Q&A with Former Admissions Officers
You have college admissions questions. We have answers! Join CollegeAdvisor.com for a 60-minute Q&A session featuring three former Admissions Officers. Our CollegeAdvisor panelists will share their insider knowledge on the ins-and-outs of the college applications process. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-04-19 Q&A with Former Admissions Officers
Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar Q&A with Former Admissions Officers at CollegeAdvisor.com. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.
I’ll read through the questions you submitted and paste them into the public chat so that you can see as well as read them out loud before our panelists give you an answer as a heads up. If your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double-check that you joined the webinar, using the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.
Now let’s meet our past.
Pharaoh [00:01:00] would you like to start off and do a quick introduction? Sure. Thanks so much, Rachel. Um, my name’s Ferrell Armstrong, former admissions officer at the university of Georgia, as well as Vanderbilt university. I’m entering my, almost my 13th year of doing this, which is kind of sad and scary to admit to you now, um, really love what we do here at CollegeAdvisor allows us to leverage our backgrounds at these wonderful institutions and guide families in the process, and very excited to answer some your questions this evening.
Awesome. And hi everyone. My name is Amber. I also former admissions officer, but at Stanford university. So over on the west coast, um, was there for a couple of years and had international territories like Canada, as well as domestic territory’s, Virginia, West Virginia. Um, And blinking and then parts of California.
There we go. Um, and so I’m really excited to be able to translate the experience that I had from the admissions field, to us students and parents. Just those questions that can be kind of intimidating, um, along with my [00:02:00] colleagues who have a wealth of experience. So I’m excited to be here tonight.
Hey everyone. My name’s David, I’m a former assistant director of admissions at York university. I was there for about four years. I transferred to graduate admissions at Boston college. So, you know, maybe you’ll see me again down the line. Once you get through undergrad, um, finds me again and we’ll, let’s get from there, but I’m also very excited to be here.
Um, and just answer any question. Do you have the completed undergraduate injustice? Awesome. Well, I’m super excited to be able to help moderate today and, um, you know, get to get all these wonderful insights from these awesome former admissions officers. So we’re getting into tons of questions. Keep submitting in.
Um, the first question that we received was should I submit my act and sat scores? Is it genuinely benefit?
I’m happy to start. And I feel like we married. I’m [00:03:00] probably going to be in a similar page here. Um, but for many schools you’ll see that their testing is test optional. So I’m guessing this question would apply to that kind of school. Um, as you guys are probably seeing schools like MIT are going back to requiring testing.
So you’ll definitely want to do your research in terms of seeing what the test policy is for the schools that you’re interested in. Um, but in terms of getting prepared for the college application process and ultimately getting ready to submit, um, my philosophy is always, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Um, so it’s great to prepare for the test, take the exams, prepare as though you’re going to be submitting testing. And then once you come down to the wire, you can evaluate, look at your scores, see if your scores are our scores that you feel like are an accurate reflection of your academic preparedness and whether those are scores you want to reflect, um, you candidacy an application process or not, and that’s a conversation you can have with an advisor, family, close friends, et cetera.
Um, would love to see here if, um, fellow they haven’t had any additional considerations to take into take into play. [00:04:00] No, I hear you. I will say too. Speaking from NYU, we had a lot of artistic programs and they’ve always been test-optional even before COVID so definitely look at a program and see exactly what’s required because some artistic programs, for example, may not even weigh those scores at all first place.
So, you know, that’s your path then that’s also something to keep in mind as well.
Awesome. So the next question that we received, um, and Farrell, I’m going to pass it over to you. Is it okay to apply to more than four colleges at a time? That’s an absolute yes. Um, I would highly encourage you to apply to at least eight. I would beg you to apply more to like 10 to 12 and that’s because right now, The average student in the process is applying to roughly eight schools, um, with the increase in selectivity that we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic, obviously, you know, test scores, being removed, increased applications as well.
You really want to buffer yourself if you will, or I should say, add a buffer to what the [00:05:00] typical applicant is doing to, you know, two, maybe four more schools than what they might be doing. So I would encourage you to get to 10 to 12. Uh, the other thing is one of the more common mistakes that we see and please don’t feel targeted.
Um, but one of the more common mistakes that we see with only applying to four to five schools is students don’t diversify their school list enough at that point. And so you typically see almost all four or five of those schools, all being reached schools, uh, Stanford at NYU at Vanderbilt, and many times you see kids getting denied all those at one time because they applied to nothing but reach schools.
Um, so you want to diversify that list 10, 12, and it’s going to, it’s going to increase your chances of admission and actually for scholarships.
Awesome. Um, a real quick note to our attendees. I ask that you please do not vote for your own question. It confuses a little bit the order of the questions. And so I’m trying to go in order of submission. Um, so please moving forward, do not vote for your own question. Thank you so much. [00:06:00] Um, so I guess the next question that we received is what can I do to make my personal essay stand out?
David, do you want to take that for sure, for sure. This is, you know, a big, a big question. I think, you know, we might all give, give to, you might give different answers on what would make a statement stand out. I think the most important thing when it comes to the about the essay is pay attention to the prompt you choose.
I’m going to have going to give you sort of preset prompts or the option to do something on your own. So, no matter what you do, make it clear what question it is that you’re answering that the admissions officers have some contacts and know that you’re responding to a certain prompt. Right. I think for me personally, I really gravitate towards essays that have personality at the sense of, you know, a really clear voice.
Um, maybe a sense of humor if it comes through, right. Um, something that’s thoughtful and reflective and insightful, I think it can being very clear. [00:07:00] Um, an essays have gone through multiple drafts of revisions and that has been spent a lot of time thinking about right. Um, you know, it’s always good to get feedback from professor of teachers, rather family, friends, things like that.
You know, you buy multiple pairs of eyes, but ultimately you want it your clear, unique voice. So definitely spend some time with it, draft it many times as you can stand, um, to make sure it’s the most pure kind of reflection of what you want it to be. Great. Any further insights, Amber or Farrell. I absolutely agree with that.
Um, I would say starting even back, depending on when, how old you are when you’re watching this, but starting roughly in your undergraduate, um, undergraduate as an underclassmen start taking time to journal, or just reflect on what it is that you care about your extracurricular activities. Just start to be more aware of yourself, um, building that self-reflection and practicing that earlier on, by the time you get to the college [00:08:00] application process, um, it’ll be easier to be able to hone in on yourself and understand if the, if the question, what a question is really asking and be able to give a more in-depth thorough response and really make yourself come to life in the application.
That is a skill, um, and being able to start that and being more aware of yourself earlier on will help you to be able to pull that out in those common FSAs. Um, but yes, a hundred percent agree with everything that David said and just a practice tip to take into consideration. If you are younger than.
Yeah. I mean, I would, I would just add, you know, most importantly, and I think this is what we’re all saying is let us get to know you. If you can’t open up the doors of personal revelation and become vulnerable for just a few minutes in an essay, I’m very unlikely to open the door to you. And the basic example I would say is, imagine this, okay, at 10:30 PM, outside your front door and asking you to let me in your home, without you knowing me, you’re going to probably say absolutely not.
And you’d probably call law enforcement and I would not [00:09:00] blame you. Okay. My point here is in order for us to think that you were the right fit, the right addition to our communities, which we are the gatekeepers for per se, you need to allow us to understand who you are and how we’re going to be. You know, not, not just benefiting, but where we’re going to see your, you know, self getting involved and where you’re going to be bringing things to the table within the community.
You need to let us. Awesome. So the next question that we received is does seeking financial aid reduce one’s chances of being accepted into highly competitive colleges.
I’ll handle it. Um, depends on the school on not an answer anyone wants to hear, but it depends on the school. Uh, there are some. Pretty well-known schools. I’m not going to name names out of respect. Uh, but there are some pretty well-known schools that are top level arguably reach schools that are in fact concerned about awarding financial aid.
[00:10:00] Um, and so there are some schools that are known as being need aware. And if you are need aware, that means you need financial, or I’m sorry, if you qualify for financial aid, they will utilize that into influence their decision on you. Now there are other schools, um, and forgive me, I’m, I’m actually unsure of NYU’s or Stanford’s approach from this, but there are other schools that are known as need-blind, uh, Vanderbilt qualifies as one of those.
And they will not take your financial aid into account, but it is a case-by-case basis. And please forgive me for not knowing that about Stanford, NYU. No, that’s not a problem. And it’s actually kind of a split case. Um, so it depends on the school and it also depends on your background. So at Stanford. For domestic students and permanent residents, Stanford is need blind, but for international students, they are need aware.
Um, so that is something that you should also look into per school. And then also taking into consideration your background. I believe Yale is need blind for international national students, for example, but each school is different. Um, and yes, perfect breakdown of, of what the difference is there. Yeah.
[00:11:00] Jump in and just reiterate everything that Carol and Amber said. I also say, this is a great question to ask on college tours, or when you’re talking to a person’s officers, are you blind or are you need a where, um, you know, they will give you in their own words, how the process works. Um, and if they say, no, we fully meet, need how they meet that need with what kind of aid.
Right. Um, don’t be afraid to ask these questions because that is their slash our job. Um, so definitely keep that in mind.
Great. Thank you so much. So the next question that we received is what kinds of applications tend to stand out and. Maybe all three of you could take a stab at this.
Alrighty. Step number one. So the things that typically will, let’s see, I want to frame this a little bit differently. Um, things that [00:12:00] stand out positively and negatively, um, something you’ll you’ll want to focus on the positive. So I would say this kind of ties into you being aware of yourself. Um, making sure that you’re, you’re able to, if you’re able to tie the elements of your application together, so.
Understanding your why innocence will translate well throughout your application. That’s going to be a positive for an admissions officer meeting your file. I can reflect on some files that like, I just spent so much time on. Cause I’m like, I can’t believe the student like, wow, this student is so amazing.
Like from what they’re getting involved in to how they articulate what they’re involved with and why they care about what they’re involved with. It makes me want to make sure the admissions committee admits this person, or I give them the best chance for the student to stand out because I feel the passion that this student has for whatever their, why is what they care about.
So I’d say that the piece, my stab my piece in, in terms of what will stand out positively to the admissions [00:13:00] committee is you understanding what motivates you? Um, you can hear this question a number of ways. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Um, what motivates you? What your passion is. Um, but understanding that and being able to articulate that clearly, not just with your worst though, that is very important, but also through the activities you’re engaged with and even through your curriculum and your courses, um, as well as like every aspect of your application down to the, um, letters of recommendation, which again is not, you won’t be writing them, but you will be fostering these relationships with your teachers.
So just being able to understand and, and exude that in a sense what it is that matters to you for that to come through in every aspect of your application, that’s really gonna help it to stand out.
Yeah. I’ll jump off that. I think. The strongest applications, ones that stand out the most for me are the ones that are really aware of how the pieces are falling into place. Are the activities, the essays, the reckless that they all kind of telling or adding more dimensions and depth to the same kind of person, right.[00:14:00]
We want to see a consistency, but we don’t want to see flat lining. Right. And that’s a fine line. And it’s very philosophical to think about, but there is sort of an arc to it. Um, so build that’s the ones that stand out the most are the ones that are most aware that the statement and the activity section, those are really, by the time you apply ones that are your Juris voice and the ones you have most control over at this age, right?
Your grades are already pretty much locked in. Your records are going to be written by teachers. Right? So being understanding how. Your activity and your statement are going to show more who you are also kind of reinforce what your passions are. Those definitely sent it the most to me. I also think just being aware of your story, um, you know, one of the strongest apps that I still think about to this day was actually from a transfer student.
She really struggles the first two semesters at another college. Um, but her essay really stood out and told her story and gave context to that, um, that helped her ultimately gain an admission. Right. So those kinds of things can do happen. Um, so just being aware of, you know, the entire application and that we really [00:15:00] do see everything you send us.
So make sure, you know, everything that you share with us is part of that greater story or narrative
awesome. Farrell, any, um, insight. I think those two perfectly covered it. I really, I don’t think there’s anything additional I could add there and just be yourself. I think more than anything. You know, just allow us to try to get that true sense of you as, as both my colleagues have pointed out. And I think that that’s the impact point.
And I think in saying that, and I’ll just be upfront, um, a lot of times, and a lot of times parents will get a little frustrated when they hear us say, like, tell us your passion. And they’re like, well, and I get this now as a parent, like, well, how’s my 15 year old supposed to know what they want to do with their life.
I hear you. I hear you, but it’s not the schools that are telling you to do this. It’s actually your child’s competition. Right. And so it’s in order for them to kind of be in the mix. They they’ve got to kind of present themselves and kind of give us a better understanding of pathway because. If we are [00:16:00] left questioning what your purpose of this school really is, how we can benefit you, how we can help you.
We’re very unlikely to admit you, right? So you’ve got to allow us to understand how we can benefit you and the best way that you can do that is by showing us your envisioned pathway. So great. Thank you all. Um, so another question that we got, um, was related to, you know, noting ADHD or some other disability on an application, is that a detriment to an applicants profile?
I’ll kick us off with this one. I mean, I’ll start by saying no, but I also want you to be, I think students who do want to disclose this information or share this information, um, just be mindful that they do it and make sure, you know, if you do have a recommend or that maybe you will tell them if you’re comfortable so they can add a bit more.
I also think, you know, frame that sort of, you know, if you are officially diagnosed with, did that happen, I was, your school may be accommodated or not [00:17:00] accommodated you. Right. Um, and this doesn’t happen necessarily being your essay. The complication does have, you know, a general catchall will mental sort of written a response, um, exact for things like this that may not fit in another parts of the application, but you still want us to know, like, and we read those very closely and that’s definitely the kind of space where you can say, this is a part of the learning journey.
Um, this is how I managed it, and this is how I’ve grown from it and sort of really emphasizing on that piece. I’ll also add just getting into schools, you know, ask about how they accommodate, you know, different kinds of learners and if they have more resources for things like that, um, because that can vary by school.
And that’s something you used to want to know about too, right? If you’re looking at schools, how are they going to accommodate you, but definitely not a detriment. Um, but you know, just be mindful of how you share it so that we really get the full picture of what the story is there.
awesome. Thank you. Um, and again, please, a reminder to our new attendees, please do not vote for your own [00:18:00] question. Um, I’m trying to answer all of these in the order that they come in to be the most fair. And, uh, when you vote for yourself, it does kind of mess up the order. So just a reminder on that.
Appreciate it. So next question that we received is Stanford has been my dream school since eighth grade, and I’m now a sophomore and it’s still my biggest dream. Um, and of course now it’s just disappeared. Uh, sorry. Things are moving very quickly. Um, here we go. Uh, I’m wondering what is one thing that you always look for when looking at a student’s application?
What is the one thing that impresses you the most? Um, and Amber will pass it to you since it’s Stanford. Really are you sure you want me to know? Um, to your question, that’s a great question. And I see that kind of in a similar vein as how do you make your application stand out? What stands out the most?
I understand that, um, I guess speaking specifically from my re my experience, um, at Stanford, and I guess I’ll extrapolate also to [00:19:00] my colleagues while we were in the admissions office and what seemed to stand out the most while we were there. Um, again, it is going to be someone who is able to carry their narrative and understand what it is that drives them, what they care about.
Um, I will say it is really important. Um, and I’m sure this is stress, but I just love to stress this even more that academics are what are going to keep the door open, but they’re not going to be the thing that gets you through. So think about the fact that over roughly, and this is a rough estimate, but like 80% of the majority of students who are applying to these top tier schools are academically qualified.
So you could have, there are so many students who. Perfect testing straight A’s transcripts. And they’re there in several clubs at school who we love they’re great candidates, but there are so many in the pool that that alone will be great, but it’s not necessarily going to allow a student’s application to emerge.
And it’s it’s in single digits, acceptance rates. So there’s definitely not a magic formula. Um, at the end of the data thing that I do like to remind people is that this is a human [00:20:00] process. So there are factors that are outside of your control year to year or one student’s application in 2015, might’ve easily gotten them in and 2021 that application, profile’s not going to get them through.
And that’s for a number of factors that are in, are not in your control. So to your question, in terms of what you can control it’s as AOS, we’re looking, one of the things we’re looking at is seeing if we think a student will be a good fit for this school. Um, and so the students, the applications that give us more to work with, we have a better sense of whether or not they’d be, they’d be a good fit for this school.
Um, So again, I’m going to keep going back to this point, but it’s great to be as introspective as possible, um, and do your best to make sure that the application that you end up with is a great reflection of who you are and what you care about. Um, and then extracurricular activities are going to be kind of like if the academics are what, keep the door open, what you’re doing outside of the classroom can help you move closer to that door, to go through the door.
Can, can help personify what it is you say you [00:21:00] care about. Um, so whether or not that’s a formalized, extra curricular, um, opportunity, a club or an organization, or whether you’re working an extra job for a purpose or for a certain cause, or you’re raising money for something, or you’re helping around the neighborhood for certain neighbors with disabilities or elderly people or something you did during COVID something that shows.
That connects the dots for what you care about and what you stand for. Those kinds of things are going to be, what will help your application to rise to the top? Again, never a guarantee of anything, but what you’re doing outside of the classroom. It’s definitely what helps us to kind of see how you would engage on canvas and the impact that you could add positively to our campus.
Thanks so much Amber for that. Um, so the next question that we, uh, I have here is how do you pick colleges to apply to based on what do you determine if a school is a reach or a dream school, what criteria should one consider and how many should one apply to David? Do you want to take a stab at that [00:22:00] first?
Sure. You know, there’s different ways to approach this question. I think kind of going back to what we said earlier, right. But to have a variety to diversify your, your listed portfolio, so to speak. Um, but that can mean a lot of different things. I mean, from my own experience, I kind of ran the gamut. I focused on really early.
Large by the universities. And I also was really interested in small, tiny liberal arts colleges in the middle of nowhere. Right. So your list doesn’t necessarily have to make sense on the outside, but it has to make sense to you. Right. Um, and I was someone who thought I knew what I wanted and I’m glad I had that variety.
Right. Because when it came, you know, who I wasn’t following your year ended up being very different than it was in spring of senior year. When I was finally making that decision, I’m glad I had range, but you also want to have that mix of, you know, schools that will best. Match academic majors. Right. You know, if you’re interested in engineering and you’re applying, just doesn’t have an engineering major, but you know, it sounds basic, but you, you know, these things do come into play.
You might not [00:23:00] realize because our websites are so convoluted, but doing basic things like that are really important. They have the academics that you want. Um, how are, how is the career placement, right? Is that something you’re wondering about, you know, what’s the alumni network, right? Like, like, so prioritizing those questions for you.
And I think, you know, as I mentioned journaling earlier, I think that’s, this is another great place to sort of just write out what’s the priority for school, right? Do you really want a school that this is really large and you can meet a ton of new people. Do you want a school that has a study abroad? Um, so I think those kinds of questions need to come into play.
Um, and of course, when it comes to reach target safety, those metrics might change. Um, but you know, just knowing, you know, that information is out there based on collectivity rate, CPAs, things like that. So use that to your best sister ability to kind of gauge that. Hopefully that makes sense.
Yeah, that was perfect. Thanks, David. Um, so another question that we got is does the high school that you attend really matter as long as you’re doing good [00:24:00] academically in your school? Or do you look at the profile of the high school that the applicant attends feral? Do you want to try this one? Sure. So, uh, you know, one of my roles at Vanderbilt, um, I was one of the admissions committee members.
So I was one of the five people at the final boat there. And what I’ll tell you is that every school will do this differently. We need to identify that up front. Um, now the big thing is that most schools are not going to compare you to a different school down the street. At most schools are only going to compare you to what was available to you within the context of your school’s profile, what you then took, how well you then performed.
I’m not comparing you to. Not making fun of anybody at Choate, but I’m not comparing a student at, you know, where I went to high school to, uh, someone at Choate and shuts the Waterville school, where I went to public schools, wonderful school. Um, the point is that it’s two separate curriculum, therefore it’s not able to be compared.
Um, therefore that’s how they’re going to make for the most part, their judgment on you. Now [00:25:00] I will go ahead and address the elephant in the room. Some schools will in fact, rank high schools. Okay. And that is a very unpopular thing to hear about. And that will probably create a lot of commotion in the conversation here this evening.
Uh, but the reality here is that some schools will in fact have a ranking system and ranked certain high schools. Um, and so that can play a role into the final decision, but almost the main academic decision will be based upon what you took out of what was available at your school. Don’t overthink it past that because you’ve really can’t do much about the fact that your school’s rent or not.
That’s out of your.
Amber David, anything else that you wanted to add?
Awesome. So then another question that we received is I have a question about extracurricular extracurriculars. What makes an activity stand out? For example, I’ve started my own organization, um, that reaches about [00:26:00] 2000 students. Is this a something that would make me stand out?
so tying back into the point that I said I would hit, um, throughout the night, it, that depends on the narrative that you’ve spent. So yes, and I shouldn’t even say spin cause that has kind of a negative connotation, but the narrative that you’re able to portray in and divulge about yourself. Um, so again like they, that is a wonderful thing.
It sounds great. The context is going to be crucial for that to again, set you apart. So you started an organization that impacts. That sounds wonderful. In what ways do you impact those students? How does that connect to who you are? Why are you impacting those students in that way, in the first place? So how you tell your story is going to help that stand out even more?
What’s your, why, what even got you to, to start that organization? Is this something, um, that you’re just doing because you know, that schools are looking for people to have extracurricular activities, or is this something that speaks to what matters to you and then are able to portray that accurately? So, um, [00:27:00] yes.
Um, not to take away or add too, just to say that that is a, that sounds like a very positive extracurricular activity. And regardless of whether you’re starting organization or you’re working within and innovating within an organization that already exists, it’s really going to come back to how it speaks to your why and how you’re creating that impact.
That makes sense. I’d love to hear, um, my colleagues input as well.
I mean, not much more to add. I think again, like kind of like what we’ve been saying, context matters, and I think, um, lead should take a lot of different forms. Leadership could be, you know, taking care of your siblings or your parents or work leadership could be taking on a part-time job. Leadership could be starting your own club, that just 2000 students.
Right. But it really is about how you’re kind of framing that leadership within your own sort of spray and why you chose to take that role on the freeways. Right. Just being aware of, I think that’s something that would allow students in their heads. It’s about, um, you know, I didn’t even start my own, you know, my own club or my own business and reality is most students don’t do that.
[00:28:00] Right. It really is just a matter of how you kind of know your own leadership style, style, and skills and how you explained that to us.
Wonderful. Thank you both. Um, the next question that we have is does applying for early admission slash early decision help your chances of getting. Pharaoh. Oh, my favorite conversation. Okay. So let’s, let’s identify a couple of things really quickly. Before I answer this question, I will try not be too long winded.
Not every school offers early decision. Not every school offers early action. There are some schools that love to make it even more difficult and give you something called restricted early action. And then you’ve got this beautiful thing called regular decision. Everybody’s still good. Right? Cool. Cool.
So joking aside, let’s, let’s keep the conversation for right now to early decision early action, regular decision. Okay. Early decision is a contractually binding agreement that you as a family, whether it’s parents and child [00:29:00] or guardians and child, all of you will sign that contract and it binds you to go to that school.
Um, regardless of financial aid and scholarship. Now, a few schools are a little bit more lenient on that. They’ll let you have. Uh, other schools may not be so lenient and they’ll hold you to the, to the agreement. You need to be prepared for that at a school like a Vanderbilt, because so few people are willing to sign that contract to $70,000 a year.
Um, yeah, the admissions rate early decision is dramatically in your favor. Uh, when I was there, the acceptance rate, my last year, there was 26.2% early decision, and it was 7.9% during regular decision. Uh, so to that end early decision Vanderbilt, hasn’t always, for the most part continuously right now will, will be the way to apply if you’re willing to sign that contract.
Okay. That’s going to be the case that most early decision schools. Now, when we get outside of the early decision conversation, now we’ve got to start looking at early action versus regular decision. And this is [00:30:00] where I tend to cause a little bit of confusion. So I will try to make this as clear as.
Early action is non contractually binding. There’s no contract for all intents and purposes. We’re just talking about standard early action right now, not restrictive. So standard early action, you can apply to whatever schools you want to that offer it. Okay. As many as you like, same thing for regular decision.
Now there’s a very big connotation about early action that you will hear. People tell you that early action is still, always better than regular decision. That’s a case by case basis that is a school by school basis. And that is not always the case. Uh, several years ago, there was a big push at Northeastern.
Uh, everyone in the brother was applying, you know, north, uh, early action and higher acceptance rate. One year is actually a regular decision, right? And so you need to look at this over historical data’s data’s excuse me. That’s not correct. But look, pay attention to historical data. Look at those trends and see over two, three five-year period.
Hey, was it better early action or was it that [00:31:00] irregular? If you’re not looking at that, if you’re just talking to a friend that just went through the process, they don’t know why they got it. Let me reiterate that they have no idea what they got it. Okay. So all respect intended, look at the data and let the data tell you.
Yeah. Hey, at these four schools, it’s a hundred percent early action, but surprisingly, these two schools, regular decisions, my best shot at admission. You’ve got to pay attention to that. Okay. If the data says it’s the case, trust it.
wonderful. Thanks for that feral. Um, so we’re going to take a very, very quick pause in our Q and a to talk a little bit about CollegeAdvisor.com. Um, I’m going to also, um, start a poll. Um, so, you know, for those in the room with us who, you know, haven’t worked with us already, uh, you know, we know that the college admissions process is incredibly overwhelming for parents and students.
[00:32:00] And, you know, we have a team of former admissions officers and admissions experts we’re ready to help you and your families navigated all in one-on-one sessions and answer questions like what you’re asking today. Um, In really an easy and personalized way. And so if you’re interested in developing that personalized admission strategy, fill out the poll that’s on your screen right now with your availability.
And one of our, um, team members will call, uh, within that time that you select, um, to chat a little more and help you learn how you can make the most of your college admissions process and how CollegeAdvisor can help you. Um, in addition, you should check out our web [email protected] where students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application, deadlines, research schools, and more all right.
On our website. Um, so yeah, I’m going to give just a few more seconds for, um, filling out the poll and while I’m [00:33:00] doing that, um, I’d love to hear from all three panelists about your favorite place to study at your undergraduate.
I’ll, I’ll kick us off. Um, I attended Boston college many, many moons ago. We have bath library loving to refer to as the hog, this library, it was our silent library, um, stained glass, you know, very Gothic architecture, um, lots of religious tomes and books lining the lining of the shelves. Oh, that’s my go to place when I ended to, uh, crank out some papers and do some studying and Amy feel very scholarly, uh, very much a lovely place on campus.
So definitely Google bath library. I think college, if you get the chance,
probably not as. [00:34:00] Exciting, but I’m a huge people person. So I just needed my friends around me. Didn’t need to talk. Um, so that was usually just my dorm room or the hallway, um, just somewhere that’s comfortable and accessible. Um, but there was, yeah, the library was the green library was a pretty popular place.
Like if you went there on a, I’ll say this, our football stadium was nicknamed the library because it was so quiet because like, wow, every other school was like, oh, football people at Stanford are like, I have so many other things that can be doing. Um, so I was like, the library was actually more, not more crowded, but it was pretty, they have plenty of chairs and workspaces to be able to study.
And you can find people like in the deep got like every part of the library studying. So that’s a great place to study, um, green library. Cause there are several libraries like green library. So I went to the, uh, Stanford of Alabama called Sanford university. And, uh, we actually had a S a Sam [00:35:00] not stand shirt.
Don’t hate me. Don’t hate me. Uh, but, uh, I actually would spend more of my time, um, in my dorm room. I like for studying purposes, I made social butterfly and, um, things I did not do my academics aside if I was in the library. Cause I would see my friends and I talk and it just doesn’t work out very well.
Uh, so I, um, you know, I go to Starbucks and I get like two Vinti quad shot, white mochas, extra sweet, and then would sit there and crank out my work. And yes, I did say to Vinti quad shots, the reasonable judgment. Awesome. Well, thank you all for that. Um, it’s always fun to hear about where folks like to study, um, for those interested in Northwestern.
That’s where I went during library was my go-to. Um, so awesome. I’m going to close the poll now, but you know, if you are interested in getting, you know, more connected with us and you weren’t able to, um, offer up any of the times during the poll, please do you know, sign up to chat with [00:36:00] [email protected]
Awesome. So back over to the Q and a, um, let’s pull my next question. Um, so an interesting question I saw that was dedicated, um, for you, Amber, it was, you know, as a black woman on the admissions, um, team at Stanford, um, did you find that the admissions process. Is different. Uh, do you find that the application process is different at a PWI versus an HBC at school?
So let me start by clarifying some terms. Um, so PWI, um, does colloquially means predominantly white institution? Um, HBCU means historically black colleges and universities. Um, it’s interesting because Stanford is the only experience that I have from the admissions perspective. So it’s, it’s hard for me. I, I do respect where your question is coming from.
It’s hard for me to be able to [00:37:00] speak on, on what that process is like for an HBCU. Um, I will say that, I mean, use, they’re not only accepting, um, African-American and black students, but that is obviously the predominant, um, as with predominantly white institutions, even, even those, these days, the demographics are shifting.
And I know there, there are several institutions that are being more mindful of just wanting to. Create a more diverse and inclusive space. Um, but I wish I could offer more to that question. I’m not sure that I have much to be able to offer, but I do appreciate you asking. Um, and I will say that I can acknowledge that within the space at Stanford, I can see, um, the intentionality of wanting to create a more diverse and inclusive space, um, not just for numbers sake, but for the sake of acknowledging that people from different backgrounds are going to inevitably bring different experiences.
And oftentimes I found that we learn more from our peers and our students, not necessarily more, but just different things in the [00:38:00] classroom and in different things in dorm rooms at 4:00 AM getting tacos or whatever we’re doing, but we just use that kind of intangible experience is something that’s really highly prioritized and a part of the campus, the college campus living experience that we are mindful of as admissions officers.
Um, so I can say that and thank you. Thanks so much Amber for that. Um, next question that we got is, is there any way to make up for a weaker academic record?
Feral? Do you want to take that one? Darn um, surely so, no, there’s not. Um, if the academics are down, the academics are down. Um, one thing I will pay attention to is an upward grade trend. If you maybe had something, you know, start guilty here by the way, my freshman year was, you know, not [00:39:00] what it needs to be high school.
Um, but I, I kinda got it turned around. I cranked it up that upper grade trend is something that we do pay attention to, but I just want to be upfront. You can’t just rely upon that every school is going to have their different approach. Uh, but it is something that I would always make a case with and always make an argument with.
Uh, both at university of Georgia and at Vanderbilt, like, Hey, you know, this, this applicant that they really have, you know, the last six grading periods, it’s been a dramatic turnaround from what their first couple of grading periods were like, it looks like they’ve gotten a new plan of action together.
Um, so that, that matters. It does. Um, one other thing, you know, and I, this kind of blends into another question I saw earlier on, um, is, you know, can, can your extracurricular activities make up for low grades or can for low grades make up for extracurricular activities? If you’re talking high reach schools, they’re looking for the complete package that that’s the honest truth.
And I know that’s not fun to hear. Um, but that’s why if you’re sitting in this room tonight and you’re a freshman or your sophomore, the time to start is now because it gives you the time to weaponize [00:40:00] your, your profile. If you will, and start adding things to your profile, um, over a greater period of time until you have the time to build up what is so necessary for admission,
David, Amber, anything further.
Awesome. So a really interesting question. Um, and I know there’s been a lot in the news about how this has been changing. So, you know, with a lot of schools going testing optional, how does a student determine if they’re a competitive enough candidate for the, these tier one colleges,
David, I’m going to hand it to you. Uh, I’ll try and take a step it’s complicated. Um, and you know, I’ve got closest case study and why you, um, we always talked about the test flexible policy. COVID where you there done sat or the ACC or three AP exams or SC subject [00:41:00] test. We gave you a variety of tests to pick based on what was the best compliment to your profile.
Right. Um, so I think it’s kind of the mindset you might take into it. When you asked yourself that question, what’s the best compliment my profile. If your grades are already stuck, I mean, you’re competent in your academic record and the school was Tufts optional and you know, or college board says the averages are, you’re not really in that range.
I would take a step back and ask your counselor. Do you think this would hurt my application? Right. Again, this is going to vary depending on, you know, your program of study the school you applied to. There’s no crystal ball clear cut answer for this, because again, this is a very human process, but I think it really comes down to you kind of take a step back, looking at your application with a bird’s eye view and saying, okay, what are the high points?
My application, what am I competent in? And what do I think it needs extra work. Sometimes, you know, you do end up having a strong score. It could help compliment depending on the school you apply to. Um, I feel like I’m kinda, I know it’s kind of dancing around a question, but it really comes down to sort of [00:42:00] a case by case basis, depending on what school you’re applying to major, you’re interested in what your transcripts look like.
Um, things like that, maybe something I don’t know, maybe somebody else more contact.
Rachel, I think you’re muted.
Appreciate it. You would think after two years of being on zoom, I would know not to do that, but here we are. Um, I wanted to Amber, uh, and Farrell, did you have anything else to add to that? Okay. Um, so an interesting question we got is would you rather admit an individual that have strong extracurriculars with a very clear passion and, you know, written story within their application, um, but has lower test scores and GPA or an individual who has perfect scores and GPA, but lacks that passion and story.[00:43:00]
staying this as sweet as I can. It depends on the school. Yay. Everyone’s ever to answer. If some schools though, if the minimum to be looked at is the high academic standard. If you don’t even have that to begin with some schools, aren’t going to look at your applications to look at those extracurriculars.
Right. Um, and so it’s, it’s unfortunate and it’s, it’s an unfortunate part of the process that it’s gut wrenching. I know that’s not easy to hear, but you know, I’ll give you an example at Vanderbilt. If I have a student that is taking, you know, they’ve done okay academically, right. Um, they they’ve done quite well, but then they’re, they’re really not doing much as it relates to what they’re applying for.
I don’t have any value in them. I don’t. And that’s Vanderbilt. That’s not Stanford. That’s not NYU. I’m not speaking for those schools. Vanderbilt doesn’t see any, any value in that. And because while you may be an incredible person, they’re looking for security and why [00:44:00] you are applying to that school. And if they’re not getting that sense of security to explain your application, they’re unlikely to admit you, but let’s reverse it.
You could have the, you could have. A killer, right. Just to kill her and swimming. I was a swimmer, not that I was a killer. Um, but you could be a great swimmer. You could have started your own, you know, organization for like a micro-financing firm. Right. But your grades aren’t to our standards. We’re not going to look at you.
And I don’t want to say that dismissively, the, like, that’s how cold-hearted this process can be at some schools. If you don’t have what they’re looking for, you’re not even a part of the conversation. And you need to hear that now. I don’t want you to hear that in the future. I want you to hear that now, so you can start getting a plan of action for it, but it’s a school by school basis.
Okay. One of the things that comes up for me all the time is, well, you know, what about, you know, what about, you know, GPA and test score? Doesn’t that mean? Anything anymore? Like that’s what really matters, right? That just decides if you get reviewed or not in most cases, that’s what [00:45:00] determines if you land in the seat of an admissions officer in many cases.
So that’s not the, if you will, as it used to be when I was applying to school, 15 years ago now I’m dating myself. Uh, so it’s a completely different approach to these schools now. Um, and I’m sure, you know, my colleagues will have different responses here, but that’s, you need to understand that that is what you’re looking at.
Some schools are gonna be more aggressive on that than others. Yeah, I, I honestly, yeah. That’s I would agree with what, what Farrell was saying. And I think that kind of getting to what this I, my follow-up question would be to ask what, what’s the question behind that question? I’m just asking, like, is, are you in a situation where you feel like it’s an either or because as fail set is going to be school to school, there are some schools where, um, there is a minimum GPA.
Um, and if you’re above that threshold, there’s a much higher chance for you to get in versus some of the more top tier selective schools where like they say, there is no minimum GPA, [00:46:00] um, for your application to be sensitive reviewed. But when you look at that average sat GPA that, um, you’re seeing that it’s like taught like max.
That’s because they have, they have the option to be able to choose the criminal, the crop, um, academically. So depending on what kind of program you’re looking for, depending on the kind of school that you’re looking to go to, there’s an option. Um, and even if you let’s say that you didn’t have the best academic run, your it’s your senior year and you still haven’t had the best academic run maybe, or just starting that upward trend, um, explore other, other opportunities.
Like I would say, regardless of your academic profile, it’s, it’s important to have a balanced school list. So, um, a mixture of those reach schools, uh, which I think I heard earlier in a question I’m just trying to distinguish between them oftentimes a reach school for anybody is going to be those schools that are in like a single digit, maybe like low double digit accepted.
Um, regardless of how amazing your profile is, it’s going to be hard to get in. So a mixture of those re schools, um, fill it out [00:47:00] more. So with those target schools where you’re matching the academic profile, you could get it, you can not get in, but you’re matching it. You definitely feel all within that criteria and then likely, or are safety is a hard term to use these days just because the selectivity has increased.
Um, but schools where the acceptance rate might be higher you’re at, or above the academic criteria. You want to mix your list with all of those, because again, regardless of how competitive you are academically and otherwise, you never know, and they’re always going to be factors outside of your control.
So I guess I say all that to say, just to wrap up the conversation in a hundred percent agree with Pharell, um, like when you’re looking at the top of the top, they are going to be more cold-hearted, um, in a sense it is not an either or it’s a both. And, um, but then there are other schools to look into, um, where they have different standards and you, your profile might be perfect for it.
Thank you so much, Amber and Ferrell. Um, so a wonderful question that we received is I am a sophomore, what should I do now to get ready for the college admissions process?[00:48:00]
okay. This off. Um, I think I, uh, kind of a twofold, I think just getting lay of the land and seeing what kind of schools are out there as a sophomore, or is probably a really good first step. And that could be simple as just going on school, social media. I mean, especially now the COVID era, you know, NYU is like a Tik TOK account.
Right. And it sounds corny and most of the content is corny, but it gives you a sense of what the schools I have is for lack of a better word. Right. So you could just be passively scrolling through the social media as a saw or right. You have so much time. You, you know, it’s going to come up before you expect it, but you have the time to kind of peruse and see what connects with you and what doesn’t nine times out of 10, the school’s Instagram or pick talk, they’re going to be run by current students.
So again, that’s an immediate first kind of step to say, okay, I’m really connecting. I could see myself with these students and then you take that next step. All right. Can I see myself at the [00:49:00] school? I go on a tour of it, right. And that would be, I would say, as well, visit and tour as much as you can. Um, I know it was hard during a little bit, hopefully things are going to get better, but it doesn’t even have to be, you know, even if you can just put a foot on campus and walk around, um, and even if it’s a school you don’t necessarily want to apply to, but it’s a goal.
I think there’s so much value to just being in a college campus and observing the dynamics. Um, so those are my kind of like fit things. I was, you know, also take stock of where your academics are at. Um, you know, sophomore to junior, then senior, right? This is when you start to ramp up, do an IB curriculum.
Are you in AP? How do you want to challenge yourself? Right? Because this is when you start asking yourself those questions. Um, and if you’re someone who’s been doing really well academically, talk to your counselor and say, Hey, you know, what’s considered a very rigorous course load at our high school and take it from there.
And for having those conversations about com kind of going into a more challenging curriculum to see if you can match it up to maybe those targets or reach schools, you’re talking about[00:50:00]
Amber Ferrell, anything else to add to that one?
Wonderful. So, uh, we had a few questions, so I’m going to kind of combine it is related to selecting your major when applying, um, How to kind of determine what major to apply with, is it not beneficial to apply, to apply as undecided? Um, and you know, what about applying with those really common majors?
Like psychology and, um, and what have you, is that also detrimental to your application? So a lot in one, um, Farrell up, pass it over to you,
Dr. Doom here, Dr. Jim Jordan. So, yeah, I mean, I try to get students to, if they can write, try to pick something specific that you’re, that you think you are going to be passionate. And, and in doing so, [00:51:00] looking back to things that you have tried and experienced and gotten involved with, and that you found more interest in because as an admissions officer, in my, in my experience, again, in my experience at the school that I’ve worked at, what’s been, the decision maker is if I can look at, I typically three seen three common types of applications.
Okay. Um, undecided applicants, psychology majors, and then everybody else. Right. And there’s, there’s kind of a joke there, but then it’s also serious, um, undecided applicants. Hey, I get it. I was 17 once and I didn’t declare my major until I got the college. So let me own that up front. Okay. But to some degree, like there’s a difference in how you go about being another undecided applicant, right?
There’s Hey, I play call of duty and I have no idea why I’m applying to your school or there is, Hey, I’m trying to seek out internships or I’m doing remote job interviews with professionals and fields that I’m exploring and they’re putting those on their resume. And they’re showing us the admissions office that they’re trying to figure it out.
That effort speaks to me. And that’s the way to [00:52:00] go as an undecided applicant. You’re good to go that way. Psychology. Hey, I’m not going to knock on psychology. My wife’s a therapist, but for the record, 65% of psychology majors changed their major. Okay. So to some degree, it’s a case by case basis, we can get a little antsy of pay.
Is that what he, she, they or them are actually applying for? Or are they going to flip flopping over here? And I don’t want to speak for my colleagues here, but I’m going to be very honest with you. We’re always concerned about losing students to changing majors, because if you change your major, you’re willing to transfer.
And my job as an admissions office is to maintain them. Okay. So if I’m not feeling this real strong sense of connection with a C with a student that may be kind of borderline because they’ve just thrown something random on there. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just psychology, political science doesn’t matter.
You don’t have a connection to it. To me, you’re in a more of a disadvantage than if you just gone undecided and shown that you’re trying to figure it out. Right? So for me, if it is trying to be specific, that’s the third category, which [00:53:00] I would define as a defined applicant. Um, and that’s someone that has, you know, tried to over time to get specific, right.
And, and get 3, 4, 5 activities that relate to what they’re wanting to study. If I had my way about it, that that makes my job easy. Right. It’s like, oh, I can look at your resume. And there was no question that are you really going to stay with psychology? It’s yeah, actually you’ve done, you know, a remote internship with a psychologist you’ve gone through multiple rounds of interviews with.
And you’ve learned what that process, what that experience is actually like to get to that level. Right. It’s not just throwing it out there randomly. So there’s a, there’s a confidence booster when I can look and see that kind of dedicated experience to something, which right. Dominic extends here. I apologize.
It brings into the question. Shouldn’t you be well-rounded or should you be defined? I’m going to tell you to be defined every time. Okay. Because if I can look at history and just see again, 2, 3, 4 things that relate to what you’re wanting to study, I’m more likely to latch on to that then to coming left wondering.
So what are they applying [00:54:00] for? Right. So that’s what I would say do, and the way to try to figure that out is by utilizing your experiences and then exploring the more, you know, through those internships, you know, job observations.
Wonderful. Thanks so much. So a question that I also saw in the Q and a tab, um, was related to something you said earlier, Amper where you said, you know, there’s ways to positively, but also negatively stand out in the admissions process. And so their question is how does one negatively standout I’m in, so elaborate upon this.
Um, but also didn’t want to focus it on that. Um, so you’ll hear sometimes if you go to, and I encourage you to do this, sit in on those virtual information sessions, especially again, um, to David’s point and age of COVID and even getting into post COVID, but still there’s so much that’s been made available virtually to take advantage of all of those resources.
[00:55:00] What you will often hear, um, is that we want to get to know you. And you’ve already heard that a lot tonight. There are cautions to that though. And I, and we don’t, we don’t know you have this as again, don’t feel attacked. Um, but for example, there’s an essay in the Stanford, um, application that is like, oh, write a letter to your future roommate.
Um, you can be as comfortable in there, but things, for example, like using explicit language or telling like rude notes, like maybe that’s okay for your friends and people who know you, but for someone who’s getting to know you, that’s not the place to kind of include that kind of language or, or be that, um, I don’t wanna say comfortable with, be that forthcoming with that, with those, with that kind of language.
So just watching, being mindful of the language that you use, and also saying like simple things, like just proofreading. Um, so for example, I can’t tell you again, it’s a human process. So if you are writing a letter or yeah, if you’re writing an essay on. Even to Vanderbilt and then you, right. And that’s [00:56:00] why I love to go to Stanford.
Like, again, it’s a human person. So if you’re applying, even if you’re applying early, but we see that that’s going to be an indicator to us. Like, oh, this actually isn’t your top school. And even though like, you want to come to us, like you also want to have a high yield. So we want to be fairly confident that if we select you to come, you’ll also come, that’s not a good reflection on your part.
So those little things like proofreading makes sure you’re applying to the right school. Um, and all your verbiage reflects that. And then just genuine spellcheck, grammar check, et cetera. Um, making sure that your language is, again, depending on the school, because different schools have different cultures, but as Stanford, for example, like they didn’t want it to be a genuine, comfortable language, but also appropriate.
Um, those are things that I think have stood out negatively off the top of my head, um, that honestly, like they made me laugh, but you know, not for this. It’s not in favor of the student. Um, like you’re reading thousands of applications, like, oh, that’s so funny. You can’t let you hear, but that was funny.
Thank you for that. Um, so yeah, I just need to be mindful of the language that [00:57:00] you use, make sure you proofread spellcheck. Um, those are, those are some of the biggest ways that things have stood out negatively. At least to me, I feel like that’s not exclusive. And I’m curious if my colleagues have any additional things, but if not, those are the things that I would say.
Thanks so much, Amber. So we got a lot of questions about homeschooling. So do admissions officers look at homeschool students differently? How can homeschooled students stand out and make sure that their curriculum is the most competitive possible?
I’ll try to kick this off. This is again, a very complicated question and every school blight handle this differently. So I would, if you are a host school student and you already have like a preliminary list of schools, start doing the research now to see what exactly they require of you. Uh, I know at NYU, for example, this might’ve changed, but if your homeschool instructor was your parent, you know, they could write a [00:58:00] letter of rec.
Normally, you know, parents can not write recommendation letters, right? So ask those kinds of questions that they’re going through the process. Also. So much of homeschooling depends on the state that you’re in. So also go through and look at those state requirements to make sure you are on track, to graduate at the equivalent of your state’s high school diploma.
Beyond those little nuances. We’re not necessarily looking at these students and differently, or, you know what I mean? We do our best to sort of accommodate the rigor and will be some sorts school profiles created by your primary instructor. Um, we will have some context, um, but I wouldn’t say, you know, these students are necessarily disadvantaged in any way.
It’s just sort of a different approach to it. And that’s a great point. Um, and what I will say is that when it does come to the school profile, so let’s say this is the homeschool at, by your family versus like a homeschool program with a cohort of students. Um, be sure to be specific with how the curriculum is laid out as [00:59:00] specific as possible.
Because again, for many schools they’re going to be looking, they’re not as, as, um, As I said earlier, they’re not going to necessarily be comparing your school, your homeschool to another program, but they need as much context as possible about the rigor of your program to be able to accurately contextually analyze and assess the rigor of your curriculum.
So just try to be, that would be my sample. Um, just make sure that the, the school profile, the information that you provide about around the, the rigor of the curriculum is, is as explicit as, as, um, as descriptive as possible. That will help.
Awesome. I’m going to throw one more question out there since we are at time. Um, let me find a good one. I guess I think this one is, uh, will be helpful. Um, you know, do you have any advice for those who might get wait-listed at their dream school? What, how, how to, um, really express continued interest.[01:00:00]
I’m going to give it to Pharaoh.
Okay. Oldest trick in the book, get out your type and fingers. Uh, send an email to your missions officer and say if admitted I will 100% realtor school. Okay. So some of these schools and you better be truthful with that. Don’t, don’t do it unless you’re a hundred percent, you know, planning on doing it, please.
Um, but if it is your school that you definitely want to be at, um, Sunday schools have a waiting process and we did it at Vanderbilt. And if I was to get a student that would say, Hey, I’m definitely gonna enroll at your school. If I’m taken off the wait list, I would code it as waitlist strong. Um, so it was something that I wanted to hear, but please don’t go do that for every school that that’s not proper.
Um, you only needed to do it to the schools that you would be serious about going to, and it showed me one or two. You shouldn’t be doing that to, you know, six, seven schools. It only needs to be one, ideally. To that [01:01:00] end, you know, significant, uh, information that you can add that updates since you applied, that would be helpful.
Um, but aside from that, you’ve got to ride the wave. Let’s see what happens. Awesome. Well, oh, David, did you want to say something real quick? Okay. Um, well, thank you. Thank you to our three panelists for such a wonderful, uh, webinar and a lot of insightful information. Thank you, Farrell. Thank you, Amber.
Thank you, David. Um, that is the end of the webinar tonight. Um, we had a really wonderful time talking to you more about the college admissions process at large. I know there is a lot of questions that we didn’t get to. So I reopened the poll where you can, um, note your availability and get connected with our team of 300 plus former admissions officers and admissions experts.
So I’m giving a little more time to finish that out. Um, thank you all again for attending and thank you to our presenters. Um, it was really wonderful to chat with you today,[01:02:00]
and I’m going to close this out the pullout now. Thank you all so much and have a great rest.