Talking About College at the Thanksgiving Table
Thanksgiving dinner brings together family, friends, good food, …and questions about college. Learn how to navigate these conversations from a former Admissions Officer at CollegeAdvisor.com.
Former Admissions Officer Chelsea Holley will share her insider knowledge on how to discuss college admissions with your family, during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including:
– How should I prepare for these conversations?
– How do I discuss my college list with family?
– How do I navigate strong opinions or advice that was not requested?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-11-22 – Talking About College at the Thanksgiving Table
Hi everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Talking About College at the Thanksgiving Table. I’m McKenzie and I’ll be your moderator tonight. So if you have any tech issues, you can direct message me and I’ll also be putting some additional information in the public chat. But other than that, to orient everyone with webinar timing, we’ll start up with a presentation, then answer your questions on live Q&A on this sidebar, you can download our sites and you can start some of your questions in the Q&A tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley, and I serve as an Admissions Officer here at CollegeAdvisor, um, part of my role at CollegeAdvisor is supporting families, um, and giving them the perspective of an admissions committee. Um, and some of the things that, uh, the folks on the other side of the table are looking for.
Um, I’ve spent over 10 years working in selective admissions offices around the country, um, including big public state flagships, um, small privates, women’s colleges. Um, so I wanna talk a little bit about how this looks different at different institutions, um, and really prepare you all for starting the conversation around going to college with your students.
Yes. And real quick, we’re just gonna do a quick pause. So, uh, how are you feeling about the admissions process for your child? So this parent, uh, this question is geared towards parents. Uh, so a hundred percent confident in a good place, but still working on our plan. Um, we are confused about the process or haven’t you haven’t started the process yet.
And while we wait for that, Chelsea, can you tell us what do you think the most stressful part of the admissions process is for most parents and families? Yeah. Um, I would say getting started can be really stressful. Um, the internet, um, has evolved the type of information, the amount of information we get about colleges and higher education in general.
Um, and so it can actually be pretty daunting and overwhelming of how to find colleges, what are reputable sites, um, how not to get lost on their websites. Um, and so I would say just kind of sifting through all of the information that’s out there and, and finding, um, a place to start that makes sense for your family and is a good fit for your student.
Mm-hmm. So it’s looking like 38% are in a good place. Uh, 33% are still confused about the process and another 33% are, uh, haven’t started the process yet, but, uh, this webinar will help y’all to get to that a hundred percent confident. And Chelsea, you can control the slides. Okay, perfect. I think that’s, um, a wonderful breakdown.
Um, so I’ll be sure to kind of address, um, a number of, uh, scenarios and wherever you might be in this process. Um, so the title of tonight’s webinar is talking about your, about college at the Thanksgiving table. Um, and I think it’s an interesting topic because I would say that always needs a caveat. And the caveat is you never wanna spring College admissions topics on your student casually.
Um, and so. Schedule the conversation about talking about college at the Thanksgiving table, um, is my first recommendation. If this is a conversation you want to start over the holidays and the reason you want to schedule or prepare your student for this conversation is they likely have, um, tons of anxiety and preconceived notions that are coming from their high school, their peer group, their guidance counselors, um, and they may feel a little anxious of even talking to you about where they are in that process.
Um, so definitely prepare them. So, um, today is Tuesday. Thanksgiving is Thursday. We have some days off. Um, a good way to say is like, Hey, I’d love to carve out some time over the holiday, um, for us to sit down and kind of start planning what the college search is going to look like for you. Um, and that gets their, um, antennas up.
They might find themselves doing some research ahead of time, and at least they feel like they can go into the conversation prepared and and confident. Um, and so an extension of that is meeting your student where they are. So all parents should have a general sense of their students college knowledge as we call it.
Um, and so you may find that your 10th grader, um, has high college knowledge. If maybe they had an older sibling that just went off to school the previous year and they’ve seen their sibling go through that process. Um, maybe they’re already coming home and talking about colleges all the time, or they’re being proactive, um, and researching summer pre-college programs that they can participate in.
Um, those are students that are already kind of comfortable and are making their own strides in the. Um, if you know that your student has not, um, visited a college ever, um, if you know your student is not coming home and talking about kind of what the options are in, in schools that they’re interested in, um, then you wanna take that into consideration when you begin this conversation because you wanna start back a few steps with him, um, and really kind of talk about.
Where they would be happiest and what do they see themselves doing after high school. Um, so starting out broad and then kind of getting into college names, um, and the rankings and all of those other things that can cause some anxiety. Um, again, recognizing that they have fears about the process just as you do and kind of, uh, pinpointing what those fears are really early on.
Um, and then finally do your research. Um, we’re giving you a lot of tips, but I know many of the parents that I work with, um, feel that they are not themselves, um, even able to start this conversation because they don’t have the information to start the conversation. Um, and so there are some wonderful blogs on the college advisor site, um, and generally a lot of information online that can help you.
Um, Start the college search process. And so what you want to know going in is what the timeline is, um, what types of schools are out there and what are some of the things you should be doing freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, so on and so forth to make sure that your student is on track.
Okay? So one of the things that you can do to really ease some anxiety around the process is allowing your student to be organized and the family to be organized so that you can pace yourself throughout the college admissions process. Um, it is rarely ever too early to begin this process. Um, although I will say the beginning of sophomore year typically is, um, a good time where you can actually get the ball rolling.
Um, it can be too late, but even if you feel yourself starting the process relatively late, There’s a lot of things that you can do to kind of catch up and speed up the process. Um, if you’re just starting, let’s say second semester of your junior year. Um, so one of the things that you can do to, to stay organized is creating a dedicated email address.
And this is important that this is a email address that your student has ownership of that’s associated with their name and that they’re checking regularly. Um, I won’t tell you whether you should have access, um, to this email address as well. Um, because colleges are also going to want your parent email to communicate with you.
Um, but your students should have at least one college email that they’re using for scholarship applications that they’re filling out if they go on a campus tour. Um, and then of course that they’re going to use to actually apply to. Um, organizing all of your documents on a Google Drive, a one drive or a shared folder.
Um, so getting everything that your students have, um, any information about their high school career in one place is really important. Um, and that allows you to have a better understanding of what other pieces of the story you might be missing. So, um, unofficial transcripts, um, resumes, if you have one. Um, any list of accomplishments or awards.
Um, these are things that you might start collecting, um, to put in a Google Drive. Uh, colleges are only interested, um, in things that you did in high school. Um, and what I will say, if you have some hobbies or organizations that you started in middle school, um, or even earlier, and you’ve progressively improved in those organizations, um, or involvement all the way through high school, that is relevant, but we’re really talking about what your student has done in the past four years.
Um, creating a real realistic timeline, and this is, um, completely up to when you started the process. Everyone’s timeline looks a little bit different, um, but there are some very specific milestones that you should be hitting from the 10th grade all the way up to the first semester of senior. And then the last piece of getting organized is there are, uh, many other, um, people in the support system for students outside of your immediate family, outside of your student that you will enlist their help as your student as applying to college.
So these are guidance counselors, these are coaches, these are advisors of student organizations, um, teachers. And so not only are you starting those conversations, but your student needs to shore up those relationships to make sure that all of their support system is able to show up for them when the time is right, um, and that they’re able to be knowledgeable about who your student is and what they have to offer.
Any given institution.
Yeah. So now we’re gonna do another quick poll. So what grade are you or your student currently in? Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th or other. And other can be if you’re a transfer student or if you’re taking a gap year. And while we wait for those, um, responses to roll in, Chelsea, can you tell us when does the admissions process begin and how long does it last?
So, um, I would like to make a distinction between the college search process and the admissions process. So the college search process begins as soon as you want it to begin. Um, I would say on average, um, again, probably that first semester of the sophomore year is when things really start to ramp up. Um, and this follows you all the way until, of course, your senior year.
Um, one thing to think about is a lot of the early applications for colleges, um, are in the fall of your senior year. And so more often than not, what colleges are seeing are your freshman year, sophomore and junior year. Um, we typically only see in progress courses for senior year are what you tell us that you’re planning to do.
Um, so it is super important to make the most out of those first three years because those are the ones that are really going to count and that we’re, we’ll see when we’re making a decision. So it’s looking like we have 20% 10th graders, 60% 11th graders, and another 20% 12th graders. Okay. That is a, that’s a great breakout and you can control the size.
Okay. Um, so this is, um, a list of the things that your student has control over in this process. Um, and I always like to kind of revisit this list because there is growing anxiety around the college admissions process, growing anxiety about, um, a student’s odds of getting into their dream school. Um, and it is important to understand that while.
The college admissions process, um, is meant to find the best and the brightest, um, in any given, um, applicant pool and find students that are a good fit. Um, college admissions is also a business, so there’s lots of things that are completely out of control of the parent as well as the student. And so one of the ways that you can lower some of the anxiety about this process is to focus solely on the things that you are able to control.
What are those things? Um, so first of all, um, and, and likely most important if you’re looking at selective institutions would be a student’s academic record. Your academic record is more than your gpa. Um, it is the type of courses you took in high school. Um, so all, uh, high schools have different courses offered.
Um, some may have 25 AP courses offered. Some may only have honors, some may have no advanced courses. That are offered at all. Um, what selective institutions are looking for is that you challenge yourself given what was available to you. And so when we say the type of courses that you took, um, out of all the courses that were available to you, did you seek out some of the most rigorous courses offered at your school?
So that’s something we’re looking for in the academic record. We’re also looking for an upward grade. And so what that means is if you have poor grades, um, if you struggled in a course and it ended in a D or an F or anything that is below what you’re used to getting, we would like to see those earlier on in the high school career versus later on.
Um, this means that you were able to improve, um, and improve your grades over each semester, um, and ultimately, hopefully by your junior year that you’ve been in a comfortable place in whatever that subject is or whatever that course is. So we’re also looking at how those grades are spread out over the, the four years, um, and then also your GPA, which I think is the, the thing that people think of the most when we talk about transcripts and academic record.
Um, your gpa. Um, a good, there is no universal good. One of the ways you can find out, um, if the colleges you’re interested in, um, would be interested in your GPA, is researching their admitted student profile. So each year, the class that, uh, the colleges admit, they look at the average admitted student profile, and typically that is used as a benchmark for the next year that they recruit.
So, for example, let’s say X School, um, had an incoming class fall 2022, and they had an average of a 3.6 gpa. The following year when they’re recruiting and talking to students, they might say, our average admitted GPA is a 3.6. Um, you also might find out if, um, your school has a minimum gpa. Typically the more selective the institution, um, the less likely that they’ll, uh, promote, uh, a minimum gpa.
But a lot of public state institutions do have that as a threshold. Um, so that’s something you can also, uh, dig into about your academic record overall quality of the application. Um, and so this is how much did you care about submitting your application? Um, how much time did you set aside to make sure that you had a strong application?
Um, this, I won’t say, uh, would. Would sway your chances if you weren’t strong in the other areas. Um, but if we are on the fence without a student, this is something that could really speak to, um, how interested you are in an institution, um, and how much you care and took this process serious. Uh, similar to overall quality of the application essay editing and review, you have full control over essay editing and review.
Um, you should be combing through your college admissions essays multiple times. You should have multiple proofreaders looking at those essays and giving you feedback. Um, so this is not the kind of essay you sit down on the computer and write the day before. This is something that you would be working on for months in advance.
Um, and the essays do give the college admissions committee some additional insight about who you are as a student, um, and your ability to write at a college level and convey thought. Um, preparation for standardized test scores. So we are in an interesting environment right now, um, where the majority of four year institutions are currently test optional, um, for standardized test scores.
I can’t say or predict if this will continue for the next three or four years. Um, I can say that similar to remote work, um, COVID 19 really pushed higher education in a direction that there’s no reversing. Um, and so you will see more and more schools adopting a permanent test optional policy. You’ll see some returning, and we’ve had some big schools say that, you know, we’re, we’re requiring SAT or ACT scores again.
Um, but the overwhelming majority are veering away from rigid test, uh, requirements. So it’s super important to research, um, if the schools that you’re interested in, uh, require test scores and certainly prepare. Again, if you, if you find that you, you want to take a standardized test, you do not wanna take those exams cold, you want to study for them, um, and put real effort into your strategy for test.
And then finally, um, you have full control over your story in this process. Um, and when we talk about stories or narratives, um, that does not mean something that, you know, you make up. Um, and, and think of what, what the college admissions committee wants to hear. It truly is who you are. What are you passionate about?
Um, what is some context of your upbringing or your background that may have affected, um, you and, and kind of made you who you are, um, and what makes you different. Um, and so those are things we’re really looking for authenticity to come through in this process. All of these things are huge elements of what we’re reviewing in the college admissions process.
And you have control over all of these. Which should give you some, some comfort about the process. The things that you don’t have control of over are just that. So there’s tons of institutional priorities, um, that can change. What a, what an institution is looking for year by year. Um, you have no control over schools that get.
60,000 applications to fill a 1,500 person class. You just don’t. Um, and so at CollegeAdvisor, when we talk about, um, building a college list and what’s a target school, what’s a safety school and what’s a reach school, we really want students to understand when we say schools are a reach, it means they’re a reach for everyone.
And sometimes that’s the sheer volume of applications that are coming in. Um, it may be their single digit at mid rate, um, that is making it, uh, in that category. So it’s, it’s really important to kind of look past some of those things that can be anxiety inducing and focus on these five things here that you have complete control over.
Um, as early as your 10th grade year, you can begin developing your story by participating in organizations, raising your hand for leadership roles, um, taking that challenging course. Um, these are the things that you can do to really make a difference in the process.
So parents, um, and other family members, how are you able to offer support during this time? Um, so the first one I would say is celebrate the small wins. Um, I think the big win that we all think about is getting admitted into whatever that number one school is of your choice. But there are a lot of small milestones before that ever happens, um, that are worth celebrating as well.
Um, it may be improving your s a t score or finally getting a polished version of your common application essay that’s going to go out to all of your schools, um, or meeting with a, with a recommender and having a really engaging conversation and realizing that they’re just as excited about writing this recommendation letter as you are.
Um, so these are things along the way that can be good indicators of how you’re doing in this process, um, and that you’re showing up authentically, um, as you’re applying for college, encouraging them to be their true selves. Um, this is a big one. I think the most common question, um, college admissions officers get is, what are you looking for?
And a close second is what makes a student stand out. Um, and I would say what makes a student stand out is the same thing that makes any human stand out in, in the world. They’re unique. Um, you know, those people that you meet and something about them is unique, something about them is memorable. Um, it may be a story, it may be a hobby that they participate in.
Um, it may be their unique background. Um, so these are all things that you can’t really manufacture. Um, so it’s best to be incredibly self-reflective and double down on who you really are, double down on what you’re interested in, double down on what you’ve done, um, as opposed to trying to create a narrative, um, that isn’t really you.
Um, and that reads, um, through applications very easily. Um, college admissions officers are able to, um, Understand when something is authentic and understand when something doesn’t make sense about the story that the applicant is telling. Um, the third one is a big one for parents. Be conscious of your ego and how it appears in your students college search.
Um, so you want to tell them how you feel, um, and be an equal partner in this process. Um, but you don’t want to overly, um, be invested personally invested. How high of a ranking this, the, the college has that your student’s going to go to. Um, are they gonna pursue the major that you pursued when you were in college or something that they actually really, really wanna do?
Um, and so you always want to, um, just have some moments with yourself and say, okay, am I, am I projecting this on my student? Um, or are they showing up with the same excitement about whatever it is that I’m feeling as well? And then lastly, be realistic about what colleges are truly a good fit. Um, fit is another word that you’ll hear a lot in this process.
Um, and we use it in different instances. Sometimes we talk about being an academic fit. Um, so that means that you. Within the academic profile of the institution that you’re interested in. Um, but I think more holistically a good fit really is just that it’s a place that your student is going to be happy in.
It’s a place that your student is going to succeed at, um, and that they’re actually going to grow not only academically, but hopefully personally as well. Um, and so when we get very realistic about what the options are, um, and what makes sense for your student, it makes this process less stressful because there isn’t as much fluff in what you’re doing.
You’re able to drill down to really schools that are interesting for my student schools that I think they would do well at. Um, and schools that they have a chance, a, a good chance of getting admitted to.
Okay, so here’s some more strategies to help lower stress levels for the entire family. Um, let your child lead and take the initiative. Um, depending on what your household dynamic is, this is maybe one of the very first big life decisions that your student gets to make. Um, the best college searches are when parents are there supporting, but the student is able to take some initiative and take some real ownership in the process.
Um, establish autonomy early, um, both for your student and also, um, separating yourself. Again, a little bit from the, the decision making of how this ends up. Um, scheduled, dedicated time. We talked a little bit about that earlier. This is super important. So once you begin the initial conversation, a way to keep this going is, um, every Sunday after dinner, we’ll pull up the Google Drive and go through your college emails and talk a little bit about what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, um, and what deadlines we have coming up, um, or biweekly time.
So this allows students to prepare for, get excited, bring some questions, and it brings some structure into the process. Um, set expectations about how finances will influence this process. This is a huge, huge one. Um, and so while I’m talking about letting your student lead and establishing autonomy, there’s a part of this process that very much involves you.
Um, whether it is you filling out the FAFSA, um, so that your student can get, uh, need based aid or merit based aid, or whether it’s you planning to pay out of pocket for your student’s education. This is important. Um, and similar to this being a big decision, um, for your student, this is a big decision for you and for the family.
And so if finances, and for many of us, it will as college costs, uh, increase. Talk about how finances play a role for your particular family. Are you looking for that full ride? Are you looking for schools that are going to meet full need? Um, Do you have a, a kind of sticker number that you’re prepared to pay out of pocket with your students college savings.
Um, so these are all things that can help, um, shift the conversation again in a really realistic way about what the real options are. Um, the next one, do not try to play the system. Um, and so this one is interesting. So I, I, I work with students all the time, um, and I had been working with a student for, um, many, many months.
Um, and he all of a sudden asked me about applying to one of his schools under a different major. And I thought, where did this major come from? And I’m like, Hey, this isn’t the major that we’ve been talking about that all of your other applications. Do you think that applying under this other major is going to give you a better chance?
And he kind of giggled and he’s like, yeah, I have a friend that told me that. And so that doesn’t really work as much as people would like to think it works. Um, because what happens is, let’s say there’s a specific major that has a lower admit rate than another, um, and you decide to use that as your intended major on your application.
Well then the, the person reading your application goes looking for breadcrumbs of your interest in let’s say it’s art, right? And they’re looking at your resume and all we’re seeing is computer science or engineering. Um, and there’s other major is, is nowhere to be found. Um, and so that isn’t helpful for your case either.
So again, um, doubling down on who you really are, um, and making the most competitive application out of the things that the student is really interested in. Um, deal with rejection. Well, again, um, the kind of big rejection is not getting into that school, but there’s lots of little small roadblocks in this process that can be discouraging.
Um, and you wanna make sure that you’re keeping the morale for your student and for the entire family. Um, and not showing that rejection in your tone, um, in the way that you’re working with your student. Um, that kind of positive ethos set by the parent, um, can be a real game changer for students as they’re going through this process.
And then finally, if all of this sounds like a lot, feels like a lot, there are professional college advisors that are able to help you kind of plan this out and walk through what this process looks like.
So what last advice would I give to families as they are navigating this process, um, where your student attends college is not a measure of your worth as a parent. And then I think the subset of that is, and it’s not a measure or a value judgment of your student either. So as I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot of things that your student can control in this process.
There’s a whole lot of things that they can’t control. There are thousands of colleges and universities in this country, and the large majority of them all have really, really great things about them. Um, and so I, I know that similar to any other area in our life, we hear about the most popular schools.
Um, the schools with the biggest brand. Um, but you really wanna make sure that you are thinking about what’s the right fit. Um, and not being discouraged because a super, super selective school that has an admit rate, like winning the lottery, doesn’t it, make your student, um, secondly, remember the right fit is a financially appropriate option that your student will feel safe, supported, and thrive at.
Um, and those are just the most important things. This is great to set the tone about this early. Um, using phrases like, no matter where you go, I am going to be so proud of you. Um, no matter where you go, I know that you’re going to do amazing, um, are really affirming, uh, statements to make to your student and I think to make to yourself too, um, as you’re trying to ease some of the stress around the.
Yes. So that is the end of the presentation, part of the webinar. I hope you find this information helpful. And remember, again, that you can download the slide from link in the handouts tab. And this webinar is being recorded if you would like to view it again later on our website at app.collegeadvisor.com or college advisor.com/webinars.
Um, and then also, okay, so moving on to the live Q&A. I’ll read through questions you submitted and re um, read them aloud before a panelist gives you an answer. As a heads up, if your Q&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 website or else you won’t get all the features up.
Big marker. So just make sure you join through that custom link. Uh, and then also I have been putting some tidbits of information in the public chat if you would like to get that. It doesn’t get saved with the webinar, I don’t think so. You will have to copy and paste it if you wanted that information.
But, um, for our first question, this one is, um, A bit longer, but the student is saying, I want to talk about college with my parent. Um, but she, uh, she is very dismissive and uneducated when it comes to these things. The amount of effort, money, research and work that goes into it seems to be something she just doesn’t acknowledge.
Uh, she automatically wants me to go to one school and shuts down a whole type like community college. Should I continue to try to talk with her or just let it go and work on this my own, on my own. So this is a big thing that some students have where parents are pushing them to one school or they’re trying to explain it.
Uh, can you talk a bit about how to navigate that? Yeah, so thanks so much for your question, Aaliyah. Um, I’ll say that you’re not the only student in this predicament at all. There’s different versions of this and, and we hear it all the time. Um, so unfortunately, um, and maybe fortunately you’re going to get some experience with your interpersonal skills.
So you are going to have to manage relationship with mom and manage the conversation, but you’re also going to have to do some things on your own. Um, I would encourage you to seek out, um, any resources that you have at your high school or community based organizations that can provide that level of advisement.
Um, I do understand that parents are, um, ultimately involved typically in the financial. Um, aspects. Um, and so whatever the, uh, option that your mother is presenting, you wanna find something financially equal or even better. So if you are able to find a similar in-state school that’s matching full need or is that that’s willing to offer you a merit scholarship, that’s something, a really viable option you can bring to the table and say, Hey, check this out.
Um, so I encourage you not to shut down with her because you’re going to have to rope her into this conversation at a certain point, but you do wanna do some of that legwork on your own so that she can see, look at all the research that I put into this and look at all the things that I’ve found about these schools.
Mm-hmm. , uh, going on to the next question, another person is saying, I don’t know much about the application process in the us. I’m assuming they’re an international student. Um, what resources, uh, can I look into to figure out, out some? And can you just tell for students in general too, Yeah. So, um, I would say whether you are international or domestic, um, the, there’s some things that are super common across institutions as far as the application process, but every institution has their own approach to what requirements are, what deadlines are.
Um, there are tons of resources, only a college advisor blog. That is a good way, a good place to start. Um, I also like CollegeVine for introducing, uh, or researching very specific colleges. Um, so I would, I would start those two places. Um, and before you kind of jump into like what college I wanna go to research, the college search process, um, and that will give you, kind of walk you into what’s next and what you should be prepared to see at different.
Yes. And we do have other webinars as well as some blogs, and I listed some in the public chat if you would like to check them out. Um, another student is asking about how to find out where GPAs are. Um, for most schools, when you’re doing research to find about their gpa, what the requirements are, you’re going to go to that individual school’s, um, website and go to their admissions page, and then you’ll be able to find out about their, um, candidate profiles or their average admitted students.
They’ll usually have a section. Numbers listed out though they don’t show SAT/ACT scores as much anymore with the recent admission cycles. They will explain their test optional policies if they still have one. Um, so going to the school’s website is always gonna be your best bet for finding out what they are looking for.
Uh, Chelsea, did you have anything to add to that one? No, that’s spot on. Um, and, and sometimes it can be a simple, um, Google search, so whatever your school is admitted student GPA should get you an average that takes you right to their site. Mm-hmm. , uh, going on to the next question, kind of touching on what you just talked about.
Can you explain what the student profile is more? Absolutely. Um, and so I think that, uh, the default is for students to ask what is your minimum GPA? Um, but for more selective schools, um, they’re not as concerned as with a minimum GPA as they are with a student profile. And a student profile says, Based on numbers alone, these are the types of students that typically get into our institution.
So they would give an average gpa, they would give an average SAT or ACT if that is a part of their process. Um, some schools may even provide you with a number of rigorous courses that the average student that gets admitted takes. Um, and you’re able to look at those metrics and kind of hold them up against yourself and say, okay, I’m somewhere close or I’m way off.
Um, one of the cool things about the admitted student GPA is that it’s typically a range. So you’ll see a low end and a high end. The low end, um, gets you at that 25% mark and the high end gets you at that 75% mark. So if you are looking at a range that says, okay, students that got admitted into this institution had between a 3.4 GPA and a 3.7 gpa.
What that means is that 25% of the students that were admitted had below a 3.4 and 25% got in with something above a 3.4. So again, there is not this minimum cutoff. There’s really more of a, uh, a range that, um, hovers a little higher in the middle, but a range of different GPAs that that got in. So just because you see an average and you’re lower than it don’t think that it’s not an option for.
Still apply, still learn more about the profile. Definitely. And going off of that, um, the admissions process is a whole thing. Uh, so different parts of the application include your essays, your transcript, which has your GPA and your course load from high school on it. Letters of recommendation, which you get from teachers, uh, school counselor, and other adult figures in your life.
Uh, your awards, merits activities, lists, your test scores, if you choose to submit those or if there school is requiring them, your intended major at that school or if you’re going undecided. And then also if you wanna be pre-med, pre-vet, or pre-law, et cetera, uh, your interest and passions and all of this comes together in your overall narrative, which is the story essentially that your application is telling.
And you built this. Over the course of high school, but you actually put it together your senior year, um, in terms of essays and getting letters or recommendation every your application together and actually submitting it. Uh, going by, going off of that, uh, a student is asking, um, for everything in the application, can we start preparing for the applications now or no, because we are not seniors yet.
For example, starting my. Yeah, great question. Um, so I think the best applicants are starting that stuff early. Um, now the earlier you start the, the longer you have for that essay or whatever the application piece to evolve and change. So it may look quite different by the time you press submit. Um, but I would say essays are one of the things that you can start working on really early, um, activities list.
So what is the inventory of the things I’ve been involved in, in my accomplishments That should be, um, a growing list that you can start keeping really early on in high school. So those are two great ones that you can start super early before you’re a. And then when you get to the admissions process, the actual application itself every single year opens on August 1st.
So that’s when you’ll be able to see the official applications. And then the financial aid process starts on October 1st, where you’ll be able to actually apply, um, in terms of essays, you’ll have your personal statement, which is the big essay that goes to all of your schools. And then you’ll have supplemental essays, um, which are individual school design questions.
Some schools may or may not have them, and then those typically stay the same every single year. So you can start them though. They may change. So there may be some essays that you can’t start until August 1st when they’re actually released. Uh, going onto the next question, a student is saying, um, I have had a mentor and he’s said it’s kind of like a lottery.
So that made me think, does the process have some luck involved? Even if you are a very competitive applicant, the. Yeah, I actually love that question. Um, I think it gets back to the things that you can control and the things that you can’t control. Um, when you’re talking about institutions who have a mid rates that are 3%, 4%, even 10%, that is a lottery because they have a surplus of students with good GPAs, strong SAT scores in their applicant pool.
And so a lot of the, I guess, lottery or luck feeling, um, is that you don’t know what the admissions committee is looking for that specific year. They may have a new biology program and they’re really wanting to make sure students, um, are getting into biology there. Um, or they may be recruiting for, um, a specific organization or sport on campus.
Um, and so those are the things that. Applicants aren’t privy to at all. That can really affect, um, the way this swings, and I will say that is at the super highly selective, um, or as it’s been recently coined highly rejective. Those are, those are institutions that are rejecting far more people than they’re accepting.
Um, a moderately selective institution is accepting 60% of their students. Um, even what we consider, um, a very selective institution is accepting 30% of their students. So that is a very, very small percentage of the colleges that are out there. But if those are the types of colleges that you are looking at, yes, that is a reality that you’ll have to, um, understand fully as you’re going through this process.
Mm-hmm. , uh, going on to the next question, um, what are factors for students and their families to consider when building a college list? Yeah, that’s a great one. Um, so I think size is a great place to start. Um, what I do good at a school that has 30,000 undergraduates or 2000, um, location, um, is a wonderful place to start as well.
Um, a lot of students say, I’m not going anywhere cold, or, I live somewhere cold my whole life. I’m going down to the south or to the west coast. Um, so kind of know what those guiding points are as well. Um, and then institutional type is a really big one. Colleges are all different. Um, but institutions are kind of lumped into some categories that can make them similar across a number of different metrics.
Um, so for example, you’ll find that liberal arts institutions have a bunch of similarities that may be of interest to you, but they may not be of interest, those are things that you can do to narrow down your list. Um, a big public state flagship. Do you, do you dream of, you know, D one football as part of your college, uh, experience?
If so, that is a very specific type of school that can help guide the kind of experience that you wanna have. Um, so I would start thinking of kind of all of those other things that, that will be your life for four years, um, how you see college and your life looking. Um, and then think about is it a rural campus?
Is it an urban campus? Is it large? Is it small? Um, what majors do they have? So those are all things that go into the college list. Mm-hmm. I also like to, um, put it to my students that there are four categories. So like you have your academic, which is major programs, career support, all those good things.
The main reason you’re going to college. Uh, if a college does not have your major, please don’t have it on your list. That’s one of the oddest things that I’ve heard with college list building. Uh, social is the next one. So like what social supports? What are the students and professors and everyone like on campus and in the surrounding community, uh, and other social aspects such as like dining hall, dorm.
Et cetera, uh, geographical where there’s, uh, like Chelsea mentioned where school is located, rural, urban, suburban, um, the size of the campus, um, everything like that. Uh, and then also financial would personally be my last one, but for some families that is the biggest one. Um, which is like how much the school costs, what sort of financial aid, um, they offer, what scholarships they offer, uh, how it’s gonna get paid for.
And even things like cost of travel, which is also a geographical question. Um, especially if you’re going out of. Uh, and then, but kind of going off of that, I saw a student asking about what sort of supports, um, there are for the admissions process. And if you can find one that goes with your major. And we know that for, um, those in the room who aren’t already working with us, we know that the admissions process is overwhelming for parents and students alike.
Our team of over 300 former admissions officers, uh, such as Chelsea and admissions experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it on one-on-one advising sessions. Take charge of your family’s college admissions journey by signing up for a free 15 minute strategy session with an admissions expert by scanning the QR code on this.
Screen. Um, when you work with CollegeAdvisor, you get matched with a personal advisor. You can also get matched with a wonderful admissions officer such as Chelsea, uh, who can help you with navigating the admissions process and really building a college list that is perfect for your student and your family, um, with all of the, um, bolts and pieces of a college that you are looking for.
And, um, you can even specify what majors and programs you’re interested in, as well as which schools. And you can be matched with someone who is either attending the school you’re in, attend, um, doing the major that you’re in or was accepted into one of the colleges of your interests. So, um, you can find out more by, again, scanning the QR code on the screen and it’ll take you to another page to fill out a form and you can find out more about our rates, um, packages and what other resources we offer there.
Um, so yeah. So, um, now back to the q. So, uh, going on to the next question a student is asking, and you kind of touched on this, uh, does the approach get more nuanced if, um, sports are a driver of your school choice? Yeah, I think, um, sports or students that are interested in athletics, um, it shakes up the college search process.
Almost completely. Um, and so what typically happens if you were an athlete, and that is a core part of what you’re looking for in college. And certainly if you’re looking to be, um, recruited and receive scholarship funds for athletics, you are gonna have two parallel college searches. One will be identifying schools that you like, that you find interesting that have your major, that are an academic fit.
And then on the other side, you should be working this, the athletic recruiting angle. Um, so that is, um, talking to your high school coach and getting your name out there with current coaches. Um, there’s a lot of websites, I don’t know any of them, um, but, uh, athletic recruiting sites where you can post, um, your videos and your stats, um, that, that college coaches are able to look at as well.
So yes, it is nuanced. Um, typically depending on the school. You’re going through the admissions process and the athletic department is communicating with the admissions office and they’re saying, Hey, I’m recruiting this student. Sometimes it happens in reverse. You make the contact with the athletic department first, and then they’re directing you to the admissions process.
But it is important that you do have to follow kind of both of those tracks. If you are an. . Uh, jumping to the next question of students asking about, um, advisor meetings. So when you are paired with an advisor on that initial kickoff call you, um, we do prefer for a parent and student to be on call, um, just so we can all get to know each other and figure out what the package and the time spent on it are gonna look like and what different schedules look like.
Um, but for the rest of the meetings and the rest of the time that you’re, um, the advisor is working with the student, typically it’s just the advisor and the student and then the parent will be looped in as they go through different milestones of the admissions process. Um, and just to make sure everything’s staying on track.
But it is more so advisor student. Um, though the parent can be involved if they choose to. Um, so. But going on to the next question, uh, student is asking, how does a college perceive a student who is already working a part-time job while in school? And can you just talk about like, activities list and that side of the admissions process too?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, so we think of activities not just as playing a varsity sport or being president of an organization, but everything that you did that was not. Um, so that includes part-time work that includes being a caregiver for, um, your grandmother or your younger siblings. Um, it may be that you are a self-taught guitarist and you spend a certain number of hours each week playing your guitar.
Um, Think really broadly and openly when you’re building that activities list. This does not have to be a list of things that, um, everyone in your school knows you for or your counselors or your teachers know you for. These are all of the things that you are balancing while attending school. Um, I personally love to see part-time work on a student’s activities list or resume, um, that gives insight that they, um, have a little bit of a taste of what it’s like to juggle a job and also juggle school, um, which is a great indicator of time management.
Um, so don’t shy away from those details. Those are things that we want to know and that give us more context about who you. Mm-hmm. Going on to the next question, a parent, I believe is asking, how good is a SAT score of 1530? Does the score make my child competitive for a higher level? Colleges? She’s retaking in March, but I just want a baseline.
Can you talk about the test optional and how different schools look at test scores and what’s high versus low? Yeah, absolutely. Um, so similar to the average SAT or ACT or, I’m sorry, similar to the average GPA. Um, there is a, uh, test score profile for schools, so you can find out what the average SAT range is for the schools that you’re interested in.
Um, I will tell you over a 1500 in short, is a great solid score. Um, however, when we are talking about super selective institutions, there are a whole lot of 15 hundreds floating around. Um, and so sometimes that is what they’re used to seeing in, in the applicant pool, and we’re looking for all of those additional things that are gonna make your student unique or dynamic, um, in the applicant pool.
So, um, yes, that’s a solid score. Um, I, I would definitely. Make sure though, that you’re giving the same attention to the score and the GPA as you are to the other elements of the application. Um, because for, I’m assuming you’re, you know, talking about Ivy’s or super selective institutions, um, most of the students that are admitted are coming in with those kinds of credentials.
And so everything else about the application will also have to be top. Mm. Uh, going off that note, can you talk about what schools mean by the holistic application process? Yeah, absolutely. Um, I’ve been throwing that out a little bit or alluding to holistic review. Um, so holistic review review essentially means that we are looking beyond just your gpa, we’re looking beyond just your SAT or ACT scores, and we’re taking in multiple factors, both quantitative and qualitative into our decision.
And so, um, a holistic review is a whole person review, um, that is typically mission driven. Um, and so when, when institutions have their lengthy mission statement or value state, read that because that can give you clues to what they are looking for in their admissions process. So if their mission is talking about innovation, um, and being change agents, those are the kind of qualities that they’re looking for in their applicants.
Um, and holistic review allows the institution to say, hey, this is what we believe in and this is what we think would make, um, a good student body. And through the admissions process, they are literally. Engineering the type of student body they wanna have on their campus. So yes, it is a student that is academically excelling, but it may also be a student who, um, has a commitment to community service or excels in leadership, um, or has some very disciplined specific skills, maybe in STEM or, um, in the liberal arts.
So you really wanna focus on what the school is, and that can give you an idea of what parts of the holistic admissions process they might value more than others. Mm-hmm, uh, kind of jumping back to the last question a student was asking, what are some, uh, what can I start doing to prepare for the SAT or ACT?
Yeah. So, um, I would say getting into, so you can, one, this is a, a low barrier. One, you can purchase the most recent SAT or ACT, um, book that will give you practice tests. Um, that will give you an idea of the layout. Um, and that is, um, either published by college board or, or published by the ACT. So that’s something you can start doing.
Um, but I would say the biggest thing is that you want to enroll in some formal. Standardized tests classes. Um, there are some free resources. So, um, with your college advisor package, if you’re already working with CollegeAdvisor, um, we have, uh, access through method test prep that students are able to access.
Um, but you want some kind of formal study program, um, that also allows you to simulate what the real test is like. That is super important. Um, that is how students see improvement in their scores. That is how students can break through some of the anxiety around testing. Mm-hmm. And then also going off of that, some of your high schools, or most of your high schools, um, should offer the PSAT, um, around your sophomore and junior year, depending on the school.
Um, and then that can give you some help with figuring out what the SAT is going to be like. Um, Both exams are similar, but they do have differences. So you, I would recommend taking both just to see which one fits better, and then taking, um, whichever one you felt more comfortable again to, to improve your score.
Um, and then in terms of covering cost, um, I’m not sure about programs, but Khan Academy is a free program to study for the, um, SAT. But in terms of covering the cost of the exams themselves, um, some schools should, most schools offer, um, fee waivers for the exams, um, which you can get from your school counselor.
Usually if you are on free and reduced lunch, you do have, you are eligible for those fee waivers. So you can just go to your school counselor or your college counselor at your school, um, to figure out, um, more about that. Uh, going on to the next question, um, mm. How can families find out which schools are going to be the most affordable?
Yeah, that’s a good one. Um, so. , all institutions will publish under their tuition and fees. So you’ll see some mention, um, in the admissions brochures and materials. So you may find it on the admission site, but if you do not find it easily displayed on the admission site, you wanna look for a tuition and fees schedule for that school.
For the current year. Um, college tuition and fees are typically set each year. Um, historically they have seen an. Each year. So that means what the students are paying for this year is likely to be, um, a little below what you’ll pay for, uh, for next year. So yeah, you wanna look for tuition and fees. Um, college buying also has a really good comparison tool.
Um, if you wanna look for a high level, but I always say go to the actual website so that you can see the most current tuition and fee schedule. That’s incredibly important to kind of understand what the total cost of attendance is to attend that school. Mm-hmm. And then you can also, uh, a lot of schools have like a financial aid calculator where you can put in some broad information about your family’s financial situation, and then it’ll calculate, um, an average amount that you’ll end up paying or you’ll end up receiving from the school.
So you can get a ballpark of what your financial aid or, um, financial aid would look like. And we do have other webinars that go into more detail about the financial aid process as well as which types of financial aid are, there’s needs based. And then there’s merits based. Um, and you can find out more information on our website.
Uh, but going onto the next question, um, when should families begin touring colleges? And do they need to tour every single school on their kids’ list? How can they maximize, um, these college? Yeah, so I think, um, a good place to start is local. So like scouring the country for every institution on your kids’ list can be very expensive, um, and time consuming.
So a good place to start is locally. So let’s say your student is interested in, um, a private mid-size institution, um, a big state flagship and a small liberal arts school. Go see three of those school types that are the closest to you. Now, it may not be the actual school that your, your student wants to attend, but I can just about.
Sometimes students step on these campuses and they say, oh my God, I, I love the feeling of this environment. Or, oh my God, this school is huge. I could never picture myself being here, or This school is too small, this doesn’t work for me. Um, so thinking again about institutional types can begin to narrow the list, um, so that you can say, okay, well this is where our time and our resources are best spent.
Um, I will say that if your student ends up with a list of institutions that is around 10, That’s a lot of schools. But what you don’t want to happen is that your student is admitted into more than five schools and they’ve only visited one or two, and they’re not super excited about those one or two. Um, because then now you’re in a situation where you have a limited amount of time the senior year to try and go and visit all these schools to make a decision.
Um, so I would say if you have a list early, Start, you know, planning to do two, um, maybe three visits a year if it’s doable for your family. Um, if you don’t have a list early on, start visiting institutional types and that can kind of, um, save you some time once you do actually build that list. Yes. And another option, especially with covid restrictions sort of dying down, are fly-in programs.
Um, which typically you apply for the summer to early fall going into your senior year. And then, um, they’re essentially, there are programs where a school will fly you out for free, um, depending on the program. Uh, and then you’ll be able to stay on campus for a few days and look at classes, get to meet other students, get to get a feel of the school, and you get information about the school.
Um, the process to get into those programs is very much so, um, parallels the admissions process. So you will have to do essays, you will have to have your applications together. Um, and different programs are geared towards bi and low income students. So if that is, um, an identity you go by and something that you are looking for, that can be a way to help make the.
Touring process, more affordable. Um, those are like selective programs, so, um, don’t bank your chances of co um, touring a school on them, but that is a good way. And then also different summer programs may help with touring schools as well. Um, but as the webinar is coming to a close, Chelsea, is there any last minute remarks you would like to give?
Um, so I’m just gonna address one last question, and this is will be like a, a shameless book plug. That’s not my book, but it’s a book that I love. Um, so Tony’s question, is there a public weighting scale for the admissions review similar to a test key? Um, no. So there’s been kind of this black box around what admissions officers do, so there is no public rubric.
But I recommend this book. It’s called Who Gets In and. A year inside college admissions. Um, and essentially what happens in this book, they follow, um, four different selective admissions officers all the way through the decision making process. And it gives you a really good idea of the conversations that are being had and how everything is weighted.
Um, this is like a book of secrets as far as I’m concerned, of how the admissions committee works. So I recommend for parents or students that really wanna know more about the committee. This is a great book. Yes, and I will add that into the link. Uh, just a quick Amazon, um, plug, uh, so you can get that from the public chat.
Again, I don’t think anything in the public chat is safe, so if you would like to get that, do copy and paste it into a separate doc or folder, um, as you, um, begin to exit the webinar. But, um, thank you everyone for coming out tonight and thank you Chelsea for all this great information and Q&A. Um, we hope you had a great time and learned a lot about the admissions process.
Here’s the remainder of our November series where we’ll have, um, we have various webinars on the admissions process as well as supplemental essays and different parts of the application process where you can find out more since a lot of you are younger students. Um, I’d recommend looking for those upcoming series in December and January where we’ll start transitioning to your years and what, uh, underclassmen can do in the admissions process to get ahead.
So thank you everyone for coming out tonight and goodnight. Thank you.