Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer
CollegeAdvisor.com (formerly Bullseye Admissions) presents its Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer in a 60-minute webinar with Lauren Lynch, Bullseye’s Head of Advising. Lauren will share her insider perspectives about what happens in the college process from the AO perspective. She’s ready to answer any questions you have about applying early, applying regular decision, and more. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2020-11-10 Q&A with a Former Admissions Officer
[00:00:00] So I welcome everyone. I’m Lauren Lynch on the head of advising here at Bullseye’s college admissions, and I’m thrilled to be with you tonight. I’m also going to introduce two of my colleagues who are on the call. One of whom you can see a test Burchmore is here. She’s going to be our tech specialist.
Are we, are you guys getting an echo from me? No. Okay. Tests is going to be doing some of [00:01:00] the tech support. She’s also going to be handling all the Q&A for tonight. And we also have Jake Eisner on the call who also is available for tech support as needed. But you can’t see him.
He’s off camera. I just wanted to orient you all to tonight’s presentation is a little bit different from how we usually do these webinars in that unlike a traditional webinar where I’m going to be presenting a lot of information tonight, I’m going to try to present as little as possible to really enable a lot of time for your specific questions.
And I will do my best to answer them as we go through. Test is going to be handling the Q&A again, if you have any issues, if you’re not able to post questions, please reach out to her and she’s going to assist you in that process. W I obviously just introduce [00:02:00] myself and I’m going to tell you a little bit more about my background and experience, and hopefully that will help in terms of knowing how I can best inform me tonight. I come to this field with about 20 years of experience. I worked in admissions at Williams college for about 10 years.
I’ve worked privately in the DC area with local national and international families. I worked in a DC area, high school as the director of college counseling, and I’ve also worked with college consulting companies in various capacities. The other consideration that I think has almost more bearing on my ability to help advise you tonight than anything else is that I’m also the mother of two high school students.
One of whom is actually going through the college application process herself.
I often get a range of questions, but very specific questions [00:03:00] about this process. And before we launch into getting into the meat of the presentation, I really just wanted to touch on some of the things that tend to come up from families and students. One of the primary questions that, that arises is the issue of the holistic review.
What is a holistic review? What does that mean? As many of, when your application comes into an admission office, the first things that are considered typically are going to be your grades, your curriculum, and your testing. There’s there are certain benchmarks that every application Process every admission office sets for students.
And as you come in, you’re evaluated against those benchmarks beyond those benchmarks, everything else, then on your application comes into consideration. That’s the. The activities that you’ve been involved in, the depth and passion that you bring to those [00:04:00] activities, your teacher recommendations, the family background, the environment that you grew up in the circumstances that you come from, all of those things are going to shape your individual application.
The admission officer wants to see you in the best possible way and is looking at a very comprehensive and very holistic evaluation of who you are within the context of your background, setting an experience. The other aspect of a holistic review that doesn’t necessarily get advertised or discussed very often is the concept that the admission office itself is mandated by a holistic review internally, meaning that every admission office has certain expectations that are going to shape that entering class, in terms of talents, expertise, experience demographics of the students.
They’re trying to recruit and have manifests on the [00:05:00] college campus. So there are two levels of the application process that really come to bear. One is how you stand out individually. The other is how you stand out in the entirety of the application pool in the class that’s being considered.
That’s just one of the things that often comes up in, in the more frequently asked questions, one of the others is how each individual can stand out in the application process. What you can do to help your application really resonate and really connect with the reader. I think that there’s no magic. There’s no one thing that’s going to differentiate one application from another.
It’s really a process of having the ability to connect with the reader of your application by really sharing in a very thoughtful and genuine way, what your voice and what your narrative on what your experiences. I [00:06:00] imagine that a lot of questions are going to come up around that. I’m happy to delve more into that later as we get into your specific questions.
I think the other kind of frequently asked question I get is. How a student is evaluated. If a number of students from that particular school are applying how is preferential reading done within an admission office? How does that, how does the admission office know the particular context and setting up of the school?
A lot of admission offices do have relationships with particular high schools. That’s something that your high school, college counselor can be really informative about and really help you understand better. One of the things that’s also helpful, I think is to ask your high school counselor to have a look at what’s called your school profile.
Not every high school offers this, but a lot of high schools. Do [00:07:00] you have a profile that they send with your transcript and application materials to the admission officers with your packet? And that is a. Really a helpful way for the admission office and the person reading your application to get a sense of what your context, what your school setting is, what kinds of courses are offered?
Is it an IB curriculum and in AP curriculum what is the demographic range of your high school? What are the sat or act median and means what are the GPA ranges? These things really can help inform the application process and help the reader get a sense of you and help you stand out in that process as well.
We’re going to leave a lot more time for that at the end of this, you guys throw, obviously everybody is concerned about COVID and specifically how COVID [00:08:00] has impacted the application arena. How has it shaped the application process? The most obvious example of that is the fact that colleges are test optional.
Some are test blind, meaning that even if you submit testing in this application cycle, it won’t get evaluated. Others are test optional. So that it’s really up to you. If you’ve been able to take standardized testing, whether you submit it for consideration, another element of COVID impacting the admission process is that you have not been able to do your activities.
You’ve not been able to participate in the regular things that you’ve been able to do. Athletics jobs, babysitting of extracurriculars that usually participate in. So how do you record that on your application? How do you reflect that in your application and how is that going to reflect on you in [00:09:00] terms of how you’re being evaluated in this process?
Similarly you’re not being able to visit campuses. You’re not being able to get a sense of the specific colleges you might be interested in. That’s impacting both your ability to do meaningful and significant research in terms of shaping your list. It’s also impacting your ability to write the, Y X college essays that are so intrinsic in this application process.
These are all things that are been impacted obviously to talk through them a little bit in terms of testing. I can get into more specifics again, this, as we get into specific questions, if you’ve been able to take testing, if you feel like the results are reflective of your ability, then.
Absolutely. You should be recording them on your application. Ordering those official score reports for submission. The bottom line is that if it’s [00:10:00] strong testing, it’s not going to hurt in this application process, especially when it comes time for merit scholarship consideration and can have a powerful impact.
If a school has expressly stated that they are test blind and also if you’re not completely confident about that testing then it’s completely up to you whether to submit it or not. What that means basically is other aspects of your application are going to be more carefully evaluated.
They’re going to be looking more carefully at your teacher recommendations your background and environment, the way you choose to spend time, the things that have defined you, and most specifically your essays and your supplemental prompts as well. In terms of school visits, shaping the list and in terms of writing the Y X college and why college essays?
That’s absolutely one of the things that Bullseye can help you with. I don’t [00:11:00] know many of you probably know this, but we have a really rich network of advisors, 120 plus advisors at this point from a myriad of different colleges and universities. What this means is that you have the ability to connect with some of our advisors to find out their specific experiences at the schools that they came from.
This will help you, not only in terms of understanding how you might be a good fit for the school, but also more importantly, how the school might be a good fit for you. How are. You going to show in the process of this application, that you have done enough research to really justify your application and that the college is going to see you as a credible and viable candidate.
So I know I touched about this a little bit but I think that in terms of the testing it’s a little bit of a fine [00:12:00] line. I know a lot of you guys have been in a real panic about how to handle the fact that maybe you’ve done testing that was sub-optimal. Maybe you’ve done testing that you didn’t get a chance to retake.
Our college is going to look at it how our college is going to evaluate it. I think that the takeaway at this point is that there’s no. There’s no one answer. Everyone is doing the best they can. All I can say about it at this point is that the admission officers absolutely want to see you in the best light possible.
I can tell you with complete certainty from my 10 years at Williams, we worked really hard to see the best in every applicant. No one is going to be looking to ding you for testing that might not. In your mind accurately reflect your ability. So it is a little bit of a, fine line in terms of whether a report testing [00:13:00] or whether to withhold it again, that’s something, if you’re working with a Bullseye advisor, we’re happy to help you with that.
If not, if there was someone else in your life who might be able to assist you with that, or for example your school guidance counselor might be able to help you. But optimally, you’ve been able to do the testing. You do feel it’s reflective and in that case, it almost certainly should be reported.
I just want to mention here, because a lot of people ask about it later on AP testing. If you’ve done AP classes, you absolutely should report your AP testing. Wow. Very well, every college wants to see an official score report for SATs or actsh. You do not have to send official score reports for AP testing.
You can self-report APS, but the problem is if you’ve done the AP class and you haven’t reported the testing, the admission officer is probably going to assume that you [00:14:00] did not do well on that testing. So typically if you’ve gotten the three, four or five on an AP, you should just go ahead and record that.
I, at this point, I know we have a ton of time left here for Q&A. I know some of you submitted questions in written form before this presentation. But at this point if you guys want to start asking questions, I’m happy to delve into them. Tests should be able to field some of those questions and help in this process.
Okay. Great. So as I had done, if your Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar, the custom link in your email. If you haven’t totally using the Q&A tab, you can also send your question to me in a private message. The first question that we have in the Q&A tab is can I still get into a top college with a failing grade and a D on my transcript?[00:15:00]
That’s a great question. And I think you to whomever asked that question, you were not going to be alone in facing that scenario. I think remote learning and the effects of COVID have been really challenging for everybody. I think the chances are probably not great for admission at a top tier school with a failing grade.
I think there are a couple of scenarios here. Almost certainly, they’re going to want to see what your grades are as you progress throughout the the academic year. This might be the kind of scenario where if you feel applied early decision early action, they end up deferring you so they can see if you’ve been able to recover.
I think if you were applying regular decision, they may end up weightlifting you just to again, see what your spring grades are. Look even if the feeling great and the D were earlier on in your academic career colleges [00:16:00] tend to be forgiving. But they are going to want to see a strong finish to to the academic year.
It’s going to be really important that you have a really balanced and realistic college list where absolutely you can have some dream schools on there, some stretch schools and reach schools. But it’s also going to be really important that you have schools that you are pretty significantly above the average for admitted students.
If there is a compelling reason or rationale behind the feeling great and the D on your transcript, that’s also an opportunity for you to, in the, whether it’s the main essay or whether it’s the portion of the application, where they ask, if there’s any additional information that it might be helpful for them to know about you.
That might be a good space to use that for what you want to avoid is a scenario where you are Coming across in any [00:17:00] way, other than taking full responsibility having learned and grown from whatever circumstances shaped that that blip in your grades and transcript, it can also be really important for those of you who’ve been impacted by circumstances academically that, have created a less than optimal outcome academically on your grades.
It can also be really helpful to address that with your college counselor, your guidance counselor, and try to have them capture that in their letter of recommendation as well.
Do you think that COVID-19 will still change the application cycle in 2021? And if so, how, what a good question. And boy, I wish I had my magic eight balls. So I could, I get to answer that accurately. I think it is inevitable that it’s going to be impacted. I think one of the more obvious ways is that those of you who are going through this [00:18:00] process and are having your activities circumvented by not being able to get out and do things I know for this year’s class, I’ve had the question a lot.
Like what do I do if I was going to be doing an activity, if I was going to be the captain of the team, if I was going to be the president of this club or organization, but we are not in school, how do I capture that on the application? I think those of you who are, coming through this process are going to be faced with the same question.
I think. Testing certainly will be more available going forward. But I don’t know what the expectations are going to be. I suspect that one of the things that’s going to happen, a lot of colleges probably down the line are going to be going test optional. More universally. I know the UC system is talking about implementing that just for equity issues and access issues.
And I think with UCS going test optional, it’s almost certainly going to impact [00:19:00] other colleges and universities as well. So I think certainly in terms of colleges being in session, allowing on campus visits it’s going to be harder to get an accurate sense of what colleges are going to be a good fit how to shape an accurate.
An exciting college list that encompasses the range of competitiveness that’s appropriate for each of you individually. Those are things that I think are going to continue to be pretty challenging going through this. Okay. The next question is what was one college essay that stood out to you and why?
That’s a great question. So I think I like to respond to this question by saying a couple of things. One, just for context, through admissions and through my work outside of admissions, I’ve probably read and evaluated 500,000 [00:20:00] college applications and college essays. So there are a lot of application essays that have really resonated with me.
The general theme is that. The reader of your application is going to be able to connect with you better and form a relationship with you when you’ve been genuine. When you’ve been really expressed something thoughtful, personal, truly reflective of you. The question a lot of students have is how can I impress?
And I think the better question in terms of essays is how can I be memorable? How can I make a connection? There are many essays that I remember. There are two, I think that have had a really profound effect on me. One was a student who went to a Jewish day school is kosher and observant to a [00:21:00] conservative Jew, wrote his essay about being on a travel soccer team and about how after every tournament and every travel game, his team, which was really tight would go out to McDonald’s and how he could never eat anything because it wasn’t kosher and how he was.
An integral part of that team, but how also his religion was integral to his identity and that he had to balance those two realities. This is a student who is a recruited athlete for soccer. He then wrote about going to Israel for the first time and walking into a car and getting a kosher hamburger and what that was like for him.
And what I loved about that essay is that he was warm. He was real, he was talking about identity on many different levels. He was talking about loyalty, a belief system, a sense of team [00:22:00] connection. And just, I felt like I was standing in a room having a conversation with this person. Another essay that I really resonated with was a young man who wrote about a scenario.
I’m not going to get into the details, but it was a scenario where he was constantly confronted with the fact that his father who kept saying, I’ll be there, I’ll be there. I’ll be there, never showed up. And he wrote about a pivotal moment where he was looking around once again for his father who had said he would be there and he realized his father wasn’t going to be there.
And he realized in that moment that he could be always looking around for his father or he could make a decision to be, to grow into the kind of man who would never make anyone in his life. Look around wondering if he was going to show. And that really had an impact on me, but that couldn’t have [00:23:00] worked if it wasn’t his truth.
I know a lot of you wonder how you can write persuasive and compelling essays. If you haven’t had a tragedy, if you haven’t had a major disappointment, if you don’t have some great, life stories some pinnacle to, to describe I think tuning into those quiet places in your life can make for really profound essays that can really tell a persuasive and compelling story.
It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic. It just has to be genuine and real.
Okay, great. The next question that I’m seeing is also about standardized tests. If I don’t want my essay to slash act to be considered, but I do want my three as the two subject tests to be considered. Should I choose the option to, or to not consider a standardized. Yeah, you can. The beauty of this application cycle is you can choose exactly which testing you want to submit.[00:24:00]
I’m sure you all know this, but if you’re requesting SATs from one test date to be sent, you can’t break down which sub category of testing on that test date to send, but with subject tests you can pick and choose. And you can just indicate that those are the tests you want to submit, and you can simply omit the the regular SATs from from the application.
My only warning about that. Most high schools do not report SATs on a student’s transcript, SATs or actsh. But it can be helpful and important to check with your college counseling office at your high school and just make absolutely sure that they don’t report those SATs without your permission.
Okay. The next question is about holistic admissions. If you don’t meet the average GPA of the college, will you just get removed from [00:25:00] their application process? That’s a great question. So colleges, the published averages for testing and GPA they are helpful, but also not completely transparent.
Colleges typically send a pretty set, a pretty wide bandwidth of GPA and a rigor of a curriculum and what they’re going to consider for admission. There are exceptions. And one of the things, when I was talking about kind of the internal mandates of the admission office, this is something that may not necessarily come through or be obvious, but every admission office is also being responsive to to dictates that are beyond their control.
Just once you submit your application, what happens with it is beyond your control. So alumni children special circumstances, there, there are scenarios in which even if you have not quite hit that [00:26:00] average, that published average for GPA, you might still get a very thorough read. At most admission offices, even if you’re not hitting that that published data in terms of the GPA, you are still going to get evaluated, they are still going to look at every aspect of your application.
It is not is that going to be enough to put you over the top and put you into the admitted student category? That depends on what your scenario is? It depends on what their mandate is. It depends on a combination of so many things that it’s almost impossible to name them all. But again, this is comes back then to the necessity and the urgency of having a realistic and well balanced college list.
You want to make absolutely sure that if you’re aiming for schools that are slightly out of your range, that’s absolutely fine hope for the best, but you also need to have schools on your [00:27:00] list that you’re much more confident about in terms of your chances for admission. Okay. Next question. Will colleges see my first semester grades or my first quarter grades of my senior year.
Yes, colleges will see both colleges will also see your final grades of your senior year. So again, if there’s any concern or question about your academic performance colleges, we have been known in admissions world to pick up the phone or, email a high school and say, Hey, can you send over the most recent grades for this student?
We just want to get a look at them. So it is important to keep up your grades. They will, most high schools will send quarter or trimester, and first semester grades, they also will send your grades senior year at the culmination of your senior year. Absolutely do not want to be one of those people who has an admission decision rescinded because [00:28:00] there’s been a huge dip in grades.
So while everyone understands a slight bit of senior slump it’s important to keep those grades up to a certain standard. I do want to say this just came into my mind, so I’m gonna say it now. Although it doesn’t have to do with grades equally important as that you’d be really scrupulous about your online profile clean up your social media, be sure that you are not posting anything inflammatory, offensive, derogatory, racist.
You want to be sure you weren’t being tagged in anything that might be interpreted poorly by an admission office. Every year students do get admission decisions rescinded because of poor behavior.
Okay. The next question I’m seeing is can I get into the top 10 colleges with having A’s and a minuses, but not a pluses? Was that what you said? Great [00:29:00] question. And impossible to answer because with the admission process, it’s not only going to be about your grades. The A’s are going to be valuable.
They are going to be looked at very carefully. But that’s also when other aspects of the application become really important. That’s when the admission officers. Are looking at who you are outside of the classroom. And that’s going to show up in terms of your involvement. You don’t have to do 20 different clubs and organizations.
Are you doing a couple of things that you find great meaning in that you have a real connection to what kind of person do you seem like? How are you going to surface in that school community, in your supplemental essay questions in, the Y X college essay or, when you’re describing your community or whatever that supplemental prompt is, are you.
Coming through in a [00:30:00] thoughtful, genuine fashion in your main essay, are you advancing the reader’s knowledge of who you are and how you’re going to impact that living and learning community? Do your teacher recommendations speak about you as someone who is passionate about the learning process is intellectual is intellectually curious.
The other thing is the context of those A’s and a pluses and minuses. Are you taking advanced courses? Are you challenging yourself appropriately? Or are you taking the easiest curriculum available to you so that you can get A’s and a pluses or minuses? So it’s a very complex evaluation process and the grades are certainly going to be important, but A’s, that alone are not going to be a deal maker or deal breaker in terms of the application process.
Keep in mind that the majority of students applying to top tier [00:31:00] schools also have all A’s. And I say that not to be discouraging, but to be realistic that in this process, it’s important to know that you have done everything you can, that you have made a strong persuasive application. But to also understand that beyond that, there are things that you are not going to be able to control in this process and that you were still going to end up on your feet at a school.
That’s a great fit for you.
Okay, great. We are currently halfway through the Q&A. So as a quick break, I wanted to tell you more about Bullseye and how we can help with your application. The bullets that are boldly has two monthly advising plans, that starter plan, and this scholar plan, there are monthly subscriptions where you can get matched with an advisor of your choice and you can get one or two hours of one-on-one advising each month.
Advisors help out with college apps, scholarship outs, spreading about your extra curriculars and pretty much everything you need help [00:32:00] with no matter where you are in the college process. Lauren is very ahead of it as a both by so if you want to get help from the closet that talk to learn about things like mapping out the college application process, discussing your main college essay or any of your supplemental essays or your application strategy, I’m going to send everyone the link to sign up for an advising session while I’m sending this offer.
One. Can you tell us more about that? At both site and the college application process. Sure. Absolutely. So I know I said before I’m head of advising. What that means specifically is that I have a staff of about 120 advisors come from a range of different colleges and universities all experienced in essay editing the college admission process.
One of the things that I want to say we do have these these subscription and starter packages. We also offer much more [00:33:00] expansive and substantial packages for students and families. I think that’s something that is pretty valuable to know about. It really enables you to work with your advisor throughout the application process.
Really making sure that your narrative is getting fully articulated, that your essays are in really good shape, that your list is appropriate and well balanced. One of the other things that I want to touch on is that we also are have available for seniors, our seniors sprint package. What that means is we, we understand you guys are so close to the finish line.
A lot of you just. Final look over on an application. The senior sprint package allows you to get a complete look over and thorough read of your application to the school of your choice as if from the admission perspective. And we will give feedback and guidance about areas we think could be stronger or [00:34:00] areas that we really resonated with and felt were were very compelling.
So that’s something that might be useful for those of you who have, done substantial enough work on the application process that you feel ready for someone to look over your application for you. Okay, great. We’ll move back into the questions and answers. The next question I’m seeing is are standardized tests, a deciding factor to get in.
That’s a good question. Like academics testing are often one of the determinants in the outcome. So it’s usually not going to be one thing or another, that is going to put a student over the top. Usually it’s the culmination and the combination of the different elements of an application. And again, that’s going to include a student’s academics, the strength of their curriculum.
The testing, if a student has it. And again, for those of you applying this year, it [00:35:00] really is the grace period. If you don’t have testing or if you’re testing a subpar it’s going to be those teacher recommendations and the counselor letter, that extracurricular activities again your demographics, your background, your experience in your end, your setting.
All of those things come together to create a comprehensive picture for the admission officer which they will then use to evaluate your candidacy. So it, it is not going to come down to just one thing and admission officers, and typically not going to be able to say, this is the thing that put the student over the top, or this is the thing that didn’t.
Okay. Great. The next question is to in-state students have more of a chance to get. Yeah. Typically. So at state colleges it is going to depend on the college or university. And that’s something that should be really [00:36:00] clearly stated on the college website. But typically for applicants who are in state, there is a slight edge in the admission process.
So again, that’s definitely worth looking at, you can look at the, the published data on the school website. If you have a connection I know a lot of admission officers are really busy at this time of year doing virtual visits at high school, since they can’t go to the high schools in person.
So that’s something that, that they should be able to answer for you. And I also know. Your school counselor in your school setting, particularly within state colleges and universities is going to have a lot of information about there about that. That should be helpful, but yes, bottom line, typically in-state students do get a slight edge and a slight preferential treatment in the application process.
Okay. The next question, I have really good grades and good [00:37:00] extracurriculars, but I have standardized test anxiety. How do I deal with that? So I don’t know if the student is a Senior applying. If you are you’re off the hook, you don’t have to report any testing. If the student is not a senior there, there are a couple of different ways to go about it.
First of all, I don’t know if you guys know of a site called fair test.org. It is a website that lists currently all the colleges and universities nationwide that are test optional and there are a lot of them and they are great schools and they will look more carefully at other aspects of your application in lieu of testing.
The other thing I can say from absolute experience is that test prep is key. For those of you who have test anxiety, or you’re just not great test takers, the more prepared you are. The better off, you’re going to be a lot of success. And standardized testing comes down to a mental mindset. A [00:38:00] sense of strategy, how to pace yourself, how to know what they mean when they ask a question a certain way and how best to answer it.
People sometimes ask me what test prep companies I recommend, and I will always defer to you in your own communities. Ask older kids at your school who may have gone through it, who may have good resources ask your guidance counselor what their recommendations are post on a local listserv.
There, there are myriad opportunities and resources, and I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you’re feeling anxious about going into that process. The next question a student has, he wants to, they want to know how the actual process works in the room while reading applications are there people who specialize in certain states and the curriculum?
Sure. Great question. Again, one with no easy answer, it’s going to depend on the college and university. [00:39:00] Some colleges read by region. So if an admission officer travels to your school travels to your area, that person may be the primary person in charge of reading applications and applicants from your area.
Other offices will diversify the application pool by alphabet or do some other method. Splitting the reading process to eliminate any perceived bias. Some admission officers and admission offices are going to read applications on site. Others are going to take files home and read them again.
It depends on the office and what their internal mandates are. Some in some circumstances you’re going to get one read might be more of a courtesy read. If you’re pretty substantially below what an admission office may be looking for. In other circumstances, you might get anywhere between two and four reads.
It’s really, again, focusing on that [00:40:00] holistic review where they’re trying to understand you in your context. And they understand that sometimes is better interpreted from many different viewpoints coming together to coalesce one one evaluation of your application and your candidates.
Okay, sorry. One more thing I want to see for those of you who are doing virtual visits of campuses or are fortunate enough to do on campus visits. That’s one of the things when you’re doing an information session that the admission officers will tell you about, they will let you know how applications are evaluated at their school.
And that’s actually very useful information to have.
Okay, the next question. What do you look for in a, why a supplemental essay and what can we do to enhance their answers to those kinds of prompts? Wow. That’s a great question. In some ways [00:41:00] these are the hardest and the easiest. The easiest, if it’s a school you’re really genuinely passionate about, if you’ve done substantial research, you’re a good fit for that school.
And the school is a good fit for you. These essays can be very persuasive and very compelling where they’re harder is when you’re either just throwing out an application because you think maybe you have a good shot or you’re. On paper, you know enough about the school, but you don’t really have a personal connection with it.
The why us essay works best when it is detailed and personal. In other words, what you want to avoid is the generic, your campus is beautiful. Your faculty is world-class. I like that you’re close to a city. What you want to really identify with is. I love that your campus has a farm in the middle [00:42:00] of it, or I love that the campus is surrounded by beautiful mountains because I’m a hiker.
And when I was there visiting, I was able to get on the Appalachian trail and I loved it. Or instead of focusing on the world-class faculty, identify a specific faculty member, a course that might be interesting, a course of study that might be compelling to you if it connects with what you’re reflecting on, what you’re manifesting in your application.
I’m really interested in environmental studies and this is the research I’ve done. This is what appeals to me and professor X on your campus is deeply involved in this. And I can’t wait to do research with her. It’s also really helpful to identify specific elements. Again, you guys are at a bit of a disadvantage because it’s harder been harder to visit these campuses.
But in terms of the specifics about a campus visit make note, when [00:43:00] you’re doing tours and information sessions about the elements or the traditions, the kind of the vibe that gestalt on campus, is it the kind of place where people look happy and joyful and engaged? When you walk into the student center, are there flyers up everywhere of different activities and lectures and opportunities to get involved?
The more you can imbue these these Y this college essays with. Aspects of detail. The more persuasive there’ll be, keep in mind. These essays are a way for you to communicate that you’ve done your research. You’re a legitimate candidate that you definitely want to be at that school.
That’s important because a college is more likely to admit a student that they think they’re going to yield. The other part of it is that you’re trying to convince them that you’re a good fit for them. That you again have done your research, that you are a viable candidate, that you’re a passionate candidate that [00:44:00] you genuinely want to go to that school.
You’re showing an alignment between your values, your experiences, and what that school has to offer.
The next question is, did demonstrated interest increase your chances of admission or is that. Again, it’s gonna depend on the school. So rule of thumb typically is that with the smaller schools, demonstrated interest can make a big difference. Part of it, part of the way I think about it is that it’s in everyone’s best interest to demonstrate interest because you want to go to these information sessions and these virtual tours, you want to get on the mailing list because that’s how you gather information.
That’s how you shape your college list. There’s absolutely no downside for you in terms of demonstrating that interest, the benefit for the college. Again, it comes down to yield. If they are looking to fill two more places in an entering class, and they’re looking at [00:45:00] 10 candidates, they are just quite simply more likely to fill those spots with students who they think are going to want to go to that school.
That means the students who have. Made an effort to learn about the school who have made some kind of connection with the school. So even if a college does not overtly state, that they track demonstrated interest I see no reason ever for student, not to at least make the minimal effort to get on a school’s radar and gather information about that school.
Next up a student wants to know that if you apply as undecided, will that decrease your chance of getting. Gosh, these are such great questions. Again, the answer is, it depends. The answer is no it is not going to affect your chances. And keep in mind for what I meant was it depends is that if there’s a [00:46:00] specific program within a college you’re really interested in, you are probably going to be better off if you are.
Persuasively showing why that college or that specific program is of interest to you? Applying undecided is great. I think most of us in admissions feel like it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect an 18 year old, to know what they’re going to want to do for the rest of their life. I don’t know the latest stats on this, but most students will change their major majority of students like 60% of students.
Even if you come in having indicated what you think your major is going to be you almost certainly are going to change that once you get to a college campus and in my mind, that’s what college is for that exploration, that opportunity to take classes that are going to open up your horizons and expose you to fields of study that you may not yet have been able to indulge.
The next question in the chat, how can an [00:47:00] international students stand out in this application to get accepted into college? So an international student is really going to have to stand out in very much the same way in terms of creating a persuasive and compelling application. I do caution that I.
I think COVID, as we all know, has had huge impact. I think unfortunately one of the consequences is that a lot of schools endowments have been affected. So if you were applying as an international student and you’re applying for financial aid, I think it’s going to be important to find out what the if there are any new kinds of limitations on on aid available for international students.
Because unfortunately they, that may have a bearing in whether you’re able to rise to the surface. For international students who are applying from places where extracurricular activities, [00:48:00] aren’t really a thing. Or you feel like there’s some element of your application that may not really translate or demonstrate your true ability or commitment.
There is that extra space on the common application where you’re able to help the reader understand anything that you feel needs to be further explained about your application. That’s a good place to do okay. This question is related, be beneficial to submit a resume or an expanded resume.
If the college. So if a college allows it, it can sometimes be helpful. What you want to avoid is sending an, any additional information that is redundant. Keep in mind, your entire application is getting read in five to 10 minutes, max. It’s getting read very quickly. You need to be absolutely certain that on the common app, you are really carefully delineating your activities, your involvements[00:49:00] really concisely and succinctly describing them as needed.
The resume is the most useful and most impactful. If a student has particular depth or area of involvement that is not easily captured on the common application, meaning that you might be a debater who has.
Just tons of experience in one regional and national and local, and been really involved in all of these different competitions. That’s really hard to capture on the common app. So that’s when that, to that resume might be useful. What you want to avoid is sending information that’s not being asked for.
So if there is the, room for or the invitation to upload information, you can feel free to do but don’t overburden them by sending in material. They have not.
The next question [00:50:00] is my school doesn’t offer AP or IB courses. Will that hurt my chance? So absolutely not your being evaluated within the context of your school setting. Not every high school offers the same range of opportunities. That’s why that school profile that I mentioned earlier is so crucial.
That’s what goes with your transcript to the colleges so that the colleges can understand what your opportunities have been. They are only looking to see you in the context of your setting and your potential given what has been available to you. You are not being compared to other students coming from other schools with better opportunities.
Okay, great. The next question is about the common app essay, the students grade about their topic and wants to know how, if your topic is good. I, the easy answer is that come to someone [00:51:00] like us and get some help with that because I think that is not an uncommon question.
I think that’s hard to know. I think if you’re struggling with it, if you have a sense that it may not be a very strong, resonant application topic then you may want to try to get some outside help with that. Because all it would take is someone with expertise and experience to look at it and give you really good, specific feedback and guidance on how to make it better.
Or what aspects of it to pull out and perhaps reshape into a different essay. Okay. Next question. What are some good extracurricular to have and which ones are not as. So there’s no such thing. And I get that question a lot and particularly families are concerned, I don’t have community service.
And is that going to hurt? My chances? Colleges are not. They don’t care what you do. What they want to see is that you are doing the things that you [00:52:00] do with passion and depth and commitment. There’s there going to be much more compelled by the student who has done maybe one or two things, because those things really speak to that student really reflect the students aptitudes belief, systems, and abilities.
They would much rather see that than the student who’s done 10 or 12 different activities at a very surface level. Only out of a sense of compulsion to look good in the application process, rather than developing a real connection and engagement with the activities that are actually meaningful.
Next question’s also about extracurriculars. The student has high grades, but not a lot of extracurricular activity. How important is one over the other,
again, is really getting looked at very carefully. The real question is how are you going to connect with the reader? What about [00:53:00] that? Maybe one or two extracurriculars. Can you pull out in this application process to show depth and passion and to make a connection with the reader? So certainly grades are going to get your foot in the door, but you also need to be the kind of person that is going to make an impact.
And I don’t mean in a really dramatic, substantial way. I know a lot of you worry that you don’t have leadership and what do I do if I’m not a leader? One of the things that we always joked about in admission committee is can you imagine what it would look like to have an entire college campus of leaders?
It would be. Unbearable a college community is made up of students with different backgrounds and experiences and activities and different dispositions and personalities. So even if you’ve done one or two things and you are not a leader in those one or two things, that’s absolutely fine. You just need to help the reader, understand why [00:54:00] those one or two things are important to you, how they’ve shaped you and how you might continue to engage with those activities on the college campus.
They are looking to see how you will impact the people around you in the community around. This question also related, will it hurt you to include extracurriculars that you weren’t as committed in or spend less time then? Yeah, I think bottom line, you’ve got 10 spaces on the common app. So if you have, things that you might’ve just dipped your toe in and done a little bit here and a little bit, there, there’s no harm in putting them on there.
But you just really want to prioritize the activities that you have a greater connection with and a greater commitment.
Okay, great. I think we’re nearing the end of the webinar. So I’m going to read, send the sign up link where you could start working with the bulls-eye advisor. And I wanted to ask why, and if she has any final remarks that she wants to share. [00:55:00] Sure. So thank you all for being here tonight. I know for those of you who are seniors, especially, and even juniors going through this process, this is such a stressful and overwhelming time.
And I just really want to encourage you, whether it’s us or other people in your orbit definitely gets support. I can speak from all of my years of experience. I know it feels like everything is tied into getting into that one dream school. I can promise you that the most important thing is really being open to the schools that come your way and really focusing on making the best fit with the best opportunity.
And I wish you all the best of luck. Thank you for being here. So our next webinar it’s in two days and it will be on merit based scholarships specifically for domestic students. Thank you so much for coming out to our webinar tonight. Here is the full November webinar. [00:56:00] Bye everyone. Thank you. Thank you, Lauren.