Researching Colleges Virtually
Admissions Expert Brynlee gives the inside scoop on how to find the best colleges for you from the comfort of your own home.
2021-08-18 Researching Colleges Virtually
[00:00:00] hi everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Researching Colleges Virtually. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Hello everybody. Um, my name is Brynlee Emery. I am a senior advisor here with college advisor.com. Um, I have about three and a half years of experience in college advising generally. Um, and for the last two of those years, I’ve, um, been a like kind of college list specialist. Um, so that’s, that’s what I’ll be talking about today is researching colleges virtually and, um, kind of building your college.
Using that virtual research. Um, as for my academic background, I graduated from Georgetown [00:01:00] in 2019. I double majored in government and history. Um, and then I got my master’s degrees from the university of Illinois at Urbana champagne. And, uh, just the summer started working in, um, digital asset management for a startup.
Um, so we’ll just dive right in here. Um, You know, first thing we’ll talk about is what exactly is a school list, um, and put simply it is the list of schools you’re going to apply to the schools. You’re going to send your applications into, um, ideally this is around eight to 12 ish schools. Um, but sometimes you may want to apply to more, um, you may want to apply to less.
Um, for example, uh, a lot of students are interested in combined bachelors, uh, med school or BSMD programs. Um, and those are very competitive. And so usually in those cases, students need to apply to a few more, um, so that they can [00:02:00] hopefully have a few options. Um, so in that case, they might apply to, you know, 15, 18, maybe even 20 or early twenties.
Schools, um, on the other end of the spectrum, if you have guaranteed admission to, uh, like your local state school or something like that. Um, so, you know, you’re going to college somewhere and you just want to apply to like those dream schools. Maybe you only end up applying to a total of, you know, four or five, um, with one guaranteed admission in your back pocket.
Um, but the most important thing with school lists is that they’re balanced between, um, three categories. Um, sometimes the categories have different names, but, uh, the, the big ones are like safety or likely schools, um, match or target schools and, um, reach schools. So. We’ll go into those categories a little bit more, uh, in a second, but, um, you know, it’s August now.
Um, if [00:03:00] you’re a senior, then you’re probably starting to really dive into your college applications process. Um, if you’re a junior probably not quite yet, or, you know, younger, probably not quite yet, but, um, the nice thing about a college list is, uh, it’s not something that needs to be finalized for a really long time.
So you can start thinking about it as early as you want. Um, if you’re a freshmen, um, you can start a Google sheet of schools. You like, um, maybe where they are, maybe if there’s things about those schools that really stand out to you, um, Usually by the end of junior year, I recommend to my own clients and others that I advise that they start thinking about their school is a little bit more seriously.
Um, they don’t need to have a final finalist at that point yet, but, um, usually around end of junior year, or maybe the beginning of your summer before your senior year, it’s a good idea to start pulling together a, um, like a pre list. Um, and when I work with students that pre-list usually looks like [00:04:00] about 20 to 30 schools that fit, um, most of the things that they’re looking for.
And then we use that list to narrow down to the actual schools that they’re going to send applications to around mid September. So, um, so something that also goes along with the school list question is what school or the, um, Like application that vines. So there’s generally at least, um, early deadlines, usually in November and then regular decision deadlines, which are usually in January.
Um, and choosing which schools you want to apply to for which deadline can affect how you ended up making your list. Um, for example, if you apply to some schools early and you get accepted, uh, maybe you don’t need to apply to as many schools, regular decision, um, because you already have some great options, um, or maybe you apply early to one or two schools and maybe it doesn’t go the way you’re hoping.[00:05:00]
Um, maybe in that case, after you’ve done the other applications that were on your initial list, maybe in December, we want to add a couple more schools, um, especially ones that have pretty easy essay requirements and things like that. Just to give you a little bit more peace of mind, um, when it comes to those regular decisions.
So all that to say, it’s good to start thinking about the school list. Now I’m kind of at whatever stage of high school you’re in. Um, but if you’re a senior it’s time to start thinking about narrowing that down, but ultimately it’s, it’s not something that’s truly ever set in stone completely. Um, so there are a lot of things that go into making a school list.
Um, generally you can divide the, um, like big considerations into three areas. Um, your academic fit, your kind of social cultural preferences, or, um, sometimes [00:06:00] that’s just referred to alone as fit. Um, and then finally finances. So first up is academics. Um, this is usually kind of the first like thing that rules out, uh, or, you know, rules and certain schools for certain students.
Um, Um, primarily it deals with your grades and your test scores in high school. So what is your GPA look like? Uh, what is your sat or your act look like? Um, what kinds of classes were you taking? Uh, it’s, it’s usually a better bet to have a, um, slightly lower GPA with a lot of more difficult classes than it is to have a perfect GPA with like the easiest classes, your high school offers.
They want to see colleges want to see that you’re challenging yourself, um, and doing well, um, at that challenge as well. So best of course is challenging classes and a really high GPA. Um, but besides, besides what you’ve done in high school, [00:07:00] there’s also the academic factors of the colleges you want to apply to.
Um, So thinking about what major you want to pursue, even if you’re undecided. Um, if you have sort of a general area you’re leaning towards like, well, maybe like something in the humanities or, um, something related to business or, um, something like vaguely pre health related, but you don’t know if it’s going to be pre-med or nursing or nutrition or something.
Just kind of general trajectory, um, is good to know. Um, and finally, if there’s any specific academic programs or, um, kind of other tracks that you want to be on while you’re in college, it’s good to identify those as early as you can. Um, because you know, like I was mentioning with those BSMD programs earlier, those can be, um, more challenging and that will affect the way you make your list.
Um, but there’s a lot of other programs too, that you might want to [00:08:00] think about, um, as you’re researching schools and thinking about what kinds of academic experiences you want to have. So the second area of course is like the social and cultural fit. Um, so not only is a school, a good match for your academics, but is it the kind of environment that you can really thrive in as a person, not just a student.
Um, so there’s all kinds of factors that go into this, um, when I’m working with my students or, um, other students that, you know, need a list consultations with me, um, I’ll go through a whole long questionnaire. Um, you can probably find similar ones online or, um, talk to your college advisor and they can get you, um, they can get you a template.
Some of these factors include things like the campus size. Do you want to be taking a bus across campus like I did in grad school? Or do you want to be able to walk across the whole thing in 10 minutes? Like I did an undergrad. [00:09:00] Um, where is it located? Is it somewhere in a big city? Is that something you like?
Is that too crowded? Is it exciting? Um, do you want the college town feel, um, are there particular extracurriculars you want to be involved in, um, is Greek life something that you’re really looking for or really not looking for? Um, are there, is it important to you that the school has support for your religious community or, um, people that are similarly politically aligned?
Um, and this is kind of hard to quantify, but the kind of, uh, like the kind of social environment it is like, is it really high pressure? Is everybody, you know, I mean from my undergrad, like nobody wore sweatpants to class. Um, and that’s really common, most other places, but for whatever reason, you know, the Georgetown students were not having that, um, way more common to see suits.
Uh, don’t let that scare you [00:10:00] away. Um, but you know, the, the kinds of environments are very different. Um, and finally also living arrangements. Um, do you want to stay in the dorms? Do you want an apartment off campus, like think about these different factors that might, um, make the school experience as a whole something that’s positive or something that like just is really frustrating, even if you really like your classes in your program.
And then finally, um, it, we can’t neglect the financial side of things. Um, so it’s important to have a clear-eyed conversation with your family. Um, talk about what, what can you afford, um, It, there are, uh, oftentimes like expected family contribution, calculators on different school websites. So if you have a school that is, um, kind of top of mind, like maybe you really want to go to USC or something, um, you can just Google, like [00:11:00] USC expected family contribution calculator, or like cost calculator or something.
And there usually is something that comes up that will help you assess, like based on your family’s income. Um, what can you expect to be paying out of pocket? Um, along with that, what kind of financial aid are you looking for? Um, are you going to be trying to find a school that will. 100% of need based aid.
Um, are you looking for a school that will offer both need and merit based scholarships? Um, that changes things because a lot of really competitive schools don’t do merit scholarships because everybody could get one. Um, but sometimes schools that fall into like your safety or your likely category. Um, you may be more competitive for scholarships there.
Um, so that’s something to think about as well. Um, as well as, uh, some schools offer financial aid packages with no loans, um, they’ll fill it all through like grants and [00:12:00] scholarships and, um, kind of other forms of aid. Um, most other places that’s, that’s not the case. So think about the kinds of, um, kinds of financial aid you’re willing to take on.
Um, and then finally, how big of a consideration is financial need? Is it going to be like, make or break? Um, or if your school gives a less generous financial aid package than you would expect or hope, um, could you still kind of make it work somehow, um, all conversations to have with your family and all big enough topics to have their own webinars, but be thinking about this as you’re making your list.
Okay. So, um, as you’re thinking about these different factors, Obviously with COVID, um, it’s been a lot harder to, uh, know kind of where to go find information about these things. Um, so there are fortunately a lot of online resources that are really helpful. Um, niche.com is one [00:13:00] of my favorites. It has really in-depth profiles for, um, I haven’t found a school.
It doesn’t have a profile for yet. So it they’ve got things about like the student body, the most popular majors, um, you know, where it’s located, um, all kinds of. Features that can really help you understand how the school fits in with your priorities. Um, as well as rankings and things like that. If that’s something that’s important to you, or that’s something that, uh, like say you’re looking for, uh, schools that are really strong in computer science, it’ll have like, you know, best computer science rankings.
Um, and they’re not locked down. Like they are in the, uh, next item on the list, us news and world report. Um, that’s a really common one that people go to. I like it less than niche because a lot of the information is behind a paywall. Um, so you can get some information, but, um, why not get more for free, um, don’t pay for this.
Um, [00:14:00] so those two, those two are pretty common. Um, prep, scholars, and other one that I use a lot, uh, mostly for, um, gauging a schools. Like we call it like the interquartile range. Um, Test score and GPA percentiles. So, um, you know, what are the, like, what’s the 75th percentile? What’s the 25th percentile of scores.
Um, essentially if you’re, uh, rusty on math, your average applicants are going to fit within those two, uh, scores. So that’s kind of the average range of scores. Um, it’s really good for that. I usually just Google like school name, prep, scholar GPA, and you know, something comes up, um, a few other school or a few other websites that are great.
Um, big future in CapEx are very similar to niche. Um, individual school websites can often have a lot of information. Obviously about their own students, but, [00:15:00] um, I know the UC schools, for example, always have a really good, um, very detailed rundown on their recently admitted classes. Um, so you can get a sense for, you know, how are your academics fitting in with, um, you know, last year’s accepted class.
And of course you’re on the school website. So you can learn a little bit more about programs and academics and social life and everything like that as well. Um, and then finally, CollegeAdvisor.com is a great resource for helping to narrow down your choices. Um, not only do our, um, you know, our website and our blogs have a lot of information, but of course, speaking with an advisor is a really great way to, uh, Help you get a bit of a better sense for your list.
How, how accurate, how helpful it’s going to be. Um, and then, um, also a little bit more about individual schools. Um, so you can get a sense for what it’s like to be [00:16:00] a student there, um, by talking to alumni or re or current students. So I’ll stop there and pass it back to Lilly. Yeah. Thanks for the insurance.
And the school has been like, um, next I have a question for everyone here. Um, so just to see where you are so far, I’m I want to ask them, have you guys stood at your school at, um, and remember if you’re just starting now, that’s also totally. Okay. Um, you guys still, a lot of times, if it’s still August to be putting together your school is, uh, but hopefully this level and I will help you out with what, what kinds of things you should be looking for and also where to find that interest.
So we support them for a few seconds on, it looks like a lot of people are sort of, in-between either starting now, which is awesome, or also having started, but also needing to add more schools. Um, yeah, if you guys have any questions, you know, no matter where you are in the process, um, feel free to drop those questions in the Q and a.
So I’ll close the poll in a few seconds and hand it back to you. Friendly.[00:17:00]
Great. Closing the poll now. Alright, perfect. So we’re going to dig into a little bit more of, um, how to evaluate these school lists, categories that I mentioned. Um, so like I said earlier, um, you want to end up with a final list of schools that is around eight to 12, eight to 14 schools long. The reason for those numbers.
It’s balancing two kind of competing factors. One you want to apply to enough schools that you have choices when it comes down to decision time in the spring. Um, you also, on the other hand, don’t want to overwhelm yourself during an already busy senior year. Um, so less than 15 is usually manageable, um, on top of classes and everything else.
Um, especially if you also add in some [00:18:00] schools that, um, don’t have essays or have repeated essays from other schools. Um, for example, if you apply to like any schools in the university of California system, UCLA, UC, Berkeley, um, all of those schools have the exact same essays. You don’t have to do any more work, so you can just apply to as many as you want.
And it’s not like any additional stress on you. It just, you know, as an additional application fee and everything, um, So that’s kind of a great way to add schools to your list without giving, giving yourself more work. Um, but ultimately, you know, eight to 14 ish schools is a pretty good amount to land on.
Um, now of, of those eight to 14, um, there are some, some balancing that, um, there’s some balancing that needs to happen. Uh, so first, first of all, I always always tell my students to make sure that they’re applying to at least two safety schools. Um, [00:19:00] we’ll go over what safety schools mean in a minute, but, uh, basically you.
Their safety schools, but nothing is ever 100% guaranteed in college admission. So if you apply to two, it’s likely you’re going to get into both, but just in case you will make it into one, you know, at least you weren’t banking on that one. Um, the only kind of exception to that is if you’re guaranteed admission somewhere like, uh, in the UT system or something like that, then, um, you can skip that additional safety schools since you already have something in your back pocket, um, you can definitely apply to more safety schools than that.
Absolutely. Um, you can apply to all safety schools if you want to. Um, but especially because safeties are often, like I said, a little bit more generous with merit aid because they’re trying to recruit you a very well qualified student away from, um, usually those more competitive schools. So besides safeties, um, [00:20:00] the kind of conventional wisdom is to apply to about three to five match or target schools and about three to five reach schools.
Um, those can vary a lot. Um, it’s really dependent on your individual priorities. Um, what you want out of your list, all of that. Um, for example, if you’re like, well, you know, I’m going to go to my local state school, but I’m also going to apply to all the IVs. Cause I’d rather go there, but like, if I’m not going there, then you know, my state school is also a good school and that’ll be fine.
Um, you can do that as long as your local state school is actually a safety. Um, on the other hand, maybe your. You know, the prestige thing, like that’s not so important to me. I want to be in a school that is the best fit for me academically, socially, culturally, all of that. Um, I’m going to maybe apply to one or two reach schools, but I’m going to try and focus my list on targets.
Cool. Um, there’s no really wrong way to [00:21:00] allocate the rest of the match and reach schools. Um, students, students often like to, um, or at least many students that I’ve worked with have liked to be a little reach heavy. Um, that’s fine. Really just make sure that you’re clear on your own priorities and what matters to you.
Um, so let’s take into these categories a little more. I’ve been throwing around these words for 20 minutes. Um, so first up is safety or, um, sometimes called likely schools. And these are schools where you have a better than about 80% chance of acceptance. So, if you applied to two of them, you’re likely to get into two.
Um, this is usually a school where your GPA and your test scores are well above average. So they’re both hitting above that 75th percentile mark, ideally. Um, also it’s important that the acceptance rate for the school is not like seriously low. Um, for example, [00:22:00] like if you go look at, uh, like Harvard’s, um, intercore tile sat range or something, you know, their 75th percentile score probably isn’t like a 1600.
It might be like, I don’t know, a 1550 or something like that. So pretty high, but you could get above that and maybe you do have a GPA that’s above their average GPA, but that doesn’t mean that Harvard’s a safety school. Um, so think about these are more like your state schools. Um, maybe some like local, like liberal arts schools, um, sometimes, uh, If you, if your state school is like really big or prestigious or applied to by a lot of out-of-state students, like university of Michigan or something, um, your kind of flagship campus, like the main one that everybody thinks of that one may not be a safety school, but these schools often have kind of, um, Like other campuses around think like university of [00:23:00] Wisconsin, Milwaukee, or, um, Ohio state Newark, or university of Illinois, Chicago.
Um, these are all, you know, still part of like the overall state school system. They’re just not the flagship campus to everybody from out of state is probably going to be applying to. So be sure and think about those two for safeties. Um, the second category is target or match schools. Um, and this is kind of broad it’s schools where you have between a 40 and 80% chance of acceptance.
Um, so you’re really hitting in that middle range. You’re really within, um, that average for, um, like that interquartile range that I keep talking about. You’re having average GPA, average test scores, um, a strong extracurricular profile, uh, But like, you know, it’s not like there’s going to be really absurd extracurricular expectations of you, but you know, a strong profile, nonetheless.
Um, [00:24:00] but also acceptance rates for these schools can kind of be all over the place, but also nobody’s a match for Harvard. Um, so, uh, it can be a competitive school that you’re a match for, but the kind of like most competitive acceptance rates under like 15% ish, um, those schools are not going to be matches or targets, uh, no matter who you are.
Um, so again, just be, be real clear eyed when you’re evaluating what school is a, an actual target for you, um, versus something that’s really a. Um, and finally we get to the reach category. Um, so this is really broad, um, it’s schools where you have a less than 40% chance of acceptance. Um, so that includes schools that might just be like, you know, pretty competitive, but they’re not like necessarily top 30.
Um, but also it, it could [00:25:00] include schools that it’s like, yeah. I mean, like nothing’s 100% or 0% in college admissions ever. But like, you know, if you’ve got a 2.0 GPA and you’re applying to Harvard, like, yeah, it’s a reach, but like it’s, it’s a pretty, pretty low reach. Um, so usually the rule I give students when talking about these reach schools is, um, if you apply to five of them, And they’re kind of, you know, they’re kind of well-balanced, um, across the reach range you’ll likely, or, you know, maybe get into one or two.
Um, so there are schools where you’re on the lower end of kind of their range of students. They accept. Um, you’re not above those average marks, but you’re not like completely out of the, um, just out of the range altogether. Um, you can also classify a school as a reach if, um, maybe your GPA and test scores are [00:26:00] average, but your extracurricular profile is pretty weak.
Um, you know, there’s other things that go into your kind of academic fit other than just your GPA and test scores are just the easiest to quantify. Um, so think about those other areas as well. Um, and as I’ve been saying this whole time, uh, the other thing that can make a school or reach is if the acceptance rate is extremely low.
Um, I remember being a junior and, um, I was sitting in my English class and my teacher was kind of doing some initial, like let’s learn to research colleges, um, talk with us. And, uh, she had us go in and like, look up all these data points and compare them against their own. And I was like, well, you know, it seems Stanford is a match for me.
It was not, um, I didn’t get in. Um, and it, it, it’s not a match for anybody. Um, definitely for those top 30 schools or like top [00:27:00] 15 schools just don’t put them on your match list. Um, top 30 think really carefully. Um, that’s my, my wisdom to you. Um, so anyway, let’s. Talk a little bit more about how to evaluate those, those categories.
Um, as I’ve been saying most important thing is to be honest with yourself, um, you know, don’t, don’t like, uh, assume or like don’t. It’s good to be confident, but make sure that you’re being clear-eyed about the numbers basically, um, to help with this. It’s good to get a second opinion, um, from somebody who can be pretty objective.
Uh, so maybe a teacher, maybe your college advisor, a school counselor, maybe not your mom, um, because you know, she might have expectations or of course she loves you. And, um, you know, once, once you to, you know, maybe it doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. Um, whereas it’s not like [00:28:00] those others are just really callous, but they can see things a little bit more objectively.
Um, use those GPA and test scores. Look at the averages, look at the interquartile range. Um, consider your extracurriculars and your other factors. Um, like whether you’re a legacy student somewhere, um, if you have any sports, if you’re trying to, you know, apply as an athlete, um, if you are from. Like location is kind of a weird one where, um, I grew up in Arizona and my counselors told me that, um, we would probably have better luck applying to schools on the east coast than we would at California schools because California schools got a lot of Arizona applicants and east coast schools didn’t get as many and schools like, especially, you know, the most competitive ones.
They like to say that they have a student body from all 50 states. So it’s not a huge factor, but it’s not nothing. [00:29:00] Um, look at acceptance rates and, um, also consider a shared admissions programs, um, like, like that UT system where if your class rank or your GPA is above a certain threshold, you’re automatically accepted.
Um, and finally, when in doubt, just estimate conservatively, if you’re kind of like, well, you know, that might be a match or it might be a reach, um, just put it as a reach. And if. Yeah, GPA, your scores, your extracurricular has changed significantly. Then maybe you can bump it down, but maybe it’s just a, an easier reach for you.
Um, and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s yeah, it’ll be just fine. Um, okay, so transitioning a little bit here. Um, I want to chat about, uh, like kind of school visits. So, um, school visits are one thing that has been like kind of cut from [00:30:00] a lot of schools just because of COVID. Um, so they can be really valuable tools, um, where, you know, kind of in the past students have gotten a good feel for the school.
They’ve gotten to talk to maybe current students or people from the admissions office. They get a sense for what the community is like. Um, and that’s kind of hard to do in the COVID world because. Those are just not really available in the same way. Um, fewer in-person everything, as we all know. Um, so without the in-person visit and that kind of visual memory, um, taking notes on the school research you do online is even more important.
Um, it’s I know, like when I was researching schools and kind of visiting around, it’s like, oh yeah, well, you know, my memory of this, and that was tied to like my memory of this cute bakery. And it’s easy to kind of, you know, remember places you’ve actually been. It’s harder to have a really standout memory of a [00:31:00] school website.
Um, so I like to use a Google sheet. Um, whatever note taking system works for you, um, use that as you begin your virtual research journey. Um, fortunately, you know, over the last year and a half, a lot of schools have invested a lot into creating some virtual college tours. Um, so you visit is a virtual tour company that you has done things for a lot of schools.
Um, oftentimes just Googling, you know, school name and you visit, uh, that can pull something up, but also, um, definitely download the slides if you haven’t already and click this link to the Princeton review college virtual tours site. Um, it has so many schools and direct links to that school’s page of virtual tours.
Um, so you can kind of walk your way through, um, and just participate in whatever kind of virtual system the school has set up. Um, you can also, if you, if the school [00:32:00] doesn’t have a virtual tour, if you want more, um, in the application off season, it’s totally okay to contact admissions offices. Um, the admissions officers, usually when they’re not reviewing applications, you know, they used to like travel around and give presentations and go to college fairs and things like that.
So they are available and, you know, likely willing to talk to you. Um, just, you know, don’t do this from like October 15th ish to like January 15th. Um, so do it, do it soon. Um, And also, uh, reach out to current students, either people that, you know, friends of friends, parents, friends, kids, um, or reach out to your college advisor and they can connect you with alumni, from schools you’re interested in.
Um, and finally, of course you have webinars like this, but school specific. I know CollegeAdvisor has some college panels, um, and universities will often also do online information sessions. [00:33:00] Um, like I said, most schools do have virtual visits at this point. Um, look at that Princeton review link. Um, and if you’re not sure reach out to the admissions office and they can tell you either way or maybe set something up for you, um, and just like.
I have a degree in information science, and I feel like I should be able to navigate websites better than this, but sometimes university websites are hard to do. Um, so just Googling, like, you know, Georgetown college tour, um, that that’ll bring you right there and you don’t have to hunt through without some web pages.
Um, and yes, if you can’t find the answer online, uh, again, reach out to the admissions office, talk to your school counselor. Sometimes they, you know, have access to other information and they’ve been doing this a long time, um, and also chat with one of CollegeAdvisor.com/advisors. Um, and they can definitely answer a lot of your questions.[00:34:00]
Okay. Back to Lily. Yeah. Great. Thanks for that intro on virtual resources and virtual teams. Um, next, I have another question for you guys. So let us know I’m in the poll. If you guys have been on a virtual college tour before, um, and also if not, um, CollegeAdvisor also has a few virtual tours. If you go back into our webinar recordings, um, we had a few webinars where we had either current students or alumni go to their campus and take videos from their favorite places on campus.
Um, including things like libraries, dining halls, dorms, et cetera. So this is also a great way to check out what the school is like. So it looks like most people haven’t been to a virtual college tour. Um, that’s also a great career cause you know, now you know that you have that resource available to you guys.
Um, yeah. And then a second best option. Um, some people have been to a few, which is also great. I’ll close the poll and hand it back to you then. Okay, great. So, um, before we get to Q and a, we’ll just talk a little bit about kind of my experience. Um, [00:35:00] so I graduated high school in 2015, um, and I was the oldest in my family, so my parents had gone to a pretty local university and, um, it had also been a long time.
And so they, uh, didn’t really know much about the college list-making process. Um, so I relied a lot on my counselor and, uh, a very kind English teacher to help out with that. Um, also, you know, talk to friends and, um, you know, older siblings of friends who’ve been through the process. Um, but ultimately, as I realized now, working in college admissions advising, uh, my list was way too small.
I had one safety and five other schools that were all reaches and it ended up like working out. But, uh, I just kind of cringe when I think back like, oh man, like, I really didn’t think through that very. Very well, um, didn’t think through it as methodically as I wish I had. Um, and [00:36:00] so really like when it came down to narrowing my schools, um, I, I didn’t want to be writing applications forever.
I also procrastinated and wrote them over winter break. Don’t do that. Um, so that, you know, influence things too. But, um, one thing that was influential in choosing what schools were on my list was. Well going to in-person visits, but also going to information sessions, which are pretty easy to move online.
Um, and I think a lot of schools have been doing that. So getting a sense for, um, what the school’s like, of course, you know, through the lens of an admissions officer. Um, and finally the most important thing was, uh, in making my list and also in making my decision ultimately was having a good understanding of my needs and my preferences, um, not only academically, but also in the kind of school environment that I wanted to be in.
Um, so I think doing as much reflection on that as you can [00:37:00] early, um, really helps smooth the process and kind of clears out the things that like really aren’t going to interest you, um, or things that might be great draws for other students, but aren’t going to be a great draw for. Um, so yeah, just to kind of wrap up, uh, general advice before we get to Q and A’s, um, take your time.
Uh, you do have plenty of time, even if you haven’t started your list at all. And you’re a senior this year, um, you have lots of time before applications are due. Um, I recommend getting it done over the next month or so, but even that’s a long time and, um, it’s something that you can always be revising. Um, if you’re a junior or, um, younger, definitely start taking notes now and just kind of, um, you know, get, get a sense for your, uh, your values and what’s going to be important to you.
Um, Somewhat related to [00:38:00] that, uh, take some time to get to know your preferences and understand what features will actually make school, a good fit. Um, like, you know, there’s a lot of really shiny things like nice new dining halls or like the one new dorm building or something. Um, and those, those are great, but, uh, think about whether that will really make a difference for you, if it will cool.
Um, but if the academics are, or if they don’t have like your particular program or maybe it’s like a really high pressure environment, you don’t like that. Uh, think about how happy you’ll be in that environment with that choice. Um, don’t get hung up on procedural alone. Um, make sure that you’re choosing a school because it’s a good fit for you.
Not because, um, it’s a school you’ve heard of a lot. Um, and then as I’ve said before and, you know, tons and tons, just take good notes, um, and talk to other people [00:39:00] around you. Talk to your classmates, talk to your teachers, um, parents, friends, counselors, uh, your college advisor. Um, these are big decisions to make and they can feel, um, sometimes it can be really stressful to narrow down, like, okay, you know, these are the options of where I’m going to go next year and, you know, ideally spend the next four years of my life and it’s a big decision for sure.
But it’s also one that, um, can be made easier with, uh, kind of hearing what other people have.
Okay. Um, so we are all done with the formal presentation, but, uh, we can definitely answer some questions. I’ve seen some come into the chat. Um, so let’s see here. Um, yeah. So then the, I can jump in here to have the QA work is all, um, pick out questions from your QA section. I’ll type them into public chat.
And I read them out loud before you give an answer. [00:40:00] Um, yeah, we’ll just try to get through as many questions as we can. We also have a break in the middle. So the first question that we have is what does it mean to have a weak extracurricular profile for school? Great. Yeah. So this is something that I talked about briefly, um, but a weak extracurricular profile for a school kind of depends on the school you’re talking about, but, um, generally it’s, um, maybe you weren’t involved in very many activities and activities conceived of broadly.
So counting jobs, counting childcare, responsibilities, counting, volunteer work, um, Really anything outside of going to class that you’re involved in. Um, so if you’re not involved in really much of all, much of anything, um, and you can’t like kind of turn any, like, you know, outside projects you have into something that, you know, could be an activity.
For example, like I took piano growing up and that’s definitely an activity, but I didn’t do like competitions or [00:41:00] anything like that. Um, it was pretty casual. So, I mean, Anyway, details’ aside. Uh, it wasn’t something that like I had like formal club membership in, but that was still an activity I could put on my profile.
But if you don’t have very many activities or if you aren’t, um, really deeply invested in a couple of them, you don’t need to be super deeply invested in all of them. But, um, some investment in, you know, one to four is generally a really good idea, really important for those kind of most competitive schools, um, or, uh, you know, potentially if.
Like you realize senior year that you didn’t have any activities. And so you joined a bunch, three months before you’re submitting your applications. And so it’s like, okay, like clearly you just joined these for your applications. Like, um, those are all kind of factors that can make next or curricular profile more on the weak side.
A stronger profile usually [00:42:00] has more activities, again, conceived of broadly. Um, usually there’s some depth of participation. So maybe you were an officer, um, maybe you started an organization, maybe you were a team captain in a sport. Um, maybe you didn’t have formal leadership position, but you had a really innovative program or training or mentorship for new people.
Um, lots of ways to show your commitment and your depth of involvement in particular activities. Um, those things tend to make an extracurricular profile stronger and then more competitive at those, uh, more selective schools.
Um, the next question we have is a longer one. All colleges generally ask the question. Why us? So while researching schools, is it hard to distinguish one school from the other as they all offer the same opportunities? And then also, could you share how you can address that question when you’re researching colleges?
That’s a fantastic question. Um, this is one reason I really [00:43:00] recommend using a spreadsheet when you’re researching, um, I’ll college at all. Many colleges do offer similar opportunities, um, but they’re not all exactly the same. Um, so say you’re, um, I don’t know, really interested in. Let’s see, like maybe you’re gonna, you’re planning to study psychology and maybe one school, or maybe you could do research at many schools with professors, but one school has a dedicated, like, um, kind of psychology undergrad research program, um, where you can have more dedicated members or mentorship.
Maybe you can get some funding, you know, all the different features of the program that could make it stand out among all of the other, just kind of general like, yeah, of course we let undergrads research, um, kinds of things. Um, so really when, when addressing [00:44:00] this question, what I like to tell my students is to think about like one to three top priorities for them in a school, and then figure out how that school matches up with, uh, Your priorities.
So if undergrad research is really important to you, um, you know, figure out what supports the school has for it. Um, if you know, some kind of, I don’t know, uh, Like, it’s really important that the school has like a thriving Greek life. Um, figure out how to school supports that, uh, all these different factors that come into play from usually those academic and social and cultural sections that we talked about.
Um, think about what those priorities are for you. And then think about how, um, like what programs and things the school offers, uh, support those priorities, um, schools know that you’re applying to a lot of different places and that you’re probably applying to [00:45:00] places with similar opportunities to them.
They’re really just looking to make sure that you’ve done your research and you’re not just like, you know, going down the U S news and world report list of like, you know, top political science schools and applying there because you’ve heard the name. Um, they’re really just looking for a deep connection to the school and focusing on your priorities first helps you avoid the kind of cliche answers that, you know, Every student is going to say, um, that was a bit rambling, but I hope that that helped.
Yeah, for sure. Next question for, we take a quick break. Um, so how can you be sure that a school is the right fit for you without having been able to go in? Great. Yes. So I think that, um, it’s important to remember that there can be a lot of right fits for you. Um, there’s not like one school out there that is like, you know, your soulmate school, uh, and you won’t be happy anywhere [00:46:00] else.
So keeping an open mind is the first piece of advice I’d suggest, um, remembering that there can be a lot of ways that a school can be right for you in a lot of ways that a school is going to be wrong for you. Um, and so kind of approaching it that way, I think helps. Um, With that said visiting in person is really helpful, uh, for kind of clarifying like, oh yeah, I, you know, didn’t realize they had this because it hadn’t seen it on their website, but, uh, you know, when I walked by that center or whatever, um, you know, that’s, that’s really cool, like having those serendipitous moments.
So, um, it’s hard to kind of recapture that entirely with the online experience, but I think that potentially talking to current students can help, um, talking to them about what their favorite thing is, what their least favorite thing is. Um, bearing in mind that if they’re current students, they’re probably a little stressed out.
So, um, their least favorite thing might [00:47:00] be, um, You know, might be that they’re really busy and that’s just kinda how college is. Um, but yeah, I think, I think that talking to current students, um, is, is my best advice there and doing your research and getting a good sense of your priorities as well. Um, and remembering that, like, there’s a lot of, like, once you get down to like your list of schools that, you know, fit those big priorities, there’s a lot of ways that all of those schools should be a good fit for you.
Um, so it’s not like you have to be accepted to the one dream school.
Great. Thanks. Brilliant. Um, yeah. Next as a quick break, I’m like, do you want me to let you guys know how you guys can get help on your own college apps? Um, so I’m going to send out a link to everyone that will give you some more information. If you guys want to work one-on-one with an advisor from our college advisor team, [00:48:00] we have over 155 advisors and admissions officers.
Um, you can sign up now if you want to get a free consultation with us and you can go to college advisor.com and then if you hit the green check button at the bottom of the screen, um, you can just write the word consultation and then a live Q number. We’ll get back to you to help you coordinate your free consultation from there.
Um, yeah, this is a great way to work with advisors like billing. Um, you think you guys can get help on your school and you get help with your essays. Um, pretty much whatever you need in the college at process. Um, yeah, the link is there for you if you guys want it. And then, um, yeah, we can get back to the Q and a.
So the next question that I had, yeah. Um, next was how do I find more in-depth information on how courses are handling another great question. Um, so there, I mean, there’s a couple of like classic answers, um, like rate my professor.com is a very popular one I think was more popular several years ago, but, um, that’s a big one to [00:49:00] take a grain of salt with.
It’s a lot of students who have some beef with their professors just going to, um, rant after the semester. And, um, in terms of like getting a, like less, you know, overly negative perception of classes, um, looking at the professor, student ratio and the number of classes that are taught by professors versus adjunct, or like full professors versus adjunct professors versus grad students.
Um, that can give you a bit of a sense of like, you know, how big are the classes, um, Are you going to be taking this lecture with like a really world renowned professor, but it’s a 500 person lecture and like most of your time is going to be spent with a PhD student. Um, that’s not bad at all. Um, there’s a lot of value to kind of, you know, working closely with the professor or working closely with grad students, but, um, they’re different experiences.
And [00:50:00] so thinking about like, You know how the schools handle that is, um, is helpful. Also looking at average class size, um, can help determine, like, you know, is it gonna be a lecture? Is it going to be a lot of, um, discussion-based classes? Um, also the type of school it is, uh, can give some insight into that as well.
Uh, like, you know, really large state schools, they’re going to have a lot more 500 person lectures. Um, then like a small liberal arts college will, especially because kind of by definition, those liberal arts colleges rarely have grad students. So, um, it’s a little bit harder to break into individual discussion sections is often happens with those lecture classes.
Um, so. Really, you can find some of both types of classes, like the big lecture or the small discussion, wherever you go. Um, especially the further you advance in your major. [00:51:00] Um, you’re going to get more of those discussion classes, but, um, the size and the size and type of the school will really help to inform that.
Okay. Next question. We haven’t squatted the best way to organize your college at your recent. Yeah. Um, another great one. So what I usually do is I open up a Google sheet and, um, if I’m just researching, I will put in three columns, um, one for school, name, one for the location, and then another one for like notes.
Um, and you can add more, or I, I guess you could do fewer columns, but, uh, if you didn’t care about location or something, but, uh, usually those columns or a couple of more, or a couple more columns, um, to add more details, um, if there’s something specific I’m looking for, but, uh, that helps me keep track of what schools I am researching.
And then, um, I will usually link the school [00:52:00] name to the niche.com profile. Um, that way I don’t have to like copy and paste tons of data. I can just like go and see it. Um, but the notes call them is great for saying like, oh, you know, they have a really great, uh, like, uh, kind of pre-med mentorship program or they are in Washington DC, and it’s really easy to get political internships or whatever it may be that you’re looking for.
Um, it’s a great way to keep notes on those specific programs, uh, which can then be absolutely critical information when you’re writing those why us essays in a couple of months. Um, you’ve already done the research. You already have your notes about why you put that school on your list. Um, so taking as many notes as you can is good.
Great. Next question we have is when ethics are involved, how does that change the title? Yeah. Um, so I’m not an expert in kind of athletic recruitment at all. Um, I know we have a [00:53:00] couple of advisors at college advisor who are, um, some of them who, you know, went through that process themselves. Um, it kind of depends on the sport you’re playing and what level you want to be playing at.
Um, I think if you are a senior and you’re trying to get recruited, uh, talk to your coach and try and figure that out as soon as possible, um, if you’re a junior, you should probably also reach out to your coach and, um, chat about that as soon as you can as well. Um, I don’t have many more specifics on that just cause that’s not an area I’m familiar with, but if you’re not trying to play, um, like.
At a very high level, you can also, um, consider walking onto a team once you get to campus. Um, there’s a lot of other ways to play sports in college, but, uh, I will, I will defer a full answer to, um, somebody who’s been through that process themselves. [00:54:00] Yeah. And if you check out some of our college advisors webinars, um, every few months we’ll usually have something about athletic recruiting.
So I definitely recommend checking those out cause we’ll have an expert there for you guys. Um, my next question that we have is do other states have the same se requirements besides California? Um, I am not quite sure what this question’s asking, but, um, other, well, I, I don’t think that other states have the same, um, like big state system where all of the questions are the same in exactly the same way as the UC system.
Um, but other states do have kind of. Like school consortium’s. Um, so of, you know, besides the UC system in California, there’s also like the Cal state system, different essays completely. But, uh, you know, they’re, they’re kind of related in the same way. Um, in terms of the essays themselves, the essay topics are often very [00:55:00] similar across all colleges.
Um, there’s really not that many essay topics that get asked, um, So you can definitely like write the applications for the California schools and then, um, either use the exact same essay or modify it to fit the word count and like exact prompts of other schools. You definitely don’t need to write every essay from scratch.
Um, you will see the UC prompts come up in similar fashion at other schools, but, um, to my knowledge there, isn’t the same type of like, if you apply to one, you may as well, it’ll apply to as many as you can, uh, in other states the same way.
Great. Next question that we had was should be still taking sat tests if a college doesn’t require it with an optional. Yeah. This is a question that’s especially pertinent during COVID. Um, so the, the short answer is, um, [00:56:00] It is a good idea to send sat, test scores to colleges, if your sat score is above their average score.
Um, so I still think it’s a good idea to take the test so that, you know, either way, um, if you’re a really bad tester, don’t send it in. Um, it’ll probably just hurt you. Um, but if you’re a really bad or if it’s also not going to count against you, if you don’t send it in, um, if you are a good tester though, and you know, that like kind of, that’s how your brain works, you can study really well for those and get a really high score then.
Yeah, I think it’s worth it to take the test and send it in because that’ll be one more kind of feather in your cap.
Great. Our next question that we have is, is it worth trying to go to a big name? It’s a good question. Um, I think that it depends on what your priorities are. Um, are you trying to go to the school simply because it has a big name or is there something [00:57:00] about the school and oftentimes the resources that, that big name can provide that is important to you?
Um, so you definitely shouldn’t write about, well, I want to go to Princeton because it’s Princeton, uh, in your college essays, but, um, those top 30 schools do have a lot of resources. Um, and so. That’s something that is definitely worth considering, um, and considering how those resources can help you in your goals.
Um, so focus more on kind of the, like, I guess side benefits of the big name school. Um, you know, when you’re working on your list and your, uh, essays and everything. Um, but with that said, there are also a lot of schools that also have a lot of resources and a lot of, um, like just really fantastic programs that aren’t like the classic, like they’re not the Ivy leagues.
Um, but they’re still excellent schools, like, um, a lot of the big state schools, uh, like, I mean, [00:58:00] university of Wisconsin, university of Michigan, Ohio, like all sorts of those. Um, they have tons and tons of resources for their students, um, both academically and non-academically, um, resources that like, could be.
Just as good as what you’d get at the Ivy leagues, but probably not as expensive, especially if you’re in state. Um, so it’s definitely not like the big name, isn’t everything. Um, focus on like the opportunities available at the school and also look where else you can get those opportunities. Yeah. It was probably a time for maybe like one or two more questions.
Um, our next question is what would you suggest between a paid job and extracurricular activities? That’s a good question. I’m really dependent on for personal circumstances. Um, if you need to have a paid job, do that, um, don’t sacrifice a paid job for extracurriculars. Um, [00:59:00] if you don’t need to have a job, but like.
You want to have one and maybe you have like a cool opportunity to do that. Cool. Like there’s, there’s not really a wrong answer. Um, just the, the thing with extracurriculars is you want to, um, ideally have them sell, come tell some kind of story about your values, um, who you are as a person. Um, all of that, but, uh, in terms of like, you know, when colleges are looking at your list, you’re not going to get like dinged for having a paid job.
Like that is just as valid as having like a lot of club involvement. Um, and you know, sometimes, you know, depending on your personal situation, maybe even more,
um, probably the last question for the night, what is the best way to narrow down your options? I’m assuming this is your options with your school. Yeah, good question. Um, so when I’m working with my students and I have [01:00:00] them create a list, kind of a pre-list of 20 to 30 schools, um, I have them go through and research those schools, they all fit most of their preferences that we talk about early in our process together.
Um, but as they narrow down their options, um, there may be things like, um, I don’t know, is it, is it too close to home or is the student body just too big or is it, um, not in the kind of like, you know, is it too much in the city? Is it too much in a small town? Um, it’s really the narrowing down your options is really just refining your preferences.
Um, so when I work with students, I always advise, picking your top three priorities. Um, so that like when it does come time to narrow down. One of the priorities that is like, you can use those priorities to be like, okay, you know, everything that doesn’t match this, that’s going to be a no. [01:01:00] Um, but you know, it it’s, it’s not really a science.
Um, it could just be you pick your favorites. Um, I know that’s not the most helpful advice, but, um, I think that starting with that pre-list helps to give you like a good sense of abundance early in the process. You don’t feel like you’re cutting yourself off from your options. Um, but as you do more research and you find things that, you know, you don’t like, or that maybe are deal breakers for you, you can, um, you know, check those off the list and leave the ones that you’re most happy.
Well, that is the end of our webinar. Thanks so much for me, for sharing your insights on school is, and also researching colleges, um, for the rest of our month. Um, when you exit the webinar, you will go to the landing page for all of our August galvanize. So here you can check out all of the other webinars that we have planned, and also other places that you can ask questions.
Um, our next webinar that’s coming up is [01:02:00] going to be a college panel for the university of Pennsylvania. So this is a school that you’re considering, or you want to learn more about, and we definitely recommend going to that session. And I hope you found today’s webinar helpful and see us today. Have a great night, everyone.