Stanford & MIT: College Panel

Join us for an illuminating webinar as we bring together alumni from two academic powerhouses, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Admissions experts Nicholas Welch (Stanford) and Lisa Lozano (MIT) will provide invaluable insights and guidance on both the application process and their experiences.

  • Navigating Admissions Criteria: Gain an in-depth understanding of the essential elements that admissions officers look for, including GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and recommendation letters.
  • Personalized Essay Insights: Learn how to write compelling personal statements and essays that effectively showcase your character, experiences, and compatibility with the distinct Stanford and MIT environments.
  • Campus Life: Get a glimpse into the vibrant and dynamic campus life at Stanford and MIT, including academic programs, research initiatives, student organizations, and the overall student experience.
  • Q&A Session: Engage with our panelists in a live question and answer session, where you can seek personalized advice and clarify any doubts you may have about the application process, academics, campus culture, and more.

Seize this opportunity to interact with alumni from Stanford and MIT, who are excited to share their knowledge and experiences to help you confidently take the first steps towards a remarkable higher education experience. Whether you’re drawn to groundbreaking research, innovative learning, or a tight-knit community, this webinar will equip you with the tools to shape your future and flourish in these esteemed academic environments.

Date 09/12/2023
Duration 59:02

Webinar Transcription

2023-09-12 – Stanford & MIT: College Panel

Joseph: Hi everyone, my name is Joseph Recupero, and I am your moderator for today. Uh, welcome to our college panel webinar discussing Stanford and MIT. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q& A. On the sidebar, you can download our slides, and you can start submitting questions in the Q& A tab.

Now, I’m going to hand it over, and we will meet our panelists. Nicholas, if you want to go ahead and introduce yourself.

Nicholas: Sure. Hi everyone. I’m Nicholas. I just graduated from Stanford last year. I studied Chinese politics. Um, I’m currently attending Duke Law School. I just started a few weeks ago.

Joseph: Fantastic. And Lisa, if you want to also introduce yourself.

Lisa: Hi, everyone. My name is Lisa Lozano. I graduated from MIT in 2017, got a bachelor’s in brain and cognitive sciences, and I’m now getting my PhD in counseling psych at Texas A&M University.

Joseph: Fantastic. We have an amazing panel for you all tonight. Before we jump in and get started, I am going to send you a quick poll. We would like to know what grade level you’re in just so that we can kind of understand the audience that we have this evening. So go ahead and fill out that poll that you’re seeing and then we will get started with our panelists in just a few minutes.

I know right now is a very busy part of the application cycle, um, especially for you seniors. Um, so we are excited to share this webinar with you this evening. It looks like we have about a hundred, a little over a hundred individuals joining us this evening. Um, with the majority of those being seniors, um, so this should be a really good crowd.

Um, yeah, between seniors and juniors tend to be the majority. Um, so with that, I am going to go ahead and hand it over to our panelists and we’ll get started

Nicholas: wonderful. Okay. I think this is going to work the same for both of us. I’m going to tell my story. Then there’ll be another poll and then Lisa will tell her story.

So I have a 3 part story here. So I have 3 slides go through it in order. What was my college application process like? Um, I think to be honest, it was very, very simple, very plain vanilla. Um, just checked all the boxes I needed to to prepare myself well. Um, standardized testing, I did that quite early. Um, I just wanted to get that out of the way.

I didn’t want to be thinking about it. Didn’t want to be stressed about that. It’s not to say, if you haven’t taken it, I know many of you are seniors here, if you haven’t taken it yet, that’s okay. But just, um, I got that, I wanted to get that done so I could focus on crafting an application. Um, I also wanted to, to note especially, a lot of people are very stressed about Um, their summers and they want to do some crazy internship or stand out and that’s totally fine.

Um, it’s worth knowing that I didn’t do anything particularly special in my summers. I did some travel with family. I played with my friends. I, I really took some time off. And I’m really glad I did that as well. I’m glad my parents allowed me to do that. Um, because it helped me be in a happy, healthy frame of mind and it really allowed me to focus when I needed to and prepare for everything.

So, if you have done really cool things in your summers, that’s great. If you’ve just had really chill summers, um, that’s also fine. You are not disqualified from elite schools. Um, I had 10 schools on my list. Um, 8 were on the Common App, 2 elsewhere. Um, and what I mean in the fourth bullet point, executive committee, I’m sure many of you have experienced this to an extent, um, you’ll have everyone in your life is asking you, Oh, what are you thinking about college?

Where do you want to go? Do you want to go? Maybe they say, do you want to go where your parents went? Or, uh, just have so many questions. And it’s sort of a natural conversation starter because that’s your age. Um, I found being inundated by these questions and interrogations from everyone on the planet to be kind of stressful.

Um, and I had no idea really where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. Uh, to an extent that’s still even true today. Um, and what I decided to do is I’d make an executive committee. There were only five people in my life who would give me advice. I would only listen to their advice. And anyone else are free to say whatever they want to me.

I’d be polite in conversation. But they’d have no influence or sway on any of my decisions. And that really helped my sanity. And I think it helped me, uh, choose more logically what I was going to do. That helped me refine my application much better. So that’s definitely something I’d recommend. Just choose a small cohort of people who you trust, who you really like.

Maybe there are people who have done exactly what you want to do, and only listen to them, and consult heavily with them and nobody else. Um, I found that to be really helpful for me. Um, the essays, um, my, uh, my biggest role here at CollegeAdvisor is I’m on the essay review team. Uh, maybe I’ll read some of your essays and anonymously edit them in the coming weeks and months.

Um, my goal with the essay is to write something that the admissions committee members would remember by lunch. Um, if you apply to schools like MIT and Stanford, they’re going to receive somewhere in the realm of 000 applications a year. And that’s way too many. And I can’t imagine the admissions panels like their job that much.

Because that’s going to be a lot of 650 word essays. And they’ll read 200 before lunch. And I wanted them to remember mine. So, what I mean by that is just, uh, there are no bad topics. You can say whatever you want. And I, like I said, my summers were terrible. Yeah, pretty chill. Like I wasn’t, I was a good student, but I wasn’t like particularly impressive.

I hadn’t started a fortune 500 company or anything crazy, um, but I could still write something creative and interesting. And I think my essays were something that the admissions panelists remembered when they went to lunch and they were talking about. I read 200 essays this morning and yeah, here’s the one I remember.

That’s what they talked about. That was my goal. Um, so to wrap up all of that, I would say, and to kind of connect the dots, like my. Fun, no stress summers, um, you know, consulting with only a few people. I would say, I know it sounds cliche, but just do what you really like, uh, don’t do things for the college app.

Because what will happen if you do things only for the college app is when you write, it’ll just feel dry, it’ll feel fake. It’s really hard to write fake, authentic things. It’s Um, that may sound really obvious, but a lot of people try it. I’m going to, you know, craft this beautiful application about stuff I don’t care about, and you really can’t.

I only did stuff I really cared about, and I wrote about the stuff I cared about, and it worked out okay for me. So that was my college application process, sort of from a philosophical standpoint. Part two, what schools was I considering at the time? Um, so I was kind of weird. Um, I considered basically all of the Ivy League schools, MIT, and I had one safety school.

I knew enough about my safety school, BYU, to know that I had a 100 percent chance of admission there. And I would be decently happy going there, so I said, okay, I’ll apply there, and then I’ll just shoot my shot everywhere else. And, and see what happens, because I can afford to do it. Um, even just from a mathematical perspective.

Let’s say, uh, you apply to ten, ten elite schools, they all have a 6 percent acceptance rate. So you have a 94 percent chance of being rejected. But if you apply to 10 of them, the chance of being rejected from all of them at the same time is 0. 94 to the 10th power. So the chance of being admitted to at least one of them is 1 minus 0.

94 to the 10th power. And that’s actually a pretty decently large number. Um, I just did the math right now, that’s a 46%. So it’s about a 50/50 chance. If you apply to 10 schools with a 6 percent chance of admission. You have a 46 percent chance of getting admitted to at least one of them. So I thought, that’s fine.

I’ll just, I’ll get into college. I’ll be fine. Um, I’ll just send everything out everywhere. Um, and, yeah. To be honest, Stanford wasn’t, like, the highest school on my list. And that sounds really pretentious. But the reason that was the case is because I was born and raised in Palo Alto. And I could bike to Stanford from my home and I wanted to try something different.

Um, but when I got my admissions results back, I was admitted to my safety, admitted to Stanford and also Duke. And, uh, it was a relatively easy decision to make with those three. Uh, something else I want to comment on here is, um, yeah, it’s, it’s kind of silly in my mind that I was admitted to Stanford, um, but rejected from Harvard and Yale and Princeton and all those other schools.

Um, that doesn’t make any logical sense. It’s not as though I was. Um, unqualified for Harvard, but perfectly qualified for Stanford. I think, uh, it’s important to remember, for your own sake, for your own sanity, that so much of this is just winning the lottery. And I, I really don’t know why I won the lottery at Stanford, and not elsewhere.

Um, I probably would have gone elsewhere if I were admitted, um, to a place like Harvard or Yale, but it didn’t work out that way, and that’s okay. That’s just fine. Um, just take it and roll with it, and I had a fantastic time at Stanford. Yeah, the other thing that, uh, made my situation unique, I actually took two gap years.

I served a mission for my church in Canada. Um, so when I started as a freshman, I, uh, was already 20 years old and significantly more mature than a lot of other people. Um, and I was able, I was able to process, um, my whole application process and feel really good and ready to start. So, uh, definitely take the time you need.

And last slide here is why did I major in East Asian Studies? Yes, I have a difficult time answering this question. Uh, my college experience was kind of bizarre, uh, like many of your high school experiences because, uh, the pandemic interrupted everything in the middle. And I, at the time, I was actually a math major.

Uh, I was, I almost, almost was a math major. But then pandemic, uh, Yeah, messed up everything. And I didn’t really, um, I didn’t want to continue doing online classes and I had this great opportunity to move to Taiwan in the middle of the pandemic, uh, really rare. So after a two week quarantine, I was there in Taiwan and enjoying life, um, away from coronavirus lockdown controls.

And it was wonderful. And in fact, I loved it so much that, um, I spoke to my student services officer and I said, I, I really liked the things I’m experiencing here. Do you think I could get a minor? And she said, well, I actually looked at your transcript already, and you already have a minor in East Asian Studies.

How about we make that a major? So then, so then I made it a major. Um, and it was, it was a perfect program for me. It was relatively small, which means there was a disproportionate amount of funding allocated to the students in it. So I was able to, um, Get funding for, um, language training and more study abroad.

Um, it was interdisciplinary. I could go, um, take classes from professors in so many different departments in the natural and social sciences. Um, the other reason is I decided while I was living there that I wanted to go to law school. And law school admissions is somewhat of a science. Um, pretty much 80 percent of the weight of your application comes down to your GPA and your LSAT test score.

And I knew if I were a math major, it would take me another year of school, and it would lower my GPA. I thought it would get in the way of my long term goal of being an attorney. So, it, it just made sense to go for it. And, um, so practical considerations were definitely a part of it. But I don’t think that’s wrong, because I really love my program, and it’s opened so many doors for me.

So, uh, uh, I guess the conclusion there is, um, I don’t make plans anymore. I maximize opportunities. So just, just roll with whatever happens. It’ll be a good time. So there we have it for me.

Joseph: Great. Thank you so much, Nicholas. Um, now we kind of want to know, now that we’ve heard a little bit about Nicholas’s process, where you all are in your college process. Um, so I’m going to go ahead and put this poll up on the screen for you all and let us know where you’re at. Um, and while we do that, I do want to know, um, because I actually have not been to Stanford before.

Nicholas, what was like your favorite spot on campus at Stanford?

Nicholas: Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, because there are so many Stanford is a ginormous campus and it’s really beautiful. My favorite spot personally was Stanford. Uh, the swimming pool. I swim, I swim six days a week, pretty much my whole time at Stanford, as much as I could be on campus, and that was really, uh, rejuvenating for me.

It’s also an outdoor pool, um, so I can get a lot of vitamin D all day. Um, that was, that really became my sanctuary, so to speak. I also spend a lot of time in the library. The library is huge, and, uh, there’s a special room on the, maybe the seventh floor of the library, which very few people know about. It has a great view overlooking the main quad.

Um, so it was kind of surreal to be studying there.

Joseph: Yeah, it sounds fantastic. So it looks like, um, most of our students are either researching their schools or working on their essays. Um, so this is a good point for them to be. Um, so now I’m going to go ahead and hand it over to Lisa. Um, and we’ll continue.

Lisa: Okay. I think you can hear me. Okay. Hello everyone. Um, I noticed that about 60 of you, like half of you are 12th graders and the other half are. 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th. So I hope that this is applicable to both of you. So what was the college application process like? It was gonna, it’s different from Nicholas’s process.

And in regards to standardized testing, no one really told me or pushed me to do these tests. And I had to figure that out for myself around junior year. I did both. I actually started with SAT and my test score bombed. It was really bad. Um, and then somebody told me, Sometimes the ACT score is higher.

People do better on ACT than they do on SAT and vice versa. So I took the ACT and realized I was an ACT girlie. I actually did extremely well on the ACT and those were the scores that were submitted. Um, I was very fortunate to have people in my circle, people my age who convinced me to do flying programs.

So this is something that I wish had existed a bit earlier, but I believe I applied for these programs the summer before senior year. Because I was told about them and schools like MIT and Emory University paid for me to go visit their institution for a few days, and I’m very grateful they did because I had never left Texas before my home state.

Um, in terms of applications. I applied at 13 to 15 to just maximize the chance that I got in somewhere. I was a first generation low income student, so I didn’t really have anybody telling me how many schools to apply to, but 13 to 15 felt pretty safe. Um, and I had a QuestBridge mentor at that time.

QuestBridge is a program. Um, that has college applications more so, um, designed for low income students that go to the school. has a lot of resources for that and advisors who are specialized with it. But I had a mentor who coached me through the process itself. I had three to four people, teachers, giving me feedback on my essay.

So I had two teachers designated for my more personal essays, the ones that talked about my emotional experience. And I had another maybe one or two. who talked about who helped me with my essays regarding what I wanted to major in my future career. And these were the teachers that I went to for feedback on structure and grammar and whether I was answering the prompt.

My mentor actually gave me a lot of feedback on content. So as a first generation student, what I noticed in myself and what I noticed in other students is that we tend to talk about our stresses and forget to talk about how our stresses is. and challenges and maybe trauma for some students, how they impacted our qualities, how we became better, stronger, more resilient, more perseverant because of it.

Um, and I also had Google helping me out at this time as a first gen student, low income, single parent family. Um, I didn’t really have very much to, to navigate with. And so that’s a reason why I wanted to work for to make sure students wouldn’t have to go through this messy, disorganized process.

And make sure it’s streamlined for them in regards to the portals. I use. I submitted about five or six on the common app. I submitted five or six in Texas because I thought I was probably going to end up at a Texas school, and I submitted one or two through QuestBridge. I believe MIT was one of them in regards to the essays.

And I touched upon this earlier. I had to learn how to write about how my experiences impacted my growth. How did growing up in a single parent household impact my resiliency and perseverance? How did. Getting third place at the math competition versus first impacts my drive to work harder and study harder in my academics.

Um, a lot of students tend to focus on like the struggle and forget to expand on how it impacted their growth. And that was something I had to learn as a writer. In terms of financial aid, how to learn this on my own. I can only hope that everything I submitted back in the day was submitted accurately.

Um, because in regards to financial aid, I really didn’t have anybody in my circle to help me out there. So I had to do a lot of. Maybe YouTube and Googling and hoping that it was being submitted adequately. Fortunately, does have a financial aid team, um, that I rely on now as a CollegeAdvisor.

And in terms of scholarships, I applied to everything and anything because my family did not have the resources to help me pay for anything. Um, in regards to what I applied to, I prioritized local and then I, I did state and I did a few national, but, um, from memory, I believe I got maybe eight to 10 local.

Um, I don’t think I got any state or national. So again, prioritizing the things, the scholarships that are around you. Um, other schools I were considering at the time, to be honest, I’m one of those students that didn’t have a preference. Um, as first gen, I just needed to go to the school that gave me the most money to make sure my family wouldn’t have to pay as much, um, because I knew that I was on my own financially.

And it’s okay if this is you too. Um, And additionally, I didn’t believe in myself. It was an Ivy League school. I didn’t believe I had the criteria qualifications to get in. I didn’t see myself as a student. I probably had imposter syndrome back then. Um, and. When I, I did get, end up getting that fly in program.

They did select me and paid for me to fly into the school and I visited and I loved it. And I was like, this would be such a great place to go, but I don’t know if they’re going to pay for me. Um, and I decided to apply because I didn’t want to regret not applying. And even if I got it denied, I would have been okay.

I just needed confirmation, um, that I was accepted or denied. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t regret that. Um, I vibed with MIT. I love the nerdiness. People there have this drive to save the world in their own fields in biology. Um, in chemistry, in medicine, in, in management. It was just magical. And I loved being around other people who are excited about their fields and excited to learn and excited to challenge themselves.

Um, at the end of the day, MIT did provide me the best financial aid package. Um, I had my eye on UT Austin because I believed UT Austin would give me a better package. It was closer to home. Um, but they didn’t. I think I’d have to pay 10, 000 or 12, 000 out of pocket that I didn’t have, whereas MIT did cover everything and gave me a very generous scholarship.

Additionally, living in a place like Boston, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities in the city. There’s just so many research hospitals, so many universities, so many labs. Um, it was the place to be for somebody with my interests. And it was the only school that sent me my acceptance letter in a tube.

If you get accepted to MIT, they send you a silver tube with confetti, with your admissions letter. It, it felt great. Um, and why did I major in brain and cognitive sciences? I was pre med at the time. And let’s see, um, I befri, uh, the pre meds I had befriended in a pre freshman program recommended. It was as interesting and useful major that best fit my interest.

So yes, I did meet other undergraduates who are like, Hey, you’re pre med. You should do brain and cognitive sciences. The content is really cool. Professors are super interesting. Uh, not only that as a pre med at the time I was leaning towards neurology or psychiatry. So it just seemed like. It just felt like a fit.

Um, and additionally this major and others kind of like chemistry and bio, they tend to check off a lot of the prerequisites for medical school. So it made sense there. And additionally, Brain and Cog course nine at MIT, we go by numbers course nine had a lot of behavioral labs, which I thought was super cool.

Um, so I did studies or I helped with studies regarding kids. And how they were able to conceptualize emotions and other people. Can they understand when other people are hungry? Can they understand when other people are upset? Super cool. Um, I did try pipetting and working in, um, a wet lab and I, it just wasn’t for me.

Um, but MIT was this school where if one lab wasn’t for me, there was going to be another opportunity for me. Um, I, that might be it on my end. I, maybe I went too fast. Well, no, that is okay.

Joseph: We’re going to bring back both of our panelists. Um, so that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found the information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab.

We’re going to move on to the live Q& A. I will read through the questions you’ve submitted in the Q& A tab, uh, paste them into the public chat so you can see, and then read them out loud for our panelists to give their answers. As a heads up, if your Q& A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, uh, double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.

You may need to re enter. Um, and with that said, we will start going into our questions. Um, Lisa, I’m going to hand this off to you first. One of the students asked, How do you decide which colleges to apply through QuestBridge and which ones through the Common Application? And are the college if the colleges are on the if both colleges are on the same platform.

Lisa: Yeah, so I saw that question kind of loaded. But, um, back in my day, and it might be, it still might be a bit the same quest bridge had certain schools, like, let’s say five that were non binding. Um, so if you got accepted through quest bridge through one of these five schools, um, You didn’t have to go there, or you could, while all the other schools, maybe the other 60 percent of schools at the time were binding.

So if you got admitted through QuestBridge, you were forced to go to that school. So I believe that when I did QuestBridge at that time, I selected two schools that I was like, that I believed, like, if I get in, I need to be, um, I want to make sure that I have the flexibility to say no. And believe it or not, M.

I. T. And maybe it was Princeton, or it might have been. Yale was the second one. Um, I believe it still might be the same today, except now they have more colleges. So back in my day, maybe it was 30. And I think now it might be 50 or 60. Um, if they still have that non binding agreements, and you’re not certain on what schools you want to go to, you want the flexibility to say no, then you can apply to, uh, to schools that are non binding through QuestBridge and make sure So that way you can make a decision and have more time to make that decision.

Joseph: You’re on mute. I am. I will learn that mute button. Um, so this is for both of you cause I think you both kind of hit on this a bit. What are the best ways to find topics to write about, um, in your essay? I’m going to let both of you answer and then I have my own little tidbit in there as well. So, uh, whoever wants to start.

Nicholas: Sure. I can go first, give you a break. Um, I have two pieces of advice there. One super cliche, but it’s do what you’re passionate about. Um, because if you’re going through the motions, your life is going to feel boring, and your brain isn’t going to be stimulated, and you’re just not going to have as many creative ideas.

Um, I think you’ll probably hear a lot of anecdotes if you spend time on Reddit, which you shouldn’t, but if you do, you’ll hear anecdotes and people will say, Oh, I’ll just This came to me in the middle of the night and I just like woke up and I just, I had to go write it down so I wouldn’t forget it.

Like you’ll have these flashes of insight, which will present a topic to you and you can’t control when that comes. The only way you can optimize The probability of receiving more of these kinds of insights is to do things that you really like and, as much as possible, optimize your life around things you enjoy doing, uh, so let inspiration come.

Second thing I would say is read a lot of books, um, because that will also get your brain thinking. It’ll also expose you to different writing styles and, as you write, I know I’m like this. Whichever book I’m reading, my writing style mirrors that. the author of that book. So I can’t read more. I can’t read it like the Harry Potter trilogy.

If I, sorry, Harry Potter series. Um, if I read all seven books in a row, um, my writing would sound way too closely to JK Rowling and I would have to read someone else before. Um, so I could sound more, um, more like me. So if you read a whole bunch of people, then you’ll be able to build up your own writing palette and will be really useful.

So I’d say those two things, uh, structure your life around things you like doing. And then read a lot of books.

Lisa: Thank you, Nicholas. Um, from my perspective, it’s being authentic about the topic. So some people, especially my cohort, the class of 20 2013 at M. I. T. Only one student in the cohort of 900 students wrote about video games and the admissions officer remembered that students and the students name. Um, so there’s something that You’re not certain about because it doesn’t sound impressive.

Maybe it’s like knitting, um, making clothes, playing video games. If it’s something that you’re passionate about, but you’re scared to write about it because it’s it doesn’t sound as STEMI as it should be or as impressive as it should be. You should write about it because you’re going to be excited about it.

You’re going to write about it in a way that it’s going to demonstrate your excitement. I’ve read essays where the people were students. Force themselves to sound excited about, um, coding or force themselves to sound excited about building robotics. And you can tell when a student isn’t authentic and excited about something and when they genuinely are.

Um, the second point is that maybe you have a good topic and it’s making sure you go in depth. Because it’s one thing to say, like, I like math. I’m good at math. Um, I went to state and nationals in math. But it’s another to be like, I learned so much through, through my math team. And we had laughs at Taco Bell while doing practice questions together.

And we, I remember the time that I got really nervous during this test and thought I would, Feel it. But I ended up getting first place. Like going in depth on your experience can also help you stand out.

Joseph: Awesome. I, I was going to say authenticity is key. Lisa, you got me there. Um, but really don’t be afraid to be your quirky selves. Um, I think the most random things sometimes make the most interesting essays and you don’t have to have a difficult experience to write a good essay. Um, it’s more about whatever you want to convey.

Um, so really stick to that. Authenticity. Uh, I think this will be a fun one just to kind of, um, before we dive into some deeper questions for each of you, can you give us three to five words that describe MIT and then three to five words that describe Stanford?

Nicholas: Okay. I think, uh, this isn’t exactly three to five, but the line I always use when I answer this question or this line of questioning is Stanford is a resort disguised as a university. It is really just like they are swimming in cash and they have More administrative staff than they do students. That’s insane.

Um, they just give everything to you in a silver plate. Um, like the dining halls are unreal and tasty and the weather is perfect. It’s just, yeah, I, I really couldn’t recommend Stanford highly enough. It’s, if you want to go to like a luxury vacation resort for your education, then you’ve got your place.

Lisa: Uh, okay.

Can’t relate. If you wanna go to like a really cold place where you have to wear coats all the time and you’re freezing, like go to MIIT. Um, so , I actually have the perfect five words. So at MIT we have this abbreviation that we use. Um, it’s I-H-T-F-P. Okay. I’m gonna give you the, the PG one first. I have truly found Paradise, and then the other one is I.

hate this place. Um, so M. I. T. Students actually use this. We had, we used to hashtag it back in my day. I think hashtags are dead now. But, um, Yeah. So those are the five words that every MIT alum knows.

Joseph: Awesome. Lisa, I’m going to stick with you for a second, um, because you mentioned fly in programs. Can you talk a little bit about what a fly in program is and how students can apply to them?

Lisa: Yes. So, oh, I wish everyone knew about these. So, some schools will have programs through the admissions office or maybe other departments, maybe, um, where they will pay for 20, 30, 40, 50 students, maybe more, to fly into their campus Live with a current undergrad for one or two or three nights and get to visit classes, get to do some of the programming, get to visit extracurriculars, get to see the city, so that way you get some exposure to the university before you actually apply, or maybe while you’re while you’re applying, or maybe to help you make a decision.

So that was important for me because I had never visited any school past Austin. I’m from South Texas. So 95 percent of the schools I was applying to, I didn’t know what they looked like. And it was so important for me to get a gauge of what they looked like. They felt like for me to feel more comfortable going there.

Joseph: Awesome. We do have a question about early action and early decision applications. Um, I do know part of this answer, so I’m going to, I’m going to take the half of it that I know. Um, when it comes to at least Stanford, yes, early action applications do make a difference. Um, Stanford does have a much higher acceptance rate.

In their early action applications, and that has been seen across the last four or five years of applications at Stanford. So, yes, um, applying early action is beneficial at Stanford. Um, Lisa, do you know, um, if it is, um, you’re more likely to get admitted, um, through early action or regular decision at him?

Lisa: So I don’t have a solid answer for this. The last I heard that there wasn’t much of a difference between early decision and early action. Um, but I don’t have the stats. I apologize.

Joseph: No problem. That is I that’s something that we can look up and find out This is this is gonna be a more humorous question.

I think which could be fun Can you both describe the stereotypical student at each of your universities?

Nicholas: You want to go first Lisa?

Lisa: Sure. Yeah, actually, okay um Yeah, the stereotypical student at MIT typically was some sort of STEM nerd at high school. Um, they were typically in some sort of robotics or coding or, um, what other type of, or some biology club. Um, these are students who typically were in a lot of extracurriculars at home.

Um, back, back when they were in high school, these are students who are self driven. Um, nobody’s telling them what to do. Nobody’s telling them. To add this pressure on themselves, they tend to add pressure on themselves. Um, and they tend to want to take the hardest classes or take the hardest journey because they want the best for themselves.

And these are also students that when you asked about their goals, usually it was to better humanity. And it was a really beautiful thing. The last thing I’ll say is that, um, MIT is a collaborative environments. They like students who know how to work in teams, who know how to communicate with one another.

Um, so that was another thing about my, my experience, my community at MIT that I appreciated.

Nicholas: Yeah, I’ll see stereotypical student at Stanford. I think maybe you all have somewhat of a picture of this just incredibly nerdy. Disheveled human being who won a math olympiad in Russia or something and has come to Stanford to Reinvent the like Godel’s incompleteness theorem or something crazy like that.

Um, Stanford does produce some people like that Uh, they exist. Um, they’re super fun people, but not everyone is like that. I assure you they’re actually I don’t say there’s no There’s no normal, uh, Stanford student. They all have yeah done something that You Uh, made their application tick, but, um, similar to MIT, what Lisa was saying, Stanford’s very collaborative.

I think the weather has a lot to do with that. The West Coast vibes have a lot to do with that. Uh, you can find people playing frisbee or volleyball outside all the time. Uh, no one ever asked me about grades, even one time, while, uh, at Stanford. So, um, it’s a really, yeah, academically, uh, enriching and healthy place, I think.

That’s it.

Joseph: Awesome. This is a really good question. Um, so a student asked, um, is it okay to not do some of the extracurriculars your school offers if they align with your major because you just don’t enjoy them? Do all of your extracurriculars have to align with your intended major?

Nicholas: I can take that a little bit. Um, definitely you should not feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do.

Um, for what it’s worth, when I applied to Stanford I listed my major as undeclared. I was very open about the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do. My extracurriculars painted no clear picture about what my future job would be, or even what my future aspirations were, um, because I honestly didn’t know and I didn’t try to pretend like I did.

Um, so definitely do not feel pressure to do something you don’t want to do. Um, like, uh, I think the theme for your, your college essay is, and the, the essays matter a lot just because that’s. That’s the place where you can tell your story. The topics doesn’t matter. Topics don’t matter. Your approach is everything.

So make sure you nail the approach. Yeah.

Lisa: So the question is, what if the, you’re not participating in ECs or extracurriculars that are congruent with the major you want to pursue? Huh? I have, I had a different approach. I was curious as to what, um, if you have a major you’re interested in, maybe it’s computer science. Why, why are you not doing the extracurricular at the school?

Um, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a good or bad thing. Like maybe you’re taking on your own projects. Maybe you like, you prefer to be independent. You like, uh, maybe you have another club outside of the school that you’re doing. Um, I don’t think it can harm your application per se, as long as you demonstrate in other ways that.

you have an interest in this major. Um, but if there’s something about the extracurricular you’re not vibing with, like maybe ask yourself, why am I not vibing with this? And this is going to be a problem for my future career. Um, cause that’s where my mind went. Um, cause I get it. Some clubs are disorganized.

Some clubs have, they’re too, uh, time strenuous, or maybe it’s not your thing and that’s okay, but just make sure like, that the major you want, like you have some background on it. Otherwise you do something called identity foreclosure, where you select an identity without exploring other options, and then you have a degree in four years that you’re unhappy with.

Nicholas: Yeah, totally agree there actually. Thanks for like answering the other half. Like the idea of do what you want isn’t to say, uh, you have permission to do nothing or to loaf around. You still have to fill your time wisely. Um, so if you’re not going to do some extracurricular, um, that aligns with your major, that’s fine, but make sure you fill that time With something that’s likely to position you well to succeed in a college application.

Joseph: Awesome. If you both don’t mind, I’m going to jump in on just a pretty admissions specific question really quickly. Um, someone is asking, is it possible to get into schools like MIT or Stanford without taking any AP or honors classes? Um, to that, I will say it depends on your high school. So these universities evaluate you in the context of your high school, meaning if your high school does not offer those classes, they are not going to expect you to have taken them.

However, if your high school does offer AP and honors classes or advanced classes and you choose to take none of them but have a fantastic GPA, schools like Stanford and MIT will often question why you didn’t choose to take a few of those. Um, in admissions, we call it challenging yourself appropriately.

Um, so this is the idea of taking challenging classes that you enjoy. Um, but doing it for the challenge, not necessarily to overwhelm yourself. Um, and then this question kind of jumps back to the activities, um, except in a different way. What are some of the most popular activities that students do at MIT or Stanford outside of class?

Lisa: Okay, I, I, I guess I can start with this one. So believe it or not, one of the most popular activities a lot of students do is called dance troupe. So a lot of students, um, And I’m trying to remember how many, maybe it was like 200 or 300 students actually would, would learn how to dance. And I was one of them.

I never thought I would do it, but that was like some random thing that’s, um, that I selected to do. Um, Students would pick like random fun clubs. Like we had a Quidditch club. Like, so I, I, I’d actually see people in broomsticks in the yard. I don’t know what they were hitting with their stick. It was fun to look at.

And they, they were really into it. Um, but, um, the question was about like what extracurriculars they do. And then in general, like. If you’re interested in a certain thing, like for me, it was pre med. I was in pre med organizations. For example, I was in something called Camp Kesem, where we fundraised money for kids whose parents had cancer.

Um, I was, It’s a part of a club where it called, I forgot what a brain trust where we got to provide emotional support to people who’ve had neurological disorders. So students at MIT tend to do the fun things like the fun clubs, uh, playing video games or dancing or quidditch, whatever, but then also the more serious things that align with their major.

Nicholas: Yeah. Regarding Stanford, I don’t know if I’m the best person to answer this question just because for so much of my time at Stanford, I actually, Either there was a coronavirus or I was on the other side of the planet. Um, so I, I can’t give a super informed answer. I will say that Stanford has a lot of stuff going on, um, on campus.

Uh, pretty much everyone lives on campus all four years. And there are so many little side gigs, side hustles, research assistant positions. Uh, part time internships. Stanford students really just pack their resumes. Um, I know I did that. Um, and, but again, it’s, it’s West Coast vibes and super nice weather.

Um, so people do stuff outdoors as well. I, I don’t know if there’s a good answer. Everyone does different things. Not very helpful there, but that’s all I got.

Joseph: That is okay, um, because we here in Davis have nothing to do. So it’s at least there are things to do at both your campuses. Um, so really quickly, um, CollegeAdvisor, um, does have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts, um, who are ready to help you and your family navigate the college admission process in one on one advising sessions.

Um, as you’ve heard today, admissions is a very subjective, crazy world. Um, but we have already helped over 600, 6,000 clients, sorry, in their college journeys. After analyzing our data since 2021, we found that the CollegeAdvisor students are 3.6 times more likely to get into Stanford, 4.1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt, and 2.

So if you’d like to increase your odds and take the next step in your college admissions journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team, you can do so using the QR code on the screen during this meeting or review your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how they align with your college list, and outline the tools you need to stand out in a competitive admissions world, and you could have the chance to work with any of us in the CollegeAdvisor world.

So we will go ahead and jump back into the Q and A. Um, and Nicholas, I’m glad we have you for this because I think this is a question that a lot of people think about, um, but are kind of afraid to ask. And that’s what was it like to take a gap year? And did it make it more difficult to go back to school after doing a gap year?

Nicholas: Yeah, for me, yeah, my gap year experience was very, uh, specific and personal to me. I think, um, yeah, as a person. Religious person I think it made a lot a lot of sense in my own mind to do what I was doing and it Um was something I had dreamed of doing since a very young age So by the time I knew even by the time I was in middle school that I was going to do this Thing this mission for two years before I started college and it was always in my mind Um, so I was I was very well prepared for it.

It wasn’t sort of a spur of the moment decision. Um, to be honest, I didn’t have any, uh, readjustment problems entering back in the academic scene. On the contrary, I think it prepared me to perform a lot better than my peers. I felt a lot more mature. Um, I had some good habits. Um, I had sort of taken a break from the grind of schoolwork, and I Yeah, I realized which parts of the academic game were dumb and annoying to play and which parts I was really interested in and I could, uh, choose very intentionally how I spent my time.

So for me, um, it was a huge advantage. Um, I can’t, uh, everyone’s going to be different. Everyone’s going to have a different story and there are lots of other ways to fill a gap year than serving a volunteer religious mission for two years. That’s a very unique thing to do. Um, so I. Like, I’m not going to make a blanket recommendation for everyone, but in my case, um, having thought about this, um, for, for years growing up and doing something really meaningful, something I really cared about for a long period of time, it was 100 percent positive for me.

Joseph: Absolutely. And onset, I would just say, don’t be afraid to take your time. I took a gap year after my undergrad, before my masters. And I took two years between nope, three years between my masters and my PhD. Um, so it’s, it’s, it’s very possible. Um, Lisa, we’re going to hand this one over to you. Um, a student is asking that they’re struggling with the MIT portfolio, which is a very specific thing to the MIT application.

What would you recommend they do to get started and any tips on how to make that portfolio stand out?

Lisa: It’s a really good question. Okay. One, I would try to get exact look at examples online. I believe YouTube does have examples of MIT portfolios or even portfolios from other schools. Um, and I had my own students applying to MIT do that because I didn’t, I didn’t, um, I didn’t do them.

And I think they became more popular after I had graduated. And then the second question was, what would I recommend to max to enhance it? Right. Okay. Um, It’s so cheesy. I was gonna say it’s nice to have a CollegeAdvisor because I’m able to look at the content and make sure that it’s concise and precise.

So, uh, when it comes to content for these things, sometimes there’s limited page numbers, like maybe it might be one page, send a one page, or maybe you can send two pages and making sure that the student is saying, you know, The most as possible in the fewest words as, um, the most in the fewest words as possible, making sure that the information is very transparent, making sure that you’re showing as many stats as you can, and that the person who’s reading it understands the stats.

Um, more often than not, it’s the professors, um, who are specialized with the subjects, um, who are reading these portfolios, like a computer science portfolio might get read by a computer science professor, but you want to make sure that it’s also understood by the professor. An admissions officer or somebody who doesn’t have that specialty just in case.

So having somebody to review it, whether it’s me, or Nicholas, or Joseph, or somebody else, would be helpful. Um, and again, fi Ideally finding somebody who’s done them before. Uh, I know that we have advisors in the program who have done portfolios for their college application because I have sent students to them.

Joseph: Awesome. Yes. Um, and so, okay. So this is more of a, I guess a question for those of us that have read applications, um, which is when accepting applications, what is the first few items that you look at and take into consideration? Um, that’s a big question, um, because it is a holistic review process. So as much as I want to say, I jumped to the essays first, which is what I did when I reviewed applications.

I always wanted to look at those essays before I looked at the grades. I didn’t want to bias myself by looking at the grades initially. Um, it is a holistic process, and colleges are going to review you holistically. Um, so they will end up looking at everything, and that’s the subjective nature of this.

Each admissions officer has their own mind and their own way of reviewing applications. Um, so that’s, it really comes down to just putting the best overall application together possible. Um, and with that being said, um, how did you both, um, think about expanding your school lists when you were looking for additional schools to add or the schools that you wanted to apply to?

What factors did you think about when you were building up your school lists? Or what factors should students think about when building up their school lists?

Lisa: Okay, I guess Nicholas passed it to me. Um, that’s gonna vary per person, right? So for me and my family, I’m Latina, so we abide by familism very much, and so decisions are More of a family.

It’s more family based. Um, and as a family, the decision was what school is going to cover the most for me and what school is going to make me the happiest. Um, I prefer those two over, um, the, the, the name of the school. I would rather go to a school where I was happy where I had the best education where it was covered for financially, then go to a school that had, um, an Ivy League name to it.

I’ll be at their quality to, um, So those were factors for me. I needed a school that was going to pay for everything because I didn’t have anybody else to help me pay. Uh, I, it differs per student and that’s okay.

Nicholas: Okay, I think in my case, um, to be honest, for me, it totally was about the name. Um, I was very conscientious about that. And I, my, my one safety school, like I said, BYU, I knew I’d be reasonably happy there. Um, so whatever happened. I’d go to college. I’d have a good time and I’d put myself in a path to success.

But, yeah, if possible, let me just try and apply to tons of places and see what happens. Um, and that was, that was really what motivated me. The other thing, um, like I know Elisa’s talked, she probably knows a lot more about the financial aid scene with Quest, I didn’t do QuestBridge or anything like that.

Um, but I was aware that schools like Stanford and Harvard, which have infinite funding, um, would be much more likely to get financial aid. So I’m glad I was able to be aware of that factor earlier on, because I think a lot of people are dissuaded to say, Oh, I could never afford a school like that, even though it’s actually precisely.

The opposite. A school like Stanford is way more likely to give you generous financial aid than a state school, just because they’re swimming in money. So, yeah.

Joseph: Absolutely. All right. I’m going to ask you both to put on your CollegeAdvisor hats for a moment for a little scenario. I’m not going to read the exact scenario, but I’m going to give you a general scenario that will help answer this question.

You’re working with a student. You’re looking at their transcripts. Great grades. Freshman year, great grades junior and senior year, terrible grades sophomore year because of some Circumstance that the student has not yet explained to you How should a student handle explaining that circumstance or should they explain that circumstance on their applications?


Nicholas: I think you should uh, luckily colleges are actually really Uh, quite empathetic about these kinds of things, and there’s a specific place in the Common App and at most other schools which just says you can use the space to describe or add any additional information. Um, so I would just, I, you don’t have to tell a sob story, you don’t have to, um, apologize, you don’t have to make excuses, you just can explain simply and, uh, concisely, you don’t have to tell, don’t, uh, waste the reader’s time, but just very concisely and very accurately just to explain.

Um, what happened and I think that’s super reasonable and um, again, if you, if you have great grades, three out of four years and you have a reasonable, concise explanation, um, probably you’re going to be just fine. So don’t worry about that. Just, you know, short, accurate statement is all you need.

Joseph: Yeah, absolutely.

Lisa: I agree. I would also add on that, depending on the circumstances, if this was something about, um, not giving it your all or like a year that you slacked off talking about the steps that you took. to optimize yourself and to better yourself as well. Um, because I have seen, I have had students with this scenario and I tell them exactly what Nicholas said.

Be concise. You don’t have to beat around the bush. And then, but then also explain like this, these are the steps I took and it’s demonstrated in the things I’m doing now.

Joseph: Absolutely. Um, this is a very good question. Um, when should students start applying for scholarships? Whoever wants to take it.

Lisa: Okay, um, The easy answer is as early as possible. But the realistic answer is probably more so around junior and senior year because that’s when more become available. More so in senior year. I have a more difficult time identifying scholarships for my juniors. They exist, um, but a lot of them are national.

or state. And so they’re harder to get. Whereas in senior year, the local scholarships are very much abundant. So they’re easier to find. However, they, they often don’t get, um, opened up or released until, uh, November, December, January. So it kind of sucks to have to wait for it. Um, but I’ve been pushing my own juniors to look for scholarships pretty early.

They do exist for freshmen and sophomores. Usually they’re more national. Usually they’re a bit more competitive, but they can, they might be there.

Nicholas: Yeah. I don’t have much to add there. Um, I guess the only thing I would say, you can start early, uh, what I’d recommend is just, um, if you’re a sophomore year, you don’t need to apply to anything, but just have a spreadsheet or a Google Doc or something, and just make a list with all the hyperlinks of all the stuff you find, uh, cause often time researching is what takes the most time, so if you, if you have Some free hours, um, early on, you just make a ginormous list of stuff.

Um, I think that could save you some time, uh, so you can, you can optimize your time actually filling out the applications in your senior year.

Joseph: Were either of you involved in athletics in college? Throw me a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Nope? Kind of? Okay, I’ll take this then. Um, how do you balance being a college athlete with schooling?

Um, I know I did not go to MIT or Stanford. I went to a small college called Gettysburg College, but it is very rigorously academic. I actually think athletics can be very helpful. They can really help you build a consistent schedule. to stay on. But again, just do do what works best for you. Um, make sure you’re keeping yourself healthy.

The last thing you want to do is be doing athletics and then procure a lot of injuries, and then that impacts your classwork and different things like that. So make sure if you are doing athletics in college, you build a strong schedule, you keep yourself healthy, um, and you really go about, uh, you go about taking care of yourself.

Um, Okay. Um, this is a good question. Um, internship opportunities. How important are they for getting into Ivy League level schools?

Nicholas: Yeah, I can go first. Um, I really didn’t do an internship in high school. So I guess the answer has to be not like necessary because there’s at least one example of a human who was admitted to Stanford without having done a high school internship. Um, for whatever that’s worth. But I think, I think they’re helpful.

The main thing is just make sure that you really like the activities you’re doing and that the things you’re doing is, and that passion is reflected well into your essays. Whether that means an internship or not, I think it’s going to depend on you and what you want. Um, so if, like if you’re going to, if you’re really into business or computer science, I think an internship would make a lot of sense.

Because that’s where you can interact with industry. But if you’re, if your jam is, uh, writing creative novels. Uh, there may not be a super good creative novel internship for a 15 year old. And admissions committees aren’t oblivious to this fact. And like, Oh, how could you not find an internship at random house?

Like you slacker. No, one’s going to think that. So it just depends on you.

Lisa: That was like, so well said. Um, additionally, a lot of students don’t have the ability to travel for internships in high school and colleges acknowledge that. Um, where I came from, there are no internships for students like me. Um, however, you should be filling that gap with. extracurriculars or passion projects or something that demonstrates that you are interested in this thing, even if it doesn’t exist as an internship at home.

And I also didn’t have an internship before, um, going off to MIT. So it’s not like a necessity, as Nicholas said,

Joseph: great. Um, this is actually a question that I will be helpful in general since you both attended. Um, when you apply to M. I. T. or Stanford, are you applying to specific schools within M. I. T. or, and Stanford? Or are you applying to the university in general? And can you move around once you’re there?

Nicholas: Yeah, so Stanford is super nice.

Um, there’s only one school you apply to and it’s Stanford. And you can switch your major. to any department in the school. Uh, there are no quotas within each department. Uh, it’s super convenient. If you enter Stanford, you say, I want to do comparative literature, and you say, wait, no, just kidding. I want to do bioengineering.

You can do that. You speak to the, uh, administrative people, and you switch the next day. So Stanford, that’s, I think, one of the, uh, most underrated parts of Stanford. It’s so easy to switch departments, and there are no quotas. You don’t have to apply. If you can earn C minuses or above, you In math classes, you can graduate from Stanford with a math degree, and no one’s going to think you’re dumb because you got C minuses in math, so.

Lisa: So at MIT, I don’t remember applying to a specific college, per se, but I do know that the majors didn’t have quotas either. For example, for computer science, five, at least 500 out of the 1, 000 of us applied. Um, and I really love that about MIT because I have encountered schools that do have quotas on how many students are allowed in computer science.

Um, and so I’m really glad that MIT provided students that flexibility and especially to move. If you are unhappy, you can switch and, and, and whenever you needed to.

Joseph: Awesome. Awesome. And yeah, a general, general in this for the college process, this is going to differ school by school. So this is why it’s very important to do your school research. Some schools, if you apply to an engineering school, you are in the engineering school, um, and it is not as easy to move around.

Um, so make sure that you are, when you’re doing your research on your school list, you’re really looking into how specific that school is. You can also work with us, um, at CollegeAdvisor, and we are happy, um, to help you with all of that as well. So that is going to wrap up our webinar for the evening. Um, we had a really great time telling you about Samford and MIT and the admissions process.

Um, we will also be hosting other webinars throughout September. So please feel free to log on and join us for some of our other webinars. I just want to take a moment to thank you, Lisa and Nicholas, um, for putting on a fantastic webinar this evening. Um, and thank you to everyone for attending. We hope you have a great night.

Nicholas: Later everyone