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. 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!
2022-06-16 Q&A with Former Admissions Officers
[00:00:00] Admissions officers. Uh, my name is Rachel. I will be one of your moderators tonight, along with Mckenzie Murray. Um, tonight’s webinar has a really special format in which the entire webinar is going to be Q&A session. And the best part is, is that we have three fantastic admissions officers from various schools across the country who can provide you an inside look into the admissions process and even how admissions officers make decisions.
You can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab. Um, and while we, we start getting those questions in, we’ll meet our panelists and we’ll start off with Lauren Lynch. Hi everyone. Welcome. We are all so thrilled to be with you tonight. Um, a little bit about my background and experience. I’m actually originally a psychotherapist.
I worked in the clinical field for a number of years before moving to education. I worked in admissions at Williams college for almost 10 years. When I moved to the DC [00:01:00] area, I became the director of college counseling at a private high school. I worked with another college consulting company for a number of years.
And joined CollegeAdvisor at the very beginning of the, of the journey for this company. I think I was the first full time hire. So it’s, um, been a thrilling ride. I will say that one of the things that I feel, um, hopefully I can bring to this evening as well, is that I’m also the parent of a college now sophomore and, uh, my son just had his last day of junior year in high school today.
So I’m going through it all over again with him. Uh, so happy to be with you with you here this evening. Awesome. So I’ll, I’ll jump in. So hi everyone. I’m Iowa Waller bay. Um, I am a former admissions officer, so I attended Georgetown university in Washington, DC for undergrad. And then after I graduated, I worked as an admissions officer and also did the multicultural recruitment there at the [00:02:00] university.
Um, after my tenure there. um, I moved to England to get my master’s at the university of Cambridge and England, um, and where I did alumni interviewing for Georgetown there. And then, um, moved on, uh, to do some admissions consulting from various private organizations, both domestically and internationally.
Um, and I also did college guidance for a, a, a non-profit institution that works with high achieving historically underrepresented students. And then currently I’m getting my PhD at the university of Michigan, uh, where I actually study college admissions, particularly college personal statements. So I’ve seen how the sausage is made and have a lot of, of experiences, uh, in higher education.
And also, I forgot to say I’m a proud first generation college student as well, so very, very excited to be here and to talk to you all and answer your question. So hi everyone. My name is Joanne plus. I’m a former admission officer at Hamilton college. I was also the director of diversity recruitment at Hamilton.
So I’ve worked in admissions for about nine [00:03:00] years. Currently. I serve as the associate vice president for student experience at Howard university, as well as the associate vice president of enrollment management. So in my role here in Washington, DC, um, I just overlook the entire admission process from your financial aid, your bursar questions.
Um, I’m kind of like a detective and a, I would say a Budsman for students who are looking to figure out what they need to do. Um, I do a lot of recruitment. I volunteered and offer profit locally, um, to support underserved students to get through the admissions pipeline. So I’m super excited to chat with you about getting into college.
Wonderful. Thank you all for giving. Um, quick introductions on yourself. I know everybody here is really excited to dive into the questions mm-hmm . Um, before we get to questions, though, I do wanna start us off with a very, very quick poll. Um, the question is, what grade are you entering this fall? It’s gonna pop up on your screen for the parents in the room.
You can answer on behalf [00:04:00] of, um, your student. Um, and so while we’re getting those responses in, I’m curious to hear real quick from each of you ladies. Um, how did you get into college admissions? What brought you into this field of work? Lauren. Can we start with you? Uh, sure. Yeah, I actually, um, got my first taste of it when I was living in Europe and working at central European university as the director of student affairs and realized that, um, this age group, I know for those of you out there who are going through this, it can sometimes feel overwhelming and, and stressful, but it’s also pretty magical.
Um, you are, you are, believe it or not on the cusp of adulthood. And so it’s pretty exciting to, to get involved and really get to know you and support you in this process.
Yeah. Okay. So I’ll, I’ll answer next. Um, so it’s, it’s interesting. I mean, I, there isn’t a particular kind of distinct path into the college admissions world. You can study anything. Uh, you know, a lot of people [00:05:00] I’ve heard have worked as, uh, tour guides in the admissions office and that’s helped them in their pathway for me.
Uh, once I, I was near the end of my, my, my career. At university at Georgetown. And I was just trying to kind of figure out what will be next. Um, and because I knew I wanted to stay in higher education that I knew I wanted to go on to get advanced degrees. I decided that working in admissions will be a great kind of place to start.
And it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It has changed the entire trajectory of my life. Uh, and I enjoy working with this population, as Lauren mentioned, it, it’s just a very exciting time. Um, and between the travel and getting to meet all the young people and their parents, I, I just really en enjoyed it.
So that’s why I’ve stayed in the missions in various ways. Since my, my time working, um, at Georgetown. So I would say my path was, uh, slightly different. Um, so my undergrad degree is in public relations and marketing with a concentration in communication arts. So right after college, I went directly into the public relations realm, [00:06:00] um, working at a local not-for-profit, which was my passion.
Uh, my college actually contacted me about five or six years after graduation. They were looking for people with specific strengths, um, uh, event planning was one of my strengths as well as an affinity, obviously for the college that I graduated from. So when I got into the realm, um, it was just kind of the idea of making a students dream come true.
Right? So we end up being the gatekeepers to people’s goals and where they’re gonna end up, which is a pretty magical thing. Like, um, Lord had said. So it’s just been a really exciting ride. Um, I love advising so much that I try to do it in my spare time. So here I am, and it’s just been a really great way to connect with young people to really make a difference in this world.
I know that sounds super cliche, but it is the reality. We are allowing students to figure out what their path in life is. I would say my favorite day on a college campus is graduation because we read their applications and then we get to see who they’re going to be. [00:07:00] So it’s a pretty awesome, um, it’s a pretty awesome profession to be a part of for sure.
Awesome. Thank you all. So we got in our results for what grade are you in? Um, and to help our panelists have a little better insight into our audience, 57%. Individuals in the room today are in the, are going to be in the 12th grade are rising seniors. Um, 28% are rising juniors, 10% rising, 10th graders, 3% rising ninth graders.
And we have 1% of folks as rising eighth graders. Um, so we have a really diverse group in the room. And with that, we’ll come some really diverse questions. So let’s dive in. Um, first question that I see here is
so beyond honors AP coursework and grades, what club activities, and experiences reflect [00:08:00] well on a student’s application IA, can I start with you? . Yeah. Sure. So there isn’t a specific kind of club or experience that will reflect well, I mean, universities really like to see sustained engagement in leadership.
So even if you were the, the president of the water basking weaving society at your school and had a membership of five, but you were dedicated to this activity, um, that you put on programs that you organized, if you kinda liaise between the leadership at your school, that is what universities wanna see.
They want to see passion, they wanna see consistency, they wanna see sustained engagement. Um, so it, it, the, the activity type is, is, is not as important as the sustained engagement. I mean, you’ll see, particularly at some of the schools that we. Uh, at, or, and, or attended the students. We see, you know, we see model UN, we see class presidents, we see your book editors.
We see, you know, varsity [00:09:00] basketball, varsity soccer. So, I mean, you see a lot of the same types of activities, right? Because of what people have access to, you just want to see sustained engagement in leadership whenever possible. So, um, again, there isn’t a specific activity. It’s just leadership and sustained engagement and things that you’re passionate about is what is most impressive.
Yes. And, uh, you mentioned the word passion, and that really brings up the topic of passion projects, which a lot of students are worried about, interested about. Do they need to like, do this huge project? So Joanne, can you tell us, um, is a personal project or like a passion project really necessary or will an activity in organizations like Scouts, theater, internships, um, be acceptable in its place.
Yeah. I mean, I think the answer is all of the above, right? So first of all, our students that are going through the pipeline right now are absolutely impacted by COVID. So passion projects and those personal projects are going to be of the utmost importance. Um, do we [00:10:00] love to see sustained activities?
Absolutely. That’s the name of the game. We wanna see that you have the ability to pick out what you wanna do and you will follow through. But on the flip side of that, if there is something that you’re really passionate about, that perhaps is not an official, um, school affiliated something, that’s fine with us.
I love to see those out of the box projects. If you are a tomato grower and you know, you’re really into heirloom tomatoes and you wanna tell us about that? I think that’s amazing. Um, it also takes a lot of tenacity to keep up with something that a lot of people aren’t doing. So absolutely. Yes. We love a passion project.
Do we love to see sustained commitment? Absolutely. But truthfully it really is in the be eye of the beholder and really is, uh, more pertinent to each student as a whole. So as a general rule, you should know that we’re evaluating your student as they come to us. Not based on this entire, um, application.
So. I’m looking at Lauren, looking at IA in a different [00:11:00] lens, and we wanna make sure that you’re fitting within our school community. Um, so it’s really not just what the general mass is doing. It’s what you are doing to sustain your passions, your creativity, and what you can bring to us. Definitely just, I just wanna just kind of add one more, very quick thing to this, which both have alluded to, which is, is the question that we inevitably are going to get later in the evening about community service and, and, you know, um, kind of the breadth of activities.
And I really hope your takeaway from what, um, our other AOS have said so far this evening is that you do not need to. 10 12, 15 activities on your resume. Choose the things you are truly passionate about and invest in those. I guarantee you a college does not care if you’re doing community service or not.
What they care about is do you love what you’re doing and how are you demonstrating that? And just one last piece for students out there who have family [00:12:00] obligations, financial responsibilities may not have the indulgence of finding a club or a passion outside of helping in the family restaurant or caring for an elderly elderly relative share that story that is equally valid and very well respected in this process as well.
kind of going off of that, um, with talking about COVID and how it affected activities. Another student is asking, um, how do, um, where was it? How will, um, admissions officers look at grades? Um, when considering COVID like, if there was a dipping grades and then another student is asking while we’re on the topic of grades, um, I’ve heard that grades are prerequisite for most colleges.
Most schools look at grades and continue off of that. If this is true, does that mean unless I have the grades, uh, then I won’t have a chance. So if, um, uh, if Lauren, you could speak to the COVID impact and then IA, if you could speak to, um, looking at, [00:13:00] uh, if a person does or doesn’t have the. Sh, yeah, I’ll start with it.
IA, if I step on your toes, I apologize. Cuz I think those two definitely go together here. Um, I think colleges are, are deeply understanding of the fact that students have been impacted. Um, most students did not fare well many. Let me say many students did not fare well with remote learning co you know, a lot of high schools were not well set up to, um, make it easy for students to be successful.
And I think the social life. Isolation really had an impact as well. Um, so there is going to be, I think a, a lot of grace given, having said that this is an opportunity for those of you who are rising seniors, rising juniors, to really prove your stuff academically. Uh, I don’t wanna say things are normal.
I’m not sure they ever quite will be again. Um, but there is at least a little more consistency in showing up every day at [00:14:00] school, uh, getting the rhythm of the academics, uh, a little bit more in pace. And so do all you can to, uh, to get a strong showing going forward. There is always a space on the application for students to explain, um, something that they might feel merits and explanation.
In addition to that, there has been now on the common application and optional COVID essay question. uh, typically we recommend against students writing about that. If they haven’t been really severely impacted. In other words, that’s not really a great space to write about, uh, being frustrated and losing out on the soccer championships.
Um, but again, colleges are going to want to understand they are going to appreciate, uh, that, that there has been some, some frustration and some loss for everyone, uh, due to the pandemic. And I’ll say this. Um, and I, I think my colleagues here would [00:15:00] agree grades. So your transcript, your performance and the courses that you have available to you, whether they’re honors courses, AP courses, dual enrollment, the lack thereof grades are by far the most important factor that colleges look at when reviewing your application.
So, um, you want to perform the best that you can in the courses available to you, um, to make yourself competitive. Right. Um, and I’ll also say, I mean, this is, I’ll probably say this a lot tonight. A lot of these things kind of depend, it depends on the institution. It depends on the student, right? So you are evaluated most universities or some of the, I guess I’ll reframe the, the highly selective institutions.
Um, and, and their counterparts are reviewing you in the context of your, of your school. Right? So when they review applications, they’re looking at how you fall within your, your, your cohort, the students that you were attending, you know, school with. So. [00:16:00] If there is consistency, as far as students, um, grades kind of dipping in fair and there, there they’ll, there’ll be a, a reaction to that, right?
Like, Hmm. That’s interesting that we’re noticing these patterns, right. You know, counselors will write letters or recommendation to explain some of those changes that you might see. Uh, however, if you are at a school where students, despite some of the changes, you know, grades are still very, very strong, then you are competing with your counterparts in that school.
That’s how the, you are read in context of your school. So, um, I set out to say, I mean, performing well in the classroom, again, given the resources you have within, you know, they’re not comparing your school with another school that has 39 AP courses and IB program, they’re looking at you in the context of your school.
You just want to do the best that you can and the courses that you have available to you. So great grades, and particularly as it relates to your high school transcript is one of the most important factors that admissions officers consider when we’re reviewing your applic. And just to, [00:17:00] to part of that also.
Um, and I, I think we’ll probably end up speaking about this a little bit later, but I I’m sure you all in the audience have, have heard this all around you. We certainly are seeing this in the industry, but the application process for many reasons has gotten increasingly competitive during COVID. Um, so I will say one of the things that we spend a lot of time with, uh, with the students who come to us is working on a realistic, balanced, and exciting college list.
Um, we do not want students to set themselves up for disappointment. It’s absolutely great to have dreams and to reach for certain schools. And you need to temper that with the reality. We don’t want it to be a disappointment. We want it to be a source of excitement to find schools that are a good fit for you.
And kind of going off of that, especially with like the fear of rejection or denial. Uh, can we get a bit more the AOS perspective on this question? Um, and I’m gonna kind of combine ’em [00:18:00] because a lot of students ask what makes an application stand out and Joanne, if you could start us off and then we can go into Lauren and IA, um, what do you, as an admissions officer look for in an application to a college or university, and then also, how do you choose who gets in and why do some students, even with a great application still get rejected?
It’s a bit of a long question, cause they’re like all the main points. So. What makes an application stand out to me is, is that the application tells the story of the student, right? So your high school career is ninth grade through 12th grade. And truthfully we’re getting a snapshot of 12th grade. So you’re really looking from ninth to the end of 11th on what that student has accomplished in those years.
For me, when I’m done reading an application, I should be able to verbalize with my colleagues in a few sentences, a little bit about this student. If I’m not able to do that, then your application is incomplete and we haven’t done our job. So I always tell [00:19:00] students that whatever has happened in your academic history, your extracurriculars, we should be, that should be jumping off of the page, the pages to the person reading the application.
So for me, the best applicant is a person who can convey their story. Um, in whatever capacity that is. And when I say story, you know, students always hang on those words and say, well, it’s gotta be something tragic or, you know, something really traumatic that has happened. No, it’s just, we wanna know who you are.
So what are those details that make up the person that I’m reading about is it that you are proficient at crew and you know, you’ve done this since you were seven years old and you build a boat with your father. And because of that, you wanna be an engineer. I should be able to convey that to my colleagues, um, when we’re reviewing the application, that’s the biggest thing for me is I should be able to give a summary to my colleagues, um, of what it is that encapsulates you [00:20:00] as a human being.
Um, when we talk about fit and why we admit students, you know, we are looking to admit students to our campuses that will enhance our campus community. Every campus has, I mean, I guess the young people say a vibe or a beat. Um, so really knowing how you would. Place into that community, almost every single selective school and you know, any, any thereafter have an opportunity for students to say why they wanna attend this school.
So if there is a why, blah, blah, blah essay, you should do it. Tell the school why you want to be a part of their community. Was it because you walked up and you saw that there were kids that were flying kites in the fields and you’re like, I love kites. And that really resignated with me. Awesome. Tell somebody about it, but really it’s the, the best applications for me tell a story and those who wanna be there really show us from their application that [00:21:00] they want to be.
And real quick, uh, before we go to Lauren, I just wanna remind everyone that tonight’s crowd is a larger crowd and this whole thing is a Q&A . So we will have time for questions, but I wanna remind you not to vote on your question because it disrupts the order of the Q&A and interrupts the flow of the whole thing.
So please don’t vote on your question. We will try and get to them as soon as possible. Thank you. I think, um, this, this might be a good opportunity to talk about some of the greatest myths and, um, inherently some of the greatest disappointments, uh, about the application process. Um, Y there are, as we all know in this competitive process, thousands and thousands of students who look on paper as if they should be admitted to a particular school and they are not going to be admitted.
And one of the lessons I hope to impart early with my students is that this is not a sign of failure, um, [00:22:00] that this is part of growing up and recognizing that not everything is always going to work out, even though you feel like it should. And you have every right to feel that way. Um, I think, you know, as, as join us talking about what makes an applicant resonant and, and really stand out, this is crucially important.
The other piece of it, the kind of flip side, Of it though, is that you don’t necessarily know as an applicant what’s going on in committee. You don’t know what’s going on with the individual. Who’s reading your application. You don’t know the internal mandates that are going on in an admission office in any given year.
And Joanne’s point is a really important one. Every college is looking not just at your application. They’re looking at what qualities and experiences you are going to bring to the campus and how those are going to dovetail. What the rest of the applicant pool, the qualities, experiences, backgrounds, demographics, all of these things are going to factor in not just on [00:23:00] the response you as an individual are going to get, but on the entire composition of an entering class, you don’t know if your application is getting read, you know, the 40th application of the day when your reader’s exhausted.
Is that fair? Almost certainly not. Um, but it will sometimes happen. Um, I know that when I was reading applications, if I got an applicant from someone who was a professional clown and there were a few, I had to pass those applications on because I have a visceral negative reaction, no offense to any clowns out there, but you don’t know that every reader is going to have that, that same self-awareness um, sometimes people have a gut reaction, uh, to an applicant or a story being told, um, Maybe the new science center was just finished and they’re really looking for, for stem or they’re really looking to build up the orchestra, um, and great.
If you happen to play the cello, that might be your year. So there are a lot of [00:24:00] moving pieces. And again, this is gonna come back to why that list is so important and Joanne’s really, really important, uh, point also you need to tell the school, you need to really show up for the school in the application process.
You don’t want to just, um, go through the motions. You need to be sure that you’re applying to a school you are deeply passionate about so they can see that and respond to it. And I’ll say, say this. Um, so I don’t remember kind of applications like applications never stood out to me. Students did. So I think to a certain extent, the kind of applications.
Sometimes like, look the same, they’re flying through the same portal. They’re using the same format. Their extracurriculars are fitting to the same boxes, but it was the students who really stood out to me. And I’ll say this, and I think this is what really Lauren is trying to say for those institutions that are again, you know, whether it’s the top 50, the ones that we often hear, [00:25:00] students really want, you know, the, the aspirational institutions, you know, statistically, most of the students who apply will not be accepted.
Right. Um, and then the students who do apply and are accepted are, have a set of kind of there’s factors and characteristics sometimes within their control sometimes outside of their control, that makes them a good fit for the institution based on the institutional priorities. Right. So, and I say, I can’t drive home this point enough.
Um, cuz I, I know there will be questions about essays, which. I’m looking forward to that portion of the conversation, cuz I think it’s critical actually where your grades and for some institutions test scores are so important that they use that to determine, um, how to set the stage for the class that they’re going to emit.
And the other institutional priorities fall into that. Right? So there’s demographics, there’s majors there there’s all types of institutional priorities again that are outside of your control. Right? So you really can only do what you have based on the capacity, [00:26:00] based on the classes you have, the experiences you have, you can only be the person that you are.
Right. So I just want us to remember that there are going to be factors that extend outside of your control. That, you know, we’ll come into play when universities and institutions are building a class. And I think that’s just, that is just the way that it is. And I know that’s not a, that’s probably gonna be unsatisfactory to some of us in the audience, but having a compelling story, having an important narrative, being passionate are so important and some institutions are still gonna want those students with the highest grades and highest test score.
So I just want us to know that these things are all in conversation with one another and that it’s not, you know, black and white. So just wanted to add that perspective. Definitely. And a lot of y’all mentioned essays and fashion, so we will be getting onto that in the next, um, round of questions. But just for one more question related to like, what are y’all looking for another students asking, what is the first thing that you would look at GPA [00:27:00] S a T a C T, or essay?
What is the most important thing in determining if a student is accepted? This is kind of similar to the last question, but students are asking, uh, like how are different things weighted? Like your scores versus your GPA versus activities? Like how do all these parts come together? Are they weighted differently?
Is there one thing that’s more important? So Joanne, if you could start us off. So, you know, unfortunately, or fortunately the, the biggest indicator is going to be your GPA. You know, that’s the reality of the game here. So colleges you should think of are like shoes, right? So there are billions of different types of shoemakers.
You need to find the GPA that matches what you have and what they’re looking for. Um, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it is the reality of the thing. So there are students that will be eliminated solely based off of their GPA, and we will not continue forward reading their application.
So, you know, when I’m advising students and we’re talking about fit [00:28:00] and, you know, necessity of need and your list, we’re looking at schools that you specifically fit into, yes, there will be some reach schools. There will be some safety schools, but the majority of the schools on your list, you fall into that GPA category.
If you are 0.5 below that GPA require. Somebody in this process will tell you, hopefully that you should find other schools to apply to. Like we were saying, like Lauren was saying, we want this to be an amazing fun process. It’s amazing. You get to go to college and learn and hang out and do all these fun things.
You have to find the schools that fit within your academic range. So yes, GPA is the number one thing. The next part of that story like I was talking about is the icing on the cake. So how are you engaging with your community that will build our community? So GPA first community. Second, once we get past the GPA, we know you can academically, [00:29:00] you know, fit the mold.
We will wanna see how you can enhance our. keep in mind, um, that your application is probably gonna be read in about 10 minutes. And those of us reading are very experienced at scanning quickly, really getting the kernels really pertinent, useful information, but Joanna is absolutely correct that that’s why that GPA is so important.
I think there are often, as IA said, so, so perfectly institutional priorities and sometimes GPAs might be somewhat flexible, uh, for certain demographics of students that the college is really trying to capture. Um, but generally speaking, the GPA absolutely. Is that, is that driver.
And I’ll just add that. I see questions about weighted or unweighted. I mean, colleges have that context. So they’ll they’ll know some universities actually recalculate, GPAs. Um, they might take out certain [00:30:00] courses based on their own, how they understand GPAs. So whatever, like whatever in the context of your school.
So they’ll have your high school profile, they’ll look and say like, oh, this school only reports weighted GPAs. This school only reports unweighted, GPAs. They understand that. So they’re not pitting you against another school and their own calculation system. So I, I just want again, remember, they’re reading in context, so it’s not like you’ll be at a disadvantage if your school only reports unweighted and another school does wait it because the university will have that context and they’ll read you in that context as well.
So I just wanted to make that note cause I did see some questions popping up about weighted and unweighted GPAs, but GPA is. Important. And again, the universities have their own internal system sometimes where they kind of create different, um, metrics based on GPAs and class rank. And then that’s how, you know, univer, uh, admissions officers will read kind of contextually based on that.
So, yeah. Definitely. And now for the topic everybody’s been waiting for the essays, personal statements supplements, um, just to start [00:31:00] off with the, a simple question. Um, a parent was asking in the pre panel, should I pay someone, uh, to write my child’s essays? Uh, Lauren, if you want to start us off with that, and then we’ll get into more serious questions.
Sure, absolutely. Um, I will say as a parent, um, I absolutely understand where that question is coming from. Um, and as a parent, I want to tell any other parent out there that you need to let your child own this process. And you are doing them a tremendous disservice. If you take away their creativity and their voice, um, admission officers will know without a doubt that your child did not write this essay.
Um, I think a lot of students really struggle feeling like. Perversely, they don’t have a story to tell because they haven’t experienced tragedy or hardship or a setback. Um, or they, they don’t feel like there’s anything remarkable or unique about [00:32:00] them. Um, essays are hands down. The driving reason, the primary reason that families and students come to work with us at CollegeAdvisor.
And it’s one of the things we Excel at is really taking the time to work with the student, the most important thing. And I feel like Joanne really articulated this beautifully. We want to hear a student’s genuine voice, their passion, their intuition, their warmth, their quirky humor. What defines them. We want to hear that resonate through everything they’re submitting in their application.
And it’s, it’s the theme that ties the entire application together and makes it persuasive. Um, For those of you parents and students, um, parents of students who are not very introspective, very awkward and uncomfortable writers. And for students who are anxious about the writing process, we absolutely understand that.
Um, but there is no reason at all that a student should not be [00:33:00] capable of and willing to engage in the process of, of writing this, um, being involved in the essay, writing process as a determinant of their own future and the path that they are making for themselves. Definitely. And real quick, Rachel would like to share some information.
Lauren. That was a really great, uh, segue to talk, you know, a little more, even more in depth about CollegeAdvisor.com. So for those of you in the room who aren’t working with us, um, we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers, like the ladies in the room today. Um, as well as admissions experts like Menzie here, um, who are ready to help you and your families kind of navigate the entire admissions process from start to finish in one-on-one, um, one-on-one advising session.
And that includes kind of essay review, um, Building an incredible college list, a well balanced college list, um, navigating financial aid, [00:34:00] really, you know, everything that you might need help with, you know, we are here to help. And so you can kind of take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with one of our admissions experts by scanning the QR code on the screen.
It’ll take you to, um, a survey where you’ll fill out your quick information, as well as pick a time and date to talk with one of our team members. Um, just get a little more insight into where you’re at in the college admissions process and how CollegeAdvisor might be able to help and take your application to the next level.
Um, during the meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they line up with your college list, as well as outline the tools that you might need to really Excel in the admissions. Journey in your admissions journey and our current very competitive admissions landscape.
So again, um, scan the QR code. If you’re interested in getting connected with our team for [00:35:00] a free 45 to 60 minute, um, strategy session, this QR code will be also, um, on the next slide as well. Um, so you will, don’t worry about trying to grab it before we switch slides. Um, so Mckenzie , I’ll pass it back to you for Rachel.
Can I just add one really quick thing here? From this is I I’m probably playing the parent card too much, but I will say, I think, uh, certainly the benefit of working with us is for the student in, in terms of working on all of the application pieces, I will say that there is also a huge benefit to the family, uh, in the sense that parents can trust, uh, and understand that their child is getting the guidance they need.
Um, it is very easy for an entire family to get consumed by the application process and to get in the dynamic where the parents are always, either pushing or trying to support the student, uh, through the process. And it can be a great relief to know that someone else can handle that. And you can just be a parent with your.[00:36:00]
definitely. And another great feature is the financial aid review team. So you can get that extra support on that part of the application as it tends to trip people up every now and again. Um, so definitely getting access to those extra resources as well as our wonderful advisors is a great part and they can really help you with those essays.
And since we are on the topic of essays, IA, can you tell us, um, how important is the essay part of the application? A student says that they read, just read a book that said not much time is spent reading it, um, by admissions officers. That’s a phenomenal question. And as I mentioned earlier, my introduction I’m currently getting my PhD in sociology and my research examines college admissions essay.
So, um, so I’ll say this essays mean, um, different things for different types of students. and I’ll say, you know, in the past month I’ve interviewed admissions officers at universities all over the country and they all kind of, there’s a [00:37:00] resounding kind of a sentiment that essay is not going to get you into college.
Right. And what I mean by that is if you don’t already have some of the other factors that we describe. So the, the, the grades, the alignment of a fit, uh, if a school is considering centerized testing and you submit those scores, and I know we probably touch on testing option on all those other things. If you don’t already have a certain kind of academic profile that will show you can be successful there.
I think there, the essay won’t they won’t say like, wow, that was such an amazing essay. This student has a, you know, a 2.0 GPA, but we’re gonna admit them anyway because they wanna see you succeed. Right. So the essay does not, and rarely, and I’m using that rarely does it essay kind of. Uh, it’s the factor in which a student has gotten accepted and I’m saying rarely, but it’s usually that often never happens.
Now I will say essays can give context to students. And I, and I speak particularly as someone who was first [00:38:00] generation and who did multicultural recruitment. So students who are historically underrepresented or currently underrepresented our first generation college students, um, our DACA students, students who are, again underrepresented at institutions, the essays might provide additional context where they, the, the university might say, Hmm, this student had didn’t have access to these resources.
They talk about it. They’re doing well. Right. Um, but this essay shows additional context. I know Lauren mentioned earlier when talking about extracurricular activities. If, if you are a caretaker, you might be responsible for helping siblings after school. So you can’t participate in clubs or run on the track team and et cetera, you might work a job.
Your family might have a restaurant or a hair salon or something like that. If you write about an essay that kind of talks about that additional context, they can say, this is why this student didn’t participate in 12 clubs. They were helping their, their younger siblings with their math homework, talking about in the essay that matters.
Right? So that does, um, provide important context that helps the [00:39:00] university and the admissions officers read holistically about the type of student you are, what you’re passionate about and the challenges you might face. So it matters in that context, but if you don’t already have that foundational kind of standard based on the university priorities, the essay won’t be the golden ticket.
It is important. I read them, uh, I, you know, I, I did read them now. You, are you reading like every single word line line because you’re reading thousands of applications? No, but they also couldn’t matter for scholarships. Certain, if you write about environmental justice and the school just had a new environmental justice scholarship, they might can say, oh, lower will be.
She wrote about that. So they ma they can matter for scholarships for universities. They can matter for certain types of, um, bridge programs that universities might have. So there’s there again, institutional priorities. They, they, they do matter, but again, rarely are they the golden ticket for, uh, entry into an institution, particularly the highly selective university.
So I, I hope that answered the question. Yeah. And [00:40:00] I, I just wanna kind of take that one, one step further. Hundred percent correct. Uh, an essay is not going to make up for the lack of other required data. However, for the student who submitted the question, I’m gonna say that essays are crucially important because we are going to assume that you’re applying to schools where your academics are on target, and then the essay can become the differentiator between you and 60 other students, maybe on the table in committee discussion where the, you know, the warmth and the story, and, and the perspective being told in your essay is what sets you apart from numerous other students who are presenting with very similar demographic.
Mm-hmm going onto the next question on the topic of essays and then we’ll move on. But I do wanna, um, mention that we do have other webinars that go into deep dives on essays, how to write them different types of essays and topics. So do check those out on our [00:41:00] website, but real quick, Joanne, can you tell us, well, not real quick, but, uh, Joan, can you tell us, uh, what do you find are the most essential or memorable element of an ideal essay?
An ideal essay answers the question, and I know that’s really broad. However, um, the reality is it’s really difficult to answer a question in 500 words when you know how important it is. And I implore students. Um, I saw in the chatter that, you know, students were like, should someone read my essay? Should I have someone to evaluate?
Yes, you should have, as many people read your essay as possible that you’re comfortable with. Um, The importance of your essay is showing us that you have the ability to write. So if you’re are applying to, let’s say Lin, who has a renowned writing conservatory, you have to make sure that the writing sample that you submit [00:42:00] is up to par with what, with what they’re looking for.
Right? Um, or if you’re applying to a technical school whose writing sample is specific to a technical question, make sure that you’re answering that technical question. So whatever the, we keep saying this word context, but it’s so important to speak to the context of which you are applying to, because that matters if you’re using the common app and you’re going to go off of the general questions that they have, answer the question and make sure that your writing sample is a good sample.
And when I say a good sample, don’t write like you’re texting your friend. Number one mistake, double check that essay. Like there’s a reason we want you to write out numbers and words and things like that. Obviously there’s some rhetoric that is, you know, implied and can be used, but for the majority of students, we are looking for a professional writing sample.[00:43:00]
Please make it professional and write within your ability. If you’re not able to do that, find someone to help you. If you’re applying to Oberlin, you better have a good writing sample. They’re writing college. So it really is taking a look at, um, the schools that you’re applying to. And again, it’s kind of like that fit, right?
So if you fit there, You know that you have the writing sample that is appropriate for that context. Definitely. And going on into the next topic again, we do have more webinars on essays. Um, but just so we can get as many questions answered, we’re gonna talk about some special circumstances. So, um, first up one student is asking, um, Uh, what is your school?
What if your school was unable to offer certain AP courses during COVID? Do you explain that in the extra area on, um, the common app and Lauren, if you could answer that and then we’ll go into the next question. Sure. A couple things. Um, first of [00:44:00] all, I would definitely, if you are in that circumstance, uh, rule of thumb on the application is that if there’s information, you think it’s important for a reader to know in terms of how they are evaluating your, uh, your presentation, the data you are giving them, make it obvious.
Please don’t assume that they will just be able to Intuit or figure things out. Having said that, um, ideally. With every application, a counselor, your school counselor is writing a letter on your behalf. I would choose to believe that if your academics were impacted by the lack of resources and the lack of availability of an AP class, that would be written into your counselor letter.
So definitely make sure you’re checking in with your counselors. Seeing if that information is communicated, high schools also have what’s called a profile that they send to colleges along with your transcript, which describes the academic offerings the mean and [00:45:00] median, GPAs, SATs acts, um, you know, the, the setting and size and location of your high school.
Hopefully they’ve updated it to include the information about what courses were available. And or impacted having said that definitely that’s a great space. Um, you know, in the kind of, is there anything else we need to know about you category, um, to write up a very brief description of, um, how your academic choices were impacted?
Just a quick note about that little section, a lot of people use it to explain maybe a dip in grades. I got mono, I got a concussion, you know, teacher quit mid-semester um, You need, as you’re writing that to take full ownership in those little brief descriptions, you never want to come across, um, sounding like you’ve been victimized or like you’re, I don’t wanna be callous and say making an excuse, cuz I know these are real things that you’ve experienced.
Um, and they have impacted you, [00:46:00] but you want to present them in such a way that you are kind of showing a sense of, of ownership and, and maturity about them. Um, so definitely something you can work with your CollegeAdvisor, uh, advisor on, if you, if you need to explain something in that space, definitely.
And IA, if you could answer a student is asking, is attending online school looked upon negatively by colleges.
Again, that’s another kind of contextual thing. If that’s the school that you are attending in the school that you have access to or the, the school that your parents decided that you, you know, was a good fit for you, then that’s how you will be. Reviewed and examined. I mean, loans is loans is accredited kind of institution then I don’t think it’s a, um, again, that just happens to be where you attend school.
And often again, universities know, as a young person, you are not, you don’t make that decision, right? Like that’s a parental decision. So that is just, it’s just an institution that you attend. [00:47:00] And I think universities, again, once have that context, I mean, loans, it’s an accredited kind of university that you’ll be evaluated similar to your peers.
The courses that you take, the rigor of the courses, the letters of recommendation, you know, and the type of support you receive. Again, you’ll be review in that. And, and with that context, Uh, going on to the next question. Um, we’ll start off with Joanne and we’ll kind of switch up the topic of it. Um, students are really interested in, um, sorry.
I lost my place. Um, students are really interested. How do you know which college is the best choice for you or how do you find your best pick? So if everyone could answer on this one, we can start off with Joanne. This is such a hard thing. It really, really is so super quick story. Um, I had applied early action to a college.
I was a college athlete. So for me, playing a sport in college is really important. I went on a flight, [00:48:00] went to the college that I was like, this is it. I know it left the visit, feeling good, got on the plane. And I was like, this is not for me. Um, I don’t know how to verbalize that. You will know, but you will know.
There are so many colleges in this country, and it really is about finding the place that you feel like you belong. There are extracurriculars to take, uh, into consideration location, proximity to home. If you wanna be on the beach, if you wanna be in the mountains, all of these things are really important.
It is really important that as a student and a client, as a consumer, you have to take a look at what you are looking for in a college and find the best place for you. It is so much a feeling, um, that I can’t even describe to you. Like it’s, it’s excellent that I found the place that I wanted to be for four years.
And I, and I wanted to go back and work. Um, but it really is about finding the place that you [00:49:00] see yourself growing now recognize your parents may have a different idea of this and that could alter your decision and that’s okay. That’s totally fine. Gonna find a place that you are comfortable, that you can sit on a bench outside and say, you know what?
I really love being here. And I am learning something being here super important. And I think, um, I, I think most people definitely get that aha moment, which I love. I think some people are a little more, um, Don’t get quite as passionate about one particular school. And, um, one of the things I think people appreciate is being able to talk to their, their advisor and, and kind of work through their choices.
Maybe a little bit more rationally. Um, one thing I will, I will caution against and we all see this. I’m assuming, um, you know, we, we, we have that, that sense for students and families that if, if you just add one more school, that if [00:50:00] you just keep chasing after that, one more, one more school. If I just keep doing research, if I just keep adding and adding and adding, um, that somehow you’re gonna find that one magic school.
Um, my perspective on this process, part of again, why people come to work with us is that we are going to help talk you through really thorough questionnaires, really help you figure out how to prioritize. What’s important to you and as Joanne. So aptly pointed out what’s important to your parents, what their hard lines are as well.
Um, and, um, Really help you kind of shape a balance list and also help, you know, when it’s time to stop looking. Um, your happiness at college is 98% going to be your decision to really, uh, commit yourself to being happy, where you land. And, um, I think there’s, you can, you can thrive anywhere. You just have to kind of be willing to, uh, decide that you’re not just gonna [00:51:00] keep looking for that one elusive perfect fit if it’s not right in front of you.
And, um, focus on is what is right in front of you instead. I don’t know. I, I don’t know if you have a different perspective on that and we’re just discussing, how do we know if it’s a good fit essentially? Is that the, the question? Um, sometimes you, you just don’t know, you just, you show up and you, you start class.
I mean, and, and I say that, uh, I’m being partly facetious, but. See, you apply to 12 schools and you know, you, you get into, you know, three of them, right? And then you, so you have three options and then two of them are not financially feasible. So you choose the one that’s financially feasible and you also got in and you show up and then you meet the most amazing people and you joined clubs and you find a major and then a professor becomes your mentor and then you join student government and you join the lacrosse team and you’re just having the best time of your life.
So sometimes you just don’t know until you get there. And I know that that there’s no [00:52:00] like magical kind of formula. Um, again, some people have those chills. I stepped on this campus. It was in a city that I loved. I saw the bustling hustle of DC. I went to college in DC. But, you know, sometimes it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s just practical as well.
So I, I mean, I think, unless you find if the place is just revol, like if you were like, I don’t feel safe here, I, I don’t feel respected my identity. Isn’t, uh, respected. I find there’s a disconnect from what was advertised and what is, I mean, unless there’s like these strong kind of like negative reactions, I mean, I think sometimes you really don’t know until you get there and get your, your, your hands wet and, and get a little active in the community.
So, um, and again, sometimes it comes down to, to money, right? The affordability being able to afford to attend there without, you know, being burdened by student debt and in other financial priorities. So there’s, there’s practical reasons. And then there’s also, you know, things that just align with your personality or your, your [00:53:00] identity, where you feel safe, where you feel embraced and you, where you feel welcomed.
Definitely. And, um, the, since we did start a little bit late, we’ll just go a bit over time, but we’re gonna have one more question, um, sort of with the special circumstances, and then we’ll go over letters of rec and for students that are asking about visiting and touring colleges, we did just have a webinar on Tuesday on maximizing your college visits, which talks about how many schools you should apply to what, to, how to take the most, make the most out of your college visits.
And you can learn a little bit more about that in case we do not have time to get to those questions, but going on to the next question, a student had a little bit more specific details in, um, the question, but well, life struggles that affected my academic progression be taken, um, taken into account during my admissions.
How do you put that in your application? How does that come up? If it’s not there, how do you let them know? Um, sort of on that end. So Lauren, if you could start us off and if everyone has a point, [00:54:00] please do feel free to touch upon it. Sure, absolutely. I think, um, for this student and for anyone out there who has felt that they’ve experienced something that has impacted their, uh, their journey.
Through high school, it’s, it’s crucially important to share that information. And there are a couple of different ways to do that. One is that you can write about it in your main essay. Um, I think usually when it’s something that significant that’s caused you to maybe step away from, uh, from school for a while, or, or have to do something dramatic to take care of yourself, it’s, it’s worth the space, um, to, to talk about it in your essay.
Um, again, you know, sharing the information, focusing on the growth, um, and, and where you are now as, as well as what you went through. Um, if you trust and, and are close enough with your teachers, um, they can also share some of their perspective and experience with you. Uh, and this situation in their letters, [00:55:00] same with the counselor letter.
That’s something you should be talking to your counselor about. So you can work in tandem to make sure that the information is getting shared in the best possible ways. Um, You know, colleges are going to want to be receptive and understanding. Uh, I think especially with the pandemic, with everything going on in the world, um, you know, all of us who work in education are extremely.
Um, worried about and mindful of students’ mental health wellbeing. Um, the fact that you have exercised for the student who asked this question, the self-care needed to get the help you needed. Um, that’s huge and you, and this is gonna go back to what Joanne was saying. If a college is going to ding you, uh, because you took the time you needed to take care of yourself, that’s not the right fit for you, and that’s not where you are going to thrive.
And, um, you know, please let us help you find the [00:56:00] schools that are going to be, um, supportive. You know, I think I, I forget the term IUs, but it was really beautiful, really help you help nurture you, um, and help you be successful. Uh it’s it’s all, um, it’s all important.
Uh, I, if you have anything to add.
Okay. Cool. Uh, so going on to the next question, another student is asking, um, are school counselor and teacher recommendations required for college? I, if you could start us off, well, that one answer
are yes. I mean, for the schools that require them. Yes. . Cause there are some institutions who actually don’t require so many other pieces of confirmation. So for the schools that require them, they are a part of the application and they need to be submitted to be even [00:57:00] considered. Um, so, so yes, and again, when you are looking at your various institutions, look at what components that they require for the application, and you can find that information on their website.
Um, you can see that via a common app coalition app, you know, there’s various application platforms, but you want to do your due diligence and your research because not all, you know, I forget how many colleges, universities in the country require those types of things, but you wanna make sure the ones that you are applying to.
For do. And those are definitely this institution’s, you know, the top 250, you know, institutions in the country, those are pieces of the application that they need for you to submit for them to review your application and for it to even be considered complete, cuz otherwise the deadline passes and they don’t have them.
And, and then it’s an incomplete application and we do not review incomplete applications. And Joan, can you answer who is the best person to get a recommendation from a teacher, counselor, boss, friend. And then after that, Lauren, can you answer, um, is the recommendation [00:58:00] letter essential? So honestly it’s gonna depend on the school.
So for example, the school that I work at, we require a, um, a common core. Professor or teacher rather as well as a counselor. So you will need to do your resource to figure out what the school is specifically looking for. Typically, it’s at least at minimum, a counselor recommendation, um, but each school is going to be super specific.
And so if juniors, hello, um, you should start looking at this now, so you can talk to those professors. I know schools are winding down. There is nothing worse than application is due November 1st. And you ask them on October 28th to do recommendation. That’s not a good look. So if you have your college list generated already, you should start to figure out the components that you need.
And it really will depend on the school that you’re applying to, but typically it’s at least accounts the recommendation. And then a lot of schools will require, um, a common core teacher. [00:59:00] and I think, um, one, one thing just to add on there, um, a lot of you have coaches, rabbis, the people you babysit for your boss at work, um, who have asked if they can write letters or who, or, you know, a music teacher, for example, who, um, can add significantly to a letter of recommendation, but is not a core subject teacher.
Um, as someone, when I worked, uh, and had to write letters for a large number of students as the director of college counseling, I didn’t know all of my students as well as I would’ve wished and found it very, very helpful when students would, um, have, uh, people involved in their lives, send letters to me on their behalf because I could literally quote, you know, so, and so soccer coach, who’s been coaching her since the age of two writes this about her.
Um, so don’t despair. If someone in your. Wants to [01:00:00] participate and you feel like could add information, um, instead just have them send information directly to your school counselor for incorporation into your letter. Um, and I think Mckenzie , you wanted to me to ask, uh, to answer, is it, are they crucial? Is that, was that the question?
Yes. Like, are they essential? Crucial? Yeah, I think just to get back to what my colleagues had said, if they are acquired, then yes, they are essential and crucial. Having said that colleges understand the difference between recommendations coming from private schools, where a counselor might have 30 kids they’re working with versus a school where a counselor might have 500 kids they’re working with.
You are not going to get penalized for a slightly more generic supportive letter of recommendation than a counterpart who’s coming from a different academic environment. Um, but yes, I mean, I think this goes back to the question about how important essays are. These are all differentiators. These are all things that could [01:01:00] make you rise to the surface in an application process where everything else looks very similar to many other applicants.
Uh, as the webinar is coming to close, um, there are some questions that did not get answered. So I’d recommend looking on our [email protected]/webinars or CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars, um, to and typing in keywords of what you’re interested in to find out more information about those specific topics.
And then also our upcoming webinars may be a little closer to, um, the questions that you are asking, but, um, just to close it off, if, um, uh, all of y’all could share some closing remarks or any last minute advice you would like to give to students. And if you could, um, sure. I’ll just, I’ll just jump in. Um, I think that, um, you know, I, these are such great questions tonight and, um, I, I never want a student to feel like what they’re asking is, [01:02:00] um, You know, there, there’s a lot of information out there and there’s a ton of misinformation out there.
So it’s always better to ask the questions and really get clear information from an expert, not your neighbors, best friends, tennis instructor, um, you know, really be sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who are gonna be cheerleaders, support systems, not doing the work for you, but enabling you to do this work to the best of your ability.
Um, you owe it to yourselves to really, um, come through this with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Uh, and hopefully you’ll, you’ll be able to do that, whether you’re working with us or working with someone else, um, this is an exciting time, and I hope you can feel some of that in this process and not just the stress, which is frankly unavoidable.
And I would just say that there are over. you know, 2500 2700, I think just around 3000, you know, four like four year universities, uh, [01:03:00] in this country. Um, but so often, so few dominate the discourse about higher education and college admissions. And I want you all to remember that there are so many schools, um, that, you know, could respond to your interests, respond to your needs, respond to your desires, your professional, academic, personal abilities, capabilities, um, and things that you want to do.
So do not, um, limit yourself, um, by focusing on, you know, this such a, a small range or type of institution, um, that could potentially deny, you know, you access to so many other institutions that could be a better fit for you and more aligned with who you are as a student and who you are as a person. So I just wanna encourage you to think how vast and wide and how many schools that they’re that out, that are out there and what you, and to encourage you to continue to keep your options.
As you kind of navigate the college admissions process. I think I would say to students, um, I know this is really [01:04:00] easy for me to say since I’m out of college, but don’t be afraid. So this is a crazy process. I don’t know why we leave it to 18 year olds to decide their fate at present day, but we do. And we know that you can do it and don’t let fear deter you from applying to that school across the country.
If that’s what you wanna do, or taking a leap of faith and going in a different direction than what you thought. There are so many schools, they are like shoes. There is this college for you, and we are happy to help you find it as well as your college counselor. So my advice is if you’re nervous, know that people are there to, to support you, there is a place that you can afford to be, and that you deserve to be.
So go into it, thinking that you will find the place that you want to be come May 1st. Um, and it’s really, like I said, it’s really easy for me to say [01:05:00] that sitting from the state that I’m at, but just trust us in the process that you’ll find the place that you wanna be. So don’t let your fear deter you from, from, from being where you want to be.
Definitely. So that is the end of the webinar. We hope you had a great time hearing. All of your questions get answered by these wonderful admissions officers. Um, this. Oh my gosh, sorry. so this is the rest of our June series, where we’ll be talking about identity, um, building a college list and how to really, um, figure out what you’re interested in research schools and really build your application.
And we will have more, um, Q&A with admissions officers in case your, um, question did not get answered tonight. And again, there are other webinars that may fit your question a bit more. If you have a very specific question, we do recommend signing up for CollegeAdvisors. So you can get your own personal advisor who can advise you through every step of the process and get those questions that are very specific to you answered and really get an individualized support [01:06:00] system, um, including your advisor, the financial, a team, um, our other resources, our webinar platform is free, but you can also get some exclusive content if you are a member.
So do check that out. Um, if you are looking for more support, but again, thank you everyone for coming out tonight and tonight. Thank you.