re looking to transfer, there’s typically a transfer counselor. So if you are, say, going to community college and you are looking to transfer to, um, I don’t know, University of USA, you should see if that community college has an articulation agreement and how the credits transfer, because there’s nothing, nothing worse.

then a transfer student who’s taken a ton of credits and has an associates and the school says we’re only going to take a third. So for transfer students, that transfer articulation is really important. Many universities will have right on their registrar page, you know, the top universities that they accept transfer credits from.

It is very important if you’re looking to transfer into an institution that you look at that. I also will say, this is typically true at many private universities, transfer students typically don’t get as much funding as first year. So, if you’re looking to apply to a private university for cost savings, apply as a first year, and see what they give you, and then make the decision on whether or not you’re going to transfer, because usually those scholarships are not awarded to transfer students.

That’s really great advice and really important considerations when you’re thinking about moving from one school to the other because it could add time and money on to your college journey. So, um, a slightly different question that I’m going to change the page here. Student athletes. Um, can you talk a little bit about CollegeAdvisor working with student athletes and how do you, what are the ways that, um, athletes can be supported by CollegeAdvisor in terms of setting up their applications and their portfolios?

Yeah. Um, so I have an athlete now, uh, she’s a D1 recruit. And basically for us, it was about her, her parents just genuinely needed help. Right. So for college athletes, the coaches are typically tolling, texting the students, sending them Twitter messages. They’re coming at you from every different direction.

And they’re like, we can’t, we can’t manage her communication with them and manage the college application cycle. So what they wanted is just help, um, to create like an internal timeline for the family so that they could stay on top of things. So yes, we definitely do assist and advise students. Athletes, you got to know you’re about a month ahead of people.

Um, every college is going to be different. Every coach is going to be different. My husband was a football coach, so I’ll tell you this. They’ll tell you whatever you want to hear to get you to apply. Like, no offense to them. Um, but yeah, When I was being recruited for college, I knew going into my senior year, I had my 10 schools.

I knew, and I wanted to know who was playing that year, you know, who was behind me, who was in front of me. I wanted all those questions answered. And we were, I work with my student right now, and we were, To say she’s a hockey recruit. So I’m like, who’s playing, you know, did this, did the senior goalie start or was at the junior?

Like what’s going on there for you? We’re in constant contact with those coaches and her spreadsheet, I would say is a little bit more dynamic because it does include any type of scholarship that she’s received from those universities. And she also had to go through the National Clearinghouse, of course.

So that process we took care of over the summer. We worked on it with. Each individual, um, liaison with athletic directors. So we do, I would have loved in my senior, even though my parents worked in higher ed, it would have been really nice to have somebody just in my corner to say, okay, your application for this is submitted.

You know, you can tell this coach that, and, you know, now you can go to this coach and tell them this just to keep things straight myself, it would have been really, really helpful, but for any of the athletes out there, you typically know your junior year, who’s recruiting you. Um, usually there’s like that letter of intent and then college signing day for athletes at some point in October, um, and then the official decisions will come out, um, depending on when you apply at some point in November and December.

That is great, uh, information for anybody who has an athlete or is an athlete in the room. It is a very different application process. So to have that insider information from Joanne is. It’s critical, um, in understanding your timeline and on that note, I do want to take a moment to talk about a resource here at CollegeAdvisor.

If you are interested, CollegeAdvisor’s team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process in one on one advising sessions. And that includes you college athletes or anyone who’s not an athlete and really just needs to understand where they need to start, freshmen, juniors.

Seniors, sophomores, whatever category you fall into, we’re here to help. We’re already helping over 6,000 or we already helped, excuse me, over 6,000 clients in their college journeys. And after analyzing our data since 2021, we have found that CollegeAdvisor students are 3.6 times more likely to get into Stanford university. 4.1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt University and 2.7 times more likely to get into Harvard University. So increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admissions specialist on our team using the QR code on the screen here.

And during this meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy. Discuss how they align with your college list and outline the tools you need to stand out in the competitive admissions world. And so that QR as we move on to the rest of our Q&A. Um, going back over to the chat, Joanne, can you talk a little bit more about the holistic application review process?

There’s a question in relation to weighing academics if extracurriculars are not as strong. What does that look like? I mean, I think it just, If you’re, hopefully you’re a junior now and not a senior asking this question. So the intent of the conversation is not to tell you that your academics or your extracurriculars won’t match up.

It’s to tell you pick something up. Um, I think COVID has allowed students to do more personal extracurriculars. So whether it was, maybe you taught yourself guitar, or maybe you’re learning a language on Duolingo, or. Maybe driving your neighbor to the grocery store is something you’ve had to do, and we want to give you credit for that.

So think about things that are outside of the box. I recommend talking to your family and your guidance counselor. Just know that, you know, I had literally had an application this year. The student was like, I made my bed every day, and I was like, friend, I’m sure mom appreciates it, but that’s not an extracurricular activity.

So be realistic. Like, did you teach yourself some type of, you know, painting technique? And that’s super cool. Awesome. We love to see that the common app allows you to write one to two sentences about each activity. So we want you to have a balance. If, if, Literally, if you can’t come up with something, I’m not suggesting you run to school tomorrow and sign up for a bunch of things, but find a couple of things that you’re interested in.

Is there a walk for hunger that you do every year that you didn’t even think about? Or a breast cancer walk? Um, do you read to the little kids in kindergarten in your school district? These are all things to think about. I always tell my students when we start the process, when it comes to their extracurriculars, tell them we’re going to talk about it, but go home, take a minute and talk with your parents.

Let’s talk with, you know, the people in your family, like what are the things that you guys have all done together that you pride yourself on? Do you volunteer every Thanksgiving to feed the homeless? Like be, be thoughtful and give yourself credit for the stuff that is not officially done through school too.

I totally agree. I can’t tell you how many times I learn about a student’s extracurricular at the 11th hour while reading an essay that they just wrote for their final school. And I was like, you make jewelry, you create high heel shoes, whatever this looks like. Um, it’s definitely, I think, I don’t think students give themselves enough credit for the things they actually do.

Um, So a question about academics. How do colleges view IB as opposed to AP credits? Are they viewed similarly in the academic assessment process? What has been your experience? So they’re viewed pretty similarly, and I think the cool thing about AP and IB is they all have the same curriculum, right? So you’re matched up with students all across the country that are literally learning the same thing, same week as you.

Um, I think that’s why it’s so, it’s looked at a little bit differently. I would say more intensely than, um, like dual credit where English 101 at, let’s say Harvard is different than English 101 at another university, right? So it’s, we’re not discounting the other schools, but Harvard is known for their academic rigor.

So the cool thing with AB and IP is everybody’s learning, or yeah, IB, everybody’s learning the same thing. So it’s, It, it allows us to really say, Oh my gosh, wow, Stacey got, uh, A in AP history. That’s quite the feat because we, I know the rigor that it takes for the, um, the AP courses. So I’d say they’re similar.

I would agree. Um, typically it allows some kind of standardization in the way Joanne’s describing. Uh, one more question in the chat tonight. How many schools have early application? Is it all schools or only specific schools? How do you go about finding out early decision? And while we’re on this topic, Joanne, can you talk a little bit about early action versus early decision?

Yeah, so early action versus early decision. Early decision is you have decided that that school is it for you. You can A, financially afforded. That’s the number one thing. Remember that. B, um, it’s where you want to be. It has your major, your sign seal delivered. Early decision means if you’re admitted, then you have to attend the school.

When I say have to attend, it is a legal contract. So when you submit your common app to that school, you have to sign your name. Your mom and dad have to sign to your guidance counselor. You typically cannot break that contract. Early action means you’re super hyped about the school. But you are a tough decision maker and you want some more time.

So each school is going to have their own deadlines typically for early action, early decision. That deadline is around like November before Thanksgiving, between the 1st of November. But like I said, there are a lot of schools in the South that have, um, some, I can’t University of Florida. I believe that had a deadline in the 15th of September, which was late or was it September?

I think it was one of those schools had a September and I was terrified, but we did it. Yeah. Um, I always recommend early action. Here’s why. If money is a factor in resources, it gives you more time to plan to more time for decision. Three, it comes out at some point in December. So imagine here you are working your tush off senior year and you know, whether or not you’ve been admitted to college, like it’s such a weight off your soul, your shoulders going into that new year, new you going to college.

So I, if I can. Wrangle, which I usually am pretty convincing. Most of my students will apply early action or early decisions so that we can get it out of the way. And then the next part of our process begins and we’re looking at scholarships and making that decision. So it is school specific, but a lot of schools have adopted at least an early action and then mixed in with early action, early decision, decision, there’s restrictive, and there’s another webinar about that stuff.

So. Not for today. Thank you. That was perfect. Uh, and on that note, that does end our webinar today. We had such a great time telling you all about picking your perfect college and building your list. Um, here is our January webinar series. We do have, um, quite a few actually left this month for, uh, in the next week.

So please consider joining us for those. If you’re interested, they’re listed here, the 20th, the 29th, Joanne, thank you so much. Um, oh, and also we have our February webinars available too. So definitely Um consider joining us for some future sessions I actually if you want a whole another refresher on this I give another session on this in February as well Um, it’s not listed here, but it’ll be on the 7th Um, and we are so happy Joanne that you were able to be with us today and give us such great tips Uh everyone.

I hope you have a great day Night, morning, afternoon, wherever you are. Thank you, everybody. Good night.