Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer

Are you a high school student or a parent of a student preparing for the exciting journey of college applications? Join us for an insightful and informative webinar, “Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer.”

In this webinar, we bring you a unique opportunity to gain valuable insights and expert advice directly from our former admissions officer Aya Waller-Bey. Aya has years of experience in the college admissions process and will share her knowledge, tips, and strategies to help you navigate the competitive world of college applications with confidence.

This webinar will be an interactive Q&A session, allowing you to directly engage with the former admissions officer and get answers to your burning questions about the college admissions process.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain a competitive edge in your college application journey. Register now for our “Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer” webinar and equip yourself with the knowledge and tools necessary for a successful college application experience.

Date 10/09/2023
Duration 1:00:23

Webinar Transcription

2023-10-09 – Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer

Lonnie: Hello everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar, “Q&A With a Former Admission Officer.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’re first going to, well actually tonight is all about Q and A. So you’re going to have a full hour to ask our former admission officers all the questions that are on top of your mind.

So before we get into the live Q and A, we’d love to introduce our panelist for tonight.

Aya: Thank you so much, Lonnie. Hi, everyone. Good morning. Good afternoon or good evening, depending on where you are in the world. I’m Aya Waller-Bey and I am a former admissions officer from Georgetown University, where I also attended for undergrad.

So I’m super, super excited to be with you all tonight. A little bit more about me, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and I am a postdoctoral student. Proud first generation college student. And just to be clear what that is, I was the first person in my family to obtain a four year degree after graduating from Georgetown.

Again, I became an admissions officer and coordinator of multicultural recruitment. After my tenure there, I actually went on to England to get my master’s in philosophy of education at the University of Cambridge in England, which Again, it was the most amazing time of my life. Um, then I returned back to the States and now I am a current PhD candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, where I actually studied the college admissions process, but more specifically the college admissions essay.

So I have a lot of experience in college admissions and higher ed, and I’m so excited to be here tonight and to answer your questions.

Lonnie: Well, thank you, Aya. So before we get into our live Q and A, we will love to get a sense of what grade you are in. So let us know it allows us the opportunity to make sure that we’re, you know, speaking to the different audiences that are represented in the webinar.

And I see the responses starting to come in. Let’s see. Let’s see. One more second.

Okay, thank you all who have responded to the poll. So we currently have 63 percent of our audience are in the 12th grade, and then we have 23 percent in 11th grade. Followed by that, we have a small percentage that are in 10th grade and then also other. Okay, so with that, we’re going to actually jump into our questions and answers.

So our first question is actually going to come from our registration. And so that question is, what is more important in the application process, the GPA or SAT?

Aya: So what colleges are looking at a few things when it comes down to the GPA and the Standardized test score, your GPA, and particularly the transcript is what reigns supreme.

And I want to make that distinction, right? So the GPA is just a number that associates with marks that you received in various courses. However, colleges have unweighted GPAs, some use weighted GPAs, some give one point for AP classes, some give zero. Schools give 1.4 honors courses, etc. So the actual number the actual GPA number can endure some manipulation Consequently, it is your grades And the grades you receive and the courses that you take, that really reigns the premium.

That means you could have a 4.9 weighted GPA, but your unweighted GPA can be a 3.6 depending on how your, your school determines the weights. For grades, however, a student could have a 4.0 weighted and unweighted, GPA. And the difference is that means that student would have received all A’s at all of its courses, as opposed to the student who had the 4.9 weighted, but the 3.6, which would mean that they received a few B’s throughout their time. So again, when it comes down to it, the GPA, particularly the high school transcript, gives the college and universities more data because it shows how you performed over a period of time, as opposed to standardized tests, it shows how you performed when you sat down for this one moment to take the test.

So. Again, universities are increasingly taking holistic approaches to evaluating applications. That means taking in all the factors, all the information you supply. However, when it comes down to it, we really like to see a strong performance and the courses you took at your school. So that transcript and that GPA will, I think often admissions officers will say, is what they look at first to determine how competitive a student is.

Lonnie: Okay, thank you. So I just want to let our audience know that you all can begin submitting your questions. Um, you’re able to do so in the Q& A tab. Um, and we’ll do our best to make sure that it gets, um, responded to. So with that, our next question is, should I submit SAT scores in an optional college?

Aya: Say that one more time.

SAT scores in an optional college?

Lonnie: Yes. Should I submit SAT scores in an optional college, which I would assume like maybe a test optional school?

Aya: Yeah. I mean, it depends where does your score fall, uh, within their range. So, I mean, some, some people would say that if a score is falling lower than like that middle 50%, so lower than kind of the average, or the 50 percent of the students have fall scores that are submitted fall within that range.

Some people would discourage folks to, to submit them. Um, but it really depends on you. Does that SAT score, ACT score reflect, um, like particular streams, right? Does it reflect, um, do you believe it, it paints an accurate, uh, description of your abilities? If you think so, submit it. You know, testing optional policies are becoming increasingly popular where schools will evaluate test scores if you if you submit them, and they won’t if you submit if you if you choose not to, they won’t.

So it’s really up to you. If you think, does this test reflect? Does it reflect, you know, my, my kind of academic ability? Does it show, does it paint my application in a strong light? If you feel that’s the case, go ahead and submit it. But if you feel like it might be slight, slightly lower than the average of, um, of kind of students who submit score, accepted students who submit scores to a particular school, or if you think it doesn’t accurately kind of depict your performance in a classroom, then Then you have the option also not to submit it.

So one thing about submitting or not submitting is universities. If you choose not to submit, they have less data to evaluate you on. Right? So the more information you supply, the more information they have to make determinations. However, if you think again, if you think submitting it will provide extra data, but not paint you in the strongest light, then yeah, Don’t submit.

So it’s, it’s truly up to you. But you know, sometimes the rule of thumb is looking at the university’s common data set and seeing what the average scores are for the students that they admit. And if you feel like you fall outside of that range, meaning lower than that range, then sometimes parents and students would decide not to submit.

Great. Great.

Lonnie: I love that advice that you provided around whether to submit your score or not, because I know that’s a question that many, many students have on their mind. Okay, so we’re going to move into our next question. Let’s see. Our colleges, um, our college classes from your community college looked at equally to AP classes.

Aya: They’re not looked at equally. Um, they operate differently. So a college course. So oftentimes students will have dual enrollment, which is a partnership that a public school or private school has with a local university or community college where students can take, uh, quote unquote college level courses and receive you know, credit.

Um, the difference is um, If you apply to a university and you submit a transcript from a local college, right? Because universities, if it’s not on your high school transcript, the university will have to submit the transcript. Um, and they see, you know, say you’ve got, you know, two B’s in a collegiate level course, it is up to the university to decide whether or not they want to give you credit, actual credit from the university, um, to be applied to your, you know, academic program, which means you, you know, might test out of us.

receive credit. So you ha hours. Um, similar to a p some schools have policy a five or four in a class or on an exam. Rather, yo AP courses that because they have a level of or in particularly the AP exam, the credits, right? Because they have a level of consistency because it’s been standardized universe and similar to I.

B. It’s standardized it to a program where universities are able to evaluate whether a five on a five on the A.P. Chem exam. Signals a certain level of consistency that universities at this stage will know what that means. And we’ll be able to say whether or not a student has a command of the subject to perform.

Well, at the collegiate level, that is not the case for dual enrollment courses or college courses, because. courses vary so widely. So some colleges and universities, um, may have more questions about what does it mean to receive a B in a collegiate, uh, in a, um, in a dual enrollment course. Um, and they may not give you credit for that.

So it really depends on the institution. And I always encourage students to reach out to the schools on their list to ask the admissions office directly, Hey, I’ve taken some college courses or, Hey, I’ve taken dual enrollment courses. Will I receive credit for that class? If I perform at a certain level, I think you are, you should feel empowered.

And I strongly encourage you to reach out directly to the admissions offices at the schools on your list because these are types of questions that they are well suited to to answer.

Lonnie: All right. Next question. Um, any tips with the extracurricular session section of the common app tips?

Aya: You know? Yeah. So a few things first, you know, I want students to think about, um, the impact and their passions, right?

So you really want to think about, um, you know, some students think about quantity. I know students who have literally started participating in activities in their senior year. Just so they are able to, you know, add them to the activities list. And I really want to encourage you to think about sustained engagement, thinking about activities that you’ve given a great deal of time.

And that doesn’t mean you participated since your freshman year or eighth grade or seventh grade, et cetera. It means activities that you’ve demonstrated impact and that you are able to quantify some of the work that you’ve done for in that, within that activity. I also encourage students to think about, um, activities that may not, uh, That may be less quantifiable.

For an example, sometimes students don’t think about things such as babysitting, um, siblings after school on a regular basis or babysitting or tutoring or mentoring younger siblings or cousins. Also, I work with a lot of students. who are first generation American students and have had to serve as translators for their families.

Um, they’ve helped with doctor’s appointments. They also have held jobs at family businesses or local businesses to help support families. And I think sometimes students don’t think those are valuable experiences, but they really add a lot of value. They add a lot of depth. They really show a lot of character.

Um, so encouraging students to actually include those other common activities lists are really It’s kind of really highlight a little bit more about their background, their family and their identity. I think that’s a really important thing to think about. But also when ordering the activities, you know, um, you want to start, you know, arrange or list the activities in a way that shows the most impact.

Um, and, and so for an example, if there was an activity you only did maybe your sophomore year, you enjoyed it, but there was other activities you had sustained engagement, more leadership. Um, have made greater impact. Those things should be farther up, meaning you should list them first, right? Um, so for those things that were like one off things you can include them, but they could be lower on the list recognizing that universities in the past few years have increased the number I mean There’s an increase in the number of applications.

Uh, some of our universities are receiving so they may not be able to read all 10 activities So if you list the ones that you feel have had the greatest impact You That you that are most meaningful to you. If you list those in that particular order, it would definitely help, um, kind of strip your application and also signal to the university.

These are the ones that we want you to focus on. So, uh, when in doubt, you know, you want to again quantify. So instead of saying, you know, you know, I volunteer at my local shelter. Um, it helped, you know, and work with like and manage to employees, you know, you really want to say, you know, what exactly were you doing at the shelter?

You want to use verbs so much for a resume. You don’t need to write in complete sentences. You can instead of saying, I work at a shelter. You can say organize, you know, or manage, uh, three team members at a local shelter oversaw, you know, so using those strong verbs to signal their impact or it’s, it’s definitely something I encourage you to do.

So those were, I know I’ve provided several, but those are a few tips for you to kind of think about when approaching your common app activities list.

Lonnie: Yes, those are really, really great tips, um, especially, uh, everything you share. But I love how you share with the students how to organize their activities list.

Um, really, really great insight. Okay, so our next question is, How important, I knew this question was going to come up, How important is the common essay? Versus the college specific question. So the supplemental questions.

Aya: Okay. Yeah, that’s a good question. So, um, just for our audience here. So the common app essay or the personal statement, which is often referred to as is that one essay that it’s about 650 words and you write one essay and it goes to all the schools on your list that requires a common FSA or a personal statement.

Um, so that essay is again, it’s personal. You could talk about your background or identity. There’s. six or seven prompts. I think six and then there might be seven might be choose your own or there’s five and six might be choose your own. Uh, but yeah, so there’s a choose your own topic so you can write about whatever your heart desires.

But you’re also trying to get insight about who you are, what you’ve encountered, how you grown, you know, really show the admissions office. It’s something that they would not otherwise get from your, you know, other parts of your application. Now, for the supplements, the supplements are school specific essays, not all schools require them.

They tend to be required usually at some of the, um, maybe like the top 50 or so universities, you’ll see them most often there, and they are school specific essays. I will say this, a Y, you know, I’ll just throw out UW Madison, Y, University of Wisconsin Madison essay, um, definitely will have. you know, it brings a little bit more value to the application because they’re asking you specifically why interested in their school, right?

So it requires you to do research. It requires you to demonstrate fit. It requires you to demonstrate the alignment. It requires you to kind of show, you know, really show your interest and right in your motivations of applying or attending. So when it comes down to it, if a university is asking you to submit something, it’s valuable, right?

So they’re not No one has time to be wasted when you’re reading 20, 000 applications, right? So there’s a reason why they’re asking you to submit the personal statement. There’s a reason why they’re asking you to submit the supplements. However, you, you know, the supplements are school specific. So those are essays prompts that they’ve taken the time to curate, to solicit specific responses, to demonstrate fit.

So when it comes down to it, showing fit is going to be really, you know, much higher, right? And thinking about how competitive a student is for a particular institution. So there is no kind of quantifiable, I can’t say like a personal statement is three points when a supplement is seven points, but when it comes down to it, the supplements are showing you little kind of stronger.

It allows you to show your interest and your fit. And I think universities who definitely want to see that because it’s going to respond to the ethos of the institution and really show that alignment.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, the next question is on a different topic. Um, if you apply for financial aid, does it affect admissions decisions?

It depends.

Aya: I know that’s not a fun response, but it depends. There’s different types of financial aid policies, right? So you have, first you have like a need blind financial aid policy. A need blind financial aid policy is when you submit an application and the university is not considering whether or not you can afford to pay when they’re, you know, making a decision.

So in that case, no. It doesn’t affect your application. Now you do have schools that have a policy called need aware and now a need aware policy. It really, uh, it means that, um, that they’re taking in consideration of your ability to pay, um, when making a decision, right? So it means that in some cases, students who are full paying students, um, may have a certain preference, right?

Because the First of all, I need to pay its bills. Um, but it also, uh, it’s because, you know, high full paying students, you know, are also needed to support students who might be lower income that might need scholarships. So need to work colleges, you know, again, take ability, the student’s ability to pay college tuition into consideration.

So in those cases, yes, it will, it could affect your application, right? Sometimes that comes into play where it’s like, if there’s five students and, and they really. They’re trying to determine which student to admit a need aware school might say, Hey, this student a is full pain, but student B and C are not,

Lonnie: we’re

Aya: going to go with student a.

So again, look at the financial aid policies of the schools that are on your list. I feel like, um, need aware schools may not be the majority, but I, I won’t say that for certain, but I would just look up the financial aid policy to see if the school’s on your list. If they’re need blind versus need aware.

And again, that is a simple Google search, you know, is. Colgate University need blind, you know, that I just threw out an institution there. I’m not sure where Colgate’s policy is, but I’m pretty sure they’re need blind. But I would just give, take a look at that because some schools have, you know, shifted their policies over the years.

Um, but that, that’s a really great. Question and definitely something to keep in mind. There’s also sometimes different policies for U. S. Citizens as opposed to, um, non citizens, right? So so for international students, there might be a different financial policy for them as well. So, some schools might have need line or need where policies based on your citizen citizenship status as well.

Lonnie: Okay, that was very insightful. Um, let’s see. The next question is around early decision. So could you explain how universities handle early decisions? And is it advantageous to apply early decision?

Aya: Here’s my favorite response. It depends. Okay, so early decision. Let’s first define what early decision is.

So early decision is an admissions policy that allows students to submit their applications early and then the university provides the decision to those students early, right? So essentially, early decision means you can apply to the university. Usually, November 1st is the early decision deadline, and then you will receive a decision by December.

Now, the caveat with early decision is that it is a binding commitment or binding agreement, which means if you apply and you are accepted, You are committing to attending, right? Um, and I know students often use those ed slots to, for those schools. If you have a dream school, you know, the school that you really, really, really, really, really, really want to go to, um, some students will apply early decision.

Now, thinking about that, early decision schools also, you know, if you are bound in this agreement, you’re also agreeing that if you’re accepted that you have the financial resources or the financial means to pay, especially if the school does not provide merit aid, which is the case for a lot of our schools and the, uh, you know, the top kind of 40 schools in this country might meet 100 percent of demonstrated need and therefore don’t provide any merit based aid.

So if you get into that school. And it’s an early decision. You are kind of you made the commitment to attend. So you are signaling that you have the means and resources to go that sometimes, um, you know, students hesitate with that if their families to kind of decide, like, I can’t afford to pay 40, 000 a year.

So maybe the early decision policy isn’t for me. And then you have the early action policy, which is also a November 1st policy. Most of the time, what applications do in December, sorry, do in November, decisions released in December. The difference between EA and ED, however, is early action is not binding.

So you get accepted into an early action school, you just get your decision earlier, and it allows you to make decisions earlier. In some cases, it might make you eligible for action. Aid or merit based aid if the institution provides it, et cetera. Now, as far as percentages, now, some people will argue that, uh, early decision favors, um, applicants, right?

They’ll see that proportionately or students who apply early decisions have higher chances of getting admitted. Now, this is not the case for our institutions. Some schools like early decision applicants because it increases their yield, meaning a yield is, uh, if you made a certain students, the percentage of students who commit right now, if you, if you have, You know, if 50 percent of your app, uh, applicant pool, you know, apply early decision, right?

And you admit 40 percent of them, you already have a high yield, right? You have the number of students who are committing kind of luck and, and you get those dollars, right? So it is advantageous for a lot of universities to use early decision, to recruit students and to get them locked in. Also, because of that, what we see now is a lot of higher income students.

And a lot of high, uh, achieving students. The students have really high academic, um, particularly test scores applying early. So that also means that the applicant pool is a little bit more competitive in a certain, because you have these students with higher incomes and higher test scores applying early because it’s a cycle, right?

They see more people, what appears to be more people getting in, so they are applying early and then it’s like a loop, right? And also because how the consequences of financial aid You also have more students with more means applying early because they can afford to pay if they get accepted. So, I know that was a very long, long response, but again, it is another depends, uh, situation.

Some schools boast very high ED rates. Uh, as opposed to our regular decision rates. And then you have places like my alma mater, Georgetown, which is an early action school, by the way, where you don’t really see a big difference between students being accepted early action and R. D. So it’s ultimately up to you.

I always tell students if you feel like your academic performance up into your junior year is as strong like you think that is a really so maybe you have all A’s. You have a test score that you feel comfortable with and you have you talk to Talked with your family, your financial planners and say, Hey, we can afford to apply to X school.

Do it right. However, if you feel like you need that first semester of your senior year, those grades to strengthen your application, if you feel like you need to retake the ACT or SAT at a later time, wait and apply regular decision. So, or early action. So that is my, uh, Right. Recommendation. Again, I know that was a very long, multi pronged response, but I think that question warranted.

So I hope that answered your question.

Lonnie: Yes.

Aya: Yes.

Lonnie: If you are interested, moving on to the next question, um, if you’re interested in multiple areas, for example, pre med, pre law, business, what an ambitious student, is it better to focus your application towards one area?

Aya: Yeah, that’s a really good question, a really interesting one.

Um, so again, it depends, but you know, certain schools have different types of admissions kind of interests. And so for an example, there are some schools where you have. apply, you’re just applying to the broad like college, right? You just submit one application. You just apply. Then there’s some schools that require you to apply to a specific undergraduate program.

So you have to apply and so the College of Arts and Sciences if you want to be in Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences or Natural Sciences. Then you have and physical sciences and then you have and you know, there might be a school You have to apply to be the undergraduate business school or undergraduate engineering school or undergraduate foreign service school or undergrad So that for those types of institutions having a little bit more clarity is very helpful However, you know in some instances, you know Okay, I’ll say this.

I, I think having a focused message is important. You don’t wanna confuse the admissions office. And also some cases schools might read within major types. So if you check a box and say like you’re pre-law, they might read you in context with other students who check that box. You know, thinking about pre-law and pre-med, you could major anything.

You can major in biology, be pre-med. You can major in sociology degree, pre-med, similar to law or pre-law. You could major in. economics and be pre law. You can major in art history and be pre law. So keep that in mind. I just think when you’re thinking about your application, you want to try to tell a cohesive story and you can express that, you know, you know, I’ve done, you know, you can demonstrate that from your involvement, your extracurricular activities, et cetera, that you do have a diverse Like diverse experiences, but for the purpose of the essay, you want to appear that there is some type of focus.

Right. Um, and universities know that whatever you say in your application, that’s not necessarily what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. So many students change majors. Pick up a major, they drop a major, they add a minor, they drop a concentration. It varies. In a lot of cases, universities don’t even require you to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year.

So you still have that flexibility. I do encourage, you know, and then we have some students, if there’s an undeclared option, you can check the undeclared box and that would not put you at a disadvantage. So for like the person who asked the question, If there feels like there’s a lot of tentacles, you can say that I have a love for, you know, these three things and you can talk about what unites them, right?

So maybe there are three things that are, they feel disparate, but for you, they’re connected because of this particular reason. You can talk about that and you might check that undeclared box. If it’s available, if that undeclared box is not available and you’re forced to apply to a particular type of school or program, then I would just pick one that, you know, you find that maybe relates most to, you know, your passions or is most kind of cohesive to the story you’re trying to tell.

But that doesn’t mean you’re going to be forced to do one or the other once you get, you know, once you’re admitted. So that’s a very, you know, Again, I would think about what’s the common thread between these things because maybe there is a major and maybe there is something that unites them. So you can present a cohesive front, if you will, but changing your mind or switching and switching majors and things is a part of the process.

So I would not fret if you were like, dang, I have so many interests. I don’t know what I want to do. Because most people don’t know what they want to do. Even those who say they think they know what they want to do. The amount of students who start pre med and pre law and switch into something else. I mean, I don’t have the data for that, but it’s a lot.

I can, I can assure you that. So again, that was another, it really depends. So that’s, it’s, it’s a really subjective and it’s a really, you know, holistic process. So sometimes it’s hard to just say, yes, no, that, you know, that’s just, That’s not how it works. Unfortunately.

Lonnie: Yes. And then, you know, speaking of a holistic process because I gotten a few questions for our audience who would love for you to clarify.

What do you mean by holistic process as it relates to the admissions process?

Aya: Thank you so much for asking that question. And I should have explained it better. So holistic admissions is the college admissions approach where the admissions office is evaluating all parts of the application. So essentially, it means that they’re not reducing your, you know, they’re not simply looking at one part of the application.

They’re evaluating applicants and, you know, considering the entire student. So it’s not just the quantitative information. It’s not just test scores and grades. Right? They’re looking at counselor letters and recommendation. They’re looking at teacher letter recommendations. They’re looking at your activities list.

They’re looking at your personal statement. They’re looking at your supplement statements. If there’s an interview, they’re looking at the interview. So they’re looking at all parts of the application. They’re also considering family background. Maybe you are a first generation college student. Maybe you are a legacy student.

You know, maybe you’re the child of a professor at this school. They’re looking at all of these parts of our identity. You might be an athlete. You might be from Idaho, you know? So that means they’re taking it back and, you know, take it to considerations. Factors both quantitative and qualitative, both subjective and objective, both, you know, identity, background and also your performance.

So that’s what it means. They’re taking up, uh, evaluation of the whole person and the whole applicant.

Lonnie: All right. So next question is what is something that you seen that makes a student stand out in their Common App essay?

Aya: You know, I’ll tell you this, I feel like very few students are standing out nowadays in the Common App essay, but I don’t mean that in a pejorative way, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Um, I’ll say this, um, I just want students to write authentically about their lived experience and stop overthinking what they expect or think the admissions officers want to hear. So if, you know, I think students who kind of overthink it and want to tell a story that, um, they feel like makes them look a certain way, those are just overdone.

I mean, I think sometimes we take for granted like the mundane experiences, you know, a story about just a day in the life of you, Could be as interesting than someone talking about, you know, when they used to herd cattle and, you know, something kind of out of the box. And that’s someone’s experience and that’s beautiful too.

But I just don’t want students to kind of think that they have to be so creative or so out the box. Um, because I do think we sometimes over inflate the importance of the college admissions essay, because if the grades and the test scores and the, like the leadership and just like that ethos, like if you can’t communicate that to the university, that essay is not going to be the reason why you get in.

So, um, yeah, I think, you know, I think I, I don’t have to mention students who have jobs because I, again, I think sometimes students don’t think that’s valuable, but it really is. So I always think about students who are, you know, kind of explaining like a day at their job, and it could be like working at Starbucks, which I was like, okay, they’re talking about the people they encounter again.

It’s something that it’s like, okay, a lot of people have jobs, but I think those things that really give some insight into, like, who you are outside of the classroom. Classroom and things that you’re passionate about things, essays that talk about your that show your character your heart Those are the essays that I really think are special But as far again as far as like standing out at this point i’ve read so many i’ve read almost every version of an essay You can think of um, but I don’t think standing out should be the goal I just think being who you are should be the goal.

Lonnie: Yes be who you are right authentically about yourself Um, those are, that was definitely something I took away from your response. Um, our next question, let me see, I just had it in. Okay. So I’ve, I’ve seen a few questions as well in regards to resume. So, you know, some of our audience member have asked, you know, I have a lot of detail that I want to share about my activities.

Can I include a resume in my application?

Aya: If the college asks for a resume included, if they don’t. They’re not going to read it if you submit it. So, um, some applications require a resume, or I’ll give you the option. So if the option presents itself, I’ll attach one. Um, and then you can elaborate a little bit more, or maybe you’ve done more than 10 activities, so you need to, you know, add a few.

But I don’t encourage students to submit unsolicited or unrequested information. Like if a college doesn’t ask for you to submit something, submit it anyway. I mean, they may not get to it because they have, again, they’re inundated with so much information. Um, so unnecessary, you know, sometimes students will have extra, extra, extra letters of recommendation.

And I’m telling you, they don’t have the capacity to read all those things. So if they, um, if there’s an option to submit one, submit one. If their option, if it’s not an option and if they don’t require it, I don’t think it’s necessary because they probably won’t read it.

Lonnie: Hey, um, our next question reads, How do colleges determine if you would be a good fit for that school, excluding academics?

Do they just base it off of your extracurriculars?

Aya: You said excluding essay or excluding academics. Oh, excluding academics. Well, academics is a really important piece, but, um, yeah, so, uh, extracurricular. So what you’ve demonstrated interest in, um, how you kind of talk about in your essays, like your value alignment.

So for an example, Georgetown is a Jesuit institution. We are, we, I’m an alum, so that’s why I’m using we, but the institution, um, you know, service is incredibly important, you know, product. Georgetown prides itself on, you know, students being men and women for others. So students who communicate that and have a commitment to service, um, they might be Jesuit themselves or maybe, you know, members of the Catholic tradition, not exclusively, um, those might, you know, communicate a certain ethos.

Also, the letter writers could talk about like, For an example, say you want to be in a more rural, um, school. So let me use a Penn state, which is in a more rural environment. Even a letter writer can say like, you know, you know, Aya is, you know, currently living in a big city, but really thrive in a more rural environment.

So the letter writer, like a teacher or a counselor could actually say that. So that’s also showing a good fit, right? If the school has an interview portion, you can talk about that in the interview. So there’s a lot of qualitative. ways to kind of communicate a good fit. Also, if you visited the school, if you toured it virtually, or if you see, you know, you’ve been on the campus, participate in a program on the campus, or even if you’ve done it virtually, or, uh, you know, maybe they’ve come to visit your community through one of those, um, various, um, travel, uh, kind of consortiums.

You can also be able to speak specifically to like, I stepped foot on the campus and I felt this particular way, or I saw this with my own eyes. Um, so those are some of the ways that students can commit it, uh, communicate fit in ways that some of the universities, um, evaluate that. I mean, if you write an essay saying like, you really want to be in the South and like the Southern culture is so important to you, I don’t know if NYU would be a good fit, right?

That might be a mismatch there, because nothing about NYU screams the South, right? It’s in New York, it’s bustling, right? So those are some of the ways outside of the transcript and test course that universities could think about fit.

Lonnie: Okay, well, you’ve done so great at answering these questions. So we’re going to take a short pause.

I’m going to hopefully grab some water. Um, and for our audience, I’m going to share more about the work that we do here within CollegeAdvisor. So for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know how competitive You know, the process can be especially for competitive applicants like yourself.

Um, our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigated all in one on one advising sessions. Take the next step in your college admission journey by signing up for a free consultation using the QR code on the screen. During the consultation, a member of our team will review your current extracurricular lists, discuss how it lines up with your college goals, and help you find opportunities for growth and leadership.

After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date and time for a phone conversation with a member from our team. Okay, so I am going to leave the QR code on the screen as we continue with our second set of questions. So our next question, Ai, are you ready?

Aya: Yes, I’m ready.

Lonnie: Okay. So our next question does, um, and, um, reads, does being an international student lower your chances?

Aya: Does being an international student lower your chances? Not necessarily. Uh, however, um, I think, um, that there might be barriers because it, it can increase the competitiveness because of who you are competing with. In some cases, you might not, you know, for some U. S. based students, they might be competing with the students in their high school, um, or.

If the area is more rural, maybe people in the town, but international students, you’re all you can be read within the context of your country or region. So that can, you know, competitiveness. Also, your ability to pay again. I think there’s a higher bar for financial aid for international students. So that could make it a slightly difficult.

Right? Uh, and if it’s a public university, you know, some, you know, uh, public universities have commitments to, um, ensuring that public or public dollars or tax dollars are going to support students from a particular state and et cetera. So that can create another barrier. So it’s not always that that’s the case, but it could because of some of the, you know.

Who you’re competing with the financial aid barrier, and also how public universities kind of view the public good and who it’s supposed to support. So not always the case, but but it can be for sure.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, can you update your application after it’s been submitted? So examples like an SAT score or add additional grades for your first semester senior year?

Or is it better to send later with no update? Okay.

Aya: So this sounds like a question of whether or not you should apply early or regular decision. Um, and I, my, I always encourage students and I said this earlier, but if you’re going to apply early, um, you need to be applying with like the most competitive application you have and it should be a full and complete application.

Um, not all students, I mean, not all universities rather, uh, reject students. students. If they don’t get in early, some of them would defer you to the regular decision means they will read your application again with the other students in the RD round. However, I always encourage students to not bank on that.

You really want to submit the most competitive application. Now, as far as, um, You know, some students might send additional information, um, later post submission. They might reach out to the admissions officer and say, Hey, I just got this particular, you know, progress report, or I got, I retook the task and here’s my latest task.

I’ve seen students do that. But again, when you’re press submit, you want to, you want it to be the application that you feel like most accurately represents you. And if you don’t feel like so many early, we’ll give you that. I will wait to submit regular decision.

Lonnie: Um, Do you think a student’s religious beliefs affect their admission chances?

Aya: No, I don’t think so. I mean, it affects it as far as you decide to not apply to a school because of a particular religious beliefs. Or, um, if you, I mean, if you wrote an essay denouncing a particular religious belief and a school is a religiously affiliated institution, I could see that affecting it in a negative way.

But no, I mean, I think, um, I don’t even, I don’t think legally institutions can do that. could, you know, discriminate, um, folks for religious beliefs. And that has not been my experience. So even schools that are religiously affiliated, again, I keep using my alma mater as an example, Georgetown, which is a Jesuit school, very inclusive.

I’m not Catholic. It’s the, you know, also has the largest campus ministry in the country and they have folks of all faith, as well as those who are not of faith. So from my experience, No, but I can see students not wanting to apply to certain schools that, you know, either have a reputation or culturally, you know, is known to be more strict in some ways or prioritize certain things.

And, and that’s certainly something to think about. You want, wherever you end up, you want to feel welcomed. You want to feel included. You want to feel safe. You want to feel important. And I, and I, and I certainly would have any encourage anything to take those that into consideration when both applying, when visiting, when We’re chatting with current students because that if that’s gonna be a place you spend four to five or four to six years, you want to feel like a second home for you.

Lonnie: Absolutely. Okay. So moving on to the next question, is it a good thing or bad to discuss how covid quarantine affect the student? Unfortunately, you know, it affected my son where his grades had slipped. So, you know, however, we’re afraid it would seem like an excuse or reflect negatively on him.

Aya: Yeah. And Lonnie, can you correct me if I’m wrong?

Um, so is the, does the common app still have the COVID, um, question on there?

Lonnie: I haven’t seen it, but it might depend on the institution.

Aya: Yeah. Yeah. I haven’t seen it either. So at one point, so literally, you know, the past maybe three or four admission cycles, there was a particular quote COVID question where students were able to talk about.

The challenges that you just that you just mentioned in the question. However, there is another opportunity. There’s like an additional box on the application that is on all the applications where it is an opportunity for you to talk about some of the challenges. I do think it would be appropriate to talk about what you just mentioned.

Um, that box is used for, you know. Some students will have deaths in the family. Some students have been ill. Some students have moved, returned, the military brass, they move all around, um, you know, there, there have been specific familial challenges that may result in a certain performance, illness, you know, wars.

I mean, the list goes on. So I do think there is an opportunity for you to talk about that or for your student to talk about or your child to talk about. That challenge, you know, um, and I’m, and I’m actually happy you asked that question because even though you know, COVID was 2020 and it’s 2023 or it started technically in 2019, but in 2020 was the fallout.

Um, we are still all being impacted by it and the data is saying our young people are being impacted by it still. So I’m happy that that’s still in the conversation. So I do think that additional information box is a good place to kind of talk about that. and Um Educators who know your, who know your, you know, student well, a counselor might, can be able to add additional context for applicant as well.

Uh, I’ve seen that happen as well where I know sometimes students are afraid of what the counselor might say or the teacher might say, but in my ca, in my. kind of time working in admissions. I’ve seen a lot of counselors actually work as advocates for students and really help to kind of explain certain situations that sometimes coming from them as opposed to individual themselves might sound better.

So I see, you know, I can see an opportunity to also talking to the counselor and say, how is there a way we can work together to present this information and the applicant and the application that it really shows that there is just You know, consequences of COVID or other personal things that transpired that may have impacted the grades in a negative way.

Especially that the entire package is showing that this is a really competitive student with a really strong academic profile. So I hope that answered your question.

Lonnie: Okay, next question is, How do my chances stand if my high school didn’t offer AP or rigorous classes?

Aya: Yeah, that’s a really great question.

And you know, one thing I will say I appreciate about the admissions process that they are reading in context. So, you know, when we say we want students to take the most competitive classes, and therefore you have students saying I took 29 APs and six honors and yada yada, um, that means their school oftentimes offered them, right?

So, you know, they’re often looking at, did you take the most competitive courses that you had available to you based on the context of your high school? And unfortunately, we know our education system is very unequal, so not all students have access to the same types of support, uh, support. school courses, programs, offerings, resources.

So no, if you, if your school only has honor honors classes, you’ve taken all the honors classes that align with your interests and that demonstrates that you’ve challenged yourself and still performed at a high level, then you’ll be fine because they’re gonna be reading you in the context of your school.

So they’re not gonna be preparing you, you know, You as a student at your high school and, you know, in, in Detroit, which is where I’m from. So a student, uh, applied from Andover or Phillips Exeter, who have a different type of program, competitiveness, rigor, et cetera. So no, the short answer is you are going to be right in the context of your school.

Um, so, you know, you just want to take the most competitive and rigorous courses you have available to you.

Lonnie: Okay. Let’s see. Our next question is, can colleges see how many times you’ve taken a standardized test? Um, if you only took it once, did you only mention that as an achievement?

Aya: Now, if you only took it once, I wouldn’t mention it as an achievement.

I’m not sure if that’s a, respectfully, I’m not sure if that’s an achievement. So many people take it for once because that’s all they can afford to, or there’s a host of reasons why. So that’s not an achievement in itself, but you know, I think, well, it’s achievement in the sense of you did it. So it is an achievement, but not an achievement to put on the application to say I took it once and all those people take a six times.

Like it’s not a good achievement as far as comparison in that regard. Um, colleges can’t see all the times you’ve taken it unless there are schools like Georgetown, which requires you to submit all your test. So They can see it, but no, they can’t. They’ll just see whatever scores you send or sometimes, you know, you self report or the scores that you send, but they just don’t automatically see it.

No. They don’t. They don’t know.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, I’ve seen this question come up a few times. Any advantages for applying early action?

Aya: Yeah, I kind of address this in the E. D. Question as well. Um, the advantages you get to know your decision earlier and also you might have, you might get access to merit based eight earlier.

You might that helps with the consideration. Sometimes some scholarships like internal eight internal merit eight, whether it’s ones that require a scholarship. additional application or those that don’t require that you might be put into those pools earlier. Also, if there’s an honors college or honors program, sometimes they have earlier application deadlines.

So applying early might benefit you in that regard. Um, and then again, in some schools, applying early is advantageous because of how they might admit Disproportion a little bit more early, um, because it shows that those students are interested. Therefore, the yield of those students will be a little higher.

Um, but so that’s what it is. I mean, again, when I say this with a lot of students that I work with with CollegeAdvisor, if a school has an early action policy and is not, I mean, some schools have restrictive early a, but if they don’t have a policy, um, you know, I think I could see if it’s really advantageous to just get your decisions So you can make a more informed decision.

So if you apply in November, and then you get the decision in December, you don’t have to wait until March like your peers. So you’ll have decisions faster, so you can plan with your family. You can then use that time to apply to scholarships. You can go to the schools and visit before you make the decision.

You know, you can wait a little longer to make that decision. So I do think there’s a lot of advantages, um, to apply early, not as far as just like acceptance rate per se, but just like getting as much, if you can get a decision faster and you could take your time because you still have until May one, you know, so you get your decision December 15th, you still have until May one to make the decision.

So, so much can happen in between that time. Again, college tours, college visits. Thinking about financial aid, applying to scholarships, being eligible for honors colleges, merit aid, institutional aid. So I think there are a lot of benefits of applying early, EA in particular.

Lonnie: Yes, yes. Um, do you think it would be helpful or do you think it would help to have a sport on your application?

Aya: Um, not necessarily. If it’s just, I played tennis in ninth grade. It’s like, thanks for sharing. Yeah, you know, it’s great that you played tennis, but you know, there’s a difference from playing a sport and being a competitive, you know, student athlete. Like that, those are two different things. Like I played soccer this one random semester in high school.

I don’t know why. I never played soccer again. I did not put that on my application. It just wasn’t necessary, you know. So, you know, some people say student athletes have an advantage, but I think that happens when you are playing at such a high caliber that you either be recruited or you have won some regional and national awards.

Um, so if you’ve done a sport, say you play a few years, by all means put it in your application. But I don’t think Just I don’t think the actual addition of a sport just because you played it has, you know, outweighs the other components of an application. So again, if you played a sport and you played it for, you know, a while and you have enough spot spaces in those 10 activities on the common app to include it, by all means include it.

But it’s not the deal breaker unless you’re, you know, being a recruited kind of student athlete or you’re playing at such a high, I mean, unless we have. um, and Venus Williams and some Cocos out there. Um, just the sport in itself is not Kind of push you over the edge. Right, right.

Lonnie: Okay, this question has to do with the, um, the optional essays.

Um, so if a college has one mandatory short essay and, you know, about one or two optional essays, is it better to write all of the optional essays, um, even if they’re going to be average Or is it better to spend extra time to write one good optional essay?

Aya: I write optional essays are not really optional.

I will write them. Um, the only, um, case there are essays that are optional that says the prompts are usually like if there’s something in your academic background, um, that you feel like you need to explain, whether it be a hardship, yada, yada. Those are really optional because if that’s again asking students to kind of talk about very specific experiences again, whether it’s tragedy, whether they move, whether they got sick, whether it’s a divorce, whether it’s bankruptcy, like whether there was something significant that altered the educational experience, that’s not like that’s a particular optional essay.

That’s asking a very specific question. But if it’s an optional essay, uh, in most cases, the optional essay should be answered. Um, yeah. Yeah, I will. I will answer it for sure. And again, I will try not to make it average. I know the question was like, should I do really one strong and two off? Just put as much attention in you put in that first one, put it in the other ones too.

You want them to be equally strong. Yeah.

Lonnie: Yes. Um, any strategies for rolling admission? Apply early.

Aya: So if a school is rolling, I hope applying, you know, just roll with the punches and apply and, and, and, and rolling is, um, it’s admonitions to apply early because unlike some of the other deadlines, you know, they’re reading them as they get them.

So you can apply, you know, September 15th and have a decision on October 1st. Right. Um, you can have a two week decision. Uh, and then. We’re rolling schools, particularly those who have merit and institutional aid. They’re also rolling the aid to, you know, so, um, whether it’s just because you met certain, um, academic, you know, maybe if you qualified, you have a three, five and a 27, you automatically get qualified for the CollegeAdvisor scholarship at, you know, rolling admissions university.

So you, you want to apply early. So I, I have a student who’s applying to a school who has a, uh, A rolling admission school on his list, and they don’t require essay too. They tend to not, not always, but they’re, they’re more likely not to require a personal statement or essay or supplement rather. So it’s like fly now, you know, get that out the way.

Um, and you get to your decision faster. Um, yeah. And. Yeah, I think if you’re rolling, you should apply now. You know, you can, you don’t have to wait to November 1st. You can apply to those schools now.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, this question is going back to early decision. Um, can you talk about the difference between early decision one and early decision two?

This early decision to provide less of a benefit than early decision one.

Aya: No, because the intention behind both of those is to get students to increase yield. So the benefit is you just. You know, um, instead of applying, I think November 1st, it might be December 1st or November 15th. I forget like the, the difference usually as far as the timeline, but no, I don’t think it’s the advantage of applying early decision one is you get the decision fast, like sooner, right?

Because the early decision, um, second or two application deadline would be a little later. Um, I think some students wait again. Like I’ve seen ed decisions, I’m sorry, early decision to application deadlines. I think some might be in January if I’m not mistaken. So similar to what I said about the early applicants or early your conversation about early decision that if you feel like your first semester of senior year, that those grades are going to be necessary to really boost up that GPA, or maybe you’re taking more AP classes, et cetera.

You might want to wait and not apply ED1 and apply ED2 because you’re like, okay, once I get that first semester that has the AP and AP Chem and ABLE bio and all that stuff, I’m going to be, you know, I’m going to be now ranked number one as opposed to number four, whatever. So you’ll wait to apply. So it’s advantageous if you need that first semester, um, to, to add value to your application, or maybe there was an award you were waiting for that.

Okay. Is an announcement to November or, you know, maybe something, you know, you were waiting to get something published and that doesn’t get published until later. So it’s adventations in a sense of, it gives you more time to make the application a little bit more competitive. But statistically, I don’t, I can’t say for certain that.

There’s an advantage as far as you’re more likely to get in. I mean, again, the universities are using that to get as many students who, um, you know, higher income students, you know, higher scoring students as possible to commit to increase the yield and also increase the numbers that they produced at the end of the year.

That says. We have these X amount of students who have achieved at this particular level.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, we have time for maybe one or two more questions. Um, our next question is how important is engagement with schools after visiting? Should I continue to click on emails and engage in mission contacts? If I have any additional questions, anything I should do to continue to show my interest in my top choice?

Aya: Wonderful question. Thank you so much for asking that. So there are some schools who track demonstrated interest. Now, demonstrated interest means that the university is interested in seeing how much you engage and interact with the university, and they consider that as one of the factors that they use to determine a missibility, right?

Or as far as competitiveness in admissions. So for an example, so if you visit The university and do a university tour. That’s like, you know, that’s one mark for Lonnie, right? They like, they’re keeping in mind, right? Um, if you, um, register for like, uh, maybe they do a webinar. That’s another one. If you email your admissions officers, it’s a, it’s another one.

If you take a college tour, it’s another one. Um, if you are engaging, like if you’re calling admissions to talk to, like, sometimes they’ll have like student chats. That’s another one. So visiting, Exploring the website, doing virtual tours, those are all the ways that they’re tracking interest. So that is important.

Not all schools track it though, right? Demonstrated interest is not something all universities track because, again, they’re looking at, as far as equity is concerned, not all students can visit, not all schools have access, students have access to certain things. But for schools, you can also look at their website.

It does. Insert institution track demonstrated interest or visit their admissions website is nothing that schools hide. It’s not a secret. It’s not an okie doke, but you should check and see if the school tracks it. But again, just for a common practice, even if they don’t try to get as much information about the school as possible, because as much as you want them to admit you, you’re also deciding if the school is a good fit for you as well.

So you want to have as much information as possible so you can make a very informed decision.

Lonnie: All right, and let’s see, we have one more question that we will take.

All right, so this question is, um, when you submit early action, um, can you change your preference to ED? When

Aya: you, if the school has ED and EA, can you change your preference to ED? I’m not 100

Lonnie: percent

Aya: sure. Do you know Lonnie?

Lonnie: Um, I would, I’m kind of in the same ballpark as you. Um, maybe perhaps a student might want to do like an ED to, um, later on, you know, the application comes out in January and they’ve done early action applications, but changing it for a specific institution, I’m not

Aya: aware of that.

Lonnie: I would be curious in the motivation

Aya: also, right? Cause I mean, you can apply. So if a school has EA and DED, you can apply early action. You’ll get that decision by December. And then if you’re If you realize that if you’re not then accepted, you want to apply it again to EDT. Yeah, I would reach out to a school the school you’re thinking about and ask them that because i’m not sure I a part of me wants to say no But I don’t want to say that for certain because I don’t 100 percent know Yeah.


Lonnie: Okay. Well, with that, you have provided a lot of information, Aya, on things that you do know. And so thank you so much for providing all this wealth of knowledge to our audience. Thank you, audience, for the great questions. We tried our best to, you know, summarize some of the consistent questions that we saw coming in.

Um, but with that, we do have more webinars that we’re going to be offering this month. So here is the list. And please, we encourage you to sign up for additional webinars so you can continue to engage and learn more about the things that you need to set you up for the admission process. And with that, everyone, thank you.

Have a great evening. Good night.

Aya: Good night. Thank you. Bye, everyone. Good luck. You got this.