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 two former Admissions Officers. Our CollegeAdvisor panelists will share their insider knowledge on the ins-and-outs of the college applications process. The webinar will start with a 30-minute presentation and end with a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 05/05/2022

Webinar Transcription

2022-05-05 Q&A with Former Admissions Officers

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome to today’s webinar Q Q&A with Former Admissions Officers. My name is Rachel D’Amato. I’m a Northwestern University Class of 2017 graduate and also your moderator today. So to orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’re going to dive straight into our live Q&A. So all 60 minutes of today’s allotted webinar, time is going to be dedicated Q&A.

So on the sidebar, you can download our slides, but doesn’t have much today. Um, and you can also start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab. I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q&A tab, paste them into the public chat so that you can see and then read them out loud before our panelists, give you an answer as a heads up.

If your Q&A tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the way. Through the custom link in your email. So first before we move on the questions, let’s quickly meet our [00:01:00] panelists, Shannon and Lauren, do you mind both kind of giving a quick introduction on.

Uh, sure. I can go first. Hi everyone. My name is Shannon Kennedy. Uh, I am actually located in Evanston, Illinois, the home of Northwestern university, where Rachel attended and where I worked in admissions, um, where I also earned my master’s degree. Um, my undergrad is from Penn state and Pennsylvania where I grew up.

Um, and I’ve worked at a couple of other universities in the Chicago area, as well as an independent high school. And I’ve been working with students for quite a while and really enjoy answering questions. So I’m excited that our whole 60 minutes is for questions tonight and really happy to be here with my amazing colleague Lauren.

So I’ll turn it over. Well, thank you. I too am very much looking forward to this evening. Um, I am, uh, in the DC area and, uh, former admissions officer Williams college where I was for about 10 [00:02:00] years. Uh, I was the director of college counseling at a DC area, private high school. Um, I have worked in a few different college consulting companies before joining CollegeAdvisor.

Many years ago. I am also a mother of a college freshmen and a high school junior. So for those parents out there, I sympathize with what you’re going through and definitely Shannon and I are here to support and answer any and all questions you have. Um, just to note following up on what Rachel said often when I do webinars people, um, private chat questions to me directly in the webinar, um, it’s probably much easier and better for everyone cause I’m sure you’re not the only one with that particular question, um, to post it as, as Rachel was suggesting so that everyone can benefit from that.

Yes. Thank you so much for that reminder, Lauren, and also, um, a quick reminder to folks, you do have the option to like your own question. I ask that you please do not do [00:03:00] that. Cause I’m trying to go in, submit it order. And when you like your question, it winds up, messing up with the order and then I wind up missing it.

Um, so yeah, we’re already starting to get in some questions. So let’s dive in Shannon. I’m going to start with you. Okay. How do I choose a topic for my personal. Oh, that is a tough question. And there’s not a right answer. And like most of the answers that we’re going to give you there, they can be complicated and with multiple possibilities or options, um, I can give you some basic tips.

You know, we’re really looking for students to write something that’s personal and meaningful to them. Um, that sounds like your voice, something that nobody else would be able to write. Um, so it doesn’t mean like you have had to have this really unique experience, but that you write about it in your own kind of unique voice in way.

Or maybe you have some interesting reflections on it or inner kind of [00:04:00] discussion of the topic, the event, the challenge. So it can be really hard, um, to narrow down that topic, to come up with the right thing for you. Um, but everyone gets there, um, eventually, um, and, uh, Just want to encourage everyone, not to stress over it too much, because it feels really stressful because it’s the biggest thing you can be working on at that point in time, given, you know, all your extracurriculars are in the book, your grades and scores are done.

So you’re very focused on that thing, getting wrapped up into it. Um, but you’ll get there. And as long as you just kind of write from your heart, it will be the right topic for you.

Wonderful. Thanks so much, Shannon. So then next question that we got and Lauren, I’ll pass this to you. Um, What are, if there are the most important AP classes to take in high school, that’s a great [00:05:00] question. And just to, to frame the context for that question, as your application is getting evaluated. One of the first things that the admission officers are looking at is the, the curriculum you’ve taken the classes you’ve taken within the context of what classes are available for you to take, keep in mind that your course, uh, your, your journey of courses throughout high school helps to tell a story of who you are intellectually and academically.

So the, as, as Shannon said, there’s going to be a lot of answers we give tonight where we say, there’s no one right answer. This is true for this as well, but generally speaking, the right AP courses are going to be very individually determined based on your areas of academic passion and academic strengths.

So there, I will assure you that there’s no need to accelerate and take AP or honors courses in every single subject that’s available to [00:06:00] you. Instead, this is a process of self identification. If you’re really a stem person, then it makes more sense for you to accelerate in those science and math based there.

If you’re into humanities, then you’re going to be looking more at, you know, AP lit AP gov, those kinds of classes. So, uh, that really is going to be the determinant. Um, the inevitable next question, which I’ll answer now is, is it better to take an AP class and not do well or not take the AP class and do well?

Um, again, that that’s a hard question to answer, and again, comes down to the individual, uh, capabilities and, um, self-awareness of the student, the ideal of courses that students are challenging them. Appropriately with respect to what their strengths are and balancing their stress level and their mental health.

And of course we want you to do well in those courses. One of the best ways to determine [00:07:00] whether you are a good candidate for APS is to talk to some of your teachers in the subjects that you might be accelerating in, and even to go online and just do some sample AP tests questions, just to get a sense of what the curriculum might be like.

Um, but we never want a student to put themselves in a position of taking an AP class and not doing well, because that will have an impact on your application. Outlook. Appreciate that immensely. Lauren. Thank you. Um, so another question that we got and Shannon, I’m going to pass this to you. Um, I’m going to reword this question just a little bit.

I believe they’re asking, you know, Do folks have a better chance with so many schools being test optional, two folks have a better chance getting in if they do submit scores versus if they do not submit. Okay. Um, this is another question probably has kind of a complicated answer and will depend based on the [00:08:00] institution that you’re applying to and maybe what their history is or track record is, uh, with being test optional.

Um, those places that are newer to test optional became test optional just during the pandemic, um, may have a significantly different answer than those places that have been test-optional historically over time and are used to reviewing applications in that way. Um, so it’s really going to be an institution by institution answer and require some digging into and research either on that institution’s website or by asking questions of the admissions officers.

Uh, this particular information can sometimes be hard to find and uncover, uh, we aren’t seeing, you know, everybody being. You know, Super forthcoming with their different statistics on how test optional students versus, um, test scores, [00:09:00] submitters are fairing in the process. Um, for that reason, we’re certainly recommending all of our students who feel comfortable testing to give it a try and to see what kind of score they can post.

Um, and maybe take a couple stabs at it just to put the effort in, because if you can get a good score and it’s not going to be, you know, incredibly stressful or time consuming for you, um, it can only help and be beneficial to add a great score to your application. If you’re applying to a test optional institution, just another credential, um, to substantiate, you know what, uh, Great candidate.

You are. So, uh, we’re encouraging students to try see how it goes before they make that decision. Um, and to really dig in individually, to try to understand if it’s right to submit a score to one institution versus another. And just to follow up on, on Shannon’s great response. There, there are two other factors to [00:10:00] consider.

One is that while some schools are test optional, um, There’s there’s a nuance, as Shannon saying in that language, um, test-optional might mean test blind where they’re not looking at any scores at all, in which case it’s of no benefit to submit scores versus the colleges that are test optional and we’ll evaluate your test scores if submitted.

And then the followup to that kind of rule of thumb is that if you’re applying to a school and your test scores, it’s test optional and your test scores are kind of slightly below target. It’s not going to be in your best interest to submit them, but if you have a very strong test scores for that data pool, um, then it’s probably for submitting to a test optional college and just the fine print.

Also one last thing is some colleges are test optional, but might still be looking at testing for scholarships and merit aid. So again, you’re going to want to determine that and there’s no, every college does things differently. Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to gather all of that [00:11:00] information.

Great. Thank you, Lauren and Shannon. So it kind of following up on, you know, uh, what schools are assessing, um, this next question, and I’m going to direct this to you, Lauren, what are some things that really stand out to admissions officers? That’s a great question. And again, kind of the. To kind of reflect on the context of that question and why I’m answering it this way.

Um, admission officers in busy season are reading between 30 and 40 applications a day. Your application is getting read in about 10 minutes. So a lot of data, a lot of information is getting digested very quickly. And when you’re in an admission office at a school with a high caliber of student applicants, students can tend to look very similar after a while in terms of their, their, um, you know, success stories, their academics, their testing.

Um, [00:12:00] so I think the. The best way to approach it. The best things to think about are what are, what aspects of your application are going to be a really genuine reflection of who you are. And Shannon talked about this when she was answering the question about essays. The best thing you can do is be genuinely truthfully yourself, your warmth, your humor, your quirks, your personality, maybe you’re struggling.

Maybe something about your family situation, anything that will help differentiate you, um, will help make you three dimensional in a sea of very similar similarly accomplished candidates is what you want to strive for. So there’s no one recipe. It’s not that every, it’s not that you need community service.

It’s not that you need to be a leader. It’s not that you need to have one, the science Olympiad, uh, it’s. It’s how you do the things you do, that the spirit and the energy and, and the intellectual [00:13:00] vitality, curiosity, uh, and warmth you bring to those aspects of your life. And that really is going to come through in your application.

Uh, I will say that, that I think is one of the primary reasons that families sign up to work with us is helping students kind of find that story and communicate that story through their application so that they really resonate with the reader. Uh, eventually in the admission of. And, you know, continuing with that, talking about kind of our, you know, our story and, um, you know, building kind of a, a really beautiful through line for your application.

Um, Shannon, you know, Regards to the personal statement versus application essays and school specific essays, which are more important, which are more heavily weight. Great question. Um, if I had to choose, I would say the individual essays for the college, um, and kind of building off the answer that I [00:14:00] gave before about the personal statement, I feel like everyone gets really stuck on this, put so much time and energy into just the right personal statement.

They don’t always leave themselves enough time for those extra questions, which are specific to the universities, um, which are the ones, you know, that they are asking personally, that they really want to know the answer to versus your personal statement. That’s going to every institution that you’re applying to.

Um, so, uh, I feel like, um, I’m leaning a little bit more towards the individual school essay is. Both, you know, very important and help to kind of paint that whole picture and full story of you. Just make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to those, um, college specific essays, um, which, uh, kind of go like towards the question Lauren was answering as well about what are they looking for.

They’re looking for that fit also, and that you’ve kind of [00:15:00] put your research in and they can really imagine you at that institution. So putting the time into those college essays helps to really demonstrate that aspect that they’re looking for as to fantastic. Thanks, Shannon. Um, a really, uh, you know, wonderful question that we got next is, you know, if a student kind of their academics, um, might’ve slacked due to a bout of depression or burnout, um, how can that person still kind of present themselves in the best light and make themselves as strong a candidate as.

I love that question. And I want to say, um, to whomever asks that you are absolutely not alone in, in worrying about that and in struggling. Um, this has been an incredibly unprecedented, stressful time for students over the last few years. Um, so I think one thing just to say out of the gate is that I think colleges are very [00:16:00] understanding.

First of all, I think about, you know, some dips and academics, um, perhaps not the robust extracurricular resume that they might’ve seen in the past. So I think. I think one of the most important things when a student has struggled, whether it’s depression, other mental health issues, family circumstances, some kind of, of tragedy or hardship is too.

Um, Own the narrative of that story. Um, I think there are a number of ways for students to communicate to the readers of the application. Different nuances of their experience. One is to do it overtly in the personal statement. Um, and that’s something that we really work with students a lot on, because it is a, a very, um, important balance between being Revolut, Tory and honest and forthcoming, and also showing growth and strength [00:17:00] and resilience.

Uh, you also, I think, um, having an opportunity there, there’s always a space on the common application. Like, you know, is there any extra information we might need to know? Um, sometimes if a student has had a circumstance where it’s not really worthy of a whole essay, but you might want to get our help crafting a few very pointed self-aware alarms.

Um, about why your grades might’ve dipped and how you’ve kind of taken responsibility for that. That’s a great place to do that. Um, and, and I think another way is to think of teachers and the teachers who might ultimately write your letters of recommendation and your school counselor as allies and advocates, and really communicate with them, be sure they know your story and be sure they can help frame what you might’ve gone through in the classroom, how you dealt with it, how you showed up and persevered in a positive way, uh, to the colleges who will be evaluating your [00:18:00] application.

Thank you, Lauren. And I know, you know, I saw a few other questions, um, you know, within the spread of folks kind of asking about, you know, if they had COVID, you know, their grades dipped as a result. I know it has been, like you said, a very. Chaotic and rough a few years. And, um, it’s great to hear and I’m sure it gives us some folks, a little breath of relief that, you know, colleges are at least being mindful of that.

Um, so next question, and this is for you, Shannon. Um, this person asked is theming, and I guess by theming, they mean kind of their personal thread, their personal brand, um, more important than the impact of specific extracurriculars. Hm. That’s a great question. Uh, before I answer it, I want to follow up on, uh, the second part of what you mentioned there at the end, Rachel, which was the COVID, um, impact.

Cause [00:19:00] that can be treated kind of separately. Um, in the common app, there’s an extra space. Um, besides the additional information that Lauren was mentioning as a place to discuss any type of hardship there’s been in the last few years of specific place to discuss COVID impacts also. So there are multiple places within the application, uh, to get to that kind of thing where you can really, you know, focus on how you’re turning it around and the positivity, the growth that’s coming out of it.

So just wanted to point out there was another spot there too, to, um, address those separately if need be also, um, Thinking about theming versus, um, individual accomplishments, uh, in the whole sort of scheme of the application. Um, I guess there’s different profiles. Cons to everything. And it would probably come down like [00:20:00] pretty individually to what your accomplishments are and how you want to feature them, which spaces in the application you want to use for those different qualities.

Um, I think you just want to kind of start from a big picture of like, what are my most important qualities that I want to get across and which aspects of the application am I going to use to communicate those different qualities? So maybe the essay will tell, you know, one side of you, one aspect of your personality, but then we’ll see something new and different in the, um, activity list.

And that can be just as impactful as having like a big cohesive kind of echo all the way throughout. So it can come together in different ways for different students, depending on, you know, the whole. Realm of, you know, your resume and what you’re going to be putting together and what your qualities are.

So again, no right answer. [00:21:00] Um, we will, you know, work with students to determine kind of how to put that all together in the best light individually. And just, just to follow up on Shannon’s response here, I agree a hundred percent. I think this is a great opportunity to point out one aspect of the application process that I will say in my experience, students and families really struggle with, which is that.

The outcome of the decision is largely out of your hands. Um, you have created a great resume. You’ve done the hard work you’re submitting your application and you don’t know what’s going on in the admission office in terms of the mandates, um, in terms of the individual reader and their reaction to your application.

And the reason I’m bringing that up here is that what you may not realize at a particular school, if you are a. Concert level or cellist, um, is that they are [00:22:00] just have a new, you know, music building, built music, building constructed, and they’re building out their orchestra and they’re looking for cellists.

Um, so you don’t necessarily know the impact that your activities or specific areas of strength are going to have on the outcome of your application, which is why. And I think Shannon’s answer is perfect. I mean, it, it all ties together. Um, but you know, you want everything you want that theme. You want that story to be as strong as possible as well.

Fantastic. And kind of going even more further into, you know, talking about standardized testing, uh, another great question we got and I’m going to direct this to both of you. Um, do you know, do you all have any insights into, um, possibly how, you know, test-optional schools and, um, all that will affect the college admissions process in the next couple?

Well, I’ll, I’ll take the first pass and [00:23:00] Shannon will have way more wisdom than I will about this. But, um, We have seen, I think there there’s three in my, in my mind. And from what I’m reading, I think there are three main components that have contributed to an exponentially competitive and fraught application cycle.

Over the last couple of years, I think colleges having gone test optional has really opened up the playing field and has probably invited. You know, a factor of who knows how many more applications to each individual school than ever before. What we are also seeing is the compounded effect of two things.

One is that when the pandemic was at its height, a number of students deferred their admissions because they wanted a, you know, normal or normal ish college experience, which then has impacted every subset, subsequent class, because [00:24:00] so many students chose to defer that it impacted the number of entering students.

Each college could admit the next year. And even the year after that, you also factor in the fact that study abroad has been impacted, meaning that colleges are. Uh, only able to admit fewer students than ever before, because they don’t have room for everybody. They don’t have enough classes, they don’t have enough classrooms, they don’t have enough housing.

Um, so that has really narrowed the field and made the process much more competitive. Uh, I think the biggest. Issue. And I think the most important issue for students and families to take away from this is that it is really important to have a realistic college list, to be flexible, to be open-minded, to have a list that is largely based on likely and match schools with a few reach or dream schools sprinkled in there versus a very top heavy [00:25:00] list, the way things are right now, Shannon, I’m sure you have more insights than, than I do, but yeah, no.

As you were speaking, there was only a couple other things I could think to add onto just that compounding. Pressure on colleges to also maintain space between people and to have extra space reserved for quarantine housing that we know is happening. Um, so yeah, there just are so many things that are limiting the space on campus, uh, physically, and we’re seeing some colleges offer, um, spring admission to students or even a year delayed admission.

Um, so some of those, uh, surprise offers the things you didn’t apply for, but that you get offered in the process are maybe coming up more than ever as well. Um, So, yeah, I think also just the decisions themselves are, um, somewhat surprising or more unpredictable than they have been [00:26:00] in other years without being able to, um, have that score as a major indicator of admission, um, likelihood.

So it’s, it’s a little bit more difficult to, um, balance out that list and kind of have a really strong sense of what’s likely, and what’s unlikely. Thank you both. Um, I know, you know, a lot of folks are, um, feeling the anxiety of those. Um, the, how, you know, numbers are getting even more and more selective.

And I think I saw this year that Harvard’s admissions weight was in the 3% range, which is just, um, out of this world. Um, so I know there’s a lot of, um, a lot of folks who were curious to kind of hear, hear your thoughts. So thank you for that. Um, so kind of going back to college essays, um, a great question we got was, you know, are there any themes that you should avoid?[00:27:00]

Fan and I’ll pass it to you. Okay. Um, yeah, there’s uh, an admissions officer here in the area who does a great presentation on, um, admissions essays. And I always laugh when I get that question because she always talks about how you should avoid, uh, any romance, anything having to do with romantic things and difficulties in your love life, or, um, such things.

That’s one that’s maybe kind of obvious and yet she felt, feels the need to say it, um, in all of her presentations, because I think some people still go down that road occasionally. Um, but uh, this one is always a little bit difficult to answer, right? Because again, there’s no wrong thing. Um, a lot of people will say like, don’t write about that.

Sports championship game, where you were losing, and then you came from behind and won, [00:28:00] and I’m hesitant to really say like, never write about that because maybe you have something really personal and individual to say about that thing that would make it a little bit different than the way that somebody else would write that.

So it’s not always about, you know, the specific topic, but about like how you write it and the thought behind it, the lessons that you’ve taken from it, um, kind of the second part of the question is usually, you know, the part that we’re really after the, so what the, why the, what did you learn? What are your takeaways?

Um, and really no topic is necessarily off limits if you are getting, um, to that kind of deeper thought or that personal introspection, um, alongside. I don’t know. Lauren, do you have any that you consider offload I’m going to flat out disagree with you because I think no one should write about clowns.

I’m just, don’t think there’s a place for clowns and college admission essays. I have a thing with clowns. No, but in all seriousness, [00:29:00] I think, um, I did have a student once, uh, write an application essay about an illegal activity. Um, and the essay showed no. Insight. It was, it was a peripheral mention of something illegal.

Um, but there was no kind of self-awareness and that was a big red flag. Um, and I, I think just kind of hearkening back to what I was saying before that you don’t necessarily know the state of mind of the reader of your application nor do you know their politics or their story. So I think in this very polarized world we live in, um, I would just urge everyone to have a little bit of sensitivity in terms of the, um, topics you’re choosing, if they might be, um, inflammatory.

And I, I hate to even say that because I love strongly opinion people. Um, but you just don’t want to risk alienating the reader of your application. It’s true. Your [00:30:00] unmute, right? You know, after two years, you think it’d be better as a quick follow-up to that about not writing about romance and dating someone asks, what if love is somebody form of rebellion?

Should they still not write about them? I love that. That’s a great question. And I think, I think it goes to what Shannon’s saying about the sports essay. I think it depends what your takeaway is. Um, I think what, when, when we kind of talk about students not writing about romance, I think it’s, it’s more the, um, simplistic version, which, you know, is, is beautiful and, and often bittersweet.

Um, but I think if there’s a real message about a student’s identity, um, often students are talking about, you know, gender or sexual orientation or realization. Those are real things and very worthy of sharing in a, in a way that’s comfortable, um, and [00:31:00] safe for the student. So I think it depends on what story you’re trying to tell and that then I think Shannon’s point of, you know, what’s, what’s your takeaway?

What is it you’re trying to communicate that becomes the driving force in choosing your top. Yeah. I’d like to say, like, we’re willing when we’re working with students, I want to hear all your ideas. We want to talk them through. We want to write a couple of different drafts, so have different ideas. So we like lay it all out there and try it and try it out on, uh, you know, whoever you’re working with, your advisors, your counselors, um, and see what they think.

Um, but, uh, yeah, no, no topic is immediately off limits. Just, you know, want to think about your audience for sure. Great. Um, so I know we talked about likely and target schools earlier and kind of building a really well-crafted college list. So Shannon, how would one know what college is right for me? [00:32:00] Okay.

Yeah, that is a great question. Um, so we usually ask students to really start by thinking about all the different aspects of a college or university, um, from the location, the setting, the majors that are offered the size of the classes, the types of professors, what kinds of activities are available. And we could go on and on.

We really think through kind of like all the different aspects of what you might experience, uh, at college and university and also including, um, the financial fit, uh, which is an often overlooked piece. Um, so thinking about all of those different things, um, and what you want out of your experience and kind of finding a list of schools.

Every one of those schools fits your criteria to some extent, um, is kinda how we go about that. Um, these days we’re [00:33:00] usually looking at around 15 or so, um, as far as a college list and it can vary from individual to individual. Um, I’ve known students, who’ve applied to as few as one institution, but an average students are applying to many more, um, and keeping a lot of options open.

Um, so we would look to create a list that had varying degrees of selectivity, but any what any one of those institutions, um, should be somewhere where you could imagine yourself being happy.

Thanks so much. Shannon. So then Lauren, next question is how much does class rank factor into admissions decisions? Yeah, great question. Um, most us high schools don’t use class rank anymore, which is wonderful. Um, so, you know, sometimes counselors and letters will say top quintile, top decile, sometimes of high [00:34:00] schools do rank.

I mean, it’s, it’s one of many factors, um, that is going to be looked at, but because most high schools, you know, don’t practice that anymore. Um, it is not going to be the decisive factor. Um, but you know, if it’s, if it’s reported, then it becomes one of the data points that’s incorporated into the decision-making.

Yeah, it’s certainly decreased quite a bit. Um, over the years it used to be a lot more standard, uh, that we would see class rank, um, as one of the data points. Um, the only time I can think when it would be pretty substantial is in Texas, especially, um, where that can definitely have a big impact on that automatic admission, um, to state institutions or certain, you know, majors there.

Um, so sometimes it’s a little bit different regionally. We are kind of wide view across all the students that we work with across the country. And [00:35:00] internationally is that fewer and fewer, um, high schools are providing that information. So, um, it’s a little less, um, part of the admissions decision, um, as it used to be, uh, previously, you know, could go into a colleges, us news, ranking, um, kind of information and would be a big reason why they were very sensitive to, um, keeping students within a certain range because then it would negatively impact their ranking if they dipped below, um, their standard.

Um, but I think we’ve seen that ease up a little bit recently. That’s great to hear puts a, a little less pressure on that specific aspect of an applicants, uh, portfolio. Um, so then, uh, next question, Lauren, I’ll direct this to you. Um, for top colleges, um, is scheduling an admissions interview a requirement.

And if [00:36:00] so, how early should that be? That’s a great question. And, um, just in keeping with this evening’s nebulous answers, it depends college to college. Um, what you’re going to find is there are three different categories of inter or four different categories of interviews. Either colleges don’t offer them at all, or they have optional interview.

Or in other words, sorry, let me, let me start that again. They either don’t offer them or they might have what they call non evaluative interviews, which means that they offer interviews, but those are not used in admission committee decision-making um, or they have optional interviews, meaning that if you do interview that that information will be shared in committee, it will become a part of your, of your application, uh, portfolio, or they have required interviews.

And so, you know, every admission webpage at every college you’re applying to will say very clearly what their [00:37:00] admission, um, interview kind of recommendations are and how to schedule them. Um, some colleges will only offer interviews after you’ve applied some colleges you can interview at any point, kind of typically junior year, senior fall, um, leading up to the application season.

Rule of thumb for colleges that offer optional or non-evaluative interviews, is that if you think you would interview, well, you should have an interview. Um, because even if a college is non-evaluative, you’ve made contact with someone and that can be a subtle, uh, Subtle kind of unsubstantiated or unsubstantiated bowl.

I don’t know if that’s a word, uh, impact. In other words, it doesn’t really factor into committee decisions, but you’ve made contact. Um, if an interview is optional, I definitely recommend that students who feel comfortable [00:38:00] in interview settings, uh, take advantage of that opportunity. Um, we do have an interview preparation team, uh, who is excellent at preparing students, spending time, going over the typical kinds of questions you might be asked in an interview, conducting a mock interview and then giving you feedback.

Um, so that’s definitely a resource you can take advantage of if you work with us. Yeah. And if nothing else, that’s just great practice for all of the interviews you’ll potentially do in your future career. And also an opportunity just to learn more about the institution, usually from an alum. So you can see it as a learning experience, as well as the potential benefits that you get for your application process.

Um, so there’s no reason not to do it unless you feel really uncomfortable, um, in that situation. And that’s where, you know, you can work with a coach, uh, ahead of time, um, to help [00:39:00] prepare you for it. And even, um, even as COVID is hopefully beginning to wane, um, their tongue it’s, most of the interviews are still virtual, so you should not be, um, concerned about having an interview, uh, or being able to get an interview.

I should say. Yeah. Wonderful. Thank you both. I still remember my alumni interview, um, with the Northwestern person back in my home city of New York. Um, and it was a, it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know a little more about a, you know, alums experience as well as share a little more about my interest in the school.

And so definitely echo what Lauren and Shannon say. Um, wonderful. So Shannon, next question we got is I’m a freshman in high school. What can I do to help bill build my college application and portfolio to get noticed? Okay. When you’re a freshman in high school, um, I always like to say [00:40:00] that the number one job that you have is just to do well in school, in class, um, to really learn how to be a successful high school student.

There’s a lot of transition there and it can be difficult, you know, changing to a more independent, uh, It was way of learning. Um, so sometimes there’s just a big, you know, challenge there to get acclimated to high school, um, academics. So definitely, um, for all of the colleges, um, that we’re working with students, um, academics, uh, is really the baseline, right?

You have to have that academic foundation to your application to open those doors. So putting your grades in front of everything is certainly the most important thing. Um, and then looking to, um, experiment a little with different clubs, organizations, activities, seeing what’s out there, kind of figuring out [00:41:00] what excites you and what maybe you could imagine yourself taking a leadership role in, or really accomplishing something in, um, just trying to figure out, you know, what are those things where you feel like you could really, um, Have a passion and Excel.

Um, so it’s really about getting your academic foundation and footing in high school in the beginning, and then starting to experiment and dabble with what opportunities you’ll have there. Great. Thanks so much, Shannon. So Lauren, a question. Other question we got is, um, how does CollegeAdvisor helps? Oh, that’s a great question.

That’s that’s lovely. Um, I, so one of the things I love about working with CollegeAdvisor is that we, um, I think we Excel at meeting the student where they are. Um, we work with students of all different academic abilities, all different aspirations, [00:42:00] reflecting different interests, socioeconomic backgrounds, um, w you know, dreams and goals.

So I think. Having that individualized partnership with an advisor who is going to help orient you, first of all, to the application process, um, to help kind of structure your journey through the process, um, in terms of setting timelines and expectations, working with you on essay drafts, helping you create your college list, uh, helping you determine if you’re that freshmen in high school, what classes may be to select, uh, over the next few years, or if there’s a summer activity, how to, how to take advantage of finding summer activities, which we, uh, help a lot of students with.

Um, so I like to think that we are your, your individualized. Kind of guide and partner through this process. Our goal is to make sure that every student feels excited and successful at [00:43:00] the end of it. Uh, there is no way we can take away all of the stress. Um, but I think it helps a lot for students to know that there’s someone there who knows what they’re doing.

And two knows you and knows how to help you be the best version of yourself and how that’s going to show up in the application, how that’s best going to be communicated through your essays, through your writing, through the ultimate submission of your application, to have the biggest impact and the best outcomes.

Thank you so much, Lauren. And that’s actually a really great, um, segue into a quick pause in this Q&A, um, where I wanted to quickly talk about CollegeAdvisor. And so, you know, um, as Lauren mentioned, we, you know, we really are here, um, to help kind of students in their families navigate the college admissions process.

We have a team of over 300 former admissions officers like Lauren and Shannon, as well as other admissions experts who are really ready to help [00:44:00] with all things from, um, you know, figuring out what topic to write your essay on to building your college lists, um, navigating, uh, financial aid and scholarships with our financial aid team, um, and more.

And so, you know, our, our results speak for themselves as well. In last year’s admission cycle, um, our students were accepted into Harvard. Three times the national rate and accepted into Stanford at four times the national rate. So you can sign up for a free consultation with us, um, by registering for our free web [email protected].

Um, and. Websites students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application deadlines, research schools, and a whole lot more. So be sure to check it out. I’m also going to add a sticky note to the chat, um, with that link as well. Um, and it’s clickable, so you can click through and check it out as soon as you’re done here with this webinar.

Right? Sorry. Can I just have two more little [00:45:00] things that I, that I thought of one for the parents out there? Um, I think there’s a lot of benefit obvious. I mean, the obvious benefit is for your student, but I think there is a profound benefit for families, um, in signing up to work with. Because, um, this becomes a family process and it tends to accentuate, um, perhaps some of the, you know, some of the stress and dynamics within a family around how to manage the process, what the student’s goals are.

Um, and. Rather than let the whole family unit be consumed by the application process. It’s kind of a relief, I think, to focus on the beautiful and positive and exciting aspects of these four high school years with your children and the application process in the best sense, meaning that you can focus on helping them become capable adults, you can focus on, on helping them grow and [00:46:00] mature and take some ownership of the process through their work with us.

Um, so I think that’s, that’s something that B that becomes very important as well. And then just, just the last thing, which is not necessarily about working with us, but just a word to all the students and families out there. There is so much information. Out there about the college admission process. And there is so much misinformation out there.

It can easily turn to information overload where everyone’s cousin has a, uh, you know, an opinion about why so-and-so got into Harvard and why so-and-so didn’t. Um, so I think it can be very helpful to just kind of step away from that and trust that the experts at CollegeAdvisor know what they’re doing, know how to help you and know the information necessary to help you succeed.

Thank you, Lauren, for that additional insight. Um, I really appreciated what you said, especially I wrote [00:47:00] down profound benefit for families. Cause I agree. I think, um, you know, the work that we do and I hear it in the interviews that I have with our current clients that helps it helps with parents and the whole family unit.

Pray the little more easily and what is a very stressful time. Um, so next question that we got a really interesting one and one that I don’t know the answer to. So I’m excited to hear, I think, perhaps both of your answers, um, we’ll start with you. Shannon. How are applicants sorted through? Are they sorted by region GPA?

What does that process look like? Where, you know, colleges are looking at applicants in a holistic way. Um, this person is really interested to learn a little more about the, the behind the. Okay. Yeah. Great question. Yeah. So behind the scenes, especially at the most selective institutions, it is often regional, um, where admissions officers are assigned to a specific territory, which they travel to.

So chances are, if you [00:48:00] meet an admissions officer at your school or at a fair at your school, that they’re the very person who will probably read your application, they get familiar with that, um, particular geographic region, the high schools there, they, they travel to them. Um, and. Um, then, then end up reviewing those applications when they come through.

So they know those regional nuances. Um, so that goes for a lot of schools. Uh, every school is not that way. Um, there are certainly are, you know, a lot of larger institutions that are a little more formulaic in their process and maybe a little more data driven. Um, so it can vary quite a bit, but at the highly selective institutions, um, it’s going to be.

Uh, often very, um, regional base where particular people are reading applications from a certain region. Um, I would say like one other kind of spin [00:49:00] could be for like a particular program. Sometimes those will get a second read or a different read by, um, uh, an expert in that type of program, whether that’s like theater audition or music based.

Um, those competitive BSMD programs, that’s probably going through, you know, the med school as well. So there are like various nuances, um, within that, that might follow along that geographic, uh, first kind of overview. And when you’re doing virtual or in person, um, info sessions at the colleges you’re interested in typically they’ll describe what the reading process is.

Like. I know what Williams, um, we were, uh, pretty determined to eliminate original bias. So we read, we got randomly assigned chunks of the alphabet last names. Um, and most applicants were read two or three times. Um, so again, just in keeping [00:50:00] with the theme tonight, there’s no one answer that fits every, every school or every person.

Um, but generally speaking, um, you know, Shannon’s absolutely right. That typically most colleges are done by region. Thank you both. Um, and Lauren real quick, quick, before I read the next question, we got a hello from a fellow Smithy class of 1990, so, well, hello person in the room. Um, wonderful. So, um, a great question that I, I found is, you know, how can we show interest to admissions officers?

Should we get in touch with them now? And I guess, um, you know, part of that question might be, I’m not sure what year this person is in. Um, but you know, maybe one is too early to get in touch with an admissions officer. Yeah. I mean, I think. W what I want to say, which is gonna probably not [00:51:00] come out right.

Is that expressing interest is great until it’s too much. Um, and so I think, you know, Shannon’s right, that for the schools, like I know at Williams, I had territories, we all had territories. We traveled to, even if we weren’t reading your application, making that personal connection, um, is, is very important.

You know, after maybe someone’s come and done an info session in your high school, get their business card, follow up with an email, tell them, you know, be specific. I enjoyed this because I learned about X, Y, and Z, which made me much more interested in the school then, you know, then I thought I would be, or then, you know, it taught me more about the school.

Um, You know, I, I think if you’ve had an interview follow up with a thank you email, if, if there is a regional rep who’s coming to the area, a lot of the interviews, uh, they may be alumni interviews. They may be, uh, traveling admission officers, regional representatives. [00:52:00] Um, that’s another great way to make contact.

What you want to avoid is the, um, kind of lack of substance efforts at swaying outcomes. Um, I think when you have something to share something to say, um, when you’re trying to really reflect your, your growing genuine interest in the college, it’s very appropriate, um, to make that connection, you just don’t want to be that person who’s emailing constantly.


I don’t think I could add anything more to that. I think you’re absolutely right. You do want to make some contact express some interest, but not be overbearing or cross that line of too much. So, um, Yeah, I think there’s a, there’s a fine line there and you want to have substantial real questions or comments or things to add, um, [00:53:00] versus just communicating for communicating sake.

Now, just one, one kind of tangent on that. And again, something that, um, you kind of get the gist of in info sessions. Um, some schools do track what they call demonstrated and trust. Um, meaning has the student left a footprint? Have you made it, have you gone online and, you know, putting your name, put your name and have you visited the campus either virtually or otherwise?

Have you made contact with your, with your regional rep? Um, so those are important, you know, so in that way, it’s kind of nice to have that baseline just at every school, as a safety measure, because it’s not always totally transparent. Um, You know, which colleges are tracking. Typically the more selective schools are not tracking that data.

Um, and it’s more the middle band of excellent colleges in universities out there that might be more interested, um, because for obvious reasons, if it [00:54:00] comes down to making a decision between, you know, 50 students for five spots, they’re far more likely to admit a student who has shown a genuine interest in the college with the assumption that you’re more likely to yield if you’re admitted.

Great, thank you both. And my quick, uh, quick thing, my apologies if I missed this, um, was there, um, an answer to is what is too early to reach out? Okay. I think, I mean, I would say not in middle school and there’s probably really no reason to reach out at ninth grade or even kind of fall of 10th grade. I mean, maybe if you’re doing a college visit at the end of 10th grade, um, I, I don’t know.

Shannon, do you have a different thought about. No, I don’t think so. Um, yeah, I don’t think there’s necessarily a clear, definitive answer to that. Um, I think, you know, it’s always good to start a little bit early with visiting and, you know, even if you start in your local [00:55:00] area, visit an institution, even if you’re not really necessarily thinking, you’re going to say in your local area, but just to kind of start to understand the terminology and whatnot.

Um, and we saw a lot of people get shut out of visits, um, in these last few years with, you know, capacity and precautions. So, uh, I don’t think it’s, you know, too early, um, in ninth grade to, you know, just start learning a little bit, seeing what’s out there. Um, but yeah, I don’t think there’s any necessary, um, stress around, you know, making contact or starting to, um, communicate with your admissions officer that.

Great. Thank you both. Um, so this next question is a bit of a two-parter I’m combining two questions. Um, it’s for the international students in the room. Um, do either of you have any, you know, tips or tricks for international students who are navigating the U S college application process and also navigating the financial.[00:56:00]

He’d aspect of, um, going to college in the United States. Yeah. I mean the financial aid question, I think trumps the other issues for a lot of the funding or for a lot of the international students we work with in the sense that, um, it it’s imperative to gather information about the schools that might be on your list, um, to determine how they.

Fund and evaluate international students. Um, some colleges are going to have a lot more resources available, um, and are going to be able to afford to, to support a much larger international population than other schools. Um, some international students have different kinds of visas, which may positively or negatively impact both your chances and your chances of receiving aid.

Um, so again, it’s pretty institutions specific. Um, and I would just say you want to do your due [00:57:00] diligence and really gather as much information as possible. Every admission webpage has a section on it for international students. Um, I would just start scrolling through gathering data gathering information so you can determine what your best choice is.

Yeah, I would follow that up to say, unfortunately, the list is pretty small of institutions that are able to significantly fund international students who have a high need. Um, so definitely really important to understand those nuances and to put the research in, to figure out what would be affordable.

Um, what could be a match where you could get funding. Um, it’s, uh, you can’t wait until the end of your process to see what you’re offered. You definitely have to put a lot of that work in upfront to understand, um, how. Play out all the way through, for those of you, uh, [00:58:00] international students on this meeting right now who are high need.

We do have a scholars program at CollegeAdvisor. Um, please look at our website, look at the information there. You can apply to be a, a CollegeAdvisor scholar where we work with you, free of charge. Um, and, um, you know, that’s the kind of thing we will help with also is, is figuring out all of the details of those right schools in the financial aid, uh, uh, land.

Thank you for bringing that up, Lauren. Yes, our scholars program. Um, one that’s really, uh, near and dear to the CollegeAdvisor dot coms. Team’s heart. We accept around a hundred, uh, students. Um, and I believe the application will be opening, um, at the beginning of June. So right now, if you go to the website, you can read a little more about the program, but you can not yet apply.

So just keep, um, keep an eye open on our website for when it does officially open. [00:59:00] Um, so with our remaining time, I’m gonna pick a pick a one last question. Um, And I guess kind of going back to, um, what we were talking about, about reaching out and showing, demonstrating interest to schools. Um, Shannon, I’ll ask you this, a student asks, um, you know, sometimes they struggle with what types of questions to ask or what to, you know, what to mention to both faculty and maybe to admissions officers as well.

So do you have any good recommendations of questions or things to bring up, just start showing interest in a particular. Yeah, I think to ask a good question, it takes a bit of research. Um, you really want to read about that institution, see what excites you about it. Um, that would bring you, you know, to a question about a very specific program, um, or major or interest area that you can ask.

Um, so, uh, any kind of like stock [01:00:00] question may sound kind of, you know, basic or canned, uh, I think you really need to read into it a little bit, um, to look at what specific things interest you about that institution and then ask for more information or connections or resources, uh, directly related to the thing that you’re interested in.

So I think if you put the research in the questions will come, you’ll want to know more about those things that you find. And I think also just think of it as an opportunity to gather information and share information. It’s a, to the, the question itself can be a two-way conversation where you can preface it by saying I’m very involved in political activism in, you know, some of these following areas.

I would love to learn more about what opportunities are available on campus and how, how students get involved. Um, Right. Well, thank you both so much. [01:01:00] And my sincere apologies for those who ask questions and we didn’t have enough time to get to it. Um, that is the end of our webinar tonight. Um, we had a really wonderful time.

Talk to me about all things, admissions and, um, getting to hear, uh, Lauren and Shannon’s insights into the college admissions process. So thank you both again for your time today. Um, You know, we do run a number of other webinars in the month and we’ll be starting to do this Q&A with former admissions officers on a more regular basis.

Um, so please do you know, if your, if your questions weren’t answered today, there will be more opportunities to get your questions answered. Um, for the rest of this month, next week, we have a really great financial aid and FASFA 1 0 1 webinar featuring a member of our financial aid team for those who might be interested.

Um, we also have a webinar for parents about how to navigate academics and standardized testing with your student. Um, towards the end of the month, we have a college major deep dive on humanities for those possibly [01:02:00] interested in the humanities and also another webinar featuring a former admissions officer from Vanderbilt on how do admissions officers make decisions.

So. Be sure to register for these webinars if you’re interested and you can do so [email protected]. Um, again, that is the end of our webinar. And thank you all so much for joining. Thank you, Lauren. Thank you, Shannon. Thank you. Thank you. Goodbye. Bye.