Starting Early to Stand Out in College Admissions
Learn how to maximize your college admissions chances from former Admissions Officer and CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert Lauren Lynch. In this webinar, Lauren will present on everything you need to think about to make sure your application stands out. In addition to offering ideal timelines, Lauren will answer the following questions and more: What high school classes should I take? When should I plan to take standardized tests? How can I write a compelling personal statement? Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-04-28 Starting Early to Stand Out in College Admissions
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Starting Early to Stand Out in College Admissions. 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 your questions in the Q&A tab.
Now listen to this. Hi, everyone. I am happy to be here with you tonight. My name is Lauren Lynch. I’m a, uh, an associate director of admissions with CollegeAdvisor. A little bit about my background and experience and hopefully how that will help you tonight. I’ve been in this field for about 20 years. I actually started off, uh, with my graduate school experience in training as a psychotherapist.
And moved into education and student affairs. Um, a number of years ago, I’ve worked in admissions at Williams college. I was the director of college counseling at [00:01:00] a private DC area high school. I’ve worked with all the other college consulting companies. And what drew me to CollegeAdvisor at its inception, uh, was the company’s mission to really, uh, help every student find their journey and feel successful in this process.
Uh, we are a company that, that really strives to help every student, um, find their true self and genuine voice. And I’m going to talk a little bit about that and the importance of it. I am going to try to keep my presentation to about 30 minutes tonight. I want to be sure we’re leaving as much time as possible for the live Q and a that we’ll get to at the end of the presentation.
Yes, and real quick, we just want to do a quick poll to see where everyone’s out. So what grade are you or your, what grade is you or your student and, um, uh, so eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th, or other. And other can be if you’re taking a gap year, a transfer student, or, um, if you’re a parent on call and while [00:02:00] we wait for those ANSYS to roll in Lauren, can you tell us a little bit about, um, how you started getting your kids ready for the admissions?
Sure. Um, in terms of, um, my, uh, introduction, one of the things I did not mention is I have a college freshmen, uh, and I have a junior in high school and they are very different for those of you who are parents on this, uh, in this meeting, I think you will understand that every child has their own path and their own style that they approach it with.
Uh, I think that exactly what I’m going to be talking about tonight is the approach I took with my kids, starting early, having conversations, really letting them explore the process, um, you know, find that good fit for them in terms of colleges and doing due diligence with the college research, uh, before we got into other parts of the application part.
Definitely. It would be so great to have like just an admissions counselor [00:03:00] at home with you like that, which you can get here at college adviser, but it is looking like we have 4%, eighth graders, 4%, ninth graders, 31%, 10th graders, 60% 11th graders making up the majority 1% 12th graders and 1%. Okay, wonderful.
Hopefully what I’m talking about tonight will be useful for, for all of you. Um, while this presentation is, is obviously specifically focused on starting early to stand out. What I want to really make clear is that there’s opportunities for students to stand out at every stage of this process. I do not want anyone who’s in the audience.
Who’s a junior or the parent of the junior to feel. Anxious or at a disadvantage, if you didn’t start out in freshmen or sophomore year, a lot can be accomplished at any stage of the process. And it’s just important. All of these things I’m about to discuss, um, can, can unfold in your relationship with your advisor and in the work you do.
Uh, as you’re moving through the [00:04:00] application process, some of the important components of not the logistics, not the nuts and bolts of the application, but the thought behind it are the things that, um, are really accentuated and expanded upon for students. When they start early, the application. Process demands introspection.
You have to be able to develop a sense of self-awareness in terms of shaping a college list, that’s going to be, uh, exciting and relevant to you specifically. Certainly when it comes time to writing essays, that that involves a huge amount of, of self thought, which honestly is not very comfortable for many of our students.
We want you to be able to effectively communicate who you are in this process and by starting early or really digging in at any stage of the process with our advisors, you’re going to have that opportunity to start really articulating, understanding and articulating who you are and how you are going [00:05:00] to manifest in the application process.
We want every student to have an impact. Uh, we want every student to be memorable and to make that connection with the reader of their application. One of the important things for parents, I hope you keep this in mind and for students as well for students, this is an opportunity to develop independence, to start separating your identity from your childhood in the sense that this is you moving on into your future.
And we want to make sure that you’re doing so in a way that feels ethical and true to you. We want you to be excited about this process, starting early can help mitigate some of the stress that’s inherent in the application process. And I will say at this juncture, and probably many times throughout the evening, that no matter how organized and efficient, uh, and, and bright and capable students and families are, this process will bring you to your knees at certain points, uh, of the [00:06:00] next few months to years, it can be stressful and it can be overwhelming.
And we want to ensure that every student is prime for success and by success, I don’t mean, you know, applying in and getting entrance to only the top schools in the country. Success is different for every student. Success is taking pride in the process and how you’ve managed it. Success is finding a college list that suits you personally, uh, successes writing the best essays that you personally are capable of writing.
For parents, there are also a lot of benefits for starting out early in the process. Um, certainly the more information you have, the better prepared you are, the less stress, uh, will, will descend upon your family and your family environment. Uh, you also of course want the best outcome for your student.
You want to understand what that might look like, what those choices might be and how to tailor this [00:07:00] process to your students’ individual aptitudes, abilities and passions. As parents, it’s very hard in this process and very, very important that you manage your anxiety in a way that doesn’t impact your children.
I think, you know, we have to be careful as parents to separate out what our version of we want the best for our child is from what their version of what that best might look like. And so really understanding having the room and space to have conversations about that is hugely important. In this process, there are things that parents are integrally involved in filling out financial aid forms, helping with some of the logistics around college visits, participating in conversations about a hard, hard nose in terms of shaping college lists.
There are a lot of ways for, for parents to get involved in the earlier you do so the best. Uh, we also want as, as part of the partnership with [00:08:00] CollegeAdvisor, I think one of the benefits of starting early is that it allows you to parent. It allows you to nurture and love and guide and support knowing that your student is going to be fully cared for in this application process, by someone experienced knowledgeable, someone who can be a little bit pushy.
If your child isn’t meeting deadlines, um, someone who will help make sure your child is going to truly shine. It’s important. I think some of, you know, this information, others of you don’t, I’m not going to spend a ton of time on it. But one of the things that I think is very important as you’re starting early is to know a little bit what to expect.
What does an application look like and how was it evaluated? Uh, I’m going to really oversimplify at this point for the sake of time, because there are numerous application platforms that look slightly different. And just for the sake of clarity, the UC application, uh, UC [00:09:00] application has its own portal.
Its own application process as does apply Texas MIT has its own application. And the common application is the largest application platform used by the most colleges and universities in the U S and it is what probably 99.9% of you in the audience are going to be confronted with, as you start this application process, the common application is a clearing house.
It gathers all of your data and all of your information. There’s a way on the common application. You can link all of the colleges you’re interested to so that you’re also accessing the school specific supplements, which I will get to in a moment. But all of this information that is required on the common application is sent to every school you are applying to.
It’s important to know this early, because it might help shape some of the choices you’re making in high school in terms of classes you’re taking or activities you’re involved in knowing that this information is required. [00:10:00] The first thing colleges are looking at is your demographics. These, these are things that are outside of your control.
What is your family composition? Where are you from? What languages do you speak? What socioeconomic status are you? What ethnicity or religion are you? These things are helpful for the admission offices. As they are comprising a diverse class of entering students. It gives them a context for your background and your opportunities in terms of academics.
They’re looking at your school setting, they’re looking at what, what classes were available to you within your, your school? Um, How, how much advantage did you take of the classes that are available to you? What I want to say about this? And I imagine this question will come up again in the Q and a, you do not have to take five, six or seven AP classes in order to be competitive.
It’s very, very important for students. And again, by starting early, you will, [00:11:00] you’re giving yourself this gift to self, identify your strikes and weaknesses. Um, we’ve a lot of students who appropriately are, are passionate about history or political science. And so they’ll take a push and AP Euro and, and they’ll, they’ll get out there and really explore those rigorous courses.
But they’re not going to take AP calculus because that would be counter-intuitive and ultimately detrimental to their, to their GPA and colleges understand that they’re looking for how you’ve identified your strengths and your passion. As most of, you know, testing has been optional due to COVID. Um, this year, I would say for any of you who are under, you know, juniors and below, you definitely need to plan on taking the SATs and, or the actsh at least twice the reason you should take them twice as that colleges tend to super score, meaning that if you got higher scores in one or two sections, in one [00:12:00] testing, they will combine those for the highest composite score testing is factored into the admission process.
It is something, um, if colleges are asking for testing next year, it will be used in understanding, uh, your academic potential. Activities are very, very important. Again, this, this relates a little bit to how you are demonstrating what your aptitudes and interests and passions are. How have you chosen to get involved?
Whether this is working in the family restaurant, uh, helping care for an elderly relative a private pursuit like birdwatching or photography, or whether you’re the captain of the football team or whether you’re, you’re very involved in debate. It doesn’t have to be everything. You don’t have to have done everything, but they’re really looking to understand this.
What are you doing? And what is your role and relationship to that organization? How have you shown up in those [00:13:00] activities? Awards and honors is another section on the common application. Then not every student is going to get the opportunity to fill out because most high schools have done away with things like Dean’s list and academic awards.
Um, there are the, there is the opportunity here to list national and regional or school specific awards. Um, if you don’t have anything to put here, please, don’t, don’t panic about that. Um, this is kind of a niche question and targeted at fewer students than, than you might imagine. Most colleges are going to require two teacher recommendations, uh, and almost every college will require a counselor recommendation.
For those of you who are juniors, this is a great opportunity as the end of the academic DEMEC years coming near to think of two teachers, you would like to ask before summer starts. These do not have to be teachers who have given you the best grades. They should [00:14:00] absolutely be teachers. Who’ve seen you show up who perhaps have seen you face frustration and work through it who have seen you, uh, really apply yourself and be a good school citizen.
The benefit of asking teachers for a Rex before the summer is that some of the more popular teachers get kind of filled up and start saying no. And also a lot of teachers try to do recommendation letters over the summer. Uh, having worked in a school, I will say that teachers do not get paid extra for writing letters of recommendation.
So please be very nice to them. I usually ask my students to just hand write a thank you note at the end of this process, for those of you who are in a position to maybe get a gift card, it’s just a nice touch to thank them for the time they have spent with. The essays, the main essay and the school specific supplements I will, I will say are probably the most stressful, stressful and difficult part of the application process for the majority of students.
And honestly, the reason that most families [00:15:00] come to us, um, the essays require a lot of diligent thought and introspection in terms of identifying the story you want to tell the story that feels true to you. School specific supplements are not going to be required by every college, but they are going to be required by many.
And although there is some overlap in terms of the kinds of questions that are going to be asked, like, why do you want to go to this college? What do you want to study? And why describe a community that you’re a part of and its impact on you? These are the kinds of questions you might see, but they do have to be very specifically answered for the school that is asking that question.
Even if there’s overlap. Most students should expect that they’re going to be writing between one and 15 to 1820 essays. So again, starting early is very, very beneficial. Uh, if you choose to work with us, if you earn already signed up, or if you are working [00:16:00] with us, if you work closely with your, your advisor, uh, you should be able to get a bunch of your essays done before senior fall, which is going to feel like a huge relief.
It’s important to understand what happens with your application when it gets into the office. And I say this both in terms of how it’s going to shape your ability and commitment to start early, but also how it’s going to shape your attitude about this process in terms of starting early, in terms of what happens with your applications, admission offices, and admission officers, give students a holistic read.
They are looking at you within your context, within the opportunities you’ve had, whether in your school setting in your home environment, in terms of the ways you have chosen to differentiate yourself and be involved in the greater world around you. They’re trying to understand the impact that your world has had on you at the same time [00:17:00] that they’re trying to understand the impact you are going to have on that school community.
They are looking for reasons to include however, It’s also important to understand your application is going to get read in about 10 minutes. Your application will almost certainly get read by more than one admission officer, but admission officers are typically reading between 30 and 40 applications a day.
That’s why starting early working with us becomes crucially important because we can really help you articulate a very clear narrative, a very persuasive and compelling personal story that will become very three-dimensional and will allow that admission officer to make a personal connection with you and your candidacy.
It’s also very important for families and students to understand what happens within admission offices. Um, Admission offices are looking at an entire [00:18:00] applicant pool, say 5, 6, 9, 12, 40,000 people to admit a very small number of those students. They are looking at how each of these students might fit together.
They do not want everyone to look the same or act the same, or come from the same kind of background. They’re looking for intellectual diversity, uh, racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic. They want that full representation to bring that, that sense of, uh, excitement and dynamic energy to the college environment.
They are also however, uh, being. Shaped by some, some outward forces and the sense that there are mandates that come to admission offices about what kinds of students perhaps to admit in a given year, are we looking to fill out the orchestra this year? Um, are there certain development students who are going to get a slight advantage in the application process?[00:19:00]
These are things that are also shaping ultimately what is going to happen to you in this admission process. And it’s important to understand that that this is the way this happens, uh, because although I hope for all of you, you will get into every school you apply to. It’s unlikely that you will, and it’s important to be able to separate out the reasons behind it from a personal sense of failure, uh, because you have not failed in this process.
If you did not get into a school of choice, it just means you have different choices to make.
There are a lot of myths about the application process, a lot of misconceptions. And I will say that, uh, I think it’s not always very helpful that there is so much information out there, uh, on the web, um, you know, in, in chats. Um, I think, especially I admit that sometimes when parents say, well, my, my friend told me that this is true and it may well be, but I think at a [00:20:00] certain point for students and families, you also have to choose how you are going to be educated about this process so that you can eliminate some of the stress around all of the information that’s swirling around.
Myth number one and two are very similar. Um, you know, families get very anxious that their students don’t have 10 different clubs and activities, particularly anxious that the student does not have community service. I can tell you, factually colleges don’t care if you’ve done community service. There, there may be some colleges, some very, very religious institutions do like to see a component of service.
Um, most colleges don’t care if you’ve done service or not. Uh, what they want to see is that you’ve done what you’ve done, because you love it. Not because you’re ticking a box and trying to, to, you know, make yourself more competitive. Not every student needs to be a leader. There are a lot of kids out there who are high-impact lovely teammates, [00:21:00] bandmates members of clubs and organizations and activities, and never want to be in the limelight.
That is absolutely fine. As we used to say in admissions committees, can you imagine this school? If every student here were a leader, it would be unbearable. So please for students, take comfort, take pride in your role in your personality and the impact you have on the people around you and the things you do.
Because again, those are the things that will really manifest and show up in the application process. It’s also a myth that if you ACE, the SATs colleges are going to overlook poor grades. Um, that is, that is not the case in something that we can talk about further. If there are questions about. You don’t have to have a perfect GPA in order to get into a range of different schools.
College admissions is competitive and over the last couple of years has gotten increasingly competitive. And I know that adds to stress. That’s [00:22:00] why it’s crucially important that you have a list that’s appropriate for you given your academic achievements. Uh, even students with perfect GPA’s are not guaranteed and not necessarily likely to get into all of the schools they’re applying to.
It’s a matter of creating a list that’s both exciting and realistic, and really, um, focusing on your academic strengths and that good fit between you and the college. You are striving to be admitted. It’s also a myth that when students and families are looking at the published data and it looks like you’ve got the right GPA and the right testing, great.
I’m going to get into this school. We absolutely hope that is true. But again, as we’ve kind of identified already this evening, there are a lot of moving pieces and you don’t necessarily know what other factors beyond that published data are going to go into these admission decisions. I am a firm believer that students will thrive where they land.
I do [00:23:00] not believe. And most of us in this field do not believe that there is just one right school for everyone. And if you don’t get into that school, you’re doomed that that is not the case. Um, applying early decision makes sense for students who are a hundred percent sure that the school they’re applying to is the absolute best fit and the school they most want to go to.
The statistics are a little bit skewed in terms of, uh, in terms of admission data. Um, because so many special interest cases apply early decision and are admitted early decision. And so it makes it sometimes look like you have a greater chance of admission. I can guarantee you every one of you on this call students, you can and will be successful in your life.
Even if you don’t get into the school of your dreams. It’s important in the application process to demonstrate your passion, your depth, your real, your real life, energy, and enthusiasm for [00:24:00] the things in your life. And again, it doesn’t have to be a school organized sport or club or activity can be whatever speaks to you personally, how you choose to use your time.
Those are the things that are going to differentiate you, not 12 different clubs and activities, but maybe three or four, maybe two to three with depth and conviction, strong academics are going to outweigh testing. Most of the time. The reason is that academics are a better predictor of your work ethic and your ability to succeed in the classroom and, uh, admission officers absolutely, uh, are going to be looking at that very closely.
Um, it’s very important that you are genuine in this process. And I will say one of the things that I am grateful for when students and families come to us is that we can help students maintain their own voice and really shine in this process that we can help, help them get to [00:25:00] a point where they’re writing the best essays and the most compelling, personal narratives they are capable of without eliminating that individuality, that personality parents, I will tell you now, if you write your student’s essay, admission officers will be able to pull that out pretty quickly.
It’s important for the student to have the opportunity to really show up in this process. And absolute fact, the most important thing perhaps, is having a well balanced and appropriate. And I should say exciting list. Um, every student deserves to feel like they are going to have the opportunity to land on the school that that feels like a place they genuinely want to be.
For students, um, I’ve separated out. These are, these are probably pretty self-evident, but for students, again, one of the benefits of starting early is that you can really take ownership over a lot of this journey. You’ve got to decide how [00:26:00] important your academics are, how important good grades are. You have to decide how hard you want to work.
You’ve got to self identify things that you’re interested in. Um, I noticed, I do not say here anywhere in this presentation that you need to know what you want to do. That is not, I, I know that something that really drives particularly parents and I absolutely understand that. Um, but I think that comes with time.
And the most important question at this stage is what do I love and how can I convey that? How, how can I parlay that into that right. Fit with a college? Um, Become involved, find things you want to do. Start a club. If there’s nothing that appeals to in your school, get a job. If you don’t really, you’re not really a joiner, but you kind of want to fill your time.
Colleges love to see students who have paying jobs, allow yourself that exploration. Same with the college visits. It’s really, I think parents can help out a lot with this. [00:27:00] Um, but start doing the research, start figuring out things that appeal to you. And again, if you’re working with us, we’ve got really great questions we ask and a really great, uh, process in place in terms of helping students shape that college list.
Cause it’s hard to know even how to do that. If you don’t know the right questions to be asking, um, And get familiar with the different application platforms. And you can do that even as juniors, you’re not applying, but play around on the common app, create an account for yourself. See what it’s all about.
You have to do all the writing. And I know I’m sorry, it’s a lot. Uh, you also owe it to yourself to develop your identity, to, to spend some time figuring out who you are. And I’m going to say very clearly, nothing is more important than your health and your mental health and this process. Yes. Is stress stressful.
Ask for help, whether it’s from us, whether it’s from someone in your family, don’t feel like you need to do this alone. You have to learn to [00:28:00] take care of yourself because that’s going to make for a better outcome all around in this application process. For parents. Um, I’m not sure why this is bold, but I feel like as a parent, all of this feels very true to me.
So maybe that’s why, why I bolded it. But, um, you want to support your child’s independence? I know it’s hard, especially when you, maybe they’re not moving at the piece you think they should be moving at, but remember, you’re not just helping your kid get organized around college admissions. You’re helping them grow up and become an adult.
So provide that infrastructure and that guidance, you know, sign them up to work with us, get the help you need, um, create a safe and quiet space in the house for them to do their homework, um, create the framework for their success. But that success ultimately has to be up to. And I think part of that is, is that you have to learn to trust what they are truly capable of [00:29:00] and manage yourself.
I mean, just as important as your, your child’s mental health, and we all know how overwhelmingly stressed kids are these days. Um, it is really crucially important that you also are taking care of yourself and kind of managing your own emotions around this process. Um, definitely a lot of the logistics can, can fall onto your plate.
Um, in terms of filling out financial aid forms, organizing college visits, booking hotel rooms, if, if you’re able to do on campus visits, if not even maybe signing up for virtual info sessions, um, maybe helping create an Excel spreadsheet for your kid to get organized. If you’re, if you’re not working with us, if, if you are, we have all of that, but, um, you know, some of these things definitely will, uh, will fall onto, onto your shoulders.
It’s um, important, I think to, to understand the context of the application process, I feel like this is one [00:30:00] of the first big tests. Um, you know, I, I think back on, on my children’s lives and you know, these big moments that I thought were kind of make or break, and I think college definitely feels like that.
Um, you know, looking around at what everyone else is doing and feeling very much like, am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? What else should I be doing? Just try to keep this in perspective, applying to college yes. Is very important. And hopefully for all of you, very, very exciting. Um, but this is also a journey.
It’s also an opportunity for exploration and growth. You are not students, you are not going to feel as successful in this process if you’re not being true to yourselves. And I know that can feel very tricky. You’re balancing a lot of demands being placed on you. Um, whenever possible, try to just kind of take some quiet moments with yourself and make sure that you are, um, going through this in a way that, that feels right to [00:31:00] you, uh, in terms of the college list and in terms of, uh, working on essays and really finding your story to tell.
Starting early, I think allows students a sense of mastery in this process, a sense of ownership, which is crucial. Um, it gives students and families the opportunity to again, share some of the peaceful moments that are not college application related. Um, the more organized, the more efficient the earlier you start, the less likely you are to feel panicked and overwhelmed.
Um, as you’re moving closer and closer to deadlines. Um, however, as I referenced before, I will say again, no matter how organized you are, this will at times feel insurmountable and overwhelming. And that’s what we’re here for. That’s what our advisors are here for is both to mitigate that sense of panic, uh, but also to provide very concrete guidance and support, uh, so that hopefully you’re not getting to [00:32:00] those points as often.
Um, or at least there’s not necessarily logical merit to why you’re feeling that. Every everyone has a story to tell. We have a lot of students who feel disadvantaged perversely because they haven’t had a crisis or a trauma in their lives. Uh it’s it’s just important to understand your story is not going to look like anyone else’s, um, but it can still resonate.
It can still have an impact. And it’s just really important to give yourself credit, uh, and believe that you do indeed have a story to tell and, and the most important thing you will thrive where you land be open to possibilities. I have never in my. Almost 20 years of doing this, had a student and I’ve worked with hundreds of thousands of students.
I’ve never had a student come to me and say, not getting into that school, ruined my life. Uh, in fact, it’s the opposite where students express tremendous gratitude that they ended up where they did that. It opened up, um, [00:33:00] areas of exploration, uh, excitement, uh, that, that good fit that they didn’t really know was possible.
So please, I urge all of you to be as open as possible to what those next steps might be.
Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the site from the link in the handouts tab, and this webinar is also being recorded. If you want to view it again, later on our [email protected], moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through your questions you submitted in the Q and a tab and read them a lot before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads-up.
If your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the webinar through the custom links into your email and not from the webinar landing page. Also known as the website, um, because if you joined from there, it won’t give you all the features of big markers. So just make sure that you join through the custom link.
Just a quick note, before you do that. Some of you have been chatting me through the, um, through the session, please take [00:34:00] those questions and post them in the Q and a so we can, we can address them for everybody. Yes. And I just want to remind everyone, since this is a larger audience tonight, um, we will try to get through as many questions as possible.
We really try to answer questions that, um, benefit the whole group and are most accessible. Um, but for those very specific and niche questions, asking about your specific resumes and, um, GPA’s and everything, we advise you to really sign up for CollegeAdvisor, where you can get your own advisor, who can tell you about how to really navigate the admissions process, um, in a way that best suits you look at the schools that are right for you, um, bigger out what your GPA, your sat scores can get you.
Um, so yes, so again, um, Uh, also don’t message me or Lauren personal questions or anything just because, um, it can get a little confusing and also don’t vote on your questions either just because it messes up the order of the, [00:35:00] um, Q and a section. And we want to try and stay as organized as possible. Okay.
Now getting started, uh, one student is asking, um, okay, where is it? Uh, how does the admissions office know, uh, this your school is offering and grading system? Um, Great question. So, um, most admission officers, um, some admission officers, well, we all travel regionally. So most of us are familiar with the different schools in our region.
However, every high school, uh, probably not every high school, 99% of high schools have what’s called the school profile. And for those of you who are parents or students, you should be able to get that from your guidance office. The school profile is kind of a primmer that admission offices will use. If they are not familiar with their school, it describes the demographics of the school, the, uh, constituency setting, um, the number of students, the kinds of [00:36:00] classes that are available.
Typically we’ll break down the median and mean GPA’s and, uh, also act and sat scores. And that’s something that admission officers will rely on. If they’re not familiar with your school. Uh, so going on to the next question, I’m going to try and combine these two. They are about letters of recommendation.
So one student’s asking, um, does your recommendations need to be from teachers junior year and up, and then another student is asking about, um, uh, how heavily do they like, um, re look at the types of recommendation you’re getting. So is it better to get one from someone that’s more closely relate to the field?
You’re going to someone who knows you best, like what is a good letter of recommendation? Great questions. Um, and I will say that, that I think COVID has skewed this for a lot of you. Um, I think it’s, it was very hard with remote learning to develop close connections with the teachers. So there’s, you know, I think colleges certainly understand that, um, [00:37:00] the benefit of, of asking students kind of junior year is that they know you at a time that’s closest to the application process.
Having said that having a strong letter is going to be much more persuasive than having a mediocre letter, uh, from someone junior. So if you had a teacher freshmen or sophomore year, and you just have a really great connection with them and you know, it was a class that really impacted you and you felt, uh, very successful in, um, that would probably make a strong letter.
So ideally junior year, um, but better to have the strength of the letter versus not, uh, in terms of, is it a subject you want to go into. If, if it aligns great, I mean, the, the obvious and kind of simplistic answer is yes. If you want to go into a particular field, um, if you are very interested in, in pre-med, um, and you can get a biology or chemistry teacher to write [00:38:00] a rec letter for you.
That’s great. Again, it’s going to go back though to the quality of the letter. It is far more important to have a teacher who really knows you and can speak about your personality and your, uh, your, um, viability as an academician and an intellectual presence in the classroom versus a teacher who, um, may not know you very well, and can’t speak very well about.
Definitely, uh, and recommendations can also come from outside sources with the school, um, allows it so you can get them from administrators. You can get them from outsource groups, outside groups and organization leaders, your boss, if you work, um, church leaders, um, just anyone that isn’t related to you is really the main thing.
Um, so like I got mine from a administrator at my school and then someone that I did a project with, and then I also got teacher recommendations and I applied pre-med, but I got one from my theory [00:39:00] of knowledge, um, teachers. So it wasn’t exactly relates to anything science, but it was still very impactful.
Cause I did a lot in that class and it really showed how I was as a student. That’s exactly right. So for teacher recommendations, they do have to be teachers in a classroom environment, academic teachers, but a lot of colleges will welcome external letters of recommendation. This. Yes, and real quick, just because I’m seeing a lot of questions about it, of, for those in the room who are already working with us, we know that the admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike.
Our team of over 300 former admissions offices and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all. And one-on-one advising sessions and last year’s admission cycle. Our students were accepted into Harvard at three times, the national rate and accepted into [email protected]tionwithusbyregisteringforourfreewebplatformatapp.CollegeAdvisor.com.
They, our students and their families can explore webinars, keep track of application [00:40:00] deadlines, research schools, and more all right on our website. So if you go to that link that I put in the [email protected], you can set up a free account and you can start exploring any can set up a meeting.
To hear about prices and the different packages that we offer and the different resources and things that are offered when you work with a CollegeAdvisor. Uh, and Lauren, can you tell us a bit about you working with your students and what that process really looked like and why it’s worth it? Oh, sure, absolutely.
Um, I think one of the, well, there are many benefits. I don’t want to say one of the benefits, but I think, um, I love working for this company because I think it’s very, very, um, it becomes very important that our students come from so many different backgrounds and settings. And so it’s that, that quality of the relationship between the advisor and the student where you have that person that you can count on, um, to really [00:41:00] have your best interest, to really get to know you, um, to create the structure and framework in which you will be successful in the process while allowing your individual individuality to, uh, to.
Manifest to be, to be persuasive in the process as well. Um, so in working with us, you’re, you’re given the opportunity to really have that, that partner, that, that person to turn to, um, that person to help move you through the process successfully and ultimately to, to really rejoice with you when you’re, you’re weighing your admission decisions down the line.
Yes. And so now that’s the Q and a, so, okay. I’m seeing a few questions asking about extracurriculars. So, um, if out of 10 extra curriculars, five are relevant to your major, should you list all 10 or just the ones relevant to your major? So on the common application there space to list 10 [00:42:00] different, um, extracurricular activities.
So if you only, if you have 10 and no more than 10, um, you can list them all that way. Uh, some students have more than 10. Um, but some of them are not particularly impactful, something you might’ve done briefly freshman year and never really picked up again, uh, something you did for a few days and didn’t stick with, so there’s some decision-making around that.
Um, so that’s a little bit of a hard question to answer generically, because it would take your advisor, um, sitting down with you, looking over all of your extracurriculars and making sure that your, that section of the application is very, very impactful in terms of the order you’re listing the organizations in how you’re describing them, um, how they are going to read to the admission officer in terms of them being able to better understand your level of involvement in those [00:43:00] particular clubs and organizations.
Um, so a little bit of a hard question to answer. Specific level. Um, but ideally if students have 10 clubs and activities, you can, you can list them all. Uh, so kind of going off of that, I want to expand this. So this student is asking what extra, what extracurriculars are there other than clubs? Uh, can you talk a bit about just like, um, what admissions offices are really looking for in those extra hours?
Sure. Um, the answer is they’re not looking for anything specific. Um, the answer is that they’re looking to see what you like to do and, and what you choose to do when you’re not in the classroom. Um, most schools have a bunch of clubs and activities. Most schools are also very open to starting new clubs and activities.
If there’s not one that appeals to you, um, if you are not a school club person, again, you can get a [00:44:00] job. You can volunteer. Um, a lot of students have things that are not, uh, group activities at all. We have a lot of students who are writers, um, or artists or birdwatchers. Um, maybe you’re a long distance runner, but you don’t really want to be on.
Uh, cross-country team. There are a lot of ways you can fill your time. And a lot of ways you can communicate who you are in the application process without joining clubs. However, every high school, um, does have at least some clubs and it’s definitely worth finding out what they are. If you’re not sure how to access that information, I’d look at your school website, maybe talk to your guidance counselor, or talk to your friends and see what they’re involved in and how they found out about it.
Yes and another, student’s asking do jobs count as an extracurricular and they do I’m babysitting family responsibilities is now listed on the comment up as an extracurricular. So long as it’s not just [00:45:00] chores, it has to be like a real commitment. Like if a loved one is sick or you really spend a lot of time taking care of siblings or someone in your family that counts as family responsibilities, not just making your bed.
Okay, so going onto the next questions, a lot of students are really asking about essays now. So, um, another student is asking, um, how do we start writing essays in the summer? Doesn’t the application has specific questions that need to be answered. Great question. Um, yes, the common application, um, has a number of prompts that don’t often really change.
And one of the prompts is write about whatever you want to write about, basically. Um, so absolutely you can start writing that over the summer. Um, the other parts of the applications, and one of the benefits, again, you know, if you, if you work with us now, we have [00:46:00] a pretty good handle year to year on what those schools specific supplemental essay questions are and, and how, um, How they’re going to be asked.
They don’t change all that much. Um, the common application usually goes alive on, uh, in, in, towards the end of the summer, like August 1st, typically. Um, so most of our students are going to spend the first part of the summer, really working on that main common app essay. Um, getting that in really, really good shape, brainstorming some of the other supplemental essay questions that you were sure to get.
As in, why do you want to go to X college? What do you want to study? Um, you know, what’s a setback you’ve experienced, um, describe your community. These are things that you will see again and again, in school specific supplements. Um, so you can start writing them even without a specific school in mind. And then you kind of in the, the, the [00:47:00] penultimate and the ultimate versions are writing it very specifically to that school.
Um, but the ideas, it takes a while to think of ideas you can’t, I mean, you can, um, but typically we recommend a fair bit of thought and, um, discussion around the brainstorming process before you start. Going off of that, I’m going to read two questions. So one student is asking, how do I choose what to write about in my essays?
If I don’t have something big in my life. And another student on the oppressed that ed is asking, can you be too vulnerable with your essays or personal statement? Yes. Great questions both. Um, and for the first student, I, you know, talked about this in the presentation again. I think definitely if you are able to sign up to work with one of our advisors, that’s something we Excel at because you are not alone in wondering, what am I going to write about?
Nothing’s happened to me. I’ve got a normal life. Um, you do have a story. You do have something to tell and let us help you figure out what that is. You, you owe it to [00:48:00] yourself to trust that there is a story in there to be told, um, for the second student that that’s a very wise question and it deserves a very thoughtful answer.
Yes. You can be too vulnerable. Um, I think it’s absolutely okay for students to write about crises, um, loss, mental health issues, uh, safety issues, family issues, global issues. This is kind of a scary world we live in. There is a lot to write about what you want to do though, is, is write in a way that is both sharing that vulnerability being very honest, but also ensuring that the reader is not going to be concerned about your safety and wellbeing on a school campus.
Um, so there’s, there is a fine line between sharing personal, real, and raw information and doing it in a way that is not going to, [00:49:00] um, give the admission officer any reason to, to doubt for your, your health and wellbeing. And again, that’s something that we’re happy to help with. And I I’m, I. I am glad you asked that question.
Yes. And we do have other webinars that are going more into detail on, um, types of essays to write what essays are in the application process, what admissions officers are looking for and all the information on those. So if you want to look up those, you can go to app.CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars, and you can type in key words of what you’re looking for.
Um, you can also find more information about our packages and our hours on that. I keep saying questions about specific things. So if you want more information, definitely go there. And there’s also a phone number listed. If you would like to talk to one of our representatives where you can get even more information about, um, matching with an advisor, what we offer and different plans and packages.
So going onto the next question. What, if anything can make up for a lack of curriculum rigor or [00:50:00] academic rigor? Well, I think, and again, I think COVID, um, I think colleges are a little more sensitive to students who, um, may not have pushed themselves as, as hard. Um, I think might be something you choose to write about in your essay, if there’s a particular reason, um, that you.
You know, choose to take particularly challenging courses. Um, but the most important thing is that your college list has to be, uh, has to be that right fit for you. If you don’t want to be the person who’s, you know, taking a million APS and, and that’s absolutely fine. Um, we just need to make sure that the colleges on your list are the kinds of colleges that are going to look at you and think, yes, that’s a student we want to have on our campus.
Uh, so that, that’s where that becomes a very, very important. You just don’t want to set yourself up by applying to extremely competitive schools, if you are not going to, um, to be competitive enough in the [00:51:00] application. And I’m going to make this like an umbrella question, then I’ll ask specific stuff, but students are really wondering what really matters in the application process of like test scores, GPA, extra cake extracurriculars, if they want awards in their clubs, um, what courses they took.
Can you talk a little bit more about that? Yeah, sure. And I’m sorry to say, that’s kind of an impossible question to answer because it’s, it’s, it’s all of it in the sense that really the first things that are getting looked at and scrutinized, um, Are your academics in, in your setting. Um, and you’re testing.
And I understand that that’s been kind of out the window for a while. So really kind of academics are really important, but this also goes back to the question of what’s going on in admission offices. Um, So all of what you’re presenting is very important. Um, your [00:52:00] whole application is getting read very, very quickly.
So it’s, it’s both the substance, it’s the details, but it’s also that, that, that nuance, that personality, that warmth or humor, that vulnerability, that tenderness, it’s the story that’s being told throughout your application. That’s the thread that’s tying the entire narrative together. And again, I think that’s, that’s why so many families come to us because, you know, it’s like, um, I don’t know, trying out for a movie and you, you have a five minute monologue and you know, you and eight other 8,000 other people are, are applying for one part.
It comes down to that. And I know for students how profoundly unfair it is that all of your four years are kind of getting boiled down to this. And I hope you understand that, that you are worth so much more than what ends up on the paper of your application or the computer screen of your application.[00:53:00]
Um, but it really is kind of the composite. It’s how it all comes together. It’s how it resonates with the reader. And, and that’s another factor which is kind of outside your control is you don’t know who’s going to be reading your application. You don’t know. You know, four in the morning and, and they’re slogging through applications or, um, you know, if they have a particular bias against clowns and you wrote about being a clown at children’s parties, um, I, I do have a slight bias against clowns.
I will, I will admit, but, um, you know, there’s some things that are out of your control. So the only thing that becomes really important is that every component of your application is as crisp and well articulated and, and powerful and resonant as it can be. Um, so that you’re not kind of having to look back thinking, what, what could I have done differently?
What should I have done differently? We want you to be very competitive at all of the [00:54:00] appropriate and exciting schools on your list. Uh, going on to the next question, students are really learning about scholarships, especially like how early can you start looking for them? How do you rack them up? And if you can touch a bit on like maybe scholarships, aren’t always the best option paying for college, like financial aid and stuff.
So I’m just in all honesty, I’m not a financial aid expert. And for those of you who are working with us, we have a stellar financial aid team that you can schedule meetings with. So I’m going to give you kind of the broad strokes. You can start researching scholarships whenever, but typically the scholarship application process is happening at the same time as the college application process.
As you are beginning to do college research, you’re going to want to look at certain language. Colleges might offer financial aid. Uh, need need-based financial aid colleges are, are going to be, uh, some colleges are going to be need based, meaning that if you are applying [00:55:00] for financial aid, they are going to meet your demonstrated financial aid need.
Um, regardless of your academic merits, if you’re admitted, you are going to get funded, uh, up to the level of need and colleges are very transparent on their webpages. They’ll have financial aid calculators. You can get a sense of what you might get. Um, some colleges are need blind, meaning that they are not looking at whether or not students are applying for aid in the application process.
Those are typically schools with larger endowments. Others are so that if you are one of, you know, 50 students left and they have three spots to fill, but they’ve kind of tapped out their financial aid budget. Um, they will be looking at whether you are applying for aid or not in, in making those final decisions.
Merit money, scholarship money given by the colleges is something very different. So it is, um, the, the scholarship money is used as a tool by colleges to [00:56:00] yield applications. Um, so what they’re looking for is, is this student presenting something that we want to see on this college campus. Um, and that might be a talent.
It might be, um, an athletic ability. It might be academics. Um, and the merit money is something that is given typically independently of whether or not a student is applying for financial. But again, all of these things, just to keep you on your toes, every school is going to be different in terms of how they do it.
At some colleges, you actually have to apply for scholarships while you’re applying to the school. And some, some of them do require extra essays. Um, others, you just are going to be given a merit scholarship if they want you to attend that college. And as we are coming up on time, and this is about starting early, I’m going to ask this question then, am I going to brand broaden it a bit?
Um, so this parent is [00:57:00] asking my ninth grade twin sons are happy-go-lucky types and don’t take school and studying, uh, very seriously understand the importance of studying for like the PSAC they’re doing well in their classes, but enjoy playing video games after school and your professional experience.
Have you seen cases of. Cases where students mature and realize the seriousness of the college application process before it’s too late. Uh, they want to go to college, but as I said, they are happy go lucky types. I see their peers and they seem so focused. So can you like answer that question then broaden it a bit to what can parents students are doing now?
Yeah, and I, um, absolutely. Um, There are definite ends of the spectrum. And, you know, I think this also kind of feeds into what I was talking about earlier about kind of understanding, you know, your child and their journey and, and for the kids. Also the mental health, because I think that a lot of the kids who are just laser [00:58:00] focused on ninth grade, um, if that is just their personality and inherent to them, great, I admire that.
Um, but what we don’t want is students who are just killing themselves from ninth grade on. At, at the risk of their, of their own wellbeing. Um, I think it’s great to have happy-go-lucky kids. Um, uh, in my experience, one of the things that can make a difference is doing college visits early in the process where they feel like, you know, it’s, it’s very ethereal.
It’s very hard. I think for students to understand what the big deal is, you know, what am I even looking for? Why does it even matter? And so, you know, if they love video gaming, maybe take them on a college, um, you know, college visit, uh, to a school that has computer programming, game development, um, in their curriculum, get them excited about what they’re working towards.
Uh, I think it’s absolutely okay to have a family conversation about [00:59:00] expectations, um, in terms of great that you love video games, but. And, uh, you need to find one other like one club, one organization, one something else that you are going to choose to get involved in. And that can be starting a video game club at school.
Um, but kind of broadening looking at what they’re interested in and then figuring out how to help them grow that into something that might get them out of the basement or out of their bedrooms. Um, but I, I also think that there’s something really kind of precious and wonderful about having 13 year old boys be 13 year old boys, um, or a 14 year old.
And, um, that, uh, you know, I think one of the reasons families start relatively early with us 10th grade is probably a good time to start with us because that’s one of the things that we can do is help start in, in instilling in them a sense of excitement and [01:00:00] ownership. Over the choice-making, um, over that growing maturity, that their choices do have outcomes in a way that’s not punitive, but it’s going to help them, uh, just continue to grow and mature.
Yes. So that is the end of the presentation. Part of that is the end of the webinar. We hope you own this information helpful, and we had a great time telling you about starting early to stand out in the admissions process. Uh, thank you to our panelists and everyone for coming out tonight. Uh, this is our, uh, the end of our April series, but our may series, we will have more webinars where we’ll be going over FAFSA, financial aid, uh, what you can do to maximize your junior year, summer, what you can do throughout, um, different parts of the application process.
No matter what grade you’re in. Um, if you’re interested in. Finding out more about our webinars or our information. Again, you can go to app.CollegeAdvisor.com. Uh, and I put the link in the chat again, [01:01:00] just in case anyone wants to get that information. Our advisors here are wonderful. They’re really helped you throughout every part of the application process.
If you join with us, you act, you also get access to our financial aid team, our essay review team, and other wonderful resources. Um, if you’re not with us, uh, that’s fine too. Um, we do have our webinars where you can get your questions answered and, um, we have our blog also, um, definitely sign up for webinars that peak your interest and, um, the closer your questions are to that webinar, the more likely it is to get answered.
You can really get that full information that you’re looking for. So thank you everyone for coming out tonight and good night. Thank you.