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!
2022-08-11 – Q&A with Former Admissions Officers
Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on a Q&A With Former Admissions Officers. Uh, tonight’s webinar is a special format in which the entire webinar is gonna be a Q&A session. So you’ll be able to get all your questions answered by our two wonderful panelists here who have worked in various admissions offices and can give you insight into the admissions and application process.
There will not be any slides for you to download for this webinar, but it is being recorded. So you will be able to view it again later on our website. Um, but, uh, you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab, and we will get to them shortly, but now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley and I serve as a former Admissions Officer here at CollegeAdvisor.
Um, I worked in college admissions for a little over 10 years at a variety of institutions. Um, a pretty diverse list of institutions, including, uh, large state flagships, uh, selective liberal arts institutions, women’s colleges. Um, so I, I have a pretty vast perspective on holistic admissions and how to best navigate this.
I love that. Um, hi everyone. I’m Rachael Moore. I have been with CollegeAdvisor for a little bit over a year and serve as an Advisor Team Lead, um, supporting other advisors within their network as they work with clients, as well as working with clients myself. Um, I’ve worked in higher education in various capacities, predominantly admissions, um, like Chelsea, um, for over 20 years, which is just scary to say every time that comes out loud.
Um, but have been at Carnegie Mellon University, um, a number of private liberal arts schools as well. So love the different diverse perspectives that we’re able to share with you. Yes. And real quick, we’re just gonna do some quick polls. So what grade are you in? Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other. And other can be if you’re a grad, uh, a transfer student or taking a gap year.
And if you’re a parent on call, you can select the grade that your child is in. And while we wait for those can, uh, either or both of you, um, tell us, um, when should students start the admissions process?
Go for it, Chelsea. So I think, um, there’s varying degrees of starting the admissions process. I think as early as the eighth grade year, you can begin thinking about your future high school career and what that means for the college that you wanna go to. Um, just getting on campuses around that time, eighth grade year, ninth, grade year, to understand what different colleges look like, feel like what questions to ask, um, what things may be attractive to you and what things may not be.
And then as you get into your sophomore year, um, that iSATime where you can really begin taking steps towards getting a college list together. Um, thinking about what majors you wanna do and then ultimately building your resume. Um, so I think the, the short answer is it’s never too early. Um, but around going into the ninth grade year, I think is ideal for most students, uh, With that being said, I, I, a hundred percent agree with what Chelsea’s saying, because you, the more familiar with the process you are, the more you’ll be able to adapt and just feel more comfortable with the process when go time hits for preparing applications and junior, senior year.
But I would say for those of you who might be on the call and starting a little later, um, when you’re ready, it’s a good time to start. I mean, I think COVID taught a lot of us that, you know, the traditional college search and preparation, definitely. We had not experienced nothing like it before and it looked different.
Um, so I just say that from the perspective that there are a lot of great resources out there to support that, that search and process at any point. So, like Chelsea said earlier is just better. Cuz you get to know yourself better too. Yes. And it’s looking like we have 2% ninth graders, 8%, 10th graders, 25%, 11th graders, 62% 12th graders making up the majority and 3% other.
And then now we’ll just do one more poll. So where are you in the application process? Haven’t started, I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together. Or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And again, while we wait for that, um, Chelsea, can you start us off by, uh, answering?
What is the most important part of the application process? Yeah, so I would say the most important part in my opinion is being organized in the process. Um, especially when you are applying to multiple schools, which we are suggesting that students are building a balanced college list. Um, that’s a good fit for them, but also is realistic for, um, the type of schools that may be interested in offering them a mission.
Um, knowing your different deadlines, knowing, um, your strategy, um, being organized with your supplemental essays, all of that is incredibly important to being able to navigate the process in the first place. Um, so I would say organization, I love that. Um, I agree with the organization part of the process.
Um, the other piece I would just say is being just giving your all to each application, no matter where they fall on the list. A lot of times, cuz it’s a daunting process, you know, it’s, once you get sort of those top choice schools done, um, you, it it’s easy to, I won’t say slack, but take it a little bit easier with, and maybe not quite as much attention to detail with some of the additional supplements and whatnot.
Um, and you just want to make sure that you give that same level of attention and care with every single application because nothing’s ever taken for granted. And you never know in the end where maybe the best place ends up being for you. So treat each one as if it is your top. Mm-hmm and it’s looking like we have 15%, haven’t started 41% are researching schools.
28% are working on their essays and 16% are getting their application materials together. Now we’ll move into the live Q&A. So, um, for today, I’ll read through all your questions. You submit in the Q&A tab and read them out loud before our panelist gives you an answer as a heads up. If your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page.
Also known as the website or else you won’t get all the features of big marker. So just make sure that you join through the custom link. And, um, this whole session is gonna be a Q&A, um, Q&A format. So you will be able to get to your questions a bit easier in this round. Um, we will try and stick to more AO perspective, AO advice, um, whereas like specific stats about specific schools or things like that, you can find in our other webinars and maybe our panels on specific schools, or you can check out each individual school’s website for more specific stats.
And if there are any questions about specific SAT scores or what you should talk about your essay, we do recommend signing up for CollegeAdvisor where you can get that personalized one-on-one, um, advising about your specific situation, um, qualifications and everything, and how that plays out in your admissions process.
But now, um, let’s get started. Okay. So, uh, just to start it off with the big question that everybody always asks, how do you stand out in the admissions process? What stands out to, um, admissions officers? I am just gonna take it and say, just, don’t try to guess what it is because you know, authenticity is truly the key.
Um, I can tell you, actually, right now working with students, a lot of them are starting their essays. And the first couple of sessions that we start working on the essay, I can tell you, it’s a lot of just trying to help our students understand that you can’t try to read what the admissions officer wants to hear or what the, what the college specifically is looking for.
If there’s something specific, they’re going to ask you that in a question. Um, but truly we’re looking for your authentic voice. What makes you, you, if it was as simple, if it truly was as straightforward as this is the type of student that we want, and we would not need admissions officers to look at those, all of those different perspectives and come together to really shape an incoming class, we could just put all that data from the applications into a software, uh, package and, you know, select our class and be done, um, which would never work out with.
Creating in a culture where there’s so many unique voices and perspectives. So the only way we can do that is if you truly just own who you are and, you know, really be able to connect the dots for an admissions officer who you are and why you are a great fit to the school that you’re applying to.
Uh, Chelsea, did you have anything you wanted to add to that? I do. That was probably going to be my answer as well. Um, I think having a cohesive picture or narrative about who you are spans throughout your application is really, really compelling when we can read your essay, um, and glean something from there, but then look at your activities list and see those same elements and your activities list.
And that ties into what your counselors were saying about you. It really gives a vote of confidence that no amount of researching or faking it could do, um, because the proof is in the pudding. Um, so if you find yourself contorting and getting a little creative with how you’re putting together your application, that could be a sign that the institution isn’t the best fit for you.
Um, this should come natural. It should feel like you’re sharing who you are and what you want to do with the admissions officers. So absolutely authentic. Yes. And I’m seeing a lot of themes of essays in both of y’all’s responses and I’m seeing a lot of questions. So we’ll go into some questions on essays.
And I just wanna remind everyone not to vote on your question as it disrupts the order of the Q&A section and mix it a bit harder to stay in order. So we will get to your questions as best as we can. Um, and it may, you may hear it combined with other questions if they are similar. So just, um, keep that in mind.
Okay. So going on to the next question, a student is asking, um, how do admission, how do admissions officers feel about the adversity essay, uh, and another webinar? Um, when it, uh, I think it was Lauren who mentioned how that one’s sort of getting phased out. How do admissions officers feel about that? Are they looking for an adversity essay?
Is it looked down upon? Is it better? What is your perspective? . Yeah. So I, I, I would say that may depend on the school, um, because there, there are still some supplemental essays that explicitly ask about that. Um, but I would say generally speaking, if the adversity that you experience is an authentic part of your story, then that won’t ever be phased out.
If you’re grasping for straws about what challenges you had and, and trying to think of something. To, to drive that point home. Um, then typically I think that would read as inauthentic. Um, and, and that might be why, um, it was said in another webinar that people are kind of getting away from that because it, you know, students are brainstorming.
Okay, what can I say, that’s gonna make me stand out and that it’s going to invoke this in a committee. Um, the, the goal of that is for us to get you to be vulnerable, um, get you to, um, share information about yourself that can get us to understand you a little better. Um, not necessarily, um, give you a couple points up in whatever rubric or scoring system that a committee’s using on you.
So sometimes there are just some parts. Get missed, you know, and when there’s adversity that we face, you know, it, it can be hard to bring that up and you wonder, should I, you know, you’re asking for it, but is this gonna be held against me? Am I gonna be judged? And so I personally like that there is the option there because sometimes, you know, we, we also don’t want the adversity piece to be the whole story either.
And sometimes students feel really strongly about that, which is why they choose not to talk about it in their personal statement. But it is to Chelsea’s point very much a part of who they are. And it wouldn’t be the same. You wouldn’t know everything or be able to really put that whole person together.
If we didn’t know what you were comfortable sharing, especially if it’s impacted some of your high school experience, like your. You know, time in school or, you know, maybe your performance for a while. So, you know, it’s, it’s such a unique opportunity for each person and for some it’s a good, it’s a good opportunity.
They want to take it, but you have to own that. You have to, you have to want to be able to use that if it’s a good option for you. Mm-hmm uh, going to the next question. The why school question is a big question that a lot of schools ask. Uh, so students asking in questions like the, why pick this school, for example, what kind of specificity do admissions officers look for?
Like, do they want kids to talk about diff um, wanting different clubs, professors, et cetera. How do we research that kind of stuff?
I can take that one. Um, I’m sure Chelsea will also have really great info into this as well. My biggest pet peeve I would say is don’t repeat my marketing material back to me. I know who I am or where I work and what we stand for as an institution. What I’m looking for is a much deeper understanding of what that connection is for you that you feel, you know, so take a look and just really think about what is it that you like about, you know, it could be the marketing material that’s giving you that initial impression.
That’s okay. Um, but what is it about it, you know, is it the free spirit of the campus? Is it the really, you know, the opportunities for a lot of research, you know, is it their internship program that they’re really well known for? You know, why do those things speak to you? And do you see that as a good connecting or place where you would thrive?
And I’ll just add, um, think about the, the mission of the school, maybe, uh, the strategic vision. There’s lots of bread crumbs on the website that can get your gears turning. Um, the idea is, again, not to reiterate all these amazing facts with the school. So your why school essay should not have the school’s rankings touted in the essay, right?
These are things that the institution knows. Um, instead you want to somehow connect yourself and your interest with the institution, um, that allows us to see you at that specific school and then see you making an impact as an alum. Um, so that is kind of the long term, um, connection and really deep connection that we’re wanting to see in a, in a why this institution.
And we do have other webinars on supplements and essay writing, if you would like to check them out. But I really like what, um, Chelsea said about, um, them wanting to know why, um, you would specifically want to go into it. So it’s really not a why school. It’s like, why it’s relevant to you kind of, um, cuz it all, all of your essays are always gonna relate back to you regardless of what they’re asking.
And then, so really just like a school can teach you how to build a robot per se. Any school can teach you how to do that. But like why is that school specifically relevant? Are they teaching you in a specific way? Do they do an interdisciplinary approach? How will you take what they’ve taught you and take it into your real world situation?
Are you gonna take that and start a company? Are you gonna take that and solve a medical issue? It’s really about like, um, what are you going to gain out of your experience at that school? yeah. Uh, going on to the next topic, we’ll go into some stats and test optional and all of those fun topics. Um, and then we’ll bounce to some other topics and a second.
So a student is asking, well, actually, I’ll ask this one first. Um, what are the most important topics that admissions essays must contain? I’m assuming they’re talking about the personal statement. Like what things should it touch on or in, in terms of the supplement? Like what sort of things should be pulled out of it?
Um, Rachael, I’m getting so confused because we’re talking both on each question. So jump in whenever . Oh, OK. um, so I would say just anything that gives us insight into who you are as a person, um, Application topics, particularly common application prompts are pretty broad. You can talk about almost anything that you want, um, within those guidelines of the, the essay prompts.
Um, so what we wanna see in an application is what drives you, um, which sparks intellectual curiosity, um, something that excites you, something you’re looking forward to, um, your background, these are all things that make us walk away from an application thinking, oh, I feel like I kind of know this kid, um, versus I read all of these disjointed pieces and I’m not sure if I really grasped them.
So the essay is a really great way to tie that together. Again, creating a narrative about who you are, um, and what your interests are. Mm-hmm yeah, I though something that’s different with the essay that I think is helpful to think about is it’s not. And I hope this gives you freedom. When you, when I say this, uh, to kind of relax a little bit about your writing style and yes, it still has to be grammatically correct and well written, but it’s not the same as like your, what you’re writing for school.
You know, you know what it takes to get the, a, on a paper for school or a piece of writing. Think about it more as personal memoir that you’re sharing, um, when you’re writing. And again, that doesn’t mean you’re telling us your whole life story, it’s sharing a lens of, or just having a lens into who you are or how you think or something that’s important to you that you think if you share that will really get a good snapshot into your personality.
uh, okay. Just, uh, to get into these questions once, uh, Chelsea, I’m gonna ask you this question and then Rachael will ask you the second one. Um, what, uh, so for the first question, what does test optional really mean at top schools? Should I submit or not submit my SAT scores? Oh, that’s such a question, right?
That’s like the, the question that just keeps giving. Um, so the definition of a test optional policy, um, essentially means for you, the student, that if you choose to submit a test score, it will be considered and taken into consideration with the rest of your application. But if you choose not to, you will not be, um, penalized for not submitting a test court.
So I think I can speak for most institutions. When I say, when we say we’re test optional, we do really mean that, um, institutions had to pivot pretty quickly during the pandemic. In order to, uh, train their readers and their committee members on what it means to think outside of our normal or pre pandemic lens.
So reading with a test optional mindset was something we went through training on that we talked about to make sure that we could still feel confident in our decisions. Um, so we hope that you’ll feel confident in the policies that these institutions have put forward. When they say either we’re test optional or we’re test blind.
Um, another way to, um, maybe calm some anxiety. You can’t ask some additional questions about, um, stats for those specific institutions. So how many of your applicants submitted test scores? Um, how many of your admitted students submitted test scores? What percentage of scholarship recipients submitted test scores?
So these are some additional questions that can allow you to kind of get into, um, the profile of that institution. Um, and typically if those numbers are. Tracked institutional research is a website that is open. Um, and those, those, those data points are available on most of these schools. And that can allow you to kind of think, okay, so maybe the majority of students aren’t submitting test scores.
I can be, uh, competitive in this process if I choose not to be. And then once you get that done, it really is a personal decision about you doing some self-assessment and deciding whether it will help you in this process hurt you or not make a difference at all. Mm-hmm uh, for Rachael, I was seeing a student asking about their GPA.
They say that they take a lot of college level courses, but they’re unweighted GPA is a bit lower, um, in the B range. Um, whereas their weighted would be higher. Um, and so they’re asking if that, uh, like the difference between like a course rigor and GPA, like which one matters more, how should students like navigate their GPAs?
I love that question. Um, and usually students don’t love my answers. Um, you’re going, we encourage you to take the most demanding schedule that’s appropriate for you, and then do the best that you absolutely can. Um, so take the honors, take the AP course and get the A in it. Um, obviously that doesn’t always work out that way, but the key phrase to think about is the appropriate for you.
You know, it’s not so much about that this student took a full AP curriculum or a full honors curriculum. If you are taking, if you know, math is simply not your strong point, but, and you’re intending to go into more of a social science or, you know, humanities type of major. I’m not looking for AP calculus necessarily in your senior year.
I think it is important to understand the competitiveness of the schools and the rigor that a lot of, you know, the profile of someone typically admitted to an institution is I think that is important. Um, if you have your eye set on a, you know, say a top 25 Ivy institution, but truly it’s, it’s about doing your best in the areas that you are appropriate for you to challenge yourself as best as possible.
And we look at trends too. I mean, so. Students may not be in an honors curriculum freshman year, or they didn’t even have it available in their high school, but they gradually increased that level of challenge every year as they got their footing, you know, really started to pick up speed in their classes.
And so we’re looking at that improvement from year to year as. Uh, okay, so I’m gonna throw both of you a question you can pick which one or both of you can answer in both. Uh, so admissions officers are always talking about the holistic process. Can somebody explain what that holistic process is? And then for a more specific question, a student is asking, and this can be broadened also, but a student is asking is a student’s application viewed in its own context and not compared to their accomplishments of previously accepted applicants who did not undergo similar obstacles.
Meaning if a student has faced extreme adversity, but still had, uh, still managed to achieve a lot, um, within such circumstances, um, are they going to be compared or not compare? How are students compared essentially um, with it to other applicants, to people from their schools, how is all of that juggled?
I’ll talk about the comparison one, because that was the last question and we got it. Right. So , um, I, I will, I don’t wanna use the word compare, but I want to use the, the phrase provides context. So we often think about school, uh, students first in the context of their high school. And what that allows us to do is to understand, um, what is competitive for their school context.
Um, how many rigorous courses are offered when students are typically taking that sequence of courses? Um, it also gives us demographic information about the high school. Um, how many students are on free or reduced lunch? Um, what is the ethnic makeup, um, are most of the students there, um, kids of college graduates, or there are lots of first generation students.
And so when we get all of these. And this happens on our school profile. Um, so, uh, your high schools are submitting this information and sharing this information with us. So you don’t have to, so we’re already painting a picture of your educational environment. Um, and then after reading your application, we’re able to see a picture of you as a student.
Um, we see a little snapshot of your family. Um, and so when you put all of these elements together, it’s almost impossible to compare apples to apples. So academics. Yes. That is certainly something that we look at people that came before you, but we also look at your current class, um, to see if you’re being competitive in that educational environment.
But when it comes to those personal attributes, you can’t compare that across students, because I think, you know, probably between the, the two of us, tens of thousands of applications read over the years, maybe hundred thousand, I don’t know um, but. It doesn’t feel like more of the same, oddly enough, it, it feels different depending on the year and what’s going on.
It feels different, uh, at the institution that you’re working at. Um, and so comparing students across high schools across application cycles doesn’t happen quite as much as you would think. We use it for context to ground us in reviewing you. Um, but it is not, uh, um, context made to, to deny a student or, or decide that they’re better than a previous student.
Absolutely. And I think the only piece that I would add with when talking about the profile of the school and all that information that the school gives us, is that again, showing that we’re not to reinforce that we’re not comparing student. You know, from one school to the next is you’re reviewed within the context of the opportunities available to you.
And I think that’s important for students to understand because they do get nervous. Um, you know, when they hear about IB curriculums or AP’s and dual enrollments, or, you know, some schools are really tiny and they don’t have any of that. Um, so, or they just, they don’t have the resources to offer all of that.
So know that it’s, it’s your experience is what you make of it. Mm-hmm and for the students asking about AP, do an idea, we do have another webinar that goes specifically into, um, courses you should be taking. But if either of you would like to touch on how colleges view those classes, if one is viewed better than the other, uh, how those transfer, um, please feel free.
I’ll, I’ll just say as far as which one is better than the other, because I think that’s a question that we get a lot. Mm-hmm um, again, I think it depends on your high school. College admissions officers know that there are certain high schools who love honors courses over AP courses or others that push their students to do dual enrollment, um, or maybe most students in that school are an IB curriculum.
So they don’t participate in any of that. Um, we again have that context of your school. So it’s difficult to, um, say that an AP course is more valuable than an honors course. Um, especially when not everyone has access to the same opportunities. You may have 20 honors courses offered at your high school and four or five AP.
Um, then it may make tons of sense for you to just kind of rock out on the honors courses. Um, so again, it is making the most of the curriculum, um, that’s available to you and that is most challenging in your context. And I’ll quote, Rachael is saying what’s most appropriate for. And also, um, depending on your school and what your program is like dual enroll in terms of credits.
Um, if you’re looking to use your AP, IB or dual enrollment credits, when you go to college, you will not be able to use them until you’ve been admitted and enrolled into that school. And some schools may not even accept them. So do read the fine print of every school to see where stuff applies for a lot of the Ivy’s.
Even if you get a perfect score on your AP exams, you may not be able to get that credit, or you may just be able to jump a grade ahead. Every school is different. I know for me, I got pretty good scores on my Ivy exams and I did not get to use any of them for Cornell. So do read the fine print. If you’re looking to use those most of the times for especially the big name schools, those courses are just to help you get a foot in the door because they just help prepare you for higher level courses.
But, um, you may not get credit if that’s what you’re looking for. And then dual enrollment credits are a bit harder to transfer. If you’re going out of. And McKenzie, if I could just like underscore part of what you said, um, the difference between something that looks good on your college application versus something that might be preparing you academically.
Um, so sometimes that additional AP course, um, may not be the thing that makes or breaks your college application, but it may give you some additional academic footing in that subject that will allow you to Excel, um, once you get to college. So, um, think beyond the college application as well, to see how all of the amazing things that you’re doing will ultimately help you when you’re on campus.
Okay. Uh, going onto the next question, uh, where was it? I’m seeing a lot of students asking about extracurriculars. So we’ll jump into those. So students are asking, um, which extracurricular activities do admissions officers want to see. I have no expectation whatsoever. Um, there’s no kind of, we talked about this early on.
There’s no prescriptive formula, um, for admitting a student. So I’m looking to see that you’re putting yourself out there where you’re able to, um, and also understanding that again, we’re looking at students in their own unique circumstances. Um, for example, there are students who have to help out with families at home or have other, they have to work.
Um, so you. That. And then that way they’re not able to participate in maybe those traditional activities after school, we would never fault a student for that. You know, there’s so much growth and recognition to give for the student know, making the most of the opportunities that they have in front of them and how, you know, what makes them who they are.
Um, what I would say is commitment to growing, um, in whatever it is that you’re pursuing. I would also say though, that if there’s something you’re just not into anymore, don’t stick with it just for the sake of your college application, you know, but make sure that you’re then push it, putting your time in something that.
Is more growth in discovery for yourself. So that’s a vague answer and that’s somewhat intentional. Um, Chelsea might have some other insight into that too, but it’s, it’s truly looking for commitment and being willing to put yourself out there and grow. So I’ll, I’ll add something slightly more quantifiable, um, uh, multi-year commitment.
Uh, so seeing things that you participated in that you’re passionate about for. Two years, three years, um, progressive leadership in those activities, um, or progressive involvement. Um, so seeing that it’s something you’re interested in and you’re committing more time or you’re branching out and doing a different, um, uh, activity that might be related.
And then I would say, um, impact beyond yourself. So, um, are you making an impact at your high school and impacting your community, your state, the country, the globe, right. So when we talk about these really selective schools, oftentimes when we quantify leadership, it really is about impact. And, um, how, how wide of a net that you cast with whatever it is that you were participating in mm-hmm and I’m going to kind of combine some questions, but a student is asking, um, like, how do you, um, Verify, I guess is the word, do colleges, um, check on to see if you’re doing these activities.
How do you like give proof verification? One student is asking, um, should you provide, um, certificates from, um, different, um, different clubs and activities? Uh, should it be talked about any additional information section? How can you like add proof to the pudding essentially?
we talk a lot about that holistic process, being able to connect the dots between the different elements in the application. So the activities to what you to write about what your recommenders choose to talk about you there’s, we’re taking you at your word. Um, if we were worried about, is this student being honest or is this authentic or.
It’s pretty easy to tell we’ve done this long enough. If the dots aren’t aligning. Um, so not looking at certificates, not looking to see did this really happen or not. Um, there has to be some trust in that process. Um, but as I said, truly because of that holistic review process and all the different elements in the application, um, we can tell.
Uh, going on to the next question another, well, just to answer some of these real quick, um, for students asking about the common application and how the admissions process as a whole works as a whole works, um, there are other webinars. If you go to our website, you can type in, um, common app or you can type in, um, what am I call it?
Admissions process. And those webinars will go into detail about each step of the admissions process. And there is a deep dive into the common app to explain all of the sections, all the information you need, and you can get your specific questions answered. And there is a webinar for international students and how your application process works.
Uh, but going back to the Q&A, um, a student is asking if. Just to generalize it, but, uh, can y’all talk about letters of recommendation and how they add to the application process. One student is asking, um, if you submit more than the required number of letters of recommendation, does it help you stand out?
And then, um, another student is asking, well, we’ll, we’ll stick with those cuz I can’t find it. But yes so, um, no, I don’t think it makes you stand out. If you submit multiple letters of recommendation on top of the requirement, um, there is a such thing as. Supporting document overkill. Um, so I think once we get past three or I would say maybe one above whatever the requirement is of the school, then it can get a little excessive.
Um, but generally speaking, uh, you can think of your letters of recommendations. Like you would think of a job reference. Um, so we’ve, we’ve read your application. We’ve heard what you have to say. Um, and now we get an opportunity to hear from someone that knows you hopefully knows you and has spent time with you.
Um, I think who you select to be your recommender, um, is. Just as important as the actual recommendation. And if we read a recommendation that is reading flat, not giving us much information, um, that can be a red flag because, um, it makes us wonder, do you have, uh, faculty members or teachers that know you, um, that could speak to your character?
Um, so really being, um, cognizant of who you choose that can talk about you in a professional light in academic light, um, someone that knows you in the ways that matter for college admissions is super important. Um, not someone who’s a family friend, um, that doesn’t give us the information that we really need to add to this picture.
Mm-hmm I actually would also just highlight something that Chelsea talked about very early on. In the webinar, which is starting earlier in the process, I would look to, you know, thinking about letters of recommendation is an opportunity for you to build relationships with the teachers that you really connect with and who you feel might be able to reinforce that you have, you know, that the characteristics or the skills, even that you’re, that fit programs that you’re applying to also personally as well.
It, it is about academics, but it is also that personal touch. But the more you have an opportunity to actually build relationships with, you know, people in your school community, the more they also want to speak on your behalf. So I would just add, you know, to that point, that. Being cognizant of that earlier on freshman and sophomore year is something to, to meet mindful of mm-hmm , um, moving on into sort of a different topic.
There are a lot of different, um, circumstances that students go through in the admissions process that they may feel puts them at a disadvantage. Uh, so for our first question, a student is asking, um, and I’ll combine this with another and each of you can answer, um, what, if you weren’t able to commit to a sport in your school, or you only did it for one year?
Is that a DISA? Is that student at a disadvantage? And then another question, if a student has like other commitments such as family or work, or they just don’t have many options at their schools to get involved or outside of their schools to get involved in, um, will that reflect badly on their application and what do you recommend doing in those situations?
Yeah. So I think, um, activities sometimes can be viewed in too narrow of a lens. Um, activities are all of the things that you devoted your time and energy to that were not school necessarily. So, um, you may be a self-taught pianist. We would love to hear about that in application. That might be something that there’s no teacher at your school that knows about it, none of your peers.
Um, but it’s something that you’ve devoted your time to, that you’re committed to and that you’re passionate about. Um, so we’re not going down and looking for a varsity sport check, um, president. The honor society check. So it, it is not as formulaic as you might think. Um, it is, what else does the student do outside of the classroom?
Um, what do they spend their time, uh, devoted to? Um, what are they interested in? And so we’re able to see that in the activities list, um, students who, um, work full-time or part-time, um, students who have family responsibilities that, um, may prevent them from being involved in high school activities. You can absolutely tell us that.
Um, you can use additional information in your common app essay to say that you can weave that into your, um, main essay prompts. You can even list family responsibilities as an activity on your activities list. Um, these are ways that you can make sure that we don’t forget about the circumstances that have shaped how much time you have to give.
Outside of high school, um, courses,
uh, yes. And kind of going off of that, we know that the admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike, especially with all of the changes with COVID and just trying to figure out what to put on your application and figuring out how to, um, set yourself up, um, for success in the admissions process, our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions, where you really get to, um, build a relationship with your advisor and talk to them about your application, um, what activities you’ve done, your circumstances and how that applies to your admissions plan and are, um, in these, um, admissions.
Advising sessions. You really just get to do a deep dive into your specific context, which is really important. And then your parents also get support throughout this admissions process for any parents who are unsure about how to navigate it. Um, so take the next steps in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session within.
Expert admission specialist on our team using the QR code on the screen. During this meeting, we’ll review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they line up with your college list and outline the tools you need to stand out in this competitive admissions, uh, cycle. Um, you really can gain a lot just from this admission strategy and they will point you to the best, um, resources and tools within CollegeAdvisor, um, for you.
And then also by joining CollegeAdvisor, you not only get access to more webinars, but you also get access to our financial aid team who can help you with figuring out the best packages for you colleges team, to figure out the best schools for you and our essay review team who can help you with, um, really solidifying a strong essay for your application that really reflects who you are.
So again, um, scan this QR code for, uh, to sign up for that free strategy session. And now back to the Q&A, and the, um, this. QR code will still remain on the screen in case you didn’t get it. The first slide. Uh, okay. So going on into going back into the Q&A, um, so, uh, just for some quick, um, questions, uh, uh, Chelsea, can you answer if, um, your major determines, uh, your chance of getting into the school and then Rachael, can you answer about, um, whether or not applying early decision or early action improves your chances and, um, what are like the pros and cons?
Are we all there?
Can you hear. Yeah, I hear you. Do you want me? Yeah. Oh, I’m sorry. I thought um, so I’ll talk about the early decision. Um, I mean, there will be webinars that talk about this extensively, um, and strategic application strategy sessions, uh, that you have with counselors, whether it’s at school with its family members.
So my point in saying is nothing I say is going to be the whole picture, but generally speaking, um, if you are going to apply ED, um, yes, there can be an advantage, but my job is to really look ahead and think, you know, Say you get an ED. Congratulations. That’s really exciting. And I mean that I truly do, but I never want a student to say a few months down the line.
Other classmates are starting to get some decisions. I don’t want them to think that maybe they left something on the table, that there was a stone that was left unturned. You know, if you, 100% are, this is the school for me, you know, you’re, you understand the pros and the cons because there are serious ones to that, particularly financially for a lot of families, um, it may be the right option and it could give you an edge.
Um, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in it the other time either. So I hope that answers. Did I get all aspects of that question? Yes, . Uh, going on to the next question. I think I forgot what it was actually. um, you’re talking a long time. um, oh yes. Okay. Um, so students were asking, uh, Chelsea, uh, what does the, oh my gosh, does the major that you pick affect your chances of admissions?
Is there a specific major students should be picking to, uh, improve their chances? Oh, no. There’s not one specifically that you should be picking to improve your chances of admission. Um, but I saw a question earlier that talked about, um, undecided majors. So I wanna kind of weave that in, um, one, if you don’t know exactly what you want to major in, um, that is often okay.
Um, different schools have different processes for when you declare your major. Um, but if you are applying at a school that does give you undecided as an option that is not frowned upon, it would not be an option if we truly. Didn’t want people to pick it. Um, so if you are undecided, there are so many academic interests that you can share, um, that do interest you without specifically picking a, a major, um, you know, maybe you like, uh, problem solving and critical thinking, um, or tinkering with things or building things.
Right. But you don’t know what ultimately that might look like for your college major. So, um, sometimes I, I like to see students think less of in terms of major and more in terms of interest and excitement, um, and all of the different possibilities that they could envision with those interests. For those that do have a specific major that they’re going to put on their college application?
Yes. Admit rates do often vary from major to major within the same institution. Um, that’s not a rule of thumb, but, uh, I’ve worked at institutions where yes, there were, uh, slight differences in admit rates between specific majors, because some majors were more popular than others. Um, those institutions are very major driven.
So if you have, um, a college that has an amazing computer science program, nine times outta 10, All of the students that are applying for computer science really are interested in computer science. They’ve done the research, they’ve done, um, the activities in high school, um, to prepare them for it. They’ve done the pre-college programs in the summer.
Um, so the best college major is the college major that you are interested in. Um, so I think your time is better spent in exploring what you’re interested in, less of trying to figure out what major’s gonna get you into the. uh, kind of going off of that. And then I’m gonna bring up two questions, but kind of going off of that, Chelsea for you, if a student has, uh, many extracurriculars that are related to their spike or something that they’re very passionate about pursuing, should they describe those activities in correspondence with that spike or that specific theme in their application?
Uh, such as if a student was interested in the medical field and had many extracurriculars that involve science and medicine, should they explain how they, um, will help in that field? They play, they plan to pursue or with reference to their planned major? I think I botched the end of that, but should that spike be, uh, come up constantly throughout multiple parts of their application.
And then for, um, Rachael, uh, that kind of going back to the disadvantage or other circumstances, uh, student is asking if, um, Things like mental issues or struggles or personal family struggles at home. Is that something that a student should mention or should they have like a counselor or recommend, recommend, or mention, um, in their application, will that be taken into context of their overall application?
so I’ll talk about the spike first. Um, so, um, yes, if there are activities organizations, awards that are directly related to the student’s intended major. Absolutely. We would love to hear about all of those things. Um, I would argue that if the time and the commitment was put into those areas, though, you don’t have to try to shove it in the committee’s face.
We’re going to see it and get the, the theme anyway. Um, and just as much as we’d like to see you committed to your intended major, it’s also really cool to see a really dynamic applicant. Um, maybe. Student is super interested in robotics and like everything on their application is robotics, this robotics that, and then all of a sudden we find out that they’re like an interpretive dancer.
Um, and they did this really cool thing in that area. Um, so while you want to show, um, interest across, uh, your application and your major, it’s also really interesting to bring in other elements if they exist for you. So don’t shy away, um, from some of those elements that don’t necessarily go with the story that you’ve been painting.
Um, the question about. Rephrase it for me if I’m reading it wrong, but it going back to the adversity question and how do you communicate that story? Every situation’s truly going to be unique. And I think if it’s an option, you know, for a school counselor to help address it, I think that’s a great conversation to have with them to talk about how the best way, if that’s some, if there’s something you want to share, um, how to best communicate that.
So if the school was really involved in a situation, certainly, you know, and they can really speak to it, um, that can be really helpful and to really see it as an advocate on your behalf. Um, but I do think that, you know, if there’s something that you want us to know, and it is going to come up in your application, I do think some of that does have to come from.
First because we wanna make sure that we’re, you know, hearing the narrative that you want to tell mm-hmm , uh, going on to the next question, uh, students are asking about, um, moving and changing schools or getting new teachers and counselors. So they’re asking, um, if a college requires a recommendation from a guidance counselor, but the, uh, counselor at my school is new and doesn’t know me.
What do I do? And then another student is asking I transferred school. Should I ask a recommendation ask for a recommendation letter from my new or old school teachers? Um, good question. So I’ll start with the second one, but I think they’re mostly related. Um, so if you change schools, There is a place on the common application that asks about educational progression or disruptions in educational progression.
That is your moment to explicitly tell us, um, that I changed schools my sophomore year. Um, you may even talk about how your new school is different than your other school. If there are any changes in the type of courses that you are taking. So certainly you want to say that explicitly, in addition to what we’re going to see on your transcript, um, you’re not the first person to change schools.
And so it is not fair for us to penalize you in that process. Um, but you must kind of know how to navigate it. So if you have, um, a requirement for a high school counselor, you can fulfill the requirement with your current counselor. Typically they will say that you are new to the school and they’ll talk a little bit about their.
Recent interactions with you. But in, in addition to that, you do wanna make sure that you’re getting some recommendation letters from your previous school, um, so that we can see how you were performing, um, the types of relationships you had at that school. Um, so combining both of those together, that gives you a pretty equal picture of a student that stayed at the same high school all four years.
Uh, Rachael, did you have anything to add about, um, the other question was asking about asking older new teachers, um, when moving and then also, can you just touch on, um, what year, the, what grade teacher, uh, the student should be asking yes. Um, I would definitely I’ll do the second half of that question first.
It should be someone who knows you. So for example, if you’re taking AP. You know, lit in your senior year, but you’ve never had that teacher before. Don’t ask that teacher just because it sounds great that the teacher from a AP lit wrote it. Um, you definitely want someone who can really speak to you and your growth and, you know, has seen you in action in class, um, and in the school community.
Um, definitely, you know, this goes to the relationship building piece, you know, having a relationship with teachers and, you know, don’t hesitate to stay in touch with them, keep that relationship warm, um, you know, check in with them, you know, every few months just to, you know, after you’ve moved, just to keep them updated on how you’re doing, you know, and feel comfortable talking to them before you move and say, you know, I’ve really valued your work aSATeacher and being in your class, you know, I’d love to stay in touch and I hope you’d still be okay with writing me a recommendation when the time comes to apply for college and then honor that, you know, by staying in touch,
uh, going onto the next question. Well, okay. We are coming up on time. So is there any, um, last advice that you would like to give to students about the admissions process, what they should be doing, um, or what admissions officers are looking for?
It’s I can talk, um, I think actually we really covered like the holistic process, like each the element of those personal parts of the application. So I would just, just a couple of things. I mean, one is. I’ll highlight, just stay authentic, you know, really feel confident in, you know, thinking about you and what’s best for you.
No one else can tell you that even those who know you very well, so, you know, trust yourself, breathe. Um, and as anxiety provoking is this time is it’s also incredibly exciting and you’ll never have another time quite like this. So do your best to enjoy this, you know, share it with your loved one to support you.
Um, it’s exciting for them to, um, to see you growing and moving in this new direction, uh, on your own. So, um, just embrace it. and I think I’ll address kind of one of the last questions in the chat for closing, um, is how are colleges taking in consideration the pandemic? Um, and so that is top of mind is top of mind.
It is for you filling out your application and thinking about your four years, um, of high school. Um, that is also context that we are bringing into the committee as well. Um, it has greatly shaped not just the class of 2021, but it will shape. Every single class of students for years and years to come. Um, and so we are having to keep that context in mind when reviewing, um, students’ applications.
Um, in addition, similar to the educational progression question, there is a COVID 19 disruption question that is on the common app. Um, it was on last year and is on again this year. Not sure how long they will keep it. Um, but while it is on, this is the perfect opportunity to talk about, um, any changes in activities that might have happened for you, um, disruptions in your personal life, um, how you cope with virtual learning.
Um, again, giving us all of the details that we don’t always have, um, that can fill in some of the blanks about, uh, who you are as a person and answer some of those questions that might be popping up in our head. So, um, take advantage of it. We are empathetic, um, and we really, really are trying to give students the best shot at the admissions process by understanding.
mm-hmm yes. So that is the end of the webinar. We hope you found this information helpful and remember that this webinar is being recorded and you will be able to view it again later on our website. Um, just for anybody who did not get their questions answered. I do recommend looking at our other webinars that may touch on those more specifically, or if you were asking a specific question about a program or specific school requirements, do check out, um, do check out the schools, uh, on website so you can see what they are looking for specifically.
Um, just because every school is gonna be different. I saw some questions about, um, vaccine requirements at different schools or testing requirements. Each school has those listed. Uh, if you’re looking for a specific information on a school’s diversity or their international population or. Stats a lot of the times, those may be a bit harder to find because schools may try and hide them in their website somewhere.
But if you dig a little bit, um, through, um, their, um, information sections or their diversity, um, pages, you can typically find those answers or find specific stats. Um, I saw a student that was interested in, um, finding out how schools, um, determine if you were still a good fit. Every year. Schools do take reports of students experiences each year.
That one is probably gonna be one of the hardest ones to find. But if you go to our blog on, um, being a black student at Cornell, uh, which I wrote, there is a link to a page, uh, of different stats and reports on, um, student experiences. And from there, you can sort of find what other schools are doing to sort of.
Fit student fit, if that makes sense. Uh, so yes, and this is the rest of our August series where we’ll have different panels on different schools. That is great for those researching schools right now. And we have it on different topics. If you’re looking for more, um, specific questions about the common app, do check out our common app, deep dive by going to app.CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars and typing in those keywords.
And thank you everyone for coming out tonight and goodnight. Thank you. See you guys. Thanks.