The Holistic Review Process and How to Stand Out

CollegeAdvisor.com (formerly Bullseye Admissions) presents its webinar on The Holistic Review Process and How to Stand Out in a 60-minute webinar and Q&A with Bullseye’s Head of Advising, Lauren Lynch. Lauren will provide information about what a complete application includes and what admissions officers assess during application review. Our presenter will share their insider perspectives on how applicants can stand out based on her vast experiences in college admissions and as a former admissions officer.

Date 09/08/2020
Duration 62:07

Webinar Transcription

2020-09-08 The Holistic Review Process and How to Stand Out

Hi everyone. Welcome. My name is Lauren Lynch. I’m head of advising here at bullseye. I’m thrilled to have you all in our audience tonight in our presentation of the whole holistic review process and how does stand out. And of course the ultimate question, what are colleges really looking for? I’m joined here by my colleague, Lily.

Who’s going to be helping in any technical issues that may arise and also doing some polls throughout the process. We will leave plenty of time for Q and a at the end of tonight’s presentation. So you’ll notice a Q and a option that you should feel free to enter some questions. And I’m going to try to get to as many questions as I can this evening.

A little bit about me just in, in terms of the experience I bring to this and the perspective I bring to this. I have been in the field of college counseling and college advising for about 20 years now. I was in the admission office at Williams college for about 10 years. I’ve worked in a high school environment different college counseling companies, as well as working locally, nationally.

And internationally with college bound high school students. I think one of the things that ultimately is important is that I’m also the parent of two high school students. One of whom is currently going through this process. So I certainly empathize with all of you out there both for the excitement and some of the challenges in having a child or you yourself.

If you’re a student going through the application process, I hope tonight to help clarify some things and also hopefully demystify some of the common misconceptions about the college application process. I’m sure you hear the term holistic a lot. All of the information sessions at the various college campuses you’re attending virtually or.

In the olden days in, in person where they talk about doing holistic reviews, what does that actually mean to do a holistic review means that the admission office and the admission officers are considering all of the aspects of you individually that make up your entire person from extracurriculars to background and setting an environment.

Every single thing that comprises you and makes you unique. But holistic reviews also take on a different meaning when it comes to the application process. And what I mean by that is every admission office is under a mandate to holistically evaluate the entire pool of candidates in terms of how they are going to fit together, how each of those individuals will come together to comprise a diversely talented group of individuals from different backgrounds, settings, and environments.

Both things are equally important in this process. And that’s really important to remember because one of those things is completely out of your control.

There are a lot of myths about the application process. And one of the first things I want to say about this before I talk through the slide is I really caution students primarily to avoid saturating themselves with too much information about what everybody else is doing to handle this process or what everyone else seems to be an expert on about the process.

It’s important to be informed. It’s important also to have a thoughtful approach to what information is valid and relevant to you and what information is not. One of the first and most common misconceptions is that every student has to be well-rounded. I can’t tell you the number of families who’ve come to me in a panic because their child hasn’t done any community service or the student in tears.

Cause she’s not an athlete. You do not in fact, have to have done everything and be involved in everything in order to be a strong candidate, colleges are not looking for that very full, robust resume of activities. If those activities are inherently meaningless to you. It’s also a myth that students have to be leaders in everything they do.

Try to imagine being on a college campus where every student is a leader, honestly, it would be intolerable again. When they’re talking about that holistic review, they’re looking to find the diversity of personalities, experiences and styles in terms of engagement in different activities, while grades are important, they are not the ultimate or the only force driving this application process nor our test scores.

Everything comes together in terms of shaping that overall. Perspective that overall read that you’re going to get in the admission office. One of the other issues, which I know is a little bit baffling, is that often families are mystified as to why a child and the applicant has all of the qualifications that, that college is publicizing as fits the data for admitted students.

And yet that student might not get admitted. There are a lot of factors again, beyond your control, and if you fit the profile, that’s great. That’s going to put you in very strong shape and a very good position, but it does not necessarily guarantee admission. Some of the truths about the application process are in some way.

The opposite of what the myths are. Colleges and admission officers are always going to be more compelled by students who have demonstrated a breadth and a genuine passion for perhaps fewer activities that are genuinely meaningful and rewarding to the student and help to shape that overall profile.

That sense of who the student is. I can tell you absolutely admission officers genuinely tried to see the best in every applicant. This is not something where admission officers are looking to penalize students for various perceived failings. Really. They are looking to pull out the best in every applicant and try to envision them making a positive impact on the college campus.

Students often think that doing well in testing is going to compensate for poor grades. In fact, that’s a little bit of a red flag in the admission process. Generally speaking, and of course this is not particularly pertinent to most of you who are seniors, because testing is optional. If even being evaluated for this coming applicant pool.

But colleges definitely want to see stronger academics than stronger testing. You absolutely need to proofread, make sure your application is impeccably edited and very well put together, but the more thoughtful and genuine your application and your essays are the better off you’ll be in this process.

One of the factors. That is hard. Again, I am getting back to this point that I just mentioned a moment ago that you don’t know necessarily what mandates the admission office is working on internally. And that’s something that is going to be one of the biggest determinants and drivers in the application process.

And again, something ultimately that’s out of your control. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more as we move through these slides.

When we talk about standing out in the admission process, I think students have the misconception that means they have to have done something extraordinary. And so it, it evokes the sense of panic. I think in students that how can I possibly stand out when I have not yet cured cancer or climbed the Himalayas?

What standing out really means is that you have made an impression that you have resonated with the reader of your application. We read typically about 40 applications during peak reading season, between 30 and 40 applications a day. That’s a lot of applications. It’s very easy for extraordinary students to lead together a little bit in terms of some of their similarities.

So what are they going to remember about. It’s really important in order to get to that point of being memorable, to work very carefully with a college advisor with whomever is helping you in this process to be sure you’ve identified a very clear personal narrative, a very clear identity in the application process, a very clear candidate profile.

Who are you? How are you distinguishing yourself based on your talents or interests or backgrounds or beliefs. Those are the things that are going to help you ultimately stand out. Awesome. Thanks. So for our first school for Lauren gets into the fine details of the college at process. We want to get a sense of where everyone is so far in their applications.

So our question for you is where are you in the college application process? So we’ve listed a few different options and you guys can let us know in the poll.

We’ll give you guys a few seconds to just go ahead and. And that way we can also, know what sorts of QA questions you guys might be sending in. So stuff, it looks like a lot of you guys are just starting, which is totally fine. This webinar’s a really great place to start. And also a lot of you guys are also working on your supplemental essays in your personal statement.

That’s also really great. And a lot of responses coming in. Most people are still just starting, also a lot of people who are doing research about the application process. So that’s also a really good place to be. And then also a lot of you guys are working in your college list. I see that some of you guys do the same for standardized testing.

So this is also a good time to be doing that. Yeah, I’m gonna close the poll now. Top two options. We’re just starting or doing research on the app process. So back to you, Lauren. So one of the things I want to say about that, and thank you, Lily. I think I know I already said this, but I think there’s a big tendency in this process to compare yourself to everyone else and be really hyper aware of what everyone else is doing and feeling like everyone else knows something you don’t know or is doing something that you should be doing.

Just to reflect on that poll, all of you are in a different place. All of you will end up at the same place. Everyone does this at a different pace. Everyone has a different style, one style, and one piece is not better than the other. So I hope you can come away with this from this presentation with a sense that you can approach this in the best way for you personally.

In terms of really addressing how do stand out and gain an identity in the application process, I thought it might be helpful to break down the application section by section. And I’m thinking of it structurally in terms of when you open the common app, what are the aspects of that application that you are faced with?

And the first one is the question about demographics. Basically, this is the, who are you? Where do you come from? Who is your family? What’s your setting? Students sometimes don’t realize the importance of this. And again, this goes to the kind of holistic process evaluation process going on within admission offices.

They want to know about you individually, but remember, they’re also trying to encapsulate a wide array of backgrounds, settings, socioeconomic statuses, cultures, identities, religions, and belief systems. So it’s really important to be as Informative as possible in this process. I have one example about this, just to highlight how this can sometimes affect the outcome of the application process in terms of how thoroughly you fill this out.

So I have identical twin nephews. Their mother is Latina and one of my nephews, they are identical. One of my nephews wrote on all of his applications that he was a mixed race student and the other road that he was Caucasian. They have the same stellar testing, the same grades, everything was the same.

And the one who indicated that he was mixed heritage. Ultimately have more college options and it’s not because he’s mixed heritage necessarily. It’s another piece of information that’s being used in the application process to help evaluate and differentiate him as a candidate. So if you speak many languages at home if you have a heritage or background or a cultural experience relating to your upbringing, be sure you enter that in the data.

If you’re a first-generation college student, all of these things are useful pieces of information that are going to shape the outcome of your application and help you stand out.

Grades and testing are really important when your application comes into the admission office. These are often the first aspects of your overall application that are getting evaluated and getting used in the admission read process, obviously again, testing as a little bit of a non-issue for this year.

But typically. Admission offices are looking at your grades and they’re looking at your curriculum. They’re evaluating whether you’ve challenged yourself, have you done courses that are of interest to you? Have you deepened your knowledge and your curiosity if you’re able to do if your school offers those opportunities in areas of particular interest, one of the things that’s important to know here is that colleges are evaluating you within your academic context.

Not every high school offers the same range of courses or the same kinds of opportunities. Colleges are really keenly aware of that. You were not being evaluated against students who have more opportunities than you do. Every high school or almost every high school has, what’s called a high school profile.

That’s something that’s often useful for you as a student to ask your school counselor for just to get a sense of what kind of information your high school is sending on to college. High school profiles usually describe a little bit of the setting of the school. How many students attend the school usually they’re they’re listing a mean or a median testing for act and sat.

Usually they’re describing how many AP or honors or advanced courses are available. This is something that admission officers often will refer to and use, especially if they’re not very familiar with your high school. So again, this is something that if your school has one, you should be able to get access to it.

And that might give you a sense of what colleges are seeing about your high school in terms of how then they’re using that data to evaluate your application. In terms of including testing. This goes back to admission officers in variably wanting to see the best in you. Definitely do your research, but most colleges will super score, both sat and often actsh as well.

So it’s usually not putting you at a disadvantage to report all of your scores.

Activities and awards. Again, this goes back to the depth of the activities being more important than the breadth. One of the questions that students have been asking me a lot is what do I do about activities that I would have been doing this year? If I were in school, do I put them on my common application?

My answer is, yes. I’m not sure. I think that’s the norm that the understanding is that if you are a four sport, four year athlete and your season got canceled, I think it’s fair to put it on there because you would have been doing it in other circumstances. I think there’s an understanding among colleges that’s what students are doing.

If you were in doubt at any point about whether to include information. Include it, it’s always better for the colleges to have a sense of who you are outside of the classroom than to wonder what you’re doing in your spare time. If you have family obligations, if you have to work, if you care for little siblings or an elderly relative, put that down, let the reader of your application know who you are when you’re not in a classroom environment, the more they know about you, the better you will be able to resonate with them and create a relationship or connection with that.

Commendation are really important in terms of helping the reader understand who you are in a classroom environment, your grades are one thing, but they’re static. It’s a number or it’s a letter. The recommendations are what really animate that data with your personality. I want to say that some of the best letters of recommendation I have read are from teachers who have seen a student really struggle in a classroom environment.

So I know the knee-jerk reaction is to ask the teachers who’ve given you the best grades. Sometimes that works great, but don’t. Automatically eliminate teachers with whom you’ve really had to engage intellectually where you’ve had to really show up in the classroom, seeking outside, help coming in for extra help, reaching out to them really improving and doing your best to be the kind of student that they know you are capable of being.

Those can be really profoundly moving essays. I’m sorry, letters. And they also really demonstrate them to the admission officer, the kind of student you’re going to be in a college classroom environment. Someone who’s going to work tire as tirelessly to improve and get better and better at the task at hand.

If someone outside of school or a non-academic teacher wants to write a letter for you, some colleges will allow extra letters of recommendation. Some will not. But what I pretty universally recommend is have that person write up a letter for you and send it to your counselor in your high school environment.

The counselors in high schools often will embed data feedback from outside sources into those letters. And that can be a great way to get that information across to the readers of your application. The personal statement is the linchpin of this process and is really phenomenally important.

The reason they’re important is because this is your opportunity to really bring your personality. Into play to really demonstrate to the reader, what your humor, your warmth your experiences, the things that you believe in the things that are important to you, share them with the reader to really connect with the reader.

You have to connect with the story and the message you are trying to share. It’s gotta be something that matters to you. I get the question a lot, is this something the reader would want to hear? Would this be impressive? Being impressive? Is. One thing, but being genuine and thoughtful and reflective is going to have a much bigger impact.

The reverse of that is the student who comes to me saying that they have nothing to write about. They’ve done nothing impressive, and there’s nothing extraordinary about them. I think. Every student has a story to tell. I know at bullseye, we spend a lot of time with students really trying to identify the personal narrative, really pulling out the personality and the aspects of your character and your experience that are going to help tell your story.

The personal statement is the engine of the train of your application. That’s what ultimately is going to get you into the station. And it’s really important that it’s strong and really reflective of you. If you’re struggling with essay topics, definitely let us know that something that we’re happy to help with.

This is a definitely a tough one. Schools specific supplements are another area in which you can really shine, really stand out and make an impact. There are some typical categories I’ve listed here. Obviously a lot of schools have their own kind of unique and funky and interesting supplemental essay prompts, and those can be fun opportunities to showcase different aspects of your personality.

Generally speaking, the way to stand out with the school specific supplements is to. Be specific be as related to the topic as possible, avoid generalities, avoid statements that could be true of anybody or any school. If you’re trying to write a compelling, why do I want to go to X college essay, avoid things about how beautiful the campus is or how stellar the faculty is because that’s pretty universally true at most college campuses.

Instead talk about the bench in the middle of the quad, with the shade tree over it, and how you can imagine yourself sitting there studying in, in late spring or how the dining hall gives out free cookies during final exams. And that makes you feel like it’s a place that really values students be specific.

These essays, the supplemental, the school specific supplements are an opportunity for you both to convey your interest in the school, but also let the school know why you a good fit for that environment. So really show how you’re going to take advantage of it. Really let them know. How you’re going to relate to that learning community.

One thing I do want to warn you about the question often arises again. What do you want to study here? Do you know what you’re interested in and why? I think there’s a sense sometimes that you have to really list something really intellectual and esoteric. If there’s nothing in your transcript, if there’s nothing in your activities, if there’s nothing at all throughout your application, that’s going to back them interest up.

It’s not such a good idea to profess a passion for it. If you want to do neuroscience great, but then probably they should have seen that you’ve taken some advanced science classes on your transcript or that you’ve been involved in some club or activity if it’s available for you to do awesome. So after hearing about each of those sections of the applications, here’s another question for you. What do you think is the strongest part of your application? You guys can let us know in the poll. And I know you, a lot of you guys are student athletes who might be from NCSA. If, you think your sport is the strongest part you’d want to hit C for activities and awards and you’re at your sport would count as an activity.

All right. So I’ll give you guys a few seconds to vote. So far it looks like a lot of you guys are writing on that, your personal statement’s going to be the strongest part of your app. So awesome to have, strong ethic rating. I see the poll shifting right now. It’s actually activities and awards is now the leading option.

And then as a third, very close third option is grades and testing.

All right. So I’ll give you guys a few more seconds right now to reason awards. You’re still in the lead, then personal statement and grades and testing, and then also a few votes for some other some of our other options. So I’m going to close the poll and back to you. Okay. Very interesting. I love that everyone has a different perspective and all of those can be true.

It really can be any, anything. That’s going to be the strongest portion there. For those of you who started working on the common app, you’ll notice that there is this year and optional COVID-19 prompt. And the question often arises as to. Whether a student should use it when a student should use it.

I think the prompt was really developed to allow students who’ve been negatively impacted by COVID-19 to have a space, to help the reader understand what some of those impacts have been a death in the family, an illness, financial hardship, or strain. There have been obviously for all of us, a lot of consequences and for some of us really spectacularly, severe consequences, and the colleges don’t want students to have to use their main essay space to write about this.

If that’s true for you, a lot of students have been asking whether they can use this prompt to describe some good things that have come out of COVID. I think so. I think you need to use your judgment and understand that really. W if you are going to write about this, it should be in a way that shows some positive impact you’ve had on the community, around you.

Something that, that has transformed you in a positive way. And I think that could also then help you stand out and help identify your experience with COVID 19 in a way that the admission officer would be able to relate to and understand.

There’s a lot of hope, obviously, that gets tied into this process. There’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of joy. And for many of us, there’s also a lot of sadness and a lot of frustration. I think it’s really important that you remind yourself throughout this process. If you’ve done all you can to make a strong application.

If you’ve wisely selected your college list, applied appropriately to a broad range of schools ranging from safety schools to dream or reach schools. If you’ve made the best possible application, you can ultimately you have to let go and understand that. Hopefully you will get into a large number of your schools and you almost certainly won’t get into all of them.

It’s a rare student indeed, who will try to be really proud of what you’ve accomplished and how hard you’ve worked, remind yourself that just because you didn’t get into a school, it doesn’t mean you didn’t deserve to get into that school or that there’s something wrong with you. It just means that there were other factors that admission office had to consider in shaping their class.

I want to remind or tell all of you from the admission perspective, I did this for obviously 10 years, which leaves me about 10 years. Having worked with students, going through this process in that experience, I have never had a student who’s come to me months after getting decisions and enrolling at the school, whether it was the first choice, the second choice or third choice, I’ve never had a student come back to me and say, I’m so unhappy.

I hated their my experiences that you can absolutely thrive at the school that you do choose that you can make the best of every opportunity and every experience and that whatever school ends up admitting you is going to be a lucky school. Indeed. I know this is a hard process, but one ultimately that we hope you will be able to get through of.

I think we are going to do some Q and a now.

Yeah. So how the QA will work is I’ll give you guys a moment to start sending in your questions and then I’ll paste them into the public chat so you can see them and I’ll read them out loud before Lauren gives me an answer. So the first question we have here is if you do happen to fulfill many of those myths, having a full resume or leading in many activities, is that a bad thing?

I I first, the first thing of course my instinct is to apologize and no, it is absolutely not a bad thing. And I’m sorry if I gave that impression if you are the kind of person who has a very full resume and has done a lot, then. Means that’s true to who you are. I think my point more was that I don’t want people who feel that they have a lack of activities or, a lack of a variety of activities to feel like they’re at a disadvantage.

If you’re the kind of person who has a lot of things, because you love doing them. That’s great. That’s going to come through. That’s going to be part of the story you’re telling. Awesome. Someone also asked, do colleges consider how early you have put in it or I guess submitted your application. Great question.

So it depends if a school is rolling decision, meaning that basically application season opens sometimes mid August, September. Then yes. If you put in an early application, that’s ultimately going to be beneficial to you. If your application’s in good enough shape to consider if the application has an actual deadline, early action, early decision, or a priority deadline or regular decision as long as you have the application in just for your personal safety five or so days before the deadline, then it doesn’t matter how much earlier that application is submitted.

Awesome. Someone asks, do admissions officers take into account and more rigorous grading scales. For example, my high school uses a seven point scale. We’re a 93 to a hundred is an a et cetera. That is a great question. And that’s what I was trying to get at when I was describing that the colleges are really looking at you within the context of your environment and your high school setting.

So they understand them that an aid for you might be harder to achieve than an a at another school where an a could be a 90 or an even an 89 point something that’s where also that high school profile becomes very important because that helps the reader understand what your school’s unique grading system is.

So again, you’re not being compared to everyone else with a different grading system. You’re being looked at within the context of yourself. Gotcha. Someone asked, is it okay to fill out the common app or should we fill out each individual college application? And does it matter the order that you put activities in the car?

Sure. So the common app is pretty ubiquitous. It’s very rare that colleges have, it is not very rare, but it is rare that colleges have their own applications. Much more likely is that you fill out the common application and then colleges have supplements that you link to through the common application.

So in order to simplify your life, I would just use the common application as much as you possibly can to get all of those applications done. That’s going to make things much, much easier for you. If a school is on the common application and also has its own school application, you can do either. Most of my students do the common application because they’re doing it anyway for other schools.

And it’s just so much easier. For listing activities. It’s very much it’s the eye and the mind worked very much together in this process where usually the activities that are the most meaningful to you, the most that you have the greatest level of involvement in and engagement with, you want to list those first and then go down from there putting the less important activities or the activities that you’re not as involved with towards the bottom.

Gotcha. My apologies, my connection’s going a little bit in and out, but we should be able to continue with the Q and a pretty reliably. So next question was how admissions officers react to poor grades due to family circumstances. For example absolutely. So admission officers absolutely want to understand exactly what your experience is.

And this is the kind of thing you, the more you share the better off you’re going to be. I don’t mean you have to share every specific detail. So a couple of things to do. One, you may choose to rate your main personal statement about it, or you may choose to use the space at the end of the application where colleges ask, is there anything else that we should know about you where you may want to mention that there, you may also want to talk with your school counselor and be sure that your school counselor discusses your unique situation and the circumstances that have affected your academics in the counselor letter.

Again, you want the admission officers to have all of this information in order to know how to evaluate your grades.

So when asked, if you have not done any volunteer hours or community service, does this heavily affect your application? Absolutely not. Community service is only useful if it’s important to you. So it’s definitely, again, back to that point that you need to find the activities that you genuinely love and genuinely care about and focus on those.

And if community services not appealing to you, there’s no need to do it. Got it. Someone asked are international students considered in the same way as Americans. So the answer is almost always no. And that’s a hard one to answer because it varies school by school. It’s really important if you’re implying as an international student to look at every college they will list very clearly if you go to the college webpage and you go to apply or admissions, follow that link there will be different things to click on for transfer students, international students and us citizens.

And it will say very clearly what the guidelines are, what the expectations are. But although the application process is the same sometimes spaces, more limited finances might be different. There, there are some variations within that. Gotcha. Someone asks, if you only participated in an activity for a short period of time, is it beneficial to put it in the application?

So I think that depends. I think it depends on how short a time and what else you have on your resumes. So if it’s the kind of thing that you did, something for a short period of time and you don’t really have much else there’s probably not a downside enlisting it. But if you have enough other activities that you’ve been consistently involved in it’s probably better to focus on those.

And sometimes activities just are inherently short-lived. Sometimes things are only spanning a six month period of time or not not particularly long lasting. And so that’s okay too. I think we lost the leaf for a bit, so I’m going to go through and it looks like, oh, wait, Lauren.

Can you still hear me? Sorry. I just still see the screen, but I think my videos keeps turning off. Do you want to keep reading questions then, or? Yeah, I can definitely keep reading. Okay. Next question. This one’s a bigger one. How do we know what to write our personal statement about? So that’s a great question.

And I think honestly, that’s probably one of the biggest reasons that people end up using a company like ours is that it really helps sometimes to talk it through with someone who can be on the outside. And we have lots of ways to help students think about ideas. Think about themselves in a way that, that it’s not really intuitive to do independently.

It’s pretty hard. I think to be self-reflective, it’s hard to know exactly what to write about. But in a conversation with an advisor, it can sometimes really come to you that you do have a story to tell and So it’s a hard question to ask without me knowing you individually, but generally speaking, it’s the kind of thing that, that when you work with someone, you’ll be able to get a pretty clear sense pretty quickly about what a good personal statement is and what is going to help you stand out and make a connection with your readers.

Awesome. Next question is any advice for student athletes? Sure. So student athletes are in a different category and it, of course depends if you’re thinking of going D one D two or D three for those of you who are not necessarily athletic that’s division one which are the kind of larger state schools division two and division three typically are smaller liberal arts schools.

So if you are going to be a recruited athlete, that’s a whole different process. And one that often coaches can be helpful with, or you may want to create a profile on NCSA and try to make connections with coaches that way, maybe doing camps recruiting camps at different colleges. If you are.

And this actually goes for things beyond athletics. If you’re an athlete, if you’re a musician, if you’re an actor, if you’re really into science research, if you have something that you really love and you’re really invested in and you think you might want to do at college, but you’re not sure you’re quite good enough to be the recruited athlete.

You can also. Email email the coaches say, Hey this is me. I’m going to be applying. This is a little bit about my athletics. These are my academics. Sometimes it’s, the icing on the cake or the cherry on the sundae. It’s just a little bit extra of information. Maybe you’re reaching out to the, the orchestra professor and sending a cello recording.

There, there are ways to make an impact and make a connection beyond the the application that might help compel your application forward and might help you ultimately stand out more in the process. Awesome. Thanks Lauren. So we’re part, we did a Q and a, so I also want to give learn, I want to give you a quick break and let’s let everyone know about both sides.

So since we’ve partnered with NCSA to bring you this webinar we also have a bunch of free resources at both sides that can help you with your calls. So we have webinars just like this one and we also have our supplemental essay guides. So I’m going to send you guys all the link to our free essay guides.

We cover a bunch of schools. I think we cover, all of the IVs and a lot of the top 20 fives as well. And so these are the guys who are written by current students or alumni from these schools who really know a lot about their schools and how to tackle the application after having a successful application themselves.

While I’m saying that out loud and I guess, do you want to tell everyone a little bit more about bullseye and you’re going to college at process? Sure. Absolutely. At bullseye we have a kind of multifaceted approach to helping students with the application process in that as as the least pointing out, we have students who’ve recently gone through the application process.

Some are even current students. Still some are more recent alumni and they’re available to, to work with students and help guide them through the process. And then also we have senior advisors available to work with students all the way up to someone like me. Who’s a former admission officer. We really take pride in getting to know the individual student, really helping you again, kind of shape that, that candidate profile so that you can stand out so that you can be memorable at the end of a long day of reading for that admission officer.

We do offer a range of packages and options. We know that this is a hard time for a lot of families. Our goal is to be helpful and really try to make this as stress-free and believe it or not as joyful a process as possible. It’s something that we take very seriously. Yeah, thanks, Lauren. Okay.

Before we get to back to the Q and a one technical thing if you guys are having trouble submitting to the QA, please send a private message to test you. Put your question there. I saw that you guys PMT your messages, but I want them to go into the QA so I can just get through the queue and get through everyone’s questions.

Okay. So our next question was how many letters of recommendation are needed and then what grade should they come? So it depends on the school. And again a lot of this, you will either in filling out the application, it will be obvious how many letters. Sometimes again, it might just say on the college website, typically a college wants to see two letters of recommendation from teachers and the counselor letter.

That’s the standard. Ideally the letters of recommendation can be from junior year teachers. If you had someone sophomore year or your freshman year, that you really connected with, those can be good letters, but the best circumstance is if you still have a connection with that teacher, if they’ve seen you grow and mature again, it’s something that, that we have both I can help you identify and figure out is the best the best teachers to write the best letters on your behalf.

Definitely they do need to be academic subject matters. So as much as colleges value electives like arts or music, they typically want to see recommendations from English, math, science, foreign language, and social studies. Awesome. Thanks Lauren. And then we also did recently have a webinar on letters direct.

So if you scroll back to the top of the public chat, I left the link there. If you guys want to watch. Okay. So the next question was how do you apply for an academic scholarship from your dream school? Unfortunately not every school has academic scholarships. Again that’s pretty school specific.

And also just because life isn’t quite complicated enough, it varies from school to school. So some colleges are you apply and you’re going to be automatically considered for a merit scholarship or an honors program. Whereas some colleges you have to apply separately for a scholarship opportunity in the application.

That’s going to be very clear. They’re going to have you check a box. Yes. I’m applying for this program. Yes. I’m applying for this scholarship almost invariably. There’s going to be another essay attached to that. But unfortunately it does vary school by school. So there’s not one, one answer that fits all of that.

In terms of merit money, though, in terms of being considered for a merit scholarship, a student who is applying at the higher end of the applicant pool meaning that you are presenting with better grades in a more rigorous curriculum. And if you have testing stronger testing then most of the admitted students from the previous class you are more likely to be the recipient of merit money because obviously they want to have you matriculate.

They want to yield you. Awesome. Next question is how did social media play into how you selected students? And did you see that a student was following your school and then observed what kind of presence they have on it? That’s a really interesting question. So there is something called demonstrated interest but that’s not usually related to social media.

That’s more, have you made an effort even in some ways it’s even easier now because of COVID. Because all you have to do is go online and sign up for a virtual info session or a tour or sign up to get on their list or sign up to do an interview. However, I’m really glad. Thank you. Whoever asked that question, because this is something really important that I want to highlight.

You have got to be completely on top of your of your profile. If you have been tagged in any inappropriate posts, if you yourself have posted anything inappropriate that will come back on you, colleges are checking this kind of stuff. You need to be really careful that your email address.

Clean and appropriate that all of your identity online identities are clean and appropriate because every year students get their admissions rescinded because they’ve been perhaps posting inappropriate things online. Gotcha. Someone asks, I took the act early in junior year. Do admissions officers take tested into consideration?

Yeah. They’ll see the test date for sure. You enter the test date on there. So most students the majority of students take the testing junior year, so that’s not particularly unusual. But yes they do see the test date when you’re filling out your application. And of course for colleges also, if you are submitting testing, don’t forget, you do not need to go to the act or sat websites and order official test scores to be sent.

Awesome. So on the topic of testing, so someone said in a test optional world, how do you standardized test scores make a difference in financial aid decisions and more tuition dependent colleges. This may be a major issue in financial consideration. Absolutely. That’s a great question. I think colleges are still trying to figure that out, honestly.

I don’t know. A lot of colleges are saying they’re not going to be looking at testing at all because it puts students at a disadvantage even for financial aid and scholarship purposes. I think others are saying that they, if you have testing, they will use it to evaluate the strength of your application and your eligibility for certain scholarships.

So again, that’s something, unfortunately there’s not one universal answer. If there are schools that you’re particularly interested in, I would definitely recommend that you that you go and look at the website really asks the question. If the question’s not clearly, if the answer is not clearly laid out on the website, I would also take it one step further an email, or try to call someone in the admission office and ask them what they’re doing this year in regards to scholarships and how they’re evaluating candidates.

Gotcha. Someone also asks, how much does the essay count in your application? So the essay is a big part of the application because it’s really your personality and your voice. It depends on the overall application in the sense that if you are not really academically qualified for admission to the school, the application, the essay may not have that much of an impact.

But it’s the kind of thing that if you are being carefully considered the essay can have a huge impact. Because again, it’s the reader’s opportunity to really get to know you and connect with you and have a sense of who you are, how you’re going to surface on the community. And just what helps you stand out, what helps define you?

Awesome. Someone asked, can we include in the COVID-19 prompts, the fact that our sports seasons. No, definitely not because everyone’s sports season was canceled. That really, I sympathize with that. Absolutely. But that’s the kind of thing that, that, colleges absolutely know that every student has been impacted in terms of activities and involvements.

That prompt is really for the extraordinary loss of life, severe illness, severe financial strain. I have six brothers and sisters and my grades suffered because we have one computer and I couldn’t do my homework. That’s really what that prompt is for. Gotcha. Next question is how does homeschooling affect the admissions process?

So great question. And it does in the sense that it can be trickier for admission officers to know how to evaluate your academic qualifications. So one of the things that’s helpful if you are doing a homeschool curriculum is to submit that with your application so that the reader has a sense of how your homeschooling was structured.

If you, a lot of homeschool students work in cohorts, and maybe there’s another parent or someone who can write a letter of recommendation for you, or if you’ve done community college classes and you have those like grades or you’ve done online classes where you have grades those things are nice concrete kind of measurable statistics that the admission officers can use in evaluating your own.

Gotcha. Someone asks, do you have any exercises to do that? Can help come up with ideas for your personal stuff? We do. There are a lot of resources on our website. That’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t mean to sound dismissive. It’s a little bit complicated to get into right now, just with limited time.

One of the things I know on one of the options we have, even if students are not able to sign up for packages sometimes students find it helpful even just to book a kind of one hour session with someone on our advising team. And you can really focus on just brainstorming the topic and that’s something that you might find helpful.

Gotcha. Someone also asks how does demonstrated interest factor. It doesn’t always demonstrate an interest is not going to have an impact on some of the larger schools where it really starts to matter is sometimes in a school, if you are on, on the wire you are admissible, you are maybe in a handful of candidates that the admission office is considering.

If they are, for example, considering say two candidates who look very much the same, have the same kind of background and trusts and academics. One of them has visited campus or virtually visited campus. Signed up for an interview, got on the mailing list and the other has had no contact. They’re more likely to admit the student who’s had contact because they’re more likely to yield the student who has done the research.

Enough to know that’s a legitimate application. It’s a school that the student is really genuinely interested in versus the student who might’ve just put out the application because it was on the list. Not because they had a real, genuine interest in that college.

I can hear you. Okay. Still. Okay. Next question is, can you give some advice on how to order your activities when you list them? I think I might’ve referenced this before, but basically you want to list the most important activities, the most meaningful activities to you first and then go down from there.

Awesome. Someone asked if the university has up to four additional recommenders, is it best include all four? Is it okay to have zero additional? Yeah, if you don’t have Extra recommenders. That’s fine. I can’t imagine a scenario where someone it’s hard to imagine a scenario where someone could get four really substantive, meaningful, impactful recommendations beyond the teacher recommendations.

So I would bring it down to if it’s a letter, if it’s a person who could really write something that would enhance your application, definitely it’s worth considering, but just to put in a, an extra letter I would avoid that if possible. Because again, your applications getting read quickly.

Reader’s getting through a lot of applications in a given day and everything should have an impact. Got it. Next question is it a good idea to submit another essay you’ve written for school in the indigenous information session section? And if so, does it have to fall within the six 50 word count?

Yeah. Good question. There are some colleges that will ask for students to submit an academic paper, something they’ve written for school. And in that scenario it’s obviously, welcome and they will want to read that. That’s not typically what that additional information section is for.

That’s usually to help the reader understand if there’s something that has impacted you and your academic performance, a mental health issue. An illness or a setback or a move in the family disruption students use that space sometimes to say, I had an opportunity after four years, I finally got into this elective that I’ve been dying to take, but it meant that I had to quit French because I couldn’t fit both of my schedule.

So something that would help the reader understand how to interpret your academics or your life circumstances. Gotcha. So when asked, would you stay away from figurative language in the personal statement? That’s a wonderful question. I would love to read an essay with figurative language and the answer unfortunately is I would have to read it because it completely depends on the personal statement and the quality of the writing.

Gotcha. Next question is if a student decides to take a gap year, is there any disadvantage when they decide to apply the following year? Typically when students take gap years, they go through the application process and then maybe defer admission for a year. If you do decide to take a gap year, you just want to be really sure that you are community keen and clearly with your teachers and your counselor, because it’s sometimes harder to get all of that documentation and information.

When a whole year has gone by it’s easy to fade from memory. You might even want to have them write their letters and just store them. But again, typically what students do is go through the application process, get acceptances, make their deposit, hold their spot, and then ask for a deferral for a year.

And a gap year, I think is a great idea. But I think it’s easier to go through the application process for. Gotcha. Okay. We’re going to try to zoom through the rest of the questions that I’m seeing here. So someone asks will my college application be heavily affected if I didn’t do a lot of activity again, I think it just comes down to, to the meaning of the activities that you do have it.

You don’t have to have done a lot of different things. You just have to have really cared about the few things you have done. Gotcha. Okay. This one should be quick. So how many colleges do you advise to apply? It depends on the student and the academics and the competitiveness of the schools on your list.

And what I mean by that is that even if you have a perfect GPA and perfect scores some of the schools out there are going to be reach schools for everybody, whether or not you are, on paper, the perfect candidate. Typically I recommend between about eight and 12 schools sometimes, up to 13 or so usually two to four safety schools the bulk of the schools in that kind of match category.

And then again, maybe two to four, two to five reach schools as well. Gotcha. Can you one second to load my tag? So when also asked my college, I already did that one. I have what if I get bad grades and all those classes? Is that something that will hold me back in the admission process? I think what’s really important in terms of answering that question is that’s when the list becomes really important, the list, the appropriateness of the college list the realistic approach to shaping the list, making sure that it’s reflective of what’s going to give you the best outcome and the best opportunities as well as helping the reader understand the context for your grades or anything that might’ve impacted your academics and your academic performance.

Every student has a story to tell it. And remember the admission officers really genuinely do want to see the best in you. So they’re always going to want to understand if there’s something that has impacted your performance during school.

Awesome. So I think that’s the end of our time for today. Lauren, I’m going to flip the side for you and I’ll let you do an outro. Sure. I I just want to thank everyone for joining us tonight. Again I hope I didn’t cause more anxiety by sharing this information. It really can be exciting. And lead to just some wonderful opportunities.

Please let us know here at bulls-eye. If we can help you with anything. I wish everyone all the best. We are continuing our wonderful webinars series please join us on the 10th for our next presentation. And thank you all so much for being here with us tonight. Thank you, Lily, for all of your help.

All right. Thanks so much, Lauren. Great hope everyone has a great night.