Stanford Supplemental Essays Workshop

Join our “Stanford Supplemental Essays Workshop” webinar to gain valuable insights and expert guidance on crafting standout Stanford University application essays. Whether you’re a high school student preparing to apply or a parent supporting your child’s college journey, this webinar will provide you with essential tools and knowledge to create compelling essays. Key learnings in this webinar include: – Understanding Stanford’s Unique Approach: Learn about Stanford’s distinctive essay prompts and what they reveal about the university’s values. – Essay Brainstorming Strategies: Discover effective techniques for generating unique and compelling essay ideas. – Crafting Engaging Narratives: Explore how to weave personal experiences and anecdotes into a compelling narrative that captures the admissions committee’s attention. – The Power of Authenticity: Understand the importance of being genuine in your essays and how to convey your true self effectively. – Editing and Refining: Learn how to edit and refine your essays to ensure they are polished and error-free. – Expert Tips and Best Practices: Benefit from expert advice on what admissions officers are looking for and tips for making your essays stand out. – Q&A Session: Get your questions answered by our experienced college admissions expert and Stanford alum, Nicholas Welch Don’t miss this opportunity to demystify the Stanford supplemental essays and increase your chances of securing a spot at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Register now and embark on your journey to crafting outstanding Stanford application essays.

Date 11/13/2023
Duration 55:49

Webinar Transcription

2023-11-13 – Stanford Supplemental Essays Workshop

Lonnie: Hello, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s Webinar, “Stanford Supplemental Essay Workshop.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’re going to first begin with a presentation and then we’ll have the opportunity to answer your questions in a live Q&A. Okay. Also, if you’re interested in downloading the slides, you’ll be able to download them in the handout.

So with that, let’s introduce our panelists.

Nicholas: Hi there. My name is Nicholas Welch. Um, I graduated from Stanford not too long ago, just last year. My major was Chinese politics. Um, I stumbled upon that basically by accident. I I moved to Taiwan and then Hong Kong during the pandemic, where the virus was controlled super well by the governments over there.

Um, so that’s, that’s what happened to me. Um, I’m in law school at the moment, but I’ve stayed on the team at CollegeAdvisor. Uh, my main project is on the essay review team. So if you’ve submitted college applications already, odds are I’ve made some comments on your essay. It’s really fun for me to do that.

So, but looking forward to talking about Stanford and its application processes in particular.

Lonnie: Great. Awesome. So before we get into talking about Stanford and supplemental essays, we would like to get a sense of where our audience is as far as like their grade level. So please let us know. And while we are waiting for the responses to come in, Nicholas, I would love to hear more about your experience overseas. How was that?

Nicholas: Yeah, it was, it was truly remarkable. Um, first of all, it was totally a fluke that I was able to get a visa to go to Taiwan or Hong Kong. They were very restrictive. Usually you had to be a Taiwan or Hong Kong passport holder to gain access. Otherwise they wouldn’t even let you quarantine.

Yeah. Yeah. Through a strokes of luck and consular black magic, I was able to get a visa. So you quarantine, it’s two weeks in Hong Kong and then three weeks, sorry, two weeks in Taiwan and three weeks in Hong Kong. So that’s kind of a long time to be in a small room and by yourself. But when you’re out, you’ve graduated into real life and all of a sudden you can go to restaurants in person.

You can be with friends. Uh, you can go to parks and shopping. Oh, just everything. It was just like, I was on a different planet. Because everything was working as it did before the lockdowns and everything. So it was, I really evaded the madness of 2020 and onward. So I was exceedingly lucky.

Lonnie: Nice, nice. Well, thank you.

Thank you so much for sharing, um, your experience overseas with our audience. And even as you were just describing it, it was like, Oh, wow, this is something that if you did your whole college process over again, perhaps that might’ve been something that you would have wrote about as well. Yes. Okay. So let’s go over to our poll.

Um, so for our audience, we have 44 percent are in the 11th grade, 28 percent are in the 10th grade, and then we have 19 percent 12th grade and just a few percentage of ninth graders and others. So we have representation from. All of our grade levels with 11th grade being the most populated for this webinar currently.

So with that, Nicholas, I will turn it over to you to go over the learning objectives for our webinar.

Nicholas: Yeah, so it sounds like we got a lot of upperclassmen here, which is good, including 11th graders. 11th graders got nothing to worry about. Just, uh, you can, you can absorb the material here, but don’t. Don’t stress about it.

I want to be taking notes. It’s not that important, but just yeah we’re just going to go over what Stanford’s application process looks like generally and then What they look for and also go through each of their Supplemental essay prompts and as I have I have a few thoughts nothing groundbreaking But just a few ideas about how you can you can make those Tailored to Stanford and make them better.

Make yourself stand out. So just broadly here These are screenshots taken directly from you can go on their website and they’ll tell you all the information This is going to look really standard really typical for your college application Common app Stanford uses a common app which is really convenient You pay an application fee and ACT and SAT test scores are optional.

So what it says on the website, um, applications without ACT or SAT test scores will not be at a disadvantage in our 2020 to 2023 admission cycles. We admitted students who did submit ACT and SAT scores, and we admitted students who did not. So that’s really, um, for me, I mean, it’s reassuring. It’s also not informative because we don’t know, um, how many people chose to be test optional and what gives you an advantage.

We can take their word on it? Maybe. I don’t know. Um, that’s what they say. Um, you got your school report, your transcripts, uh, letters of recommendation from two teachers. So there, um, Stanford says we recommend requesting letters from grade 11 or 12 teachers in English, Math, Science, World Language, or History and Social Studies.

You may request a letter from a grade 10 teacher if the coursework was advanced, for instance, Honors, AP, or IB. And letters from classroom teachers are strongly preferred. So, that’s our preference. I would just do what they say. You’re going to be better off if you do what they say, so if possible, an upperclassman teacher, like one could be math or science, one could be English or social studies, and they do permit one more if you want to submit a third, but they do max out at three.

So again, just, just do what they say. You’re not going to get any brownie points for going above and beyond. Um, and then there’s a mid year transcript, so just your first semester senior grades, um, that will be due if you apply. Regular Decision. I mean, I presume if you apply early, you’ll have to submit that too, but it would be really weird if they rescinded your decision otherwise, so.

Yeah, the timeline as well is going to look really similar. Um, Early Action, due November 1st, and then Regular Decision is going to be due just after the new year, January 5th. Um, and for those who submitted Arts Portfolio, the timeline’s moved up about two weeks. Um, so Arts Portfolio just means if you have some kind of special musical or dance or artistic abilities you can submit that as part of your application too.

Um, so this is, yeah, very standard application here. All this information is on their website so just, just read their website and if they say we recommend, you should probably just do that because, It’s a competitive school, and you want to do what they want. Um, yeah. The other thing I want to mention before talking about this is just what they look for.

Um, I didn’t make a slide for it, but this is, again, this is on their website. Um, they have the typical boilerplate for, we are a, we practice holistic admissions. Each piece in your application was reviewed as part of an integrated and comprehensive whole, whatever that means. Um, and then they have four things they expand upon in particular.

One they call context, which just means, Your background, where you live, the opportunities you had in your school environment, your family responsibilities, etc. So context is part of it. Academic excellence, um, that just means, uh, to the extent you had academic opportunities available to you, did you take advantage of those?

So taking difficult courses would be a good way to demonstrate academic excellence, and having good grades would be another good way to do that. So, um, honestly I think academic excellence is more like check the box. Does this person have an IQ that we think is suitable for Stanford? Something like that.

Um, it’s, um, and if you’re, if you’re a senior, you’ve already done the work and don’t even worry about it. Just send in your transcript, it’ll be fine. Um, third thing they say is intellectual vitality. That’s where the essays come in. Um, the essays are important because it shows the admissions officers. How you think, and, um, what makes you tick, and your levels of creativity, and so on.

So, intellectual vitality is important, and that’s almost exclusively demonstrated through the essays. We’ll talk about that a whole bunch more. And last thing, number four, is extracurricular activities. So, the things you do outside of school. Um, there’s a section in the Common App, the Activities section, you can list ten activities.

Um, and you have a hundred and fifty characters. to describe each of those ten activities. So not very much. Um, but that’s something that they consider important. Um, yeah. They also say, um, this is on their website, just reading from it. In fact, an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs.

So, that’s something. Again, you can find this all on the website, but just if you want to go to Stanford and make the admissions committee happy, Probably just want to do what they say. Um, so that’s, that’s the application process. And that’s what the admissions committee is going to be looking for, very broadly.

So, nothing groundbreaking. Nothing that’s unexpected. It’s all boilerplate. It’s, you can all find it online. So let’s talk about, um, the essay questions specific to Stanford. So the first set of essays. are really short essays, 50 word maximum, and those are surprisingly difficult because the real estate is so small and every single word counts, so it may seem like, oh, those are so easy and in a way they are easier because it doesn’t, you don’t have to write as much, but it can be really difficult if you wanna use every single word correctly, it’s honestly, it feels like poetry trying to put the right words in the right place, so definitely take these seriously.

Um, one of the 50 word essays I’ll ask about is this one here. What is the most significant challenge that society faces today? So, there are a lot of ways you can take this. Um, you can make it, a lot of people’s applications will have experiences or extracurricular activities that will, It’ll sort of form a narrative, and it’s a mission statement, so to speak, will emerge in the application.

So maybe it will make sense to talk about that. Or you can take this opportunity to talk about something totally different. And, sort of, oddball, outlier topic. And that can be another effective way of demonstrating intellectual vitality. Um, I don’t think there’s a right answer to this. Um, your approach is everything.

The piece of advice I’d give here, Is it that top bullet point? Write what only you could have written. So what I mean by that is, um, I don’t know. What’s the secret challenge? If your answer is something like, um, poverty. Our society faces poverty, and you don’t really get a lot more specific than that. And you just say, it’s so sad that there are poor people.

That’s probably not going to win you very many points. Because, um, um, There aren’t very many people, I don’t think there’s anyone in the world, who’s pro poverty. Everyone doesn’t like poverty. They want to get rid of it. Um, so it doesn’t, it doesn’t show us anything about you. If you say, oh, yeah, I don’t really like poverty, and I think poverty is serious.

Um, that’s not very compelling. Um, of course you can talk about, um, and everything is about your approach. You can talk about your answer in a creative way. Or you can talk about a specific aspect of poverty. of poverty or something that’s affected you. A lot of ways you can do it. But just, if you think that someone else could plausibly have written about this significant challenge, I’d probably try to change it up a little bit.

You want your application to stand out and be unique. So that’s what I’d say here. Question 2, another 50 word short one. How did you spend your last two summers? 50 words again. Um, I think, I remember answering this one on my application. I had a list. It was just separated by semicolons, I think. Um, listing is very appropriate because, again, your real estate is really limited and all the thus and us and buts and whatnot, if you cut those out, you can say more things.

Um, I wouldn’t overthink it. I also wouldn’t, um, I wouldn’t worry about, oh, I didn’t do anything super cool. I didn’t go to Europe or Africa or I didn’t start a business or do an internship in my free time. Because, yeah, bullet point number three, what you did is far less important than how you describe what you did.

If you had a really chill summer and you spent time with friends and you read some good books and you relaxed and that’s all you did, that’s totally fine. You can list those things, but you can also, again, your approach is everything. And it’s, um, how you describe the things you did. And you can come up with really creative ways to describe simple things.

Um, so I do that here. Um, don’t worry, um, about trying to show off. Again, the Common App already has sections about your activities. So, in theory, I imagine a lot of people will list their activities Some of the activities they list will, have been done in the summer. So you don’t need to, obviously you should repeat those, um, in at least a small way, because it asks you how did you spend your last two summers.

But you don’t need to expand upon them a whole lot more, because there are other parts of your application which can compensate for that. So just, yeah, your approach is everything. Um, what you did is way less important than how you describe it. Going on, question three. Um, what historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed?

Um, here this is similar to question one. It’s really easy to think of like the most cliche boring answers possible. Um, and you just want to avoid those at all costs. It, it’s gonna, if someone else is likely to say the exact thing you’re gonna say. Then you shouldn’t say it, because you don’t want your essay to be lost in the masses.

You need your essay to stand out. Um, so, honestly, I don’t have too much more to say here. I, I think, yeah, what did I write here? I wrote about, um, before the invasion of Normandy in World War II, um, President FDR said a prayer over the radio. So, um, And a whole bunch of Americans tuned in. And I said I would want to be present for that moment of national unity, um, over the radio.

So, um, I don’t know if that was a winner. I don’t know if that’s why I got in or not. But I thought, I liked that enough because it was, it was specific enough where I felt reasonably confident. Um, no one or very few people would steal my idea. Um, and also it, um, but it wasn’t so outlandish. I thought it flowed with my essay, so.

Um, I don’t know. You don’t have to, that’s not like the correct answer to get into Stanford. You should say whatever you want. Um, but just, I give that as an example of something which I thought avoided cliche was sufficiently specific to avoid repetition with other applicants. So, something like that. Um, let’s go here.

Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities, a job you hold, or responsibilities you have for your family. Thank you. So this is kind of an interesting question, because it seems as though there are other areas of your application which are actually much better suited to learn the answer to a question like this.

Um, for example, in Section 6 of the Common App, you have an opportunity to explain any special or extenuating circumstances which, in what, provide more context in which your application should be read. So this is kind of a weird one because it’s, it’s asking for you to say something again. Um, so, so my advice here would be to take advantage of the opportunity to, to say something which you otherwise couldn’t say in the application.

Um, obviously the admissions people put this on the application for a reason. And, um, so you should just, you should just take advantage of that. And. And say something different, say something which wouldn’t fit really neatly into your activity section or your application, anything like that. Um, just use this as an opportunity to stand out a little bit more.

Um, again, don’t overthink it too much, avoid cliche, all the standard advice applies. Um, which is, I, I think I, that would be my advice for all of these things. When you read the essay prompt, um. I want to try to answer the question so literally, I would, I would also try to ask, like, why does the admissions officer care about this and just try and step in their shoes?

Like, why would they even ask such a question and really try to cater to your audience and specific? I think that’ll serve you well. So this is a fun one list five things that are important to you. So when I applied, I applied, um, several years ago, um, this had a five word limit. And you had to list five words which described you.

So I guess they modified this a little bit. So, here, I think, one thing to do is you should just follow the directions, and you should list them. Because it says to list five things. Um, Um, I mean, I guess you don’t have to if you’re feeling super creative, but, um, if you’re not feeling ultra creative and, Find a way to reinvent the wheel by reinventing bullet points.

So don’t, you don’t have to. Um, and the important thing here, um, for example, five things that are important to you, I wouldn’t say, I would really recommend staying away from something like integrity, leadership, persistence, humility, kindness, something like that. Um, Anyone can say that, um, in theory, everyone likes those things.

Um, so it’s just not interesting. It’ll be, like, your admissions reader will forget your answer to that and your whole application quicker than they read it. That’s, that’s just so boring. And it’s just, again, it’s not impressive because anyone can say that. You want to say something that only you could have said.

And that’s why your approach is more important than the things you actually say. Um, so this is really, yeah, again, the intellectual vitality aspect of things. This is an opportunity to show the admissions officers how you think. Um, the point of this prompt isn’t for them, it’s not for you to say the right things.

Like, oh, Stanford’s looking for integrity and leadership, so I gotta make sure to say those. Like, that’s not at all what this prompt is looking for. So, make this specific to you, and your approach in describing the five things is what they’re looking for. Not the five things you describe.

Lonnie: Okay, so we’re going to take a short pause, um, so that we can get a sense of.

where you are in the college application process. So believe it or not, it does not begin solely when you get into the 12th grade. And so let us know, perhaps you haven’t started or you’re researching schools, maybe you’re working on your essays, getting application material together, or you could be a senior and you are Almost done.

Um, Nicholas, do you remember where you were as an 11th grade student at this time of the year? Um, where were you at in your application process?

Nicholas: Um, not even started and doing absolutely nothing. Um, which is my formal advice to all 11th graders. You have better things to do than like actually comb through the common app at this point.

Like it’s like at the very soonest I could possibly justify recommending opening the common app materials to be. The summer before senior year. I just, it, it’s gonna cause needless stress and be terrible for your brain, so.

Lonnie: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. So you have plenty of time as a junior to open up the common app.

Um, and so let’s get a sense of where our audience are at. So we have 50 percent that are currently researching schools, that are getting a sense of what type of colleges they are interested in applying to. Um, then followed by that we have 30 percent that haven’t started yet. Um, and then we have 4 percent that are getting your application material together and 3 percent who are almost done.

So congratulations to those who are almost done. And then those who haven’t started, you still have, you still have time as well.

Nicholas: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Reinforce that. You have plenty of time. It’s great. We got a lot of overachievers in this call, which is just fine. But also, yeah, if you’re in 10th grade. Or 11th grade, you’re just fine.

You’re totally fine. And, yeah, just, just roll with it. Um, go, okay. Let’s keep going. So, um, Stanford, admittedly Stanford’s application is pretty long. Um, Even other, um, similar Ivy League school types. Um, they’ll ask supplemental questions, but not quite this many. Um, and even if it’s going to feel like less work, because, oh, they’re only, they’re only five 50 word questions, how long can that take?

It can take a long time. And then we have three more 250 word essays. So, if your Common App essay is 650 words, Then, plus 5 times 250, and then plus 750 more words. So you’re talking about, what is it, 6, 1650 words that you have to just get perfect like poetry, and that takes a ton of work. Um, so, yeah, don’t underestimate the short ones.

Let’s talk about the long ones, because these, these will also take a long time. Here we go. Stanford community is deeply curious and driven to learn in and out of the classroom. Reflect on an idea or experience that makes you genuinely excited about learning. Okay, so advice here. If I’ve edited your essays, I’ve probably said as much.

The thing you must do in your essays is tell a story. You must narrate. You can’t just say, Chemistry makes me genuinely excited about learning. When I read the textbook, I just feel excited. And all the ionic bonds, and the difference between sigma and pi bonds, and the implications in the pharmaceutical industry, it is so interesting.

Yeah, like, obviously I’m being a little bit facetious here, but I read a lot of essays that basically sound like that. Um, again, anyone without, with no expertise in any field is perfectly capable of sitting down and writing an essay that sounds basically like that. It takes, you don’t even have to know the first thing about chemistry to write a compelling essay that about why you find chemistry interesting, if you just say the right words.

If you just say the things, I like chemistry, chemistry is interesting. Go on Wikipedia and find a few things. So you need to be more impressive than that. You need to tell a story. You need to, it doesn’t have to be like a story in the traditional sense, but you need to show. You need to demonstrate and prove to your reader why you find such and such thing interesting or exciting.

That, that’s the whole point. Um, again, the point of this, the point of all these essays isn’t to answer the question. They’re not interested in the answer to the question. They’re interested in how you answer the question. Um, they want to see how you think. Um, so that’s the whole thing here. Um, I think this essay in particular is really helpful for you to show your intellectual vitality just because the essay prompt so specifically asks for something that makes you intellectually excited, so you can take this and run with that.

Um, even more so than the other essay prompts. But again, I just can’t, can’t emphasize enough. You’ve got to demonstrate why such and such thing is really interesting to you. You can’t just say it’s interesting to you. Um, I also want to say here there are no wrong answers. Um, you can’t, um, if it’s a small thing, I’m trying to, Um, I don’t think this prompt is on the application anymore, but there used to be a question called what matters and why.

Um, and I wrote about why I love doing the crossword puzzle. That was one of my essays. Um, that’s totally fine because it wasn’t like, oh, he said crossword puzzles. That was the wrong answer. Um, the reason I thought my essay was good is because I explained why I like doing crossword puzzles. And the way I explain that is and connected it to different parts of my personality and my my interests and my aspirations was interesting and memorable.

That’s the whole point. They’re not looking for a right answer here. Um, so, you, no bad topics, your approach is everything. Okay, question two. Virtually all of Stanford’s undergrads live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate and us Get to know you better.

So here the admissions committee is even telling you straight up They’re not they don’t really want to know They don’t want to read your love letter to your roommate. They want yeah, they want to know something about you It’s not your roommate. Also for what it’s worth If you do go to Stanford There’s a website called This information will not be shared by default with your roommate, so you’re totally protected there.

You can say what you want. I don’t think any of my roommates would have appreciated the letter I sent. Yeah, again, the purpose of this essay is to show something about you. I mean, you can write it. You probably should write it, at least somewhat, in the form of a letter to your roommate. But again, I would avoid doing something like, dear future roommate, I’m so excited To be a roommate, and here are some things I like doing, and here’s what I like doing in my free time, and my favorite books are this, and I have this little annoying habit, and I, I don’t like cleaning, I hope you’re not a clean freak, and yeah, I can’t wait, bye.

Um, that’s not a good essay. Um, although it answers the prompt perfectly well, and if you actually were writing a letter to your roommate, it might sound something like that. Again, that’s not the point of this. The point of this is to demonstrate how clever and creative your brain is. And your audience is not your roommate, it’s the admissions committee.

Um, so just, just use this opportunity to, uh, showcase your personality. And, uh, you, you can do it within the constraints of a letter. Um, but you can also be creative and you can say things that you probably wouldn’t say in an ordinary letter to someone. So, that’s my advice here. Um, here we go. Question three.

Please describe what aspects of your life, experiences, interests, and character would help you make a distinctive contribution as an undergraduate to Stanford University. Ah, that’s it. Yep, I remember that. So this used to be what matters to you and why. Um, it changed recently, um, for those who don’t know, in, earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued a decision which made decisions, admissions decisions on the basis of race unconstitutional.

So now, uh, universities, in theory, need to be totally race neutral, and a lot of universities, definitely Stanford included, um, were upset with this decision, and vocally so, um, because they thought. It reduced their ability to admit the kind of diverse class they want. That’s what they said. So this, this specific prompt was changed and as a direct reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

Um, so you can keep that context in mind. I wouldn’t think about it too much. Um, but just, um, I think there is some value in knowing where this question comes from. Because again, as I said before, you want to ask yourself, why is my audience? the admissions committee, why are they interested in the answer to this question?

And in this case, more so than the other questions, we actually have a pretty good idea of why they asked it. And it’s because they were really pissed off that the Supreme Court made that decision and they want this answer, they think, in some way will compensate for it. So, you can, you can think of that for what it is.

Um, and I think it doesn’t matter what you think of the Supreme Court decision or Stanford’s reaction, Um, you’re still writing to a specific audience. So, keep that in mind. Um, and honestly here, I would just, I’d keep the same advice as I did to, the first 250 word essay, you have to narrate. You can’t just say, um, I don’t know, what’s a good thing?

I, I had a death in the family and it was a super hard experience but I learned how to be resilient and strong and I had to take care of my siblings and that was hard and then, and then I learned that, um, I can help others in need too. So I will make a distinctive contribution because I can, yeah, I am already strong and resilient.

Again, I’m being very facetious here. Um, very few essays, although some are that bad. Um, but you get the idea. You can’t just say that stuff. If that actually happened to you, you had a death in the family and it had a profound effect on the way you conducted yourself and your upbringing, That’s great. You can talk about that.

You just have to narrate it. You have to demonstrate. Um, you have to tell in a story why you think, um, precisely how you would make a contribution, and it needs to be compelling. Um, anyone can say, I would contribute because I can help others. But if you tell a story that, where you show in action, How you help someone, even though there are difficult things happening in your life, um, that’s a thousand times more compelling.

The other thing is, you know, your audience reads a million essays, and they need something to grab onto. They need something to remember. Um, and if you tell a story that’s memorable, then you’re going to be in way, way better shape. So that would be my advice here. Let’s see. Yeah, and I’m Just conclude with this.

I, I read a lot of essays for a CollegeAdvisor. I, several hundred, um, so far. Not quite at a thousand, but maybe one day I’ll get there. Um, yeah, here are the things I say, um, in a lot of essays. Um, so, if you don’t want to get the same response from me, you can do this right now. Um, main thing. Can’t say it loud enough.

Show, don’t tell. You can’t just say, I am. A patient, kind person. Can’t say that. You have to show a story that demonstrates you are a patient person or a kind person and then you’ll be believable. Yeah, write what only you could have written. Again, the reason for that is college admission committee members read tons of essays and honestly I don’t really think they like their jobs very much.

It’s gotta be pretty boring. And you have to read thousands and thousands of essays And a lot of them are really bad. And even the good ones, like, like how good can a good college essay really be? Like, how’s like a really good book is going to be way more stimulating than the best college essay ever written.

So your, your audience is really tired. You just need to give them something to hook onto. So they remember your essay by lunch because they’re going to go to lunch after they’ve read 200 essays. They’re going to be talking with their colleagues and. What are they going to talk about? Probably something they read in the morning, because like, what else is there to do?

And, if they talk about your essay, you’re going to be in way better shape. You don’t need, you don’t have to have actually started a business or, uh, saved a starving village somewhere. You just have to be creative and clever and a good writer. Um, and, yeah, last thing is avoid cliche and avoid repetition.

Um, if you, if there’s a sentence like, What’s a great cliche sentence? My, yeah, I will contribute to Stanford by creating an atmosphere which fosters diversity and openness. Like that’s just, it’s going to make them want to keel over. So if you, if you think there’ll be a big eye roll, just, you can’t write it.

You have to avoid that like the plague. So that’d be my advice just in general for essay writing. Um, if you submit essays to me, um, I’ll let you know how you do.

Lonnie: Okay, well thank you so much. That now concludes our presentation portion of our webinar. I hope you found the information really valuable and you were able to gain some new tips and more insight about the Stanford Supplemental Essays.

So with that, we’re now going to move into our live question and answers. You do have the opportunity to write your questions, um, by going to the Q and a tab, I will read them out loud, um, for our panelists. Um, our panels answer the question. I’ll also paste it in the public chat so that you can be able to see it.

If for any chance, um, by any chance you are not able to see the Q&A tab. Um, please try logging out and logging back in through the custom link that was sent to you through your email. Okay, so with that, we’ll go into our first question, which reads, um, Hello, is it okay to still talk about extracurricular events you’ve done in your, in the essay that are different than what you want to major in?

So, for example, I’ve sang in a choir, but I want to major in environmentalism.

Nicholas: Good question. Answer is absolutely yes. Um, so one thing I’ll say, uh, something I like about Stanford, um, which is way better than even the other Ivy schools, is there’s only one school to apply to. There’s, Stanford isn’t bifurcated between humanities and engineering, and you have to choose in high school which one you want to be in.

You just apply to Stanford. And once you’re there, every single major is open to you. And there are no quotas or caps or enrollment limits on any major. So if you go to Stanford, you can start out as a computer science major, and switch to comparative literature, or the other way around. Super easy. Um, and that’s, that’s really an advantage and a huge blessing.

Um, the other thing is, and also related to that, you do not need to know what you need to do Or declare a major to be competitive. When I applied to Stanford, I was explicitly undeclared. I told them I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And that’s totally fine. They admit a lot of people who are undeclared.

If you know what you want to do in your life, by all means, you can talk about that. But if you don’t, that’s not at all a disadvantage. Um, Stanford isn’t interested in admitting a whole bunch of people who are already in the pipeline. And Um, they want to admit people who they think have intellectual vitality and have an expansive mind.

So yeah, if you want to major in environmentalism, but you sing in a choir, then, yeah, you’re already sounding like a more interesting person than someone who does environmentalism 100 percent of the time. Um, so yes, by all means, like, more of that. Um, you should just, you should just say all the cool things about you.

Because they’re not interested. Yeah, Stanford has no interest in, like, well, we need to admit, like, 10 percent environmental majors, and 20 percent math, CS, engineering majors, and 10%, like, they have no quotas like that whatsoever. And that’s reflected by the way their school is built, and in my opinion, that’s what makes Stanford, like, the best school around.

So, yeah, by all means, put that in.

Lonnie: Great. Our next question is, um, in my junior year, I’m only taking one AP class and the rest are honors. Um, great job. Um, is that okay for an academic resume?

Nicholas: Yeah. Um, sounds pretty good. So when you apply to college, your high school counselor or office or whatever will submit what they call it as school profile.

And, The school profile tells Stanford and every college you apply to what courses were offered and how big your school is and the average SAT or ACT test score you get. So Stanford’s going to know a lot of information about the school you’re going to. And so if your school doesn’t offer any AP courses, that’s not going to be held against you.

And the reason you know that is because the school report will tell Stanford, oh yeah. We don’t get a lot of funding, we’re gonna, no one pays taxes in our district, so we have no funding, so no AP courses. Stanford will know that, and they won’t hold the fact that you never took an AP course against you, because there simply wasn’t an option.

So I can’t speak to your specific circumstances, I don’t know anything about you. But it sounds like, if you’re taking one AP in all honors, that sounds like a pretty advanced course load. Um, and to the extent, yeah. I don’t, there’s not a huge difference between honors and AP coursework, except for like the the fancy AP test at the end, which is whatever.

Stanford doesn’t accept too many AP tests. So they just want to see that you’re taking advantage of every academic opportunity you reasonably can. So it sounds like you are, so you should be fine.

Lonnie: Okay. Next question is what was your thought process when deciding to talk about Um, or what to talk about in your essay.

Nicholas: Hmm, good question. So, first thing, um, Yeah, my view, yeah, I got a, My, my wonderful English teacher in junior and senior year in high school, Um, said there are, there are three tests you’ve got to pass. The first one is the jackass test. So, if someone’s like, As I watched the life ebb out of my cat Simba, I learned that life is valuable.

Like, no one likes that human being. So, you can’t write that. Um, next one you’ve gotta pass is the gets it test. I think some people we’ve all been in the, in the I don’t know, the birthday party or some social conversation where someone just butts in and they just say weird out of context stuff and it just it doesn’t sound right.

They don’t get it. So your essay’s gotta pass the gets it test. And the third thing it’s gotta pass is the literacy test. Like, can, can this person write? Um, so I would, as you’re considering your topics, I would think about those. You don’t want to be a jerk. You want to get it. And you want to sound literate.

Beyond those, there are no bad topics. You can say whatever you want. Um, and I think I would try to narrow down what to talk to, uh, talk about. Uh, I would just think, is it plausible that someone else in the world could write a substantially similar essay to me if the answer is yes, you should find a new topic Um, but actually yeah, there are a lot of topics Uh, there are a lot of topics out there.

So you’re not not constraining yourself too much. That’s what i’d say I can’t give you specific advice But that was that’s how I thought of it.

Lonnie: Great. Great. Um, so someone wrote Um, would you say that the essay aspect is more important than the grades?

Nicholas: I don’t know. That sounds like saying like, is the brain or the heart more important?

Like, I don’t know. Um, I think if you, if you have really low grades, your odds of admission are just really low. Um, no matter how good your essays are. I just think Stanford’s a really competitive school and there’s just nothing to be said for that. Um, so I would recommend getting the best grades you can and writing the best essays you can, and that will increase your odds.

The most. So, yeah,

Lonnie: okay. Um, next question is how niche is to niche in the supplementals.

Nicholas: Hmm. I think it’s very hard to be to niche. Maybe there is something to niche. Like if you, I don’t know if your essay sounds like something only like a postdoc in hard, like nano electrical engineering could understand.

Like maybe that’s too niche, but I’m not even sure about that because it would be kind of impressive if you can read postdocs research on nanotechnology at the high level and just kind of show off like kind of a humble brag. So I, I don’t really think you can go, I think it’s very hard to go to niche.

Um, because like the world’s a big place. There are billions and billions of people, but every single human on this earth. Has a unique and super interesting story. So there are at least tens of billions of cool stories out there, which are distinct from each other. So I think, I think it’s pretty hard to go to niche.


Lonnie: Um, how does Stanford consider Ivy credits?

Nicholas: I actually don’t know. Um, they, it’s gotta be on their website somewhere. I remember when I was a freshman, they, it was, it’s on their public facing website and there’s a list of, the AP scores that they accept for credit on your transcript. Um, I imagine the IB scores have got to be close to wherever that page is.

I wouldn’t worry about that too much, because taking AP or IB courses is going to be valuable no matter what in proving to the admissions committee that you take school seriously. Uh, and then once you’re in school, The only implication is just whether or not you can get university credits applied to your transcript for taking an AP or IB test.

And, I don’t know, when you’re in college, that just won’t matter very much. So I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Just take the IB courses and do well in them, and you’ll be fine.

Lonnie: Okay. All right. So we’re going to just take a short pause from our live question and answers. Please feel free to continue to write out your questions for our panelists to be able to answer them.

But I want to share more about a service that CollegeAdvisor is offering. And so seniors, we know that the application deadlines are right around the corner. So make sure your supplemental essays are in tip top shape with CollegeAdvisors. New essay editing packages. These packages are designed for seniors and the thick of the application process who aren’t already working with CollegeAdvisor.

If you register for a package, you will receive rounds of unbiased and expert reviews per essay. All within 72 hours or less. Take the next step to improve your college essays by signing up for an essay editing package using the QR code on the screen. And you never know, maybe Nicholas might be actually the one that’s reviewing your essay.

Okay. All righty. So let’s continue along with our remaining questions. All righty. So this question is kind of still going into the eight, the AP honors I. B. Discussion. Um, does dual enrollment or AP classes hold more weight during the admission process? So for example, college stats or AP stats?

Nicholas: Yeah, I don’t know.

I don’t think it really matters. Again, it’s going to be, everything’s going to come down to context. Like, in the area I grew up, I don’t think I knew anyone who took courses out of community college. It just, um, I don’t know if it’s because it wasn’t available or just because it wasn’t standard practice, but just, that wasn’t a thing people did.

No one did dual enrollment in my high school. Um, so, I think that was clearly spelled out in the high school profile submitted to Stanford. And that was also Demonstrated by the fact that every single applicant they received year after year never did that. So, I think it’s, it’s going to be totally context dependent on where you live.

If you live kind of like, rural, middle of nowhere, and there are very few AP or honors courses offered by your high school, but then you take some dual enrollment community college course, that can go a long way, because that shows you’re really proactive and you care about school. Um, so to the extent you can do that, I’d recommend it.

Um, if that’s not your circumstance, if you live in, I don’t know, downtown Manhattan and, well, I, I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but just, if, yeah, a place like me where no one does that, it won’t be held against you. Uh, there’s no, There’s not like a formula that they plug your grades into.

Actually, there might be a formula, but the point is that they just want to see that you care about school and you did well in school. That’s the bottom line. It’s, for your purposes, you don’t have to think more complicated than that. You should take as many difficult courses as you reasonably can and try to do your very best in all of them.

Um, for your purposes, that’s all you need to know.

Lonnie: Great, great, great. Um, any suggestions on essay structure when writing your supplemental prompts?

Nicholas: Yeah, I’ve got no specific suggestions. The reason for that is your approach is everything, and if I were to, it, my answering the question would defeat the purpose of your essay, because inevitably any answer I give It would be kind of boring, because at least one other person thought it’s a decent structure.

And your goal is to write something about you, and to showcase your personality and your strengths. So, um, I literally can’t answer that question. You should just write whatever you think, and however best expresses the ideas you want to say. You can’t go wrong. Well, I mean, you can, but like, yeah. You, you know what I mean.

Lonnie: Mm hmm. Okay, so our next question, um, what makes, um, what makes you stand out as a student on your essay?

Nicholas: Yeah, as a student. I’m not sure exactly what that question means. I think stand out. Um, again, you want to be shooting for, for memorability. Um, you want to write something where the admissions committee officers go down for lunch and are like, I read this essay.

Yeah. Of the 200 I read this morning, I read this one. And it was kind of interesting. Again, I can’t, I can’t give you a specific answer. If I said like, oh, you should write about, uh, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, um, then are you going to do that? And then, um, There will be however many people are in this webinar doing that, and then you won’t stand out.

So I can’t answer the question. It’s gotta be, it’s totally up to you. Your approach is everything. But I believe in you. You can do hard things. And you can, you can demonstrate to the world and the admissions committee why you’re super special.

Lonnie: Yes, yes, yes. Um, and this next question, the questions I’m asking, they’re all coming from our audience, um, from our audience who registered for the webinar.

Um, and so this question says, what should one do to make an impact on the recruiter?

Nicholas: Recruiter. Is that in the context of an athlete? Do you think

Lonnie: I would probably just say maybe admission officer.

Nicholas: Yeah. Make an impact. Yeah. I don’t know. Um, it’s going to sound like a broken record. You just gotta. Yeah, you all have different lives and different experiences, and you’ve all done cool things.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you’ve all done something cool in your life. And you just need to write about the cool things you’ve done in the coolest way possible. That’s it. Um, and there’s no, there’s no, again, Stanford isn’t looking like, well, one activity, Needs to be a business startup. Two activities need to be related to student government in some way.

Uh, the next three activities need to be civic community service. Ah, looks like this person started two businesses and only one activity student government. That doesn’t fit our formula. Like, that’s just, that’s just not how they operate. You can, yeah. And just for context, um, Um, I didn’t even use all ten activities in my essay.

I was in my Common App. I think I used eight. And there were things like, I don’t know, Junior Varsity Swimming, an unelected student body member, like just some unelected position, which was low maintenance, or um, church member. You know, I go to church on Sundays. Like, it, to be honest, it didn’t sound like your typical Stanford admit that’s not the point.

The point is how you say the things.

Lonnie: Yeah. That’s key. How you say it. Um, and the quality of what you’re saying. Absolutely. Um, the next question is, this is another comparison. Um, is your SAT and ACT score more important than your GPA?

Nicholas: Um, I think because of Stanford’s, Test optional policy. It’s probably true that your GPA is more important because If tests were as important, they wouldn’t make them optional But that being said your GPA is going to be context dependent in the sense that they’re going to compare it to your school profile and if If people in your school get really low GPAs and yours is super high.

That’s gonna look really good So I think yeah GPA is important Tests aren’t I guess they’re not that important. Otherwise they would require them. So

Lonnie: All right, next question is how do the athletic programs work is it easy or hard to get into sports I’m not sure if you have any insight into this Nicholas.

Nicholas: Yeah, I don’t have a ton of insight I think I mean, so much of admissions is luck, and I think that’s especially true in athletics. I don’t know how to get recruited. Um, Stanford Athletics is super good though, and they have 36 NCAA Division I sports, so your bases are probably covered, but no, I, I would be the wrong person to hire for advice on how to get recruited as an athlete.

Um, I really couldn’t help you very much, but I think, yeah, they’re out there and they play the game differently. So

Lonnie: you’ve got, okay. Next question is, what should I look for? Look out for when editing the essays?

Nicholas: Yeah, probably the most important thing, which I haven’t touched on yet. It’s gotta be super grammatically clean.

If your essay has zero grammar mistakes, you’re going to be in the top 10 percent of essays, no matter what you say. And that’s a good thing. Um, it, again, if you read essays for a living, you’re going to become really sensitive to grammar mistakes and they’re going to get on your nerves, even small ones.

So yeah, the main thing, it sounds super basic, but you’ve got to have no grammar mistakes. Um, that’s one of my, if Favorite things doing when I edit essays, um, I’ll make your essays, no matter what you say, I’ll make the grammar perfect so you can feel good when you submit something, at least I’m in the top 10 percent cause there are no grammar mistakes.

Um, also just a side point, totally unrelated to the question, when you buy the package for essay editing, you don’t know who edits it. Um, it will say, Essay Review Team has edited your essay. So you won’t actually know. It’s, it’s all anonymous like that. But, yeah, it could be me. Um, I edit a lot of them. So I’d say, yeah, um, you’ve gotta do the grammar and everything.

And then, on my previous slide, I had the essay writing tips. Just show, don’t tell. Right? What only you could have written. Avoid cliche, blah, blah, blah. Um, so those things.

Lonnie: Okay. Alrighty, so I think that that is coming down to our final question for our webinar. So thank you, Nicholas. for this really great insight and also touching upon questions that were a little out of the scope of the supplemental essay.

I know our audience appreciated it. And with that, I want to share with you all just our upcoming webinars that we have. So we do have a few more school specific supplemental essay workshops for you all to attend. And every month we have webinars. They’re all geared towards supporting you through the college application process.

Um, after the conclusion of this webinar, you’ll also have a pop up screen. So if you are interested in learning more about the services that we offer within CollegeAdvisor, highly encourage you to set up a free consultation with the representative from our team. With that, thank you all. Have a great night.

Great day. Great morning. Whatever time of day it may be for you. And thank you again, Nicholas.

Nicholas: Oh, thank you all. Good luck.