Q&A with Former Admissions Officers
Former Admissions Officers Geraldine and Riley are ready to answer your burning questions about how to succeed in the application process.
2021-12-12 Q&A with Admissions Officers
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar, Q&A with Former Admissions Officers. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with some quick introductions from our panelists, and then answer your questions in a live Q and a throughout the entirety of the webinar.
So be sure to take advantage of this time, to ask all of your questions about college and the admissions process on the sidebar, you can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab. Now let’s meet our panelists.
Hi everyone. My name is Riley Hopkins. I graduated as a psychology and dance double major from Bates College in 2018. Um, after that, I went on to work in the admission [00:01:00] office at Connecticut college as an admission counselor. Um, and just a few months ago, I got a job at Wellesley college in the admission office doing more, um, marketing and communications.
So, um, I’ve been involved in obviously college admissions since, um, the time I graduated from college, myself, the patient processes on tank. Um, it’s, it’s a really fun journey as well, being on this side of it. Now I realize it shouldn’t be fun. Um, but I understand it’s totally stressful in the moment. So I’m really happy to be here answering some questions and mystifying parts of, um, the application process with you.
Great. Thanks, Riley. Um, it’s a pleasure to be here with you tonight. My name is Geraldine Shen. I graduated from Williams college in 2011. Um, I have worked in management consulting and in nonprofit management, um, ever since, and I’ve worked for three years at Williams as admissions office. Um, I’ve done college [00:02:00] counseling at an independent school, and I’ve also worked, um, as independent college counselor, as well as, uh, continue to read for the Williams admissions office as a part-time reader.
Um, I’m pretty excited about helping young people figure out what it is that they’d like to do with their lives, whether it’s for college or beyond and finding a really great fit and feeling good about the schools that they’re attending. So it’s really nice to see you all here. Great. Well, we’re lucky to have y’all here and now we’re going to start off with a quick poll.
So what aspects of the, um, admissions process concern you are you most concerned about? So that can be, um, college research and college list-building financial aid and scholarships, application essays, interviews, the admissions requirements, the activities list. There are a lot of aspects of that admissions process pretty much.
So just, um, check off as many, or is this view [00:03:00] as you feel as need, so we can get a good idea of what sort of questions to be looking out for. Um, and while we wait for that, um, can either of y’all or both of y’all tell us something interesting, um, or your most, the most enjoyable part of your job, um, from admissions.
Good question. My favorite part has always been interacting with students, um, and, and really being a part of that process from start to finish with them. I think that’s why I really enjoy the work that I do with CollegeAdvisor. Um, because that aspect of the work is what fascinates me the most and what I’m most invested in.
I love, um, you know, doing panels with, with students. And when I was working at Conn college, I would do essay writing workshops, um, and really just helping them throughout, you know, the general application process. So I mean, kind of what we’re doing now, you know, th this Q and a answering questions, [00:04:00] demystifying the process, um, was, was always my favorite.
Yeah. I mean, likewise, I think that the best part, you know, admissions officers, I think one of the big things for you all to remember is that admissions officers are humans and they’re excited to be doing the admissions work. And so we are rooting for everybody that we see applications come in for. And so obviously when you meet people, you know, um, particularly for Riley and I, we, we have both worked at institutions that aren’t too large in scale.
And so come September, you know, we love running into students that we have read their files or remember from the committee discussions. And we love, you know, kind of freaking people out and be like, Hey Riley, I remember you, you wrote your essay about this, but it shows that, you know, I think the admissions officers are all like pro you know, helping young people.
And that’s, so the parts where we get to interact with other, with real humans, whether it’s the preview weekends or it’s, you know, through an interview process, it’s always really [00:05:00] great to meet amazing young people from all over. That is really nice to hear, especially with all the stories of how admissions officers are just kind of zombies, just throwing through, um, reading through essays in one second.
Uh, so it’s nice to hear that you really do enjoy the process and the essays, and it is looking like 90% of the audience is worried about college research in college lists, 15% financial aid and scholarships, 16 for the application essays eight for interviews 13 for admissions requirements eight for extracurriculars eight for, um, when to apply, uh, 11% for finding your best fit and then 12% for picking your major.
So it’s looking like the most popular is application essays as usual. Um, and then there’s a pretty good mixture of. And I would close this poll and now we can get started with the Q and a. So audience, please submit your questions in the Q and a tab, and we will get to it [00:06:00] as soon as possible. Moving on to live Q and a I’ll read through your questions.
You submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them in the public chat so you can read them. And then, um, so you can see them and then read them aloud before a panelist gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom link sent to your email and not from the webinar landing page.
If you joined from the website or webinar landing page, you will not get all the features of big marker. And it won’t let you submit, um, through the QA test. So just make sure you join through your email. And now let’s get started with our first question. Oh, wow. Okay. Okay, so, hello, thanks for your time in advance.
If a student has great course rigor, great GPA, but not so great test scores, but it has extensive community service and a lot of other, um, a lot of other merit. Um, well that student, um, have a good chance of getting into the Ivy leagues for computer science, um, or in general, just make it a bit more broad.
[00:07:00] Um, and yeah,
um, I’m happy to first, um, respond and then Riley, if you wanted to add to it. So, one thing to note is that for most schools in the United States, That I think that our CollegeAdvisor folks are looking at, um, so competitive schools, um, you tend not to apply for certainly for the IVs for specific majors for the most part.
Right? So whether you get into computer science or you get in for English or you get in for something else, you’re not actually getting in for the specific major and you’re getting in, um, based on your performance throughout your high school experience. And that’s just good to know, because hopefully it takes a little bit of the pressure off of students to feel like they have to fake pick the perfect major to, um, Good or fuel right in the application now for the major, you know, obviously if admissions officers were looking for stories, right.
And we see a lot of [00:08:00] consistency in somebody’s interest in computer science or somebody interested in medicine or in English or in politics, that definitely helps to, you know, bring together a cohesive picture of the individual. But, um, I wouldn’t worry too much about what you put down in terms of major for most places, obviously there’s specialized schools that you would apply to, but in this case for the IVs, um, it’s not a specific computer science program that you’re applying to.
And one of the great things I think about the American education system is that, um, we don’t ask people to choose at age 16 or 18, what they will do. Um, for the most part, we have fairly flexible. Um, you know, if you decide after your first year, this isn’t for me, you’re able to change majors. So I just wanted to, um, put that one out there.
In terms of test scores, feeling like they’re not in sync with the rest of your strengths. Um, look at schools that are test optional. And obviously right now, during COVID many, many, many schools have [00:09:00] opted to go that route and talk with your individual advisor about what makes sense whether or not to present your test scores, because you might think your test score looks a certain way.
Um, but it all depends on the context. All depends on what school you’re applying to. Obviously the Ivy’s have extremely high standards. Um, but if you feel as though most other parts of your applications are really, really strong, then you have, um, you know, you have a good conversation about whether or not to submit your test scores.
Um, so. Maybe that helps, but I know it doesn’t answer your specific. Should I, you know, what are my chances of getting in? Um, but I think that’s also an important thing for us to know upfront that we are speaking sort of in general terms of advice and our experience, um, and it’s, uh, sort of impossible on the outset to predict whether anybody would get in or, you know, what really strengthened somebody’s chances or not.
But, um, it sounds like you’ve got a really robust [00:10:00] extracurricular, um, commitments and really, you know, good course rigor and good GPA. Those are very, very important. And that’s why colleges have been able to go, um, test optionals at the test doesn’t mean everything, um, in the admissions process. So all those other things that you were talking about in your, um, in the question, I think certainly hold a ton of weight.
Yeah. I completely agree. Geraldine. You. You really nailed it. And the one thing I just wanted to harp on was that, um, as you had kind of said, there is no perfect way to predict an outcome. There’s no perfect formula in, in college admission. And while the Ivy leagues in particular are incredibly competitive and incredibly selective, um, you know, it is a human process as Geraldine has said in her introduction.
Um, and it really depends on what strengths you have to bring to the table. Um, so my advice to you would be, as you go through this [00:11:00] process, don’t let the anxieties of the potential weak points in your application, um, stress you out and, and, um, kind of overpower your strengths in the application as well.
Um, so that would be my piece of advice for you. It’s definitely not worth stressing over, um, You know, I think from the sound of it, you do have a good list of extracurriculars. So I would just say focus on your strengths. Um, and just remember that the application is, um, you know, a lot more robust than a lot more contextual than just what’s listed on paper.
Yes. And on that note, um, my, uh, counselor, um, from a summer program, I was in, when I was applying to Cornell, told me that all I needed was a 1200 to get in which isn’t the best score. And I ended up getting up 13, 20, and I did get in, but I also had a really strong application and my good friend from the same high school also got in, but he had a great [00:12:00] application, but his test score was at 1220.
So test scores, weren’t the most important factor though. It is more of a case by case basis. Like they were saying, what do you bring to the table pretty much. Um, and on that note, since we’re kind of on that topic, can, uh, either or both of you explain what a holistic, um, the holistic review process. Yeah, I can, I can talk with this one first, um, and let Geraldine add onto it as well.
Um, when we say that we have a holistic application review process colleges mean that they are looking at every single part of the application and then effort to really understand what your story is, what you bring to the table and what kinds of community member you would be, um, on campus as well. We understand that students are more than their transcript.
They’re more than their test scores. They are more than their extracurriculars. Life comes from so many different angles and everyone’s lived experiences are incredibly different. Um, and so we, we, we care [00:13:00] about contextualizing everything in the application based on not only numbers, but. What happened in your high school experience?
What’s the trajectory over the course of your four years in terms of patterns and trends in your transcript and what are the causes behind, um, any sort of patterns or trends, um, does your extracurricular lists line up with, um, any sort of like hardships that you went through at some point in high school and, and what are those hardships?
Please explain those, you know, to, to provide more context. So when we say holistic application review process, it really is just an effort to fully understand who you are as a person, more than just, you know, who you are in the classroom, what grades you get, what test scores you have, um, and things like that.
Yeah. I don’t have a whole lot to add. I think that’s a really great encapsulation of how admissions works at all these, um, top very competitive schools. I would [00:14:00] say to that, you know, um, when you’re. Going, you know, when you’re putting together your application, it’s important to work with folks. Um, whether it’s, you know, family members, you know, folks at your school or, um, advisers to feel as though everything kind of makes sense.
Not everything has to be related. Obviously you can have interests in a lot of different areas, but that, you know, where if you have certain passions that come out a lot in your extracurriculars, perhaps your teacher might, or counselor might mention it or that, you know, if you have done a ton of like research over the summer, you know, you’d see that with like strong stem grades.
And so those kinds of consistencies help admissions officers who are looking at a piece of paper, then have a better way to sort of imagine you in 3d. And there is a very strong interest in doing that. And so, um, one way to really. Take advantage of the, you know, what seems like a [00:15:00] really daunting admissions process and a really big application is to, to know that you have a lot of different places to tell your story.
And so, even though when you’re looking at it, you’re like, oh, I have to write all these essays or all these short answers. This is not fun. Right. Um, look at them as opportunities. Oh, there’s this other thing about me that I feel like I haven’t really mentioned, and I really want them to know that. And there’s a short answer question that asks me what a passion is or something that makes me happy.
And I’m going to talk about it there. So look at the, um, parts that you can control, which is your essays and your short answer questions as really great ways for people to get to know you and make sure that, you know, they cover sort of the breadth of your. You know, your, your accomplishments, your personality, um, rather than say always talking about like that one time you won a tournament, you know, um, because once that story comes through in one place, it doesn’t have to be repeated elsewhere or, you know, you don’t have to repeat every time.
Um, you have an opportunity that you, you know, that you did [00:16:00] this one, um, competition. So, um, you know, really use the application to allow this sort of holistic view of you to be developed by the admissions officers when they’re reviewing it and know that, you know, the time that you put into your applications, we do spend time reading it.
We do spend time looking at it also, um, you know, feel good about the work that you’re putting in. And on that note, um, along with test scores, a lot of students are worried about grades and courses. So, um, this is a rather specific question. So I just put it in the public chat, but, um, if a student has like a bad grade, like a C or a D in a course, um, will that, um, will that affect their chance of admissions?
Are there other ways they can make up for this? And, um, yeah. And then if you want to add, like what sort of courses, um, are good to take the highest score, anything related to courses in general?[00:17:00]
So, you know, I want to also be realistic that if you have some pretty bad grades on your transcript, like there’s going to be a people applying. Who may not have those bad grades on their transcripts. So just, I wouldn’t say doomed is the right word to use, but depending on what happened, right. It’s important for you to maybe contextualize that right.
Admissions officers right now, I can tell you from being parts of these conversations, they really are trying to understand how the whole landscape of COVID has affected individuals. And there is this understanding that. This has not been an easy time for people. And so maybe, you know, had you not done your course remotely for half a semester, if you have your pre-calc, hadn’t been, um, you know, in a remote setting, then you might have had a better grounding for your BC calculus or whatever it [00:18:00] is.
Right. So people are really trying to understand what happened here is, is that the kid just stopped doing homework and, um, doing exams, or maybe there’s something you can talk about and say, you know, I got a bad grade, but I really try to persist beyond it. And here’s some of the things I did because guess what?
People get bad grades in college too. And so what we’re also interested in is how is this individual going to handle this when they get to college? Right? Not everybody comes to college and sales through with straight A’s. Right. And that’s kind of like a rude awakening, but a lot of people who are successful in high school, they go to college and there’s a lot of, you know, colleges harder than senior year.
Right. And so. So you go to school. So it’s about being able to tell a little bit of story. If there’s space for it, maybe your counselor is able to address that, say, you know, this is what happened and this is how they dealt with it. And this is how they’re continuing to face this challenge. Right? So I think it’s, you know, if you have something that’s very much on your mind, um, again, talk to [00:19:00] somebody, figure out sort of a good strategy on how to address it.
It’s better than just sort of ignoring it and pretending it doesn’t exist. And, you know, grades are important. But as Riley said before, it’s also the trajectory, right? It’s also, um, say you had some rough grades in the beginning of high school, but you pulled it together and you are. Seem to be getting, getting better footing in certain regards.
That matters too. And so it’s not just purely the grades and, you know, different schools have different systems. Um, some schools have like a really tough AP us history teacher. Right. And so do you take AP us history or, and avoid the teacher or do you, you know, go for it. And again, if you’re able to, if you feel as though there’s a story that needs to be told there, figure out a way to tell that, um, but also know that you’ve got, there’s a whole lot of other things that you’re doing, and those also matter, right.
Um, you, you, so again, I don’t want to say, you know, in a, in a session like this, oh, don’t worry about your [00:20:00] grades, right. Obviously, you know, work really hard on your grades and, you know, for the try to learn the material, um, and conquer the material. But, um, you know, another thing that I don’t know if this is helpful at this point, but also for those of you who are seniors or even juniors and sophomores what’s happened in the past.
Has happened. Right? And so it’s about how you deal with it and move forward rather than letting that thing from the past, continue to sort of like derail your attempts to like find a good fit for a college and feel excited about the process. So, you know, try not to let one thing really weigh on your mind because you are, as Riley said so much more than just that one thing.
Um, but if you do feel as though, you know what I kind of want to tell, you know, a little bit more about what happened here, um, you could try to figure out how to do that in your application. Yeah. I truly don’t have much add besides harping on the fact that context is key. I [00:21:00] think that’s going to be a common theme, um, throughout the next 40 minutes or so, and the rest of the Q and a, the most you can do.
And the biggest piece of advice I can give. Provide that context show that you’re growing and moving forward from whatever has happened in the past. Um, you can’t control what happened in the past. Um, and so the most you can do is just make your application as strong as possible by including that context and showing your growth.
Um, while also being aware that Ivy leagues in particular with a five to 6% acceptance rate do have really high standards as well. Um, so which is why, you know, the focus should be, how can I paint myself in the most accurate and best light, um, in the application process? Yes. And it, it was very funny when you said in college, the grades just go by the wayside and it hits every gifted student in particular.
So one thing I’d recommend for all high school students, if you’ve never been to tutoring start going now, so you can get used to it before you get to college [00:22:00] and have to start going to office hours and feel weird about it. Um, so we’re going to skip and come back to that question, but. Um, just to get an idea of the audience.
What grade are you currently in? Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other. And other can be, if you’re a parent on the car right now, or a transfer student or a current college student, or if you’re somewhere else in your life right now. And while we wait for that, um, Hmm. What is he? Good question. Um, where, um, okay.
I guess, because we’re about to talk about grades, um, when should students start preparing for the admissions process?
I’m happy to just quickly.
Oh yeah. Could you just repeat the question? Oh yes. When should students start preparing for the admissions process? [00:23:00] Um, so I would say that, um, You know, some people say it’s never too early. I do think that depending on how preparing for the admissions process looks like in your family or to you, there can be a time where it’s just a little too early, where you just should be focusing on living your life, you know, doing school, doing you, um, enjoying yourself, being your authentic self and pursuing interests and not sort of thinking about, well, what’s called what’s this going to look like in a college context?
Like, well, how will this look like on my college app admissions, broad applications, because, you know, I think the applications that admissions officers get most excited about is when you really feel, as you’re getting to that, you’re getting to know an individual and you really feel as though they’ve pursued passions that are of genuine interest to them.
Right. Um, and so. You know, arguably you could [00:24:00] say you get to high school, your grades are all on the transcripts, your activities, you start listing them. Sure. You know, let’s not, you know, um, not challenge yourself as a ninth grader or not do any extracurricular activities as a ninth grader. Right. So in that kind of case, just following your own interests is preparing for college right after sophomore year or so.
You know, maybe you get to go on a college visit. Maybe you have an older sibling who’s in college. Talk to them about what it’s like talk to older friends about what that’s like, so that when it comes time for you to research colleges and to think about the college list that you’d like to build to apply to you kind of have an idea because it can be kind of overwhelming.
Do not wait until senior year fall. Not saying that that’s not ever a successful, plenty of people do it that way. But I think in terms of like stress levels, it’s sort of putting forth your best foot, um, starting, you know, to know a little bit, maybe you visit a school, a few schools after sophomore year, before junior year, you talked to your college counselor at your school about, you know, [00:25:00] questions.
You have areas of interest, you know, they might say, oh, you know, you can look at this place or talk to friends. If your, if you, if you go to a big school, you know, talk to some friends who are. Say, oh yeah. I looked at that. This is what I liked about that. Look, this is what I didn’t like about a start hearing.
You know, what are some of the questions people have about schools, especially with, if you go and visit one, what do people ask at information sessions then, then do a lot of research the summer before you apply as well as start thinking about your essay. So don’t start thinking about your essay, um, in the fall of your senior year, if possible, start working on it over the summer.
I’m not saying have a draft have a completed final perfect draft by August 31st. That is often not a good idea either because you as an individual are growing and changing too. And you want your essay to be a very, um, current depiction of who you are, but at the same time, if you wait until senior year before you do anything, it can be more stressful than [00:26:00] necessary.
Um, Riley, would you have additional timeline points of. The only thing I would add to that is that, um, you know, the application process is very much a journey of self-reflection and, um, discovery, um, learning what you like, what you don’t like, who you are as a student, who you are as a community member, um, and just really growing into and settling into your identity.
Um, that’s a really important part of the process as well. Um, in determining what schools would be the best fit for you. So really the biggest piece of advice I have is that, you know, if you’re starting early, realize that you do not have to hit the ground running right away, it can totally be a soft, um, a soft entrance into the process.
Just start Googling schools, Google pro, like maybe you took this awesome bio class and you’re like, maybe I wanted try looking into just some bio. Uh, just getting those questions [00:27:00] answered and doing a few Google searches is a really great way to get the gears moving and dipping your toes in the process.
So, um, really just start with some research, be curious, see what’s out there and help that kind of inform, um, you know, what you’re looking for in a college as a, as a launching pad into the. And I’ve really liked that both of you really focused on students looking at themselves, focusing on the U aspects of university.
Um, just because a lot of students get caught up in worrying about how to make the perfect application, how to pick the right thing, how to do this. Right. That right. When really it’s about doing things that you like, because you like them or trying out things to see if you’d like them or not like them.
So you can make the best decision. That’s the most important thing to do throughout high school in general and life. Um, and so, yeah, and it is looking like we had zero eighth graders that wasn’t a surprise 2% or ninth [00:28:00] graders, 9% are 10th graders. 60% are 11th graders, which makes up the majority of 15% are 12th graders and 15% are other.
So I’m assuming their parents transfers are current college students. And with that in mind, we will get onto the next question. So. Okay. In terms of joining clubs and programs, once he is asking is national honor society worth doing. And then another student is asking, do you know anything about college admissions with an IB diploma?
And I did both. So yes, if, either of y’all want to take those. Sure. Um, I can, I can start this off here in terms of extracurriculars. The biggest thing for me as someone who has read so many applications, we be authentic with, with unintentional, with the activities that you choose to do, don’t do national honor society.
If you think you need it for the application, because we can tell at this point at college admission, readers [00:29:00] can tell, you know, when an activity is genuine, when it’s authentic and when people are doing it to look impressive. Um, and so if you don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, um, or if you think you’re.
Just because you want to put it on, you know, the extracurricular lists. Maybe it’s not the best activity to, to immerse yourself in what we’re looking for when we’re, when we’re reviewing applications. And especially the extracurricular section is one, uh, longevity. How long have you been involved in a group and organization?
Um, what leadership roles have you, um, grown into within that? Uh, what’s the timeline there? What’s your dedication level there? Um, that’s a really big one. And then also, like, you know, how meaningful are these activities to you? Um, when you’re talking about the extracurriculars on the application, there’s a very small text box, uh, with only a few characters to write a description, but, you know, use that to really show your passion for this activity and what it meant to you.
Um, and why [00:30:00] it’s important to you. That’s a good indicator for. Admissions office is of kind of who you would be on their campus and what you would have to offer their community as well. So in terms of extracurriculars, you know, be authentic, be genuine. I don’t advise you to do something just because you think you need it for, for the application.
Um, and what was it about I can hop in it’s about IBS. So I’ll hop in just to reiterate what Riley said. Absolutely. That is the key, you know, be authentic. Um, if NHS is a big deal at your high school and you feel as though they do a lot, it’s a really good vehicle to get involved. Um, then that would be, you know, that, that is a different NHS than another school.
So the context, as well, as I said earlier, always does matter. Right. Um, but the activities should be you sort of, if somebody’s just hopping around trying out different activities, um, And not sort of developing [00:31:00] depth in any regard, then that can be not a good service to yourself. Um, in terms of IB. Yes, absolutely.
Um, all college admissions officers are very familiar with the IB, depending on the school that you’re applying to. They will have, um, policies, policies on whether or not they look at predictive grades, whether they, you know, consider your extended essay scores and your extra three points as part of sort of the average score of the student they’re looking for.
Um, some schools will say, you know, they will internally have ideas of like, they’d like to see, you know, mostly sixes and sevens are fives and sixes, you know, they, so there is great familiarity with the IB at this point. Um, certainly much more than 20 years ago. So, um, Would they don’t worry about that.
One thing you could do to sort of, um, feel better about the information that’s shared about your school is, um, you know, junior year or so you can ask her school. Is, is it possible to look at, uh, uh, a copy of the [00:32:00] secondary school report that gets sent with your application? So all applications, um, have almost all usually have a secondary school report attached and that’s what admissions officers use to remind themselves of what schools look like.
Right. And so there might be some schools where getting a 4.0 is sort of basically impossible. There might be other schools where a 4.0 is like the bottom half of the class. You know, everybody else is a 4.8 or above, right. And the way the college admissions officers know this, in addition to just being familiar with schools and having read applications from this, those places, um, and you know, doing our own research is that we get a secondary school report from the school and it often gives us a bunch of information.
Um, they all look different, but it’s, so it’s good to look at the one that your school sends and, you know, your school will say we have an IB diploma program. It is reserved for the top 10%, or it is something anybody can sign up for. Or we have IB and AP, or [00:33:00] this is how we weight our GPA’s. This is the distribution of RGP.
Some schools share exact rank. Riley Hopkins is number one out of 450 students. In other, other places they might say, well, Geraldine Shan is in the top 10% of her class, or they might say, this is her GPA. And this is sort of the, you know, range of GPA’s we had last year, junior year, second semester, right?
So they may or may not share much information, um, and people apply who are homeschools. So definitely, um, if you go to a school, you know, if you’re not homeschooled, right, you can go to a school and say, can I look at the secondary school report? Just so you have an idea. And you’re like, oh, okay. I don’t have to worry about explaining any of this because the secondary school report already explains all of these things.
So the school has a good idea of, uh, Of the way my S the college has a good idea of the way my school does things. And that allows college admissions offices to really be able to evaluate applications from a variety of different places. Um, because we [00:34:00] get some background information about, um, you know, both the school, maybe the area as well, and that’s very helpful to us.
Okay. Definitely. And yet I did do both of those programs. So with the national honor society, I didn’t get in until senior year. And, um, it was, I added it just because of the prestige of the program, not necessarily because I did anything in it. Um, my, um, my stronger, um, activities that I had was, um, were beta club because I had been in it since elementary school.
Um, cause we had a chapter then, and then. Which am I call it, uh, the programs that I started on my own, like I started my own club at my school and that was the most important part of my application. Not necessarily national honor society. And then I started a club because I was in the IB program and I did as my cast project.
And then, um, the way my teacher explained the IB program at your more state schools, local schools, having the [00:35:00] diploma can help get you a full ride like Oglethorpe university in Georgia. Um, they, uh, give you a full ride. If you get the photo, not a full ride, they gave you your pole. First, year’s worth of credit if you get the IB diploma.
Um, but at more top schools like the IVs, it’s more so a foot in the door than necessarily going for credit. It’s just to show that you can handle rigor, um, and the same with AP courses also. Um, so if you’re looking for credit. Ivy league may not be the best place to shoot for, with regards to like the IB diploma and, um, APS.
It’s more so just to show, like you can handle that level. Um, and there is another webinar that I had done a week ago where it was on what juniors and sophomores should be doing. And it does have more information on like courses, activities, lists, and these other little things, but we would get back to the questions now.
And this one is from a current college student. Uh, I applied to a university and got in. [00:36:00] Um, but the major I got into the school for originally is not what I want to do anymore. What should I do? Oh, not a current college student about to go in. I think it’s, this one is fairly straightforward. So I’m going to answer, um, you need to talk to somebody at your school.
Um, we don’t know which school it is and what, um, what their policies are, but like I said earlier, hopefully it’s fairly easy. Right. Um, you, uh, we don’t typically have sort of scholarships, you know, if you’re, there’s no reason, there’s usually not a reason for the school to not have you continue there if you change your major.
Right. Um, so I would say fine, go to the Dean’s office, talk to somebody and say, this is what you’re facing. And they’ll tell you what your options are. And some places, it might be very strict about the certain majors and other places. There might be others that you can go into. Um, but it’s hard to, in a general sense, answer that question because it depends on each school.
[00:37:00] Uh, okay. So this is a question about the personal statement. So I’m going to paste it. And again, if you see any questions that you have an answer to feel free to read them out and, um, give your answer, but, um, can the personal statement be something about, um, the belief or rituals about the day to day morning rituals?
Um, for my cultural traditions, which I respect and follow here, or should I talk about something else? Uh, is that a red flag or should I always talk about some tough situation and how I overcame, uh, overcame it? Um, uh, my cultural roots helped me to stay on track and to make me feel positive, motivated for whatever I do.
And you can broaden this to like what sort of topics where the personal statement and other athletes. Absolutely. I think, you know, it’s, it’s hard to, um, uh, [00:38:00] To judge kind of a topic, because it really depends on how you’re writing the essay and how you are, um, communicating in your most authentic voice.
So. I always tell students, don’t worry so much, you know, don’t, don’t stress and lose sleep over what topic you’re going to write about, whether that’s the day to day morning rituals of your tradition, or, you know, should I write about that or not? Clearly if it’s something that’s so heavy on your mind, and maybe it’s a good thing to write about.
And it seems like something that’s really meaningful in this specific example. That’s the biggest thing to focus on when you are brainstorming topics what’s meaningful to me, what story can I tell that will teach the reader? Something about me that they can’t find in the rest of the application? Um, that’s a really important part and some of the best essays I’ve read had to do with, you know, something as seemingly mundane as a favorite pair of shoes or, um, something as, as broad, um, [00:39:00] as just talking about.
Um, religious or cultural traditions, um, you know, speaking more broadly. Um, so it really depends on what your voice is, how you can best communicate your voice to really bring the reader into your life for a moment. And, and, you know, I always like to say, if I were to have a conversation with you after reading your essay, I would know exactly what I could talk about with you.
I would know exactly what questions to ask and I would know exactly what type of conversation I’d be entering. Um, you know, that’s, that’s the goal of the essay, not so much, is this a good enough topic, but more at least the way I think about it as someone who has read applications and read many essays is how can I best communicate my most authentic self and tell a story that teaches the reader, something about me.
Yeah, absolutely. I agree with Riley, um, you know, go with your first instinct and try it out, write the essay, see if it fits, you know, with the prompts. Um, [00:40:00] and. I would also say that don’t be so wedded to one essay topic that you don’t explore others. So, you know, hence the advice to start the summer before senior year, just try out the, you know, the personal statement is a fairly unique format.
Some of you will have English teachers who help you in class go through, you know, practice personal statements, others of you will not. And so if you, especially for those of you who don’t have that opportunity in school, try it out, you know, it’s, it can be hard and awkward to talk about yourself, right.
Um, in like a 600 word, uh, way. And so without pictures, you know, um, and so definitely try it out and then you might find that a certain topic just sort of flows and you’re excited to write about it. And another one just feels kind of hard to get out, you know, cohesive. Piece about. And so I would try a couple different, um, essays and then, you know, work on them and see which one you feel like is like Riley said, [00:41:00] you know, really conveys your authentic self or, you know, your voice and how you, you know, the way that you think the things that are important to you.
It doesn’t have to answer every question about you that anybody could pose. Right. Also, I think sometimes some people fall prey to the idea that this is my chance and I better tell them everything about me. You know, it’s sometimes a more focused essay that, you know, is well-written, um, will give me good enough clues as to who you are, rather than like, let me tell you about from when I was born until now and this whole long story about my life.
Um, because then, you know, in the 600 words is really hard to get that depth and actually get to know who you are as an individual. So, um, I would say. You know, brainstorm different topics. Um, talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to advisors. If you have them about different topics, try out one or two that you like and also expect it to be an iterative process.
Right? Uh, very rarely [00:42:00] does somebody say I’ve got a great idea about a personal statement. I’m gonna write it and here it is, it’s done. Um, you know, often it’s like, well maybe I’m going to try another draft or two or three or four or five, or maybe I’m going to try and other topics. So, um, keep your mind open to it.
But there is no right. A perfect topic. There are some that are trickier to deal with, you know? Um, so definitely think about what feels comfortable for you to write about, um, but don’t stress over. This is going to look bad. So. Yes. And we do have other webinars on editing your personal statement, or even rethinking your personal statement, which have different information on, um, editing, um, coming up with topics and other components that you may be worried about.
Um, so we’re going to do another quick 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 [00:43:00] application materials together, or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And some of you may already be done if you are seniors that applied already.
And while we wait for that, um, there was another question in the chat. Um, oh, no question. Uh, this one was more so related to financial aid, but um, ready to go. Uh, The student was, oh, okay. Uh, I am a senior. I have already gotten into multiple schools and receive merit based scholarships from almost all the schools I got into.
Uh, can you please give advice on negotiating money between universities? I’m happy to give this a stab. Um, I have to say that, you know, I’m not a former financial aid officer, so I am not an expert in this regard. Um, so maybe good to check this question out with somebody who’s done this before. But my experience [00:44:00] from having seen this process happen is that, you know, schools, um, don’t really see it as a negotiation process.
They’re not sort of waiting for you to have you do a counter offer or to, um, you know, somehow negotiate with them. Most schools are putting their best foot forward, and they’re saying, this is what we can do for you. Um, given how excited we are about your application. So I would, I wouldn’t advise somebody to.
Say, Hey Riley from Bates, you know, Williams is doing this for me, what you got, right? Because a lot of places, you know, they’re, they’ve accepted lots of students and they are banking on X percentage of them coming. Um, and joining whether it’s honors programs or, you know, just the student body, if they don’t do merit scholarships, but for merit scholarship places.
Um, my, I have not seen a ton of negotiating back and forth or change significant changes in application packages because the schools are very thoughtful and intentional about [00:45:00] how they make these offers. Um, and so, you know, but again, maybe that’s something to double-check with different schools and you can also, you know, this sounds scary, but you can also double check with the school.
You know, you could just write them and say, is it possible to negotiate or is it possible? There are certain aspects of my package that I want to talk to you about and they should tell you straight up. Sure. You know, we’d love to have a conversation or no, that’s what you got. Um, from what I’ve seen, I’ve mostly heard people talk about, um, for needs-based financial aid, being able to be negotiated in some instances, if you cannot afford going to a certain school, but merit scholarships sound pretty set.
Like they’re giving you that amount, it’s more set than others. Um, Riley, did you have anything to add on that? I don’t. Um, I completely agree. Definitely. If the package that you receive need-based is not going to, [00:46:00] it’s just not financially possible for you and your family. Um, you know, it’s definitely worth reaching out, um, to see if a conversation can be facilitated about that.
Obviously no guarantees, um, depending on the school, but, you know, I think when it comes to finances and need-based aid, it might be worth it to at least see if something can be. And it is looking, oh, an CollegeAdvisor recently put together a financial aid team. So if you are already a member of CollegeAdvisor, please do, um, talk to your advisor and get them to reach out or reach out directly to the new financial aid team where they’ll be able to answer more specific questions.
Um, but on that note, it is looking like 29%. I haven’t started 42% are researching schools. 8% are working on their essays. 12% are getting application materials together and 10% are almost done. And on that note, we will get back to the Q and a, and let’s [00:47:00] see if again, if you see any questions, um, please feel free.
Um, I did get a private message though. This one is related to majors. Uh, again, so, um, I have developed deep interest in both music and business. I’ve received awards and recognition at a state and national level at both. May I apply as a dual degree or should I just select one major with this impact? My chances of being admitted, and this one can be brought in to like picking majors in general.
Dual degrees, other programs. Absolutely. Yeah. This is a really great question. And, um, I, I certainly cannot speak for every college and university because everyone does this a little bit differently. Um, but for a lot of, um, a lot of schools out there, again, as, as Geraldine has said earlier, if you don’t apply to a specific, um, major, a lot of times students are going in undecided.[00:48:00]
And admission office know that. So they’re not telling you to, um, whatever major you indicate on your application. Um, that being said, however, if it’s something that, you know, you’re really interested in, it adds a little bit more depth and dimension to your application to say, you know, Hey, these are the things I’m interested in the majoring again, admission offices know that that very well could change at some point during your time at that institution, if you’re admitted and enrolled full.
Um, but it’s sometimes just really interesting to see, you know, what, what students are leaning towards. A lot of times the application will allow you to indicate more than one academic interests. In which case you could put both music in business or whatever interests you may have. Again, it just adds a little bit more depth.
It adds some personality, um, to, to your application. Um, I feel like there was something else I wanted to say about that. Um, but basically, you know, do not feel compelled in my experience. [00:49:00] Um, every year I feel like I was seeing more and more students apply undecided and not indicate any academic interests whatsoever.
Um, so it’s not uncommon to do that as well. If you just don’t feel comfortable putting something down on paper, um, even though it’s not, you know, permanent and, um, and a, a promise that you’ll actually major in that it’s still, you know, for some students they just truly don’t know, which is also totally fine.
Okay. College as a time to explore these things. It’s a time for growth. Admission offices are fully aware of that, but yes, if you do have really niche interests like that, uh, and it’s something that you are very passionate about right now in the moment by all means, I think, uh, it does not hurt to put on your application.
Yeah. I don’t have much to add there, but I agree. Um, obviously if you’re applying to a specific school, um, you know, a business school, an undergraduate business program, then that might look a little different, but I will say that, you know, there will be evidence of your [00:50:00] multiple interests throughout your application.
And so, you know, as we mentioned earlier, that story part where we say, oh yeah, this person is really great at both of these things. You know, they’re interested in continuing both in college that like Riley saying adds the depth. If you do have those. So real quick once work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 155 advisors and admissions officers sign up for a free consultation with us by going to CollegeAdvisor.com and clicking the green chat button in the bottom, right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and a live team member will get back to you to help you, um, to help you with your free consultation.
Um, and CollegeAdvisor offers a bunch of different resources. Not only do we have these free webinars and our private webinars, but we also have our blog, which offers essay guides and different, um, blog posts on various aspects of the application process. And we also have our. Wonderful essay review team and financial aid [00:51:00] team and interview, um, team as well.
We have a lot of seams and then our advisors, of course, that can help you throughout, um, navigating your individual college admissions process and really give you that support and guidance, especially in these stressful times. It’s just good to have someone to talk to someone, to look over your essays and someone who can really help you build your narrative.
Now back to the Q and a. So, um, one students asking are all school applications different or is there someplace to get a general idea of what is necessary on the application? That’s a great question. And an important one. If you’re starting your research, There are major, uh, application consortiums. And so, um, common application is one of them.
Um, the coalition application is a newer one and different, some schools will have their own specific applications or, and, or take both. So, um, both of those other applications, those are the predominant sort of three that I’ve seen. [00:52:00] Um, but it’s definitely good to, before you apply. Google it it’s all out there.
Nobody’s hiding any questions behind a screen. I mean, specific school questions may not be re released for the year, um, until the application goes live, but you can get an idea of the different components of the application by looking at sample common applications, coalition applications, so that you can start thinking.
Okay. So, you know, we talked earlier about whether or not to do NHS or certain things to think about your activities. Most schools will ask you about your app, your extracurricular section, and you will have a chance to rank them, sort of, you know, you’ll, you’ll talk about them in a certain order, or there’s certain things you say about them and then they’ll have, um, you know, essay questions and there are sample essay questions out there.
So you can literally just Google, you know, you see essay questions and they will, you will find a website where it that’s all listed. Um, many schools also have, [00:53:00] um, here are the essay questions and then one of your. Right. So to know that that is, there’s a very broad one out there for you. If you already have a great idea in mind, and you’re worried that it may or may not fit a circle or an essay.
So all I would say, um, yes, absolutely. All the components of college admissions packets are available. If you search, you know, you can look at it directly through schools or you can search, um, you know, CollegeAdvisor will be able to tell you what those are. Um, but you can find that information out there and it’ll change year to year in terms of the specific questions.
But, um, our experience Briley, correct me if I’m wrong, is that it’s generally fairly consistent, right? They’re not, it’s not going to be a 180 degree turn to be like, whoa, last year they asked about this and this year, some completely different thing. Every single essay question is designed to help the admissions officer better get to know you so that, you know, there’s not gonna be an essay question out [00:54:00] there would be like saying, you know, like tell me the.
You know, research on, um, I don’t know, space travel, right. And then the next year say, you know, what’s the best way to make a banana suit flight. Right. So it’s always like, how do I get to know you better? And so you, the good thing is for a lot of these questions, even though they might be hard to answer, you know, the answers already because they’re about you.
Absolutely. I’ve nothing to add completely agreed. Um, it’s all going to be very, you know, pretty straightforward, um, no trick questions or anything like that. Well, you Chicago throw a sign up, find one. Um, so, um, another student’s asking for test score optional schools. When should you submit your scores and when should you hold off, should you base it on the sat act, score percentages of previous years?
Yeah. So, um, I’m glad this was a question that was brought up because I feel like so many [00:55:00] students are always wondering. Do I submit yes or no, um, uh, for a test optional school, my advice has always been do the research on what the average score is submitted are for that specific institution. Um, of course, if it is a test optional school only, um, and they usually publish, you know, uh, on their website, very transparent of the students that did submit test scores.
Um, you know, this is what the range was for act. This is what the average rate, which was for sat, um, as sometimes they’ll publish enrolling student information, um, in terms of, uh, that, that same statistic for specifically enrolling students, not just applicants. Um, so my advice would be start there and see where you fall in comparison it all.
In my experience, reading application, I have always said. Gosh, I really wish this person did submit their [00:56:00] test scores. I have said that way more than I have said. I wish they did some in their test scores. I’m not saying no to err, on the side of caution and not submit your test scores if that’s an option for you.
Um, but I am saying that scores low scores can hurt more than having notes scores on your application can, um, when it comes to applying test optional, other people might have, you know, different opinions about that. But in my experience, I have always seen, um, a student’s application be a little bit hurt by lower test scores rather than, um, you know, helped by really high test scores or helped or hurt with no test scores at all.
Again, depends on the, um, competitiveness and selectivity of the institution, but at least start with doing the research. Where do you fall in, um, you know, in relation to the other applicants and other enrollment. Yeah, I agree with Riley on that. Um, so the answer is [00:57:00] there’s no simple answer. You have to do the research and you have to figure out the context of each school and similarly understand that whatever information schools do share about their test scores, averages, percentiles, you don’t necessarily know what all the students who submitted those scores, sort of family backgrounds, GPA, extracurricular profile looked like.
Right. And so, um, certainly being above average is helpful, but you know, when you’re looking at scores, it can be very, um, you know, misleading because you’re like, oh yeah, no, I have a score. That’s at least, you know, solid solidly in the middle. Um, but that might be, you know, schools that are thinking like it’s harder for certain students from different kinds of backgrounds to get higher scores or, you know, there’s different aspects of, uh, A standardized test score that that colleges will think about.
And so, um, even doing your research is not, um, you [00:58:00] know, even saying, oh yeah, no, I have a great test score. Um, I’m in the high range of the school doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a really good shot of getting in depending on what the rest of your application looks like. So, you know, I would say if you’re having a question about this best to work very specifically with somebody to think through each of these cases.
And like Riley said, you know, if, if your test scores truly aren’t that great and the school is test optional, then, then you know, don’t submit them. So since we’re coming up on time, we can get through a few more questions. So do you recommend, uh, extracurriculars have a common theme or be involved in various activities?
Should they gear towards your intended major? And since we’re on the topic of majors, another student is asking, uh, if a student is still not decided on getting into engineering or pre-med, how do you proceed or what options do we consider? So like [00:59:00] again, picking majors and then like, um, tailoring your application towards them.
Yeah. So start with the activities. You know, I think we talked about this before, pursue the things that you’re interested in and you might be interested in a lot of things and that’s great, but you also definitely want to show that. Stuck through with some activities, right? You want to show that you’ve done them for more than a year or two.
You might want to have some things that you’ve done for four years in college, hopefully because it was really interesting to you because you really cared about it or because your team was really important to you. And so I would say, you know, You don’t have to it. I have seen people with a broad array of interests, and that is very exciting to see, because then you can imagine this individual getting involved in a lot of different groups on campus.
Right. Um, I’ve seen some folks where there’s, you know, definite theme to the kind of activities that they get involved. And that’s great too, but for all, for all of these cases, it’s helpful. If we’ve seen that you’ve [01:00:00] committed some time to the activity. Some students can’t do a lot of activities because they have to work.
You know, they, um, they have to support their families or whatever circumstances they’re in. They have significant responsibilities outside of the home. That is, you know, that’s important too. Right? I think what admissions officers are looking for is how does this individual spend the time that they have outside of school?
Are they using it fairly productively, whether it’s in service of their family and service of their community and service of their own growth? Um, or do we think they’re probably just sitting around and watching a lot of TV, you know? Um, so you want to be the former, right? Somebody who’s used their time.
Well, but how you do it, I think can be, can look every single different way possible, but you know, definitely try to have some consistency in the activity itself, not necessarily across activities, but like, you’ve got to have a few that you’ve done for more than one year. [01:01:00] Um, and again, you’ll be able to write about it in a more authentic way if it’s really interesting to you.
So if you kind of secretly have this interest in, you know, being in this, um, performing choir, but your family says, no, no, no, you have to do chess club. Um, or you have to do something that feels more academic. Um, you’re gonna shine more talking about how much you love. The power of making music with friends than being like, oh yeah, no, I had to just do this thing that I really wasn’t that excited about every single week school for four years.
And in the end, I don’t have that much passion with which I can talk about it. So, you know, follow some of, certainly follow at least some of your own personal interests, um, in terms of tailoring for specific, um, majors, again, as we mentioned earlier, most schools in this country are not major specific.
Your, uh, there are definitely places that you’re applying to a pre-engineering program or pre-med program. [01:02:00] Um, you could probably apply to both, if you genuinely think you can do both and you’ve got the background and required, you know, um, prior courses that they require for, for both of them. Um, but the vast majority of schools that most applicants are applying to, um, Are not bound by major or program and or once you get there, it’s easy to change.
So I would say, look at your own record, look at your own, um, accomplishments in that area and go with one where you feel like this is a place where all of my prior work in this field will be seen, recognized and, um, where I can contribute to the work that that school is doing in that area. Um, and, and if you feel like they’re equally, uh, strong in two different areas, then potentially pursue that.
But it’s rare that somebody is sort of like super qualified in both. [01:03:00] I completely agree. And just to add one thing about the majors, at least, you know, if you’re applying to a specific program or you have to apply to a specific program, and you’re not quite sure which one, you only can choose one or whatever, you know, reach out to the school itself and see what they would advise.
But if you don’t have to apply to a certain program, just know that you are not on your own. Once you matriculate and, and enroll, um, schools have some really fantastic academic advising resources to help you figure out what path you want to go down early on, um, so that they can set you up for success, um, once you get there.
So, you know, it’s not about, it’s not really a process. That’s about pulling teeth. Um, even though it seems really daunting to not know what you want to go into and. At face value might seem like it could, you know, determine what path you go down and really define your four years or however many years you spend in college.
Um, it’s, it’s really not like that. It truly is, you know, for the most part, a lot more flexible. [01:04:00] And one more final question before we end out the webinar and you can end this on like a broader note of advice in general. Uh, can you please give advice on picking a school I’ve applied and got into almost all my schools.
Some schools gave me more money than others, and it’s hard to say no to the schools that gave me the most money. Any advice on this is the decision. And then just in general, any advice on college admissions, and we do have a webinar picking schools by the way. Fantastic. Yes. So, I mean, in terms of finances, that’s definitely a hefty topic.
And I would advise you to have a conversation with your family about that. Um, but in terms of your taking that out of the picture in terms of choosing a college, congratulations, that you have so many options, first of all, um, and second of all, hopefully you apply to these colleges really intentionally because you can see yourself at all of them.
And so it’s a matter of if you’re able to go visit again. Um, but that’s obviously not possible for a lot of students, especially right now, but also with traveling [01:05:00] expenses, um, but just really do more research. Let it sit, let that, let that decision sit in you to see how it feels. Um, let’s say if you’re deciding between five schools, you know, for a few days, make up your mind and, and convince yourself that, okay, I’m going to go to school.
A if after a couple of days, that decision doesn’t feel good. Maybe that’s a sign that you should move on to a different one and, you know, Just try that out. It was a little psychological game that I played with myself sometimes when I’m making decisions like this, but just see how your body reacts to actually, you know, thinking about going to each of these different institutions in that case, you know, trusting your gut is honestly a pretty good, but it sounds so cliche, but it can be a really good indicator of where you belong and where it could be the best fit for you.
Um, but just know that you probably won’t make the, you know, a wrong choice, a wrong decision. Um, like I said, hopefully you applied to these schools intentionally, um, so that you know that wherever you [01:06:00] go, you’ll be happy and be successful. But again, just do a little bit more research, talk to current students there, engage with admitted student programming that the admission office will put on, um, and really do as much as you can to fully immerse yourself in the student experience there to really see what it would be like.
Yes. And so that is the end of our webinar. Thank you everyone for coming out tonight and thank you to our panelists. Um, we hope you had a good time. Um, let’s learning about, um, asking your questions about the admissions process. Um, and remember that we do have more, um, webinars that go over, uh, more specific topics, such as, um, specific aspects of application picking schools, just look through, um, our webinar catalog pretty much, and you can probably find a webinar on that specific topic.
And then we also do have our blog and other resources, and here’s the rest of our December series, which is on increasing your [01:07:00] application odds. So we have a few more before the month is up and we hope that you’ll be there to attend. And thank you for coming out to this one and get night.