Q&A with Former Georgetown and USC Admissions Officers

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the college admissions process and unsure of how to make your application stand out? Look no further than CollegeAdvisor.com’s upcoming webinar, “Q&A with Former Georgetown and USC Admissions Officers.”

In this webinar, you will have the opportunity to learn directly from former admissions officers at two highly competitive universities. They will provide valuable insights and answer your burning questions about the college admissions process.

Here’s what you can expect to learn:

  • How to make your application stand out from the thousands of others received by top universities like Georgetown and USC
  • The qualities and characteristics that these universities are looking for in their applicants
  • Insider tips and tricks for crafting a successful application
  • Strategies for writing compelling essays and presenting yourself in the best possible light
  • Common mistakes that applicants make and how to avoid them
  • How to navigate the interview process and make a strong impression
  • What happens after you submit your application and how admissions decisions are made

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to gain insider knowledge from former admissions officers at two of the most selective universities in the country. Register now to secure your spot and get your questions answered!

Date 04/05/2023
Duration 59:48

Webinar Transcription

2023-04-05 – Q&A with Former Georgetown and USC Admissions Officers

Hi everyone, and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor and I will be your moderator this evening. Today’s webinar is an open “Q&A with Former Georgetown and USC Admissions Officers.” Before we get started, I just wanna orient everyone with the structure of today.

Our presenters will introduce themselves and then we will have our entire hour open to answer any of your questions through the live Q&A. We do have some slides on the, under the handout tab if you’d like to download them, but they’re, they don’t have much information on them. But you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A whenever you get started.

We’ll start off by meeting our presenters. Aya, can you kick us off with a brief introduction and about yourself and your background? Awesome. Hi everyone. I am Aya Waller-Bey, a former admissions officer from Georgetown University located in Washington DC. So I actually attended Georgetown University as an undergraduate student where I majored in sociology.

And after my tenure there, I became an admissions officer in coordinator African American Recruitment in that office. I worked there for about a year and a half before transitioning to. Or my masters at the University of Cambridge in England as a Gates Cambridge scholar. And then came back to the States and did alumni interviewing and also admissions consulting.

Before starting my PhD in sociology at the University of Michigan, which is where I am now. I’m a proud first generation college student and from Detroit, Michigan, and have been working in the higher ed college space for. Almost a decade now, which sounds wild coming out of my mouth, but I’m super excited to be here.

My specialty in my research is actually college admissions essays, so happy to answer any questions that you have about admissions generally, but also the college essay as well. So welcome to our webinar and I’ll pass it off to Angela. Good evening everyone. I am looking forward to having a wonderful conversation with all of you tonight.

My name is Angela Park Pennington. I am based in Los Angeles. I have my bachelor’s degree from UC, Berkeley. I also went on to receive my master’s degree in international relations from the University of California San Diego. So I have been a product of the UC, the University of California system, kind of through and through.

I come to CollegeAdvisor having worked at a few different admissions offices at a different universities most. Most recently, prior to CollegeAdvisor, I worked at USCS Marshall School of Business in their undergraduate admissions office. There i, I managed the World Bachelor and Business Program, which was a tri-continental degree program.

So for students who are interested in global business or international business, it was a a really, really interesting experience in working with different admissions committees. I am also a proud first gen student. And two. So I know that I, I think that’s a, a big part of why many of us are here working at CollegeAdvisor to support the students that we work with because we know and understand how daunting this process can be navigating it, you know, independently, often, you know, the first time the fir the for the, for your family.

So we’re here to support and answer any questions. I can hopefully, you know, make this process a little bit less stressful for you. Awesome. Those were lovely introductions. I will add that I’m also a first generation college student, so for first generation college students we are here to support you.

So let us know if you have any questions specific to that experience. Before we get started with our Q&A, we are gonna do a quick little poll. So please let us know what grade level you’re in. It will help us get some context on. Who’s in the room with us and how we can start to direct our conversation as we’re waiting for the poll results to come in.

I’ll ask each of you, Aya can start off. What do you think is special about students who go to Georgetown? Are there some characteristics that you feel are specific to a successful student at Georgetown and, and Angela? I would say the same with USC or even any of your alma maters. Mm-hmm. I would say at Georgetown we pride ourselves on being men and women for others.

So there is a, a strong commitment to be of service to give back and to care for the whole person. So we have a saying cure personalities, which is care for the whole person in Latin. And it’s a really commitment to our communities, ourselves, our bodies, our minds, and our. Spirits, and I think that’s a really beautiful thing.

I mean, being in the nation’s capital, being so close to so many political systems, you really have students who are very civicly engaged, very civic in mind. They’re very passionate about not only themselves, not only their communities, but also globally as well. So I think those are some of the strong kind of values that a lot of Georgetown students maintain.

Yeah, I, I would say, you know that first of all, that’s beautiful about Georgetown. That’s, that, that’s that’s such an interesting fact too. At USC I think we really love to see applicants who. And, and this might not be unique to U USC but something we really did love to see was just a, a high degree of a high level of curiosity.

So whether it was about your intended major that you were applying to or just, you know, being able to show that you are somebody who can really just soak up and absorb information and knowledge and you just, you know, you, that’s, you can just eat that up. You know, so whether it’s through. You know digesting a lot of books and, and media, whatever it might be.

You know, USC really loved to see students who had multiple interests, so were very multidimensional. And and I, I think that spoke to kind of the, the structure of the degree programs and the curricula. At USC as well as very flexible to not only double major or pick up a minor, but really to kind of dabble in all different departments.

So that kind of curiosity was really, really encouraged. So being able to get a sense of that from the application from your high school years you know, that was a really something exciting for admissions officers to see. Awesome. Thanks you both. We’ll go ahead and close our poll and just let you know that about 75% of the folks in attendance are in the 11th grade.

So clearly folks who are in the research phase of things, we have 1% in ninth graders, about 21% 10th graders, and then. 4% other, I’m guessing there might be some parents or caregivers in the space. So, well, the majority of folks are in 11th grade probably figuring out some college list questions right now.

So the first question I wanna pose to you both and I, and before I open up some more questions, I just wanna give the forewarning of like, please don’t ask us full profile questions in the, in the initial registration. So people were saying, here’s my whole profile. I do these many activities and, and gpa.

We are not going to kind of give you unnecessary. Assessment of how you would fare at these schools today. So if you have questions about the admissions process at these institutions or about the admissions process, generally overall, we’d be happy to challenge to, to take on those. But please don’t ask us, okay, here’s all of my information.

How would I do at this school? That’s not gonna be a question we could answer thoughtfully for you, and it would not be applicable to everybody in the space as well. All right. So the first question that I’ll ask generally, because I think we sometimes take for granted, is what is an admissions officer?

I can, I can explain that. I think there, it, it can often be confusing because so many different institutions use different titles for essentially a, a very similar role in terms of responsibilities. Admissions officers, you know we’re, we’re busy year round, not just during application season.

You know, we. Really like to get to know the our, our audience or our markets, so different territories that we might be responsible for. You know, it’s our responsibility to really know our programs that we represent very well, so that we can relay this information to prospective students too.

So, you know, it’s definitely, you know, we kind of sit right in the middle of representing our institution, our program, our department, and also really understanding the high school students who are going to be coming to our school one day to be able to then identify, you know, what would be a really great fit.

So, you know, admissions officers, our main responsibilities obviously include reading applications and assess. I think evaluating, making those, those decisions of admission. But through the rest of the year, you know, we’re also doing programming to get to know you as high school students better and to represent our program.

So that means, you know, giving presentations and understanding what it is that high school students need and are looking for in college too. Anything to add there? Aa I think that’s a really robust definition. The only thing I’ll add is that we work, we work with the universities to also kind of make sure we are aligning with the institutional priorities.

So looking at our goals, looking at our targets, see who is currently occupying the seats in our, in our respective universities, and how we can ensure that our, our universities are kind of representative of, of the. The country and other world. So also establishing those priorities and also using that to kind of help align where our recruitment goes, where we travel to the high schools we visit, how often we visit, where we visit, et cetera.

So it is, as Angela had mentioned, it is a very robust, full year process. It’s not just the fall in the spring where we’re doing some of those yield or retention AC activities. We’re also using time during the summer and, and also in the early fall to make sure we get to know who, who’s out there and our prospective applicants.

Thank you. The next question I wanted to ask, which I think is always the question, and so answer in the best way you think you can. How can I stand out from other applicants in the admissions process?

That was a big, I can go first on that one, Angela. You know, I think there, there needs to be a conversation about why standing out so important, because I think in some instances you can. Fit in and still be admitted. As I mentioned earlier universities have institutional priorities and that means that they, based on the type of the culture of the institution, and July began our conversation kind of talking about like, what, what makes, you know, what are some interesting characteristics of our respective institutions?

And I think. Sometimes students who are fitting some of those kind of values are often those the students that we, we, we admit. So I think sometimes we, we overemphasize standing out. Mm-hmm. In a way that not, not as always helpful. Nevertheless, I think one thing that’s incredibly. Important for students to remember is it is only one you.

So there is no such thing as kind of replicating who you are because you are a individual. And I think sometimes students often kind of underestimate the beauty and the value of being authentic and telling their own story and their own words through their own eyes, through their own lens, through their own perspectives.

And I, and I always just encourage students, you know, you wanna talk about from your experience, from your lived experience. Experience. You know, no one, when you wake up, you wake up. As you, as an individual, you go, you have a daily routine. You go to a particular type of school. You interact with particular types of friends.

You participate in specific activities that are only unique to you as an individual. So we all have our own stories. We all have our authentic experiences and I, I really want students to make sure that they are thinking about who they are. And not who the university want them to be. Mm-hmm. Because what happens is we begin to misrepresent ourselves, begin to mold ourselves in a way that if you as an individual if you feel like a university doesn’t necessarily fit who you are, and you have to start contorting yourself, that may not be the best university for you.

You want someone who’s gonna accept you for who you are and really aid and and kind of Kind of add to the person that you are. So I always tell students to really lean into who they are, their own voice, their own perspective, and their authenticity because mm-hmm that’s what universities want to see.

They want to see you and not your parent, not, you know, your counselor, not your teacher. They just wanna see you. So that would be my advice. Yeah, I I literally had this conversation, this exact conversation with the student of mine yesterday with brainstorming you know, topics for her personal statement.

There, there was a very kind of formative time in her life where she went through a difficult experience and she you know, Did not want, she really ref hesitated in talking about that in her personal statement because she said, oh, this is really common. Lots of high school students experience this.

I’m not going to stand out. It’s not unique enough. So yeah. So I, I, you know that exact advice Yeah. That you just shared right now. I, I, I also shared with her, wasn’t able to convince her. She still didn’t wanna write about it, but, but that’s okay. She had lots of other stories to talk too. I think I will also add that it’s in order to, I guess, stand out or to make your application as strong as possible, I guess is another way to kind of think about it, is to identify your own strengths.

And that can take, you know, some. Some time of reflection too, and it maybe won’t even happen overnight. It might happen over your sophomore year, over your junior year too, to think about, Hey, am I you know, a really, really academically focused student? Am I, you know, a more well-rounded student? Am I the student who, you know what, the thing that’s most important to me is making an impact on my community is the most important thing to me like this.

Organization that I’m part of and I, I spend a ton of my time on. I think, you know, figuring out what you really wanna lean into on your application, I think that a, that helps in, in the long run too, because it also helps you more efficiently utilize your own time instead of trying to do. You know, 10,000 things to add to your resume.

But to really identify, these are the things that are really important to me. I’m going to lean into them in terms of how I spend my time throughout high school, but also in terms of what I really want to highlight on my application. And I think that Is really evident to admissions officers.

You know, the things that are really important to you in ex in like how you spend your time because your time is valuable and if you’re spending a bunch of your time and energy and effort on, you know, something that’s really important to you. Then that really shows, you know, not, not only qualities of passion and dedication, but just you know, commitment, perseverance, a lot of great qualities that colleges love to see.

So I, I would really encourage, you know, this is this is a question that I think is. Maybe a little bit difficult to assess even for yourself. It, it’s such a personal question about how do I make my own application stand out? So, you know, talking to people who know you very well, maybe it’s a counselor at school that, or a teacher that you’re very close to.

Maybe it’s a family member, maybe it’s a, an advisor like, you know or, or somebody who can support you that’s outside of school. But you know, really balancing those ideas off can really help your own kind of inner reflection as well. And I, I think that kind of it’s really, really well spent time to do a little bit of thinking kind of before you even jump into writing your application.

And actually I wanna add something that Angela sparked that I think is, is quite salient here. Angela mentioned something about like talking to the people in your community and your network or relatives, and I think that’s a really overlooked kind of step. And I, and I think if about this. Often when we think about sometimes how we understand and perceive ourselves or not, it’s not necessarily how the world and people in our network and our communities understand or perceive us.

And I think about, you know, even if you ask a parent and say like, what do you think makes me special? And they say, well, you know, out of all your siblings, you’re the only person who makes your bed every morning. Right? Well, we might overlook that and say like, that’s just like, okay, make your bed. I’m Make your bed every morning type of person myself.

But I mean, something about that, that habit and, and like there, there’s a reason why you do it right. And that in itself can open up so many interesting ideas about your personality, you know, the importance, your value system and cetera. So there’s like these little moments in our day-to-day that we often take for granted.

And I think sometimes, Speaking to people who know us well, our family, our friends, our teachers, our mentors and et cetera. Sometimes can really illuminate and highlight some of these really important values and characteristics that we possess, though sometimes we don’t even see in ourselves. I love that.

That’s actually a writing exercise that I asked some of my students to do around supplements. So just like go and collect like just five things from family members. Five words that they would say, five phrases they would describe to you, but especially when a student’s feeling stuck and and talking about themselves or describing themselves, I think.

Yeah, so I would, I would echo that. The other thing that was speaking to me that I just wanted to share, just sort of like competition. I think everyone realizes that it’s a very competitive space, but you, you can’t run someone else’s race. You can only run your race and if you’re constantly focused on the path that someone who has already taken.

So I get a lot of like, well, this person wrote about this when they applied, they already got in, or they already got rejected. So, you know, you can’t gotta run your own race. And just wanting folks to keep that in mind as well. If not, not. Focusing too much on, on anyone else’s race other than your own in this process.

Mm-hmm. One question I wanted to ask that’s kind of open to the general process before we get into some more specific questions. Where, when you are searching for colleges, what should you keep in mind, especially if you’re out of state and you can’t visit in person?

Yeah, I, I think I, I, if it’s okay, I’ll go first here. I say that and I immediately need to cough. Excuse me. Yeah, I think for, for the out-of-state applicant, there are so many ways to try to get to know a school better. Obviously, it’s not exactly the, you know, the, the same as visiting a campus in person and and, and getting a real feel for the, the.

Kind of environment there. But I, I would highly encourage students to reach out to the university to try to see if they can speak to a current student or even a, a recent alum. Generally admissions offices have lots of student volunteers or student workers who are there to connect with with prospective students.

So if that’s the case at the university that you’re considering you know that that’s always an opportunity to connect with, with somebody there. I also highly encourage the use of YouTube and other forms of social media that, you know might be closed to you to try to see, you know lots of campuses offer virtual tours and.

Students posting day in the life log. So just a, a couple of avenues that you might wanna pursue. But in terms of, you know, thinking about things to consider, things to really hone in on when considering schools and, and maybe this is not really exclusive to just our out-of-state applicants, but in general, your, your college research.

I think Is again, kind of bouncing off of like what’s really important to you. If there are certain activities that you’ve been involved in for a long time and you’re really sad about the idea of having to let them go, you know make sure that the colleges that you’re applying to have those opportunities and those things are available to you.

I’ll say too, for students who are really, really you know determined or have a, have a very clear idea about what you want to pursue, whether it’s major-wise or career-wise. You know make sure that the, the campus that you’re looking at has opportunities for you to develop in those areas, to you know, maybe it’s research opportunities, maybe it’s internships or, or part-time jobs.

Maybe it’s mentors in the industry. Whether it’s on campus or in the proximity of the campus I would certainly make sure that those are things that are going to, and not just in a, in a way of boosting your resume, but, but really to make sure that you’re exploring that industry and that field as much as possible and getting as much.

Exposure, meeting people in the, in the, in the field currently as working as professionals to make sure that you are doing your own due diligence and, and collecting all the information to make an, make a really informed decision as you’re, you know, making moves for, I don’t wanna say the rest of your life, but before, for your adult life as you graduate college.

Anything to add there? Ao. Yeah, I mean, I was just, I echo a lot of those sentiments. I think it is kind of challenging especially for resources for those who are low income and don’t have as many financial resources to travel outside of the, the, the state that they, that they live in. I mean, some universities at least during my time when I was applying hat fly in programs for those who had limited means first generation college students, et cetera.

So I was able to take advantage of some of those programs to fly to, you know, Universities like Rice and Carnegie Mellon and some other institutions. But also just thinking about cost is incredibly important. So, you know, thinking about can you afford to attend an institution out of state, particularly if it’s public and you’re out-of-state student, if it’s private, you should also be wondering, can I afford to attend this institution?

Mm-hmm. Out of state as well. So I, I think I would start having conversations about cost and finances early and often with family members and, and, and those who will be contributing to your ability to attend your respective institutions. Because I, I, I, it’s, it’s really hard to work with students who are amazing and talented and brilliant, and then get into their top choices or your top three choices, and they cannot afford to attend.

So I really want. Everyone to start thinking now, especially we have a lot of juniors in the audience to really start thinking about that, that financial question, because it’s gonna be an important one as you navigate this process. Yeah. Two things I’ll say to just follow up on that as far as resources, so to I just point around financial aid, definitely check out the net price calculators for any of the schools that you’re applying to, which will help give context around cost and, and give you an early estimate.

So every institution that you’re applying to has a net price calculator. So just Google the name of the school. Plus net price calculator. And then also to the second one of the points that IO was making around visiting schools. So there are a lot of diversity weekends that our schools are opening to juniors.

Those applications open up now towards the summer. So if you are a Bipo student or low income, there are definitely a lot of opportunities. So I would also, again, research Google the name of the school that you’re interested in, plus diversity weekend that you can apply to now, but then will allow you the opportunity to visit in person in the fall.

So a couple resources just to keep in mind. One thing that Angela said at the top that sparked a question that came up again was does it help to reach out to an admissions officer prior to applying? Do admissions officers like receiving emails from students expressing interest?

So it depends. So some universities do, you know, track. Interest. So demonstrated interest. So those, those institutions are tracking touch points. They’re, they’re tracking whether or not you visited the, the school. They’re tracking whether or not you have attended a virtual session. They’re tracking when they came to your high school during their fall travel or spring plans, did you come to the information session?

They’re tracking if you participated in a summer program on the campus. So there are some schools who are tracking interest. I’ll say the, the. It’s very a school dependent kind of case. Mm-hmm. As far as, I think typically from my experience, and I, and I, I’m curious to know your experience as well, Angela.

The, the schools in like the top kind of 40 really don’t track demonstrated interest. But there are schools where it is important and to, and to show continued interest too if you are waitlisted or deferred. Mm-hmm. Now as far as the emails I don’t think if you, if you email a school that tracks Michigan get interest.

10 times, there’s like 10 bonus points that that’s not how it works. You know, I, I think admissions officers are incredibly busy, especially during the fall season and early spring where they’re reading and trying to make decisions on thousands of applications. Especially in as schools you know, Implement non kind of non-testing policies.

You know, they’re inundated with thousands and thousands of even more applications. So that email you might, you may send, they may see it, they may not see it, they may respond, they may not respond. That is at no detriment to you. But it’s all about capacity. You know, I, I, when I worked in admissions I did try to respond to students, but frankly, it did not make a decision.

It, it did not make a huge. Huge kind of imprint or on their application because there were certain things that we were looking for. We were looking at, you know, the high school transcript where we’re looking at, you know extracurriculars, their essays, you know, for direction. We have an alumni interview, so we were looking at those factors.

It didn’t harm a student to send an email, but it was not giving a student any extra points. But we did not track demonstrated interest. Mm-hmm. So there are institutions that do where touch points do matter and you wanna show up and. Again, visit. You wanna have interactions with the universities. That can look a lot of different ways.

It could be virtual interactions, but for all, there’s not a one size fits all for all institutions and, and the universities are very explicit. So this is not a. I don’t know if this school go to visit their website. They will, they will tell you. So there’s also, this is a, a task or a charge for you all to really start doing that research on the schools that are on your list.

And they will tell you if they’re, they’re tracking interest. That that was not the case for the institutions that I’ve been a part of and work with. But it is certainly at some institutions. Yeah. USC also did not track. Demonstrated interest in at, at least not in as, as much of a capacity, I think as some other schools might be doing.

But yeah, the, the email question that I, I think it certainly depends. I will say if you’re planning to send an email to an admissions officer You know, hopefully it’s a sincere one with, instead of, you know, just trying to get that, that brownie point. If you are asking a question that can be easily answered with the Google search or I.

You know yeah, that’s not really going to do you any favors. But if you have a genuine question about something that you know, you’re curious about, you couldn’t find this information easily online then, you know, admissions officers are are are there to help and there to tell you more about the program.

So so feel free to reach out. I, I would say too that I think there is a lot of kind of generic advice that’s floating around on the internet about the demonstrated interest thing and then reaching out to in individuals. I, I really do encourage you to To just like exercise a little bit of judgment in terms of like utilizing that that access point.

So there as a student asking. And this triggered another part of something you said earlier, Angela. You say holistic approach is taken however, are is, is weight assigned to certain aspects over others? And if so, can you elaborate on how, I guess things are I. Different application components might be weighted or weighted in the application process in the context of holistic admissions.

Sure. So I, I think for for many universities Although holistic admissions does c c cover and kind of consider the applicant as a whole academics are oftentimes going to be one of the more important parts of the application. And this is especially true if you are applying to an academically rigorous program.

So they, that’s, that, that’s the university doing their own risk management to make sure that, hey, if we, we really like this student. But if we let them in, are we really confident that they’re going to succeed here and thrive here? You know, they seem like they’re gonna be a wonderful member of our campus community, but but some of the academic performance might not give us the confidence that they’re going to really do well here.

So if you are applying to a very rigorous, you know academically rigorous program, then then your academics need to, need to match. They need to line up, they need to align. I, I will say, I, I think you know, if you are a I, I guess to answer the question more directly, there isn’t necessarily a weight that’s assigned to okay.

Leadership. Two points for that one and and community service. Oh, three points for that one. It’s certainly not weighted out that way. It’s just as your application is considered holistically, so is an evaluation and admissions evaluation is going to cover different aspects of different things that stand out from your unique application.

And at least that’s certainly how it was at the institutions that I have read applications for. I, I don’t know if you have a different experience. Yeah. So yeah, it’s interesting. So I’ve been interviewing admissions officers for my dissertation, so admissions officers from universities across the country.

And I’ve been hearing, I, there’s a question that I asked him about, you know, on Estella 1 25, how do you weigh this particular part of the application? So. Overwhelmingly the answer is transcript is first and foremost is the most important part of the application, and it provides one of the longest kind of pieces of kind of record, and it provides such robust data for admission officers.

And then for institution like m MIT test scores are very important. So it is higher in their admissions process than say some others was say than a small liberal arts college. So. Things are weighed kind of differently again based on institutional priorities, based on major. So it is a very Again, they, they’re considering you as a whole person.

They’re considering all these aspects of your identity, of your experiences, of your backgrounds. But there are some pieces of information that are more valuable to the admissions office because of the various institutional priorities that they maintain. So So my experience is, you know, not all universities practice holistic admissions.

Some will say we look at these two pieces of data. If you have a GPA at this point and scores at this point, you’re in, right? We see institutions often with rolling admissions policies kind of have maintain that that position. We have some that say we are truly committed to students who have these certain types of characteristics and values that we’re reading, like the essays are really critical and et cetera.

So we’ll see that at some institutions. And then we have some quant, some schools that quantitative data. The numbers are really, really, really important, and particularly for those in the STEM area. So it, it, it, it really is an individual kind of specific thing, but I do think generally the majority of universities are really taking a holistic approach of trying to consider how all these factors of your application, Will allow you to be successful at their institutions because at the end of the day, the universities want to admit students that will be successful and that will graduate within a re respect time.

You know, no one wants to set a student up for failure or to fail, so that is what universities are often thinking about. Admissions officers say, if I admit Angela, will she be able to graduate from this institution, which should thrive at this institution? Does this align with her, her interest and the goals that she’s identified in her respective application?

So that is ultimately the, the value or, or the goal or the attention behind our, our review processes and admissions. And I, I just wanna also to a question I was asking before about how to research more, I would say encourage students to attend virtual info sessions, because I think in those conversations, Schools are gonna point out what they are prioritizing or what are big topics for them in the admissions process or in the admissions cycle.

So one to visit schools, info sessions, virtual info sessions, and then I think it helps give context to the school specific things that, that I is talking about of like, each school’s gonna have a different type of priorities based on the class that they’re working to admit, and they try to give you some forewarning about what that is.

The next question I wanted to ask, and it came up a little bit. With i’s response of will applying test optional hurt my chances? And the what? For colleges that are test optional, what factors should a student use to, what factors are used to determine whether or not a student should submit their scores?

Well, yeah, so this is a ongoing conversation. I’m in a lot of kind of college admissions and admissions kind of Facebook groups where people are often engaging with this, this particular topic. So so test optional policies really allow for other aspects of the application to shine. So once, one, Kind of thing.

I always try to encourage students to think about is, you know, what other areas of your application, if you choose to do a test, optional approach, do you want to highlight? So you’re highlighting your grades, your experiences in the, in the curriculum, you’re highlighting your extracurriculars, you’re highlighting your, your service, your leadership.

Your ability to write. If there’s an interview you show, you know, you’re really able to showcase other aspects of your application that you feel like provides a more adequate representation of the type of student you are in. The student you will be now for certain disciplines where they, they are going to want to see a certain type of Mastering, if you will, of certain types of skill sets, which they perceive the use of standardized test scores to, to evaluate that it is going to be important.

I mean, I, I’ve heard my colleagues and other folks in admission space say that. You know, if you’re below that, that that 50th kind of, that media that they often, that data point that they share, like this percentage of our students are fit between here. If you’re below it, I’ve, I’ve heard my colleagues say they, they cost you from sending it.

But if you’re above it, by all means sending it. And if you’re in between, it’s up to you. So, you know, universities who have testing optional testing optional policies do insist that it does not hurt a student. They’re going to evaluate the data that they have. So it is not like, oh. It is, I think the assumption that people make is they assume that by not submitting that they are saying like their test scores are like weak or, you know, et cetera.

And that’s not the case. I think we are making students are making that assumption that admissions officers are thinking that way when in actuality they’re saying like, this is the data I have, so this is the data that I’m going to use to make a decision. Right. So There’s a host of reasons why students don’t take tests, especially as we kind of.

Inter next stage post pandemic, I guess. Mm-hmm. So there’s a host of reasons why people don’t submit. So I, I don’t want students to assume that universities automatically think that not submitting means that they are, are weaker or not stronger students. There’s just other parts of the application that a student thinks make them shine.

And that those are the, that’s the aspect they’re, they’re, they want to highlight. So in short, it’s a very, and again, I feel like we’re gonna be saying this all night. It’s very case by case. It really depends on who you are, what type of program you’re applying to, what type of institution you’re applying to, and how the other aspects of your application really kind of fit into this larger, into your larger kind of candidate profile.

Mm-hmm. Yeah, admissions officers are almost always looking for reasons to admit you, not reasons to deny. So yeah, not having a test score is not gonna raise a red flag and be like, here is the, the reason to deny this student that you are looking for. That’s certainly not the case. Okay. I’m gonna ask another question that I know the answer will be.

It depends and students should pursue what is most important for them, but I’m still gonna ask it anyway as it’s come a few times. What are some good ways to capture the admissions officer’s attention when it comes to extracurricular? Are there any specific extracurricular activities that help to stand out in the college application process?

Do I need to be in a lot of clubs? Do schools consider clubs participation as heavily as grades and test scores? So, et cetera. So take that however you want and approach it in the way that makes the most sense for you. Well, you set us up. You’re absolutely right. It depends. That’s definitely an, it depends answer.

I guess, you know, personally for myself, cuz I, I will say that this admissions. Evaluation is honestly a very subjective process. There’s you know, we try to make it as equitable as possible, but human beings are reading your application. And we really are reading them. We are not putting them through filters or chat bot services or algorithms.

I, I’d love just seeing an application where you could really tell that a student cared about. Two or topic. And they really tried. Maybe it was a yeah, a problem they were trying to solve whatever the thing was that they were trying to put something good out there. They were trying to make the world a, a, a, you know, nominally better place.

Whether it was, even if it was just for themselves or, you know, their, their family or their household, or yeah, if it was for their community. I love to see that level of kind of independent thinking and, you know, that I’m just gonna give it a try and, and running forward with that. I, I loved seeing that really shine through in an application.

Yeah. There are not specific activities that admissions officers. Say like, oh, they’re model un like they’re gonna rule the world. No. They’re, i’ll, I’ll say this, and this is a part of my earlier point about things that we often take for granted. I think sometimes we devalue or undervalue certain Experiences we might consider normal or mundane that we might need, should include on the applications.

And I always, you know, the examples that admissions officers always give and that I always tell my students that I work with is, you know, experiences like babysitting or looking after their loved ones, or being caretakers or working at Jimmy John’s or being a Starbucks barista or like, I don’t know, picking up your younger siblings from school every day.

Those types of experiences are actually very valuable and very important. And sometimes we don’t, we don’t. Assign a leadership role or title to them because they’re like, this is just a Tuesday for me. Mm-hmm. When they’re actually, in actuality they’re showing so, you know, so many beautiful characteristics and values that you maintain and consistency and leadership.

You know, I, I work with students who, who talk, who talk about having to translate a bit a lot for their parents and et cetera. And like that is incredibly important. Add that on to your application. I also say that it is frankly very At least obvious to me where students have just. Collected activities like affinity stones, just to kind of check off a box.

They’re often not presented as thoughtfully on the application. They just seem like a, a list of things that people do to look competitive and it’s usually underwhelming. So you really want to show sustained engagement. It’s about the quality of experiences. It is, is a talk about leadership.

And it doesn’t even have to be in an official role. Leadership doesn’t mean. President or vice president always, it could be someone who’s really doing the work and being able to demonstrate that they’re doing the work, you know, whether they’re planning events or fundraising or organizing, et cetera. And then you also have those students who started their own ventures or who really saw a problem in their community and chose to like do something about it.

And that is something to add and to contribute to, to the application. But, You know, I caution students for just, you know, adding things just to add them. Or to participate. Just to participate because also your time is gonna be a really valuable like, Really, really valuable asset, right? Especially in the fall when you’re working on those early action, early decision or those rolling deadline applications, and you really want to make sure that you are giving your time to things that are important to you, that align with who you are, that are adding value.

Because between that and your AP or IB and all the other interesting dual enrollment and types of courses that students now participate in, you’re, you’re gonna be busy. So you also don’t wanna have 35 activities and you know, half of which you don’t want to really go to. And then also all the coursework and familial responsibilities or jobs that you may have.

So again, it’s really about the quality of experiences and really demonstrating that there’s sustained engagement is something that you’re passionate about. And that also something that you might wanna continue. You. You don’t have to, but something you also might wanna continue when you enroll at your respective university.

So that would be my, my advice. Thanks y’all. I’m gonna run into a quick commercial real quick, but I’m just gonna get telegraph my future questions. So ia, I’m gonna come to you with an essay question. I know that you are. I consider you the queen of essays, so that on the other side of that, I will ask you that.

And then after I answers that, Angela, I’m gonna ask you a question about neurodiversity and admissions process, but just so that you can think about those as I’m going into this. But for those of you in the room who aren’t currently working with College of Pfizer, we know that you have a ton of questions that the admission process can be overwhelming.

So we do have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts. Like all of the wonderful women in this space who are prepared to work with you and support your family and navigate the college admissions process through 1:1 advising sessions. You can take the next step in your journey and sign up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admissions.

Specialists on our team by using the QR code that is on the screen. During that meeting, we’ll review your extracurricular list, your application strategy, and discuss how everything aligns with your potential college list, and outline some tools that you need to stand out in the admissions world. So again, follow up with us.

Use this QR code. We’ll keep it up there. And I, I will transition to the question around essays and I will pose it rather than just talk about essays. How critical is the essay portion of the admissions process? Should I prepare essays ahead of time? And what are some good topics to write about?

Well, you should always start a really essays is a it’s a, they are, it’s an iterative process. And what I mean by that is it is something that you’ll, you’ll write and then you’ll edit and you’ll revise and you’ll write and you’ll edit and you’ll revise. And also, schools have supplement essays or supplementary essays, which are often shorter.

Response or short answers where you have to respond to some distinct question that a university has, has created which requires a little bit more research on the, the schools themselves. So I encourage students to really kind of take some time over the summer to start to, to think through, you know, essay.

So, as far as topics, so. When you apply and you apply through, say, the common application, not all universities are on the common application, but for those who do, I mean you could Google right now common app, you know, essay prompts, and it’ll give you the, the seven that are on there. Six I believe are already defined.

Then the seven is to your, or. Five are there, and you choose your own six, one of one of the, the other. Those essay questions don’t really change often. The common application usually kind of reloads, if you will, or, or is starts for the new cycle, I think on August one. And Angela, correct me if I’m mistaken, yes.

Is, is August one. So you can already start looking at prompts and feel and, and start thinking about what resonates with you. You know, so if you wanna talk about, You know, what you think you wanna study in college? Start thinking through like, my why, why? What do I wanna study in college? Why do I wanna study in outta college?

And just start jotting down notes. I encourage students to have like a, a, a dossier of like essay prompts and responses, even if they’re just like, Notes, you know, so you can use a Google Doc, you can use an Excel spreadsheet where you have the essay questions and just thoughts that come to mind. I really encourage students to start getting things out because one thing that I’ve noticed, and Angela May have a similar experience, when students are procrastinating, they begin to shut, shut down, because they start overthinking.

Mm-hmm. And it just becomes just like a fight to like, just get the juices flowing. So I really think. Starting over the summer. Just having, just literally, if you just create the Google Doc tonight and just plop those questions because we have a lot of juniors in the office office audience, plop those questions down and be say like, Hmm, okay, who inspires me and why?

Okay. My mom inspires me for these things just. Jot down that you know, what is something I’ve had to overcome? Okay. Oh, I remember last semester this happened. I got diagnosed with this thing. Jot that down. So really just start early to get those juices flowing. So the topics themselves, as far as like.

The prompt will help to motivate the topic, but also, you know, when I interview students for my dissertation and the first question I ask them is, think about an event that you’ve considered monumental or even trans, like transformational in your life. And like, what is that? And they’ll, they’ll tell me all these things like they went to a magnet school in a different community, or they started a dance class.

And you might say like, starting a dance class is not important, but there’s a reason why they thought that experience was so important to them. It shaped something, it motivated something and inspired something. So I just want you to start thinking about like, you know, up until this point, what has really like moved you?

It could be as something as silly as, you know, I saw this movie, you know, I watched this movie on Netflix and I really felt like the character was misunderstood and that made me feel, seen something as simple as that. So I feel like, again, students often overthink because they’re like, I have to show my best self.

I have to show that I’m this kind of student. And again, We want to read about you. And the essay is one of the few experiences on the application where the admissions offices and officers get to hear directly from the student. They get to hear your voice, they get to hear your story in your own words and on your own terms.

And I think that’s a really valuable moment to think about. So again, in conclusion, start, definitely start early, the summertime. Look at those essay. Prompts that the common application already have. And there’s, so, I mean, you can google like college essay like like vignettes to help get juices flowing.

So there’s already all types of resources online. Mm-hmm. I just want you to kind of not overthink it. You could just write about the day your waking up, what’s your daily routine, as you know. So there’s ways to just really get the juices flowing and I really encourage you to start there and start early.

And I’ll just give a a plug. I will be back on April 11th to talk a little bit more about supplemental essays at another webinar. So join us by there where we will exclusively talk about essays. But I appreciate you giving that overview. Today. I Angela, my question for you. I’m gonna ask a few, couple questions, but it is around neurodiversity.

So, as admissions officers try to curate an incoming class to ensure different types of students, how do they focus on neurodiversity and how is it factored into the admissions process? And then if I have been diagnosed with a D, HD or dyslexia, are those things that I should talk about? And is it a diversity that I should highlight in the admissions process?

If it’s comfortable for you and if it’s important to you, then. No reason to hold that back, or no reason to feel that you have to conceal that because there might be some fear or concern that, you know, it might reflect negatively on your application. I would completely do away with that. Worry. And this kind of echoes back to what IA said at the very start of our conversation tonight, which is that if.

It, it’s really about fit and fit means fit both ways. So if a, if a school were to make some kind of, you know Eva evaluation based on a judgment about you know, your, their perceived abilities. Or their, their perception of your abilities, then that’s just not a place you wanna be. That’s not a place you’re going to succeed, and that’s not a place you’re going to thrive.

I, I will say though that if you do have a need for accommodations, then that should certainly be something on your list as you, you’re doing your college research and seeing what kinds of. Support what kinds of mechanisms for support that universities offer. And some universities, it’s the support systems that they offer are amazing and could honestly be different from what you are used to or what you have received in high school.

So that could be a, a really elevated experience for you as you go off to college. So maybe that’s something that you can really keep an eye out for as you’re, you’re doing your college exploration and research. I, I, if you’re not comfortable sharing it, then same thing goes with anything else on your application.

You, you do not need to share anything that you’re not comfortable sharing. You know, I, I think and I, I think this actually comes up a lot because one of the common app prompts talks a little bit about overcoming challenges and, and a lot of students kind of interpret that to mean I have to talk about something traumatic that I went through.

I have to really. You know go into a lot of detail about this tragedy that myself or, or somebody in my family experienced. You know, I, I, this is how I’m going to kind of hit an emotional nerve with the, with the reader. I, and you know, if it, if that, I will say, if that is an important part of your story that you do wish to tell to tell, then certainly tell it.

But don’t, you know, struggle with the, the, the perceived kind of need to. Yeah, to to, to, to include that. So, you know, if you do have you know, a neurological difference or a learning difference, then you know, some students will choose to include that, you know, whether it’s in, in their, within their essays because it’s been a large part of their experience growing up.

Then you can include it there. You can choose to sh share it there. Some students will also include it in additional information. There, there is a section on your application where you can provide a some, some more information that, you know there wasn’t a good space for another areas of the application.

So, you know, I, I would really encourage you to you know, think about it, you know, really objectively just, is this a part of my story that I want to share? Not particularly then That’s okay. I have this other really much more interesting, much more important to me story, story that I prefer to use my personal statement space for.

Then, then don’t, I, I would say that you shouldn’t feel obligated. I, but if it is important to you and it is part of, if it’s a big part of your identity, then, then that, that sounds like an appropriate place to do that. But if as schools are not you know, I, I would like to speak for all universities here that schools are not, you know, seeing that as a negative factor or something that they’re not going, they’re going to want to avoid or not welcome in their college community, that there are any colleges out there, then I would really, you know, reconsider if that college is a good place for you.

Mm-hmm. All right. I’m gonna do two more kind of like individual questions and gonna wrap up with a question to both of you. So, ia you mentioned financial aid earlier, so thinking ahead for financial planning, when should FSA applications be filled out and submitted? What is the timeline for those?

Yeah, so FSA applications, I believe go live in October. And that is when you should start submitting those applications. And, and this is important. So the deadlines usually for often first institutions, they’ll have like a March deadline, but I, I really want students to think about submitting earlier only because Some merit aid is sometimes, or excuse me, some financial aid is sometimes tied to having those financial aid information and having that financial aid data earlier than later.

So sometimes there’s an early application for scholarships, so you really want to try to submit early, as early as you can just to make sure that you are making, we’re hitting universities that have those internal scholarship deadlines. Because oftentimes those are occurring much earlier, sometimes as early as December or November even if applications are due later than that.

So you really want to start working on that in October when those when the FAFSA releases. There’s also for private institutions or some private institutions, they have the css profile, which is another form that is collecting even more financial aid data that you know, students. Need to, you know, be privy to and, and work on as well.

So I encourage you to start having conversations about financial aid with parents and loved ones, and again, those who might be s supporting your financial kind of time at your respective institutions. But also when that application goes live in October, it’s really time to really kind of see.

Sit down and make sure you have those financial documents so you can start working on that application and submitting it as soon as you can. For some you know, for particularly the institutions that are meet a hundred percent of a demonstrated need and that are need blind, that, you know, you wanna submit that, right?

So they have that add data, but the timeline is. You know, as long as you meet their timeline, it’s fine. But for those schools, particularly the ones that have a separate deadline because of scholarships and internal aid, you really wanna make sure you’re aware of when those deadlines are so you can be considered for that.

Financial aid. I seems unfortunately many students miss internal aid deadlines and therefore we’re not eligible for certain types of scholarships. So when that application goes live in October, I think it’s time to really start, you know, gathering those documents so you can submit as soon as you can.

Thank you. Another kind of application timeline question are, is there any advantage, Angela, to doing early action, early decision. What are the disadvantages? So if you do look at admissions rates there, oftentimes for some universities there can be a slightly higher percentage wise, a admit rate for students who apply during that early round of applications.

Whether it’s early action or early decision. This is something I really urge students to think about. Very thoughtfully and carefully. If it’s the, the wisest strategic decision for yourself. And there’s a couple of reasons for that because some students will see, oh, okay, so it’s maybe 2% of a higher chance of admission.

If I apply early, then I definitely have to do that so I can, I can be part of that. 2%. But you know remember that if you’re submitting your application early, that deadline could be in October in November. But in any case that’s you know, several weeks if not even, you know, a couple of months before the regular decision deadline.

So if you are planning on accomplishing some you know some more activities and achievements, Through the rest of your first half of your senior year, that would be really helpful information for admissions officers to know. Then the, the early application won’t be able to include that, that information so it wouldn’t be as strong or, you know, maybe your yeah, what, whatever updates that you might have in the running for, for that, you know, that amount of time that you’re.

Kind of losing by submitting early that that would be, you know, for some students that can, that can be critical. I will also say too, that if you are not 100% confident in the quality of your application by the early deadline, don’t, don’t just submit, just to kind of jam it in for that deadline.

Make sure you know you’re really going through all of those iterations that that essay needs to be at the best place it can be. And, you know you’re. Your friends are reading it, your parents are reading it, or you know, whoever it might be to give it a second pair of eyes so that you can really, really deliver a high quality application.

Even if it takes a little bit more time, it will be more helpful to you to have a higher quality application submitted by the regular decision deadline. So there are a few factors. It’s certainly not an easy kind of just straightforward decision of. I’m gonna submit my application early just so I can have a slightly higher chance of admission.

All right. We will leave it there. I love ending. I wanted to ask one more question, but we’ll leave it on. The quality of your application should ring true and the time we should align with when you feel you’ve submitted the best possible application for yourself. So thank you so much to IA and Angela for answering all these variety of questions.

Thank you all for joining us. We hope you enjoyed hearing from our knowledgeable admissions officers and we hope you’ll join us in the future. We will have. Some sessions, like I said on April 13th talking about the supplemental essay process. So please feel free to join us then. Take care everybody, and have great evening.

Thanks again, AYA and Angela. Thanks Anesha. Thank you. Have a great night everyone.