Understanding the Holistic Application Review Process

Are you looking to make your college application stand out in the increasingly competitive world of college admissions? Look no further than CollegeAdvisor’s upcoming free webinar, “Understanding the Holistic Application Review Process.”

Former Admissions Officer Chelsea Holley will share insider tips and proven strategies for crafting an application that showcases your unique strengths and sets you apart from the pack.

During this webinar, you will learn:

  • The key elements of a standout college application and how to showcase your unique strengths
  • Tips for highlighting your extracurricular activities and demonstrating your leadership skills
  • Insight into how admissions officers evaluate applications and what they’re looking for in a standout candidate
  • Common mistakes to avoid in the holistic admissions process

Join us for this exclusive opportunity to learn from the experts and gain a competitive edge in the college admissions process. Register now for “Understanding the Holistic Application Review Process” from CollegeAdvisor.com.

Date 10/08/2023
Duration 59:48

Webinar Transcription

2023-10-08 – Understanding the Holistic Application Review Process

Anesha: Hi, everyone, and welcome to tonight’s session. My name is Anesha Grant. I am a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Tonight’s webinar is, “Understanding the Holistic Application Review Process.” Before we get started, I’ll orient everyone with the webinar timing. Our presenter will share some tips and strategies during the first half of the session, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q& A.

On the sidebar, you can download our slides of the handouts tab and you can start submitting your questions under the Q and A tab. Now let’s meet our presenter, Chelsea. Hi, Chelsea. How are you doing?

Chelsea: I’m doing well. I’m doing well. Good evening. Everyone. My name is Chelsea Holley and I serve as an admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor.

I also do many of these wonderful webinars and write. Some content for the CollegeAdvisor blog. Um, so really excited to get into, um, holistic application review, um, what that review looks like from the admissions officer side and how you can put your best foot forward. during a holistic application review process.

Um, I’ve been working in college admissions for a little over 12 years now, um, at a number of selective institutions, um, ranging, um, public, private, women’s colleges, liberal arts, HBCUs. Um, so I have a wide range of experience at different institutions. Um, so I’ll try to speak very generally, um, So that you can apply this process to whatever schools are on your college list.

I’m really excited about tonight’s topic.

Anesha: Awesome. Thank you so much for that preview. Appreciate it, Chelsea. Um, before we get started, we will do a quick little poll. So please let us know what grade level you are in. If you are a parent or a teacher, please definitely let us know if you are other, um, cause that also is good context for us to have.

So we appreciate it. So if you are a parent teacher, don’t feel like you have to put your child’s grade. Put that you were other, um, because we are happy to know that parents are with us. Uh, okay as we are waiting Do you have anything that you feel people are most surprised about in the holistic review process?

Chelsea: Um, I think People are most surprised that admissions offices really care about every element of your application, every element of your life, your background. Um, I think that’s surprising. Um, I think this process gets reduced oftentimes to GPAs. What round are you applying? Um, but really there’s all of these other factors that are actually really important, um, once you look at them all together.

So I think that’s surprising for most people once they actually see how the process works.

Anesha: Yeah, I think, I mean, I wasn’t surprised by it, but I think people are often surprised that it’s a very human process. Like, they are really, really trying to get to know you and understand you as a person, um, in order to make the best decision.

And even though the decision may not land where you want it to, they were still making that effort to get to know you and understand, uh, who you are and how you fit into the community. All right. Um, I will stop talking and close our poll. And, uh, just for context for you, Chelsea, uh, the majority folks with us tonight are 12th graders, so about 39 percent a third are 11th graders, and then we have a split between some parents or teachers.

Welcome one 9th grader. Hello to you. Welcome and, uh, bottom like 20 percent are 10th graders. So a bit of a spread, but the majority are 11th and 12th grade. I’ll hand it over to you.

Chelsea: Very good. Thank you. Um, so no matter where you are in this process, I think this is a really great topic to begin thinking about if you are a freshman or a sophomore.

This can help you kind of plan the courses you want to take, the activities you should participate in, um, and then absolutely if you are a senior and you are putting the final touches on your application, um, I hope that you can get some insight into how committees are viewing you. Um, Um, and even more, um, have some tips that you can, um, use on the final stages of your application.

So let’s start with, um, what is holistic review? Um, so to give you some general context, admissions review has evolved quite a bit over the years. Um, I would say 60, 70 years ago, it was all about your GPA. Um, then it became all about your GPA and standardized test scores. And as more students Particularly in the United States started going to college colleges became more selective.

Um, and because of that, they had to look at additional factors in order to make these really fine distinctions between students. So, it wasn’t enough to just say, everyone over a 3.6 GPA gets in. We have to really understand who students are so that we can distinguish 1 student from another. So holistic review takes a holistic perspective in making an admissions decision.

This means that we are considering all of the factors that you provide us, um, when we are reviewing your application. So this graph here I think is, um, really important and interesting because it starts with institution mission. Um, and this is important because every school’s strategy or approach for their admissions review process typically is going to be mission aligned or values aligned.

That means that if you look at the mission statement of an institution, they are likely telling you what they believe in, what they’re looking for, the type of campus community they want to have. Um, and so this is the umbrella under which they are making decisions. For example, let’s say you have an institution that is, um, a stem powerhouse.

Um, and one of the things that they’re very focused on is innovation. You might find admissions committees seeking out students who have experience being innovative or show traits of someone that’s innovative. In the application process. Um, if you have an institutional mission that really focuses on, um, service and being a global citizen, then you may have an admissions committee that is looking for those themes in the application.

So you want to start with what does the college you are applying for believe in? Um, and that is a great lens to understand how they might be looking at your file. Um, the holistic perspective, of course, takes in consideration. You, the applicant, um, that means your experiences. So activities you participated in, um, clubs or organizations you’re a part of.

Um, it can mean community service. It could mean having a part time job. Um, they’re also looking at metrics. So that GPA that matters, um, the number of rigorous courses for many institutions that matters. Are they AP? Are they honors? Those would be your metrics. And then last, um, attributes. Um, you can think of this as character, who you are.

Um, and so admissions committees are able to balance. All of these three elements, um, so that they can best admit a class that they feel is reflective of who they are.

So what exactly is a holistic application review process again? This is using all the information that you give to an admissions committee to make a decision. Some things to note. About holistic review, um, 1 is most selective institutions use holistic review. Um, so not all schools, but if you’re looking at applying to selective institutions who are admitting, I would say, fewer than 50 percent of their application pool, um.

Most likely, they’re using a holistic approach. You are more than just a GPA or a test score. In fact, I would argue that the more selective the institution is, the more all of those other things matter because they are being inundated with students who have a 4.0 GPA or a 1450 SAT score. So they are having to look beyond those things to really understand which applicants to admit.

All aspects of your personhood and life experiences are considered. Um, so this is your background information. We’ll go into exactly, um, what elements of this, um, you would put on a college application. But this means who you are, Should be reflected in the application. Holistic application review is guided by institutional priorities.

This is a big one. Um, we talked a little bit about this in the last slide. And then, lastly, institutions are looking for students who are a good fit on their campuses. So your job as a student. Student or a parent or a counselor is to identify schools. That would be a good fit. Um, the admissions committees are doing the exact same thing, but on the other side, they are trying to find students that would be a good fit for their campus students who have the potential to succeed students that would be happy there.

Students who have, um, interests that are parallel with the interest of the institution. So all of these things are important in that decision making process. So what are the main components of holistic review? Um, and this actually mirrors, um, what is asked of you on the Common App. So if you are a senior on this call, you are likely familiar with the Common App.

Um, for others that may not be to that point in the process just yet, the Common App is is a central platform where you’re able to apply to more than one college. Um, there are thousands of colleges available on the common app. So it is highly likely that at least a couple of the schools on your list will be on the common app.

So let’s go through the areas of application, um, that you would fill out. So profile is just your basic information. We have your address here, um, contact information, demographics, language, citizenship or nationality, where you’re located in the country, um, and then if you qualify for a fee waiver. So all of that goes under your profile information.

Next, we want to know about your. Family. Um, are your parents married living in the same home? Um, what’s your parents highest level of education? Do you have a legal guardian? Um, and is there any sibling information? Um, so why would it be important to know about someone’s family? Um, having an idea of the family’s education, the sibling’s education or background allows admissions committees to understand the educational context.

In which you grew up in, and so it may be noteworthy if you are a first generation student, it may also be noteworthy if you are interested in premed and you come from a family full of doctors, right? So this is information that gives us more insight into how you grew up, um, so that we can make sense of different details in your application better.

Um, we have your education next. So, of course, we’re interested in any high schools that you attended. Um, if you took dual enrollment courses at a college, that’s important. Um, we’re asking for your grades. Uh, if you are applying early action or early decision, we want to see your most recent year courses.

Um, any honors that you have. assigned or awarded. And then we also ask about your future plans. So, um, this is different than your major. So you may be asked, what do you want to major in? But the common app also ask, what are your future plans? So, um, examples of things students will put in that space. I want to be a teacher or an attorney or an engineer.

Um, or I’m not sure what I’m interested in yet, but I know that I want to work in the business world. Um, and so you have an option to articulate what you plan on doing. After college again, something that’s super insightful for an admissions committee,

um, testing. So we’ll talk a little bit about test optional later on in the presentation, but during the testing section on the common app, this actually refers to standardized test scores and AP or IB scores. And so this is your place where you’re able to self report what tests you’ve taken and what you received on those tests.

Activities. So activities is anything that you devoted significant time to that was not A course or a class. Um, so clubs and organizations could go here. Sports. Um, family responsibilities. Did you watch a younger sibling after school? Did you care for an elder in your family during the pandemic? Hobbies.

Are you a self taught pianist and you spend a good amount of time each week playing the piano? This is somewhere where you could also add that. Um, and then last we have your writing. Um, most selective institutions that complete holistic review are going to ask for some level of writing. Um, this could be your personal essay, or it could be a supplemental essay, um, that the actual college is requiring.

So these are the main, um, pieces of information that admissions officers have available to them when they sit down to make a decision. So what part of the application carry the most weight? Um, you will find if you are asking these questions to admissions officers at college fairs, a very common answer for admissions folks is A.

It depends. Um, but it really, really does depend on the institution. Um, sometimes it can depend on the major you’re applying for. There’s so many factors that make it difficult to say what piece carries the most weight. Um, but what I would ask, um, or what I would share with you all is that, um, there’s some questions that are going to go through the minds of the admissions committee.

as they’re looking over your application. Um, and these are two important questions. Um, one is can the student succeed academically on this campus? And so this is one of the critical questions that you ask yourself. Um, because admissions officers want to admit students who will do well and stay on the campus and ultimately graduate.

And so Academics is incredibly important in this space. Academics may be the most important thing, um, in your application, but it is more than just your GPA. It’s your interest. It’s the courses you’ve taken, um, how much you’ve challenged yourself, if you show resilience academically in those courses. Um, but this is an important question.

The second piece is how will the student. Contribute to the campus community. And this is everything I think outside of academics. So, um, what are you involved in outside of the classroom? Um, what do you want to be involved in when you get on our campus? What kind of character do you have? Right? So if you read in your application, like you are not a great person.

Um, that’s not someone who’s going to contribute to the campus community. So character is a big part of this. Um, what your interests are outside of the classroom is certainly a big part as well. Um, so I will say academics likely comes in on top, but right after that, we’re looking for well rounded students and students that are going to be good campus community members.

So let’s talk a little bit about test optional. Um, so test optional admissions policies, um, came into, I would say the mainstream during the pandemic. Um, so due to test center closures and social distancing, there became, um, issues in getting students to take standardized tests. Um, this is something that really pushed test optional policies, um, into the focus for many schools.

The backgrounds of that is that people have been questioning standardized testing for years. Um, you know that there’s, uh, people that may not test well, but their transcript and four year high school record is amazing. Um, in fact, research shows that the four year transcript is the best predictor of success in college, not standardized test scores.

Um, so there has been kind of a long movement of stepping away from test scores, but the pandemic really, kind of push a lot of institutions in this direction. Now you will find that more schools have a test optional policy or a test flexible policy than those that require test scores. And so this is something really important for you to keep in mind as you’re building your college list because you could choose to apply to schools that require test scores, or you could choose to build a list completely with amazing schools that do not require you to take a standardized test.

So the question, how does going test optional impact my application? Um, it depends on a few factors. So one, you want to know the standardized testing policies of the schools that you are applying to. Um, if it is a test optional institution, what that means in short is that if you want to submit your scores by all means, please do that.

Um, but if you do not want to submit You will not be penalized for doing so. You don’t have to tell the school why you don’t want to submit them. Um, you are able just to make that decision. And the admissions committee is not assuming anything negative because you chose to withhold your scores. So most institutions will provide an average test score range.

So if you were trying to decide whether you want to admit your scores, submit your scores or not, I would check out the admissions website of the institutions you’re interested in and look for their average admitted student standardized test score. If you cannot find it on the website, Go ahead and send an email to the admissions office and they can surely provide it for you.

What this tells you is of the students that were admitted, um, and decided to submit their test scores, what was their average? This can give you a guide to see if you are near that average, if you are below, if you’re above, Over it, and it can give you, um, some good decision making data when you’re deciding whether to submit or not to submit.

Um, 1 note I want to make here is. Most schools have been test optional for the past three years. So if you see a test score range that has an average, it’s the average of students who chose to submit their test scores. Um, this is important because many of these test score averages may be a little higher than what they were pre-test optional.

That is because of course, the people that chose to submit their test scores are going to have higher scores, so. Ask questions to the admissions counselors and determine whether you should choose to submit or not. It is absolutely a personal decision. Um, there are some students that benefit from submitting their test scores, and there’s others that will not benefit, but knowing the average score of admitted students at that college can give you a clue on whether you’re a good candidate to submit your scores or not.

And then last, most test optional institutions provide you with some way of communicating how you would like to proceed with your test scores. So you’ll either say, yes, I want you to include my test scores in my application review, or you’ll say, no, please don’t include my test scores. Even if you have test scores of mine on file.

Maybe you sent them two years ago. Please ignore them in the review and the admissions committee must abide by that.

So how much time is spent reviewing my application? This is another hard one and I’ve left you all with this really, really large range. So on the low end, six minutes, On the high end 1 hour, I know that doesn’t give you a ton of insight. Um, but I think the important thing to remember here is that most admissions offices are looking at thousands of applications a year.

Um, and so you have a very. finite amount of time to make an impression and to convey the information. So six minutes, that is an open and shut application, um, either in the positive or the negative, right? So, um, there’s enough really amazing factors where you become a compelling applicant early on, or there’s enough negative factors where it appears that you’re not going to be a good fit for the college early on in the reading process.

If an application review goes up to 1 hour, other people, many other people have viewed the application. So you might have a 1st, read a 2nd, read a committee that includes 5 to 10 admissions officers all talking about your application. Um, and so. 1 hour is definitely not the norm. I would say that most applications are reviewed and anywhere from 6 to 20 minutes, depending on how many essays there are, if there’s a portfolio.

You’re really hovering on that side.

Anesha: Okay. All right. We are going to do another quick survey or poll to see where all of you are in the application process. I hope that a lot of you haven’t started because you are not yet in 12th grade, but I hope that the seniors are in some progress. So let us know where you are as are waiting. 1 question that came up in the chat.

Um, was if you could just define the difference between regular decision, early action, early decision.

Chelsea: Yes. Um, so these are the 3 most popular admissions plans. If we talk about them in order of which their deadlines come, we have early decision, then early action. than a regular decision. Early decision is a binding admissions plan. Um, so that means that you are telling the institution, this is my first choice.

If I am admitted, I agree to enroll here and I will withdraw all of my other applications from other institutions. Um, so it is a big commitment to apply early decision early action also notifies you earlier on in the year, but it is a non binding plan. Um, so that means you still have until May 1st to make an ultimate decision.

You can keep applying the colleges. Um, you can compare different acceptance letters. And then make a decision. And then last, you have regular decision. Regular decision is also non binding. Um, these deadlines are typically not until the winter. So for this year, 2024, is when you’ll see a lot of those RD deadlines.

Um, and then at that point, students have until that they will find out until May 1st to make a decision. So regular decision, you find out the latest, but you do have a good deal of flexibility. Early decision is going to be the most strict in terms of what you’re able to do and how quickly you need to notify the agency.

Uh, institution that you’re enrolling.

Anesha: Cool. Thank you. Um, all right, we will go ahead and close our poll. Thanks to folks for submitting. Uh, so as expected, a lot of folks haven’t started. Um, 34 percent are researching schools. So that is a good place to be in. 15 percent are working on essays. 18 percent are getting their application materials together.

And 10 percent are almost done. So congrats to those wrapping it up. Um, all right. Thank you for. That break, Chelsea, I’ll let you get back to it and finish up before we open our Q& A.

Chelsea: So before we go to Q& A, um, I want to share some final best practices, um, and tips for you to stand out in the holistic application review process. Um, so the first one, start early and stay organized. So kudos to our freshmen and sophomore on the call. Um, that’s super important. Um, staying organized. allows you to not rush any element of your application because they all matter deeply.

Um, and really allows you to put your best foot forward. Next, understanding the mission and values of the institution you are applying to. Um, this is incredibly important. As I mentioned, this often guides the decision making process. And so you want to be informed in this area, um, not just so that you can pare it back to the institution, um, how big they are, their traditions, faculty members names, but you want to make real connections between something about the college and something about your own interest and experiences.

Um, be honest and forthcoming. Um, this is incredibly important. If you have any blemishes on your academic record, um, lean into those and give the committee information. Um, as I mentioned, admissions offices are reviewing thousands of applications in very little amounts of time. Um, and so what you want to be able to do is give the admissions All the information they need so they don’t have to make up stories about why something is the way it is when your application, you should tell them all of that information last identify your people resources.

This is incredibly important. This is your high school counselor. This is the teachers that will write your recommendation letters. This might be an English teacher that will agree to proofread your essays. This could be your advisor, a CollegeAdvisor. Um, these are your people resources. This is your village.

Um, this is not something that is best done in isolation. Um, it is, uh, certainly important to have other people involved in the process so that they can give you feedback um, on your application, um, and understand how you are putting together your application for admission.

So we’re going to go over, um, Um, Some quick myths about the college application process, and I will leave you all with some facts about the college application process. So, 1, I hear so often that it is impossible to get into college these days. There’s a lot of anxiety around getting admitted. We’ll talk about why this is a myth shortly.

Um, parents should be the final decision makers. Students should be the sole decision maker. Um, you can understand your chances of admission by comparing yourself to students who applied the previous year. Absolutely a myth. Um, there is a specific way to stand out for everyone. Um, and then last, college admissions is all about merit and fairness.

So let’s talk about the facts that coincide with some of those myths. The first one is there are thousands of great colleges. I think we are used to hearing the same names in the news, the same names around our high schools, or from, you know, Parents in the neighborhood. Um, but there are so many great colleges, um, that can be good matches for different students.

So I encourage you to broaden your horizon when you’re researching schools, um, and focus not just on what is the best college objectively, but what is the best college for you. Um, this process takes a village of supporters and decision makers. So it is not just The student, it is not just the parent or the guardian.

It’s not just the high school counselor. It is a collection of people, um, that can help make this process less stressful, um, and make sure that the student has all the information they need to make a good decision. Um, one of the myths that is probably my favorite is when I talk to students, or talk to parents, and they start running down.

stats. So GPAs of people that got in that live in their neighborhood. GPAs of people that got denied that played on the soccer team. Um, this is relevant only for that year. And I might argue it’s not even a great thing to do within the same admission cycle. Colleges change strategies and admissions priorities from year to year.

In fact, the admissions priorities earlier in the year may be different than later in the year. Um, so it is almost impossible to understand exactly why colleges made certain decisions. And that’s the entire point of holistic application review. There are so many factors that are considered that it is very unlikely that you can single out one particular factor and say, this is why this person got in, or this is why this person was denied.

There is no formula to stand out. Um, You know, I talk with students who want to know what is the right combination of activities. Um, or does this activity work better for this major versus this major? Um, this is a very human process. It’s a very individualized process. What works for 1 student may not work for the other.

Um, so the best way to stand out is to, uh. Um, Really be your truest self and try to be as authentic as possible in this process. And then the last one, um, I think this is one of the most difficult pieces to kind of hear and keep in mind. Um, but there are so many elements of this process that have nothing to do with you as an applicant.

Unfortunately, it is not always fair. When we talk about institutional priorities, um, Some of those things that shape how colleges are making decisions. They have nothing to do with the student and how smart they are. Um, most of the time, um, an example of an institutional priority might be, they just built a new performing arts center and their performing arts majors on campus, um, are one of those, you know, smaller majors.

And they make a, concerted effort to recruit and enroll more performing arts majors for a five year period. That’s an institutional priority that can greatly shape this process and has nothing to do with how smart a student is or how deserving. Another example is for public institutions. Um, a lot of state flagship large public institutions have a commitment to students in their state.

Um, because of that, you’ll see higher admit rates for in state students. versus out of state students. Again, this has nothing to do with all of the amazing out of state students that apply to let’s call it University of Alabama or Tennessee. It just means that there is an institutional commitment to students in that state and so they must maintain a certain ratio.

So keep some of these things in mind as you’re applying and this is why it’s really important. to have a list that truly resonates with you. Um, and it’s not overly based on what you feel the best college in the country is. You should find out what that best school is for you.

Anesha: Okay. We are going to move on to our Q& A. Thank you so much. Chelsea for that thoughtful overview of the process. I feel like point number four, which was there is no formula should be a billboard somewhere in every college town. Um, but so I appreciate you sharing that fact before we jump into our Q and a, just a cute, a quick little update for everybody.

So a reminder that you can download Chelsea’s amazing slides in the handouts tab. Um, we, A recording might be available. I just posted the link to that, um, by tomorrow on the site. And as a heads up, if you are not able to submit questions, just double check that you have joined the webinar through the custom link that you received in your email and not through the webinar landing page.

You may have to log out, log back in, in order to get started. The opportunity to submit questions. Um, all right. My first question for you was just a follow up that I was having an exchange with one of the students in the chat. So they had initially asked you said, I think you said most selective colleges will use holistic process and they were trying to understand what was meant by most selective.

So, and then. I answered that. So ultimately, the question is what process are followed by other colleges are all colleges using selective holistic.

Chelsea: It’s so funny. I was just catching up on that exchange as well. Um, as you’re asking that question. So, um, I say most because I don’t like to talk indefinite, but more often than not.

The colleges you are applying to are using a holistic application review process. Um, there are still some schools that don’t use a holistic application review process. Um, these might be more likely to be public institutions. Um, and they might just have like a flat cutoff GPA. And if you have a GPA above that, um, then you may be granted admission.

That is not the majority of schools by any means. Like I said that I had to put a number on the number of four year institutions that are using a review process. Like what we discussed. Um, I would probably say. 70 percent 75 percent are using holistic review. There still are some that, um, have a, have a GPA cut off.

Um, but that is not the most common. And I would say for CollegeAdvisor, the students, the schools that are on the list of most of the students that we work with, um, would certainly have a holistic application review process.

Anesha: Yeah. I was like, I was like. They caught me. I was like, what are other colleges? I was like, I think everybody is using it.

Um, but I did think of some schools that I know have a very strict kind of GPA cutoff, and they are mostly large public institutions. Um, okay. I think this is another point of clarity from something you shared. Someone asked, what is community disruption?

Chelsea: Yeah, great question. Um, so community disruption is a question that was added to the common app.

Um, during the pandemic, um, community disruption is essentially asking, how was your learning your life? In many ways, your mental health. How was that disrupted during the pandemic? Um, it is still on the common app and will be for at least this cycle. I’m not sure how long they will keep it. I would assume for a long time because all of you were in school during the during the pandemic.

Um, This gives you an opportunity to discuss if, um, hybrid learning might have affected, um, how you adjusted or anything else. It is completely optional, but this is another place where you’re able to speak directly to the committee and give us more information.

Anesha: I feel like it might end, like the class of 2025 might be the last one because they were the last that was in, I think it, in 2020 was eighth grade for them.

So it like it could have affected the transition to their first year. But yeah, I think 2025 might be the last one for where COVID is impacting high school specifically. Um, okay. Anyway, um, TBD, the colleges will, will tell us for sure. Um, is there any disadvantage to going test optional if you’re applying this year?

Um, for the colleges that allow you to do. So I know you talked about test optional, but I don’t know if you talk about the disadvantages of going,

Chelsea: um, the disadvantage for the applicant of applying test optional.

Anesha: Yes.

Chelsea: Okay. Um, so test optional, a test optional policy is meant to assure you that there will not be disadvantage.

With that said, depending on the school that you are applying to, what I would ask, and this is not usually a data point that they just throw at you, but what I would ask is, um, what percentage of your admitted students submitted a test score? That can be very insightful. There are colleges where that number is very, very low, 20%, 30%.

There are other colleges where that number is quite high. Um, there are also implications for your major. I would say particularly the STEM majors. Um, there may be a greater likelihood that STEM applicants are going to submit, um, an SAT or an ACT score. If so, you want to make sure that you are, um, competitive in that space.

Um, and then, um, Oh, I had one final example of, oh, merit scholarships, honors programs, um, you want to make sure if you are interested in, um, special academic programs or scholarships, you want to find out if there are test score requirements. for those because there are some cases where the school is test optional, but in order to get a merit scholarship, you must have a test score.

So you want to make sure that choosing not to submit your test score, um, doesn’t affect any other pieces of the experience and things that you might qualify for as an incoming student.

Anesha: Um, one student was asking for just one more clarification around the ACT, SAT. So. Uh, do we have to submit both a, c, t and SAT?

If we only have one, will they accept it? Um, if that’s a low score, can we send that? Not the last part about low score, but which one? Or both, I guess for the a CT.

Chelsea: Um, so it’s always one or the other. If you want to submit submit both, you can, but there’s no pressure to do. So there are no preferences typically between the 2 tests as far as admissions committee goes, you may find that you test better.

On the ACT versus the SAT or vice versa. Um, but that’s going to be a decision that you should make prior to submitting.

Anesha: And I’ll say, if you’re wondering about it, the ACT does have what’s called a concordance table, um, with the SAT. So if you’ve taken both and you’re trying to see how they compare to each other, that would be just a resource to look into to see if your SAT scores are technically higher.

If your at t scores are technically higher when you compare them to each other, but you only need to submit one. Okay. Um, one question. I was going to ask about athletic scholarships and this came in a bit earlier. Um, if I’m hoping to get a sports scholarship, should I still go ahead and apply? For early applications, would that increase my chances of getting the sports scholarships?

Chelsea: So, um, it depends on the type of athletic program that you are interested in. Um, in most cases, even at, you know, your division one institutions, your admissions process and your athletics process, are like two separate trains on two separate tracks, and eventually they meet. You should still be doing everything that we covered tonight on the admission side, but in addition to that, you are likely courting and networking with the, uh, the coach or the athletic department at that institution.

That might look like, um, Them coming to high school games, sending, sharing videos or highlights. Um, but yes, you should still be applying. You still have to submit all the same information. Um, but once the decision is in process, typically the admissions committee and the athletic department are going to talk about you.

Um, and then they will come up with a decision, um, not only on your admission, but also if, um, an athletic scholarship is on the table. All

Anesha: right. Uh, we’re gonna. Switch gears really briefly just for me to do a quick little PSA for those in the room who aren’t currently working with CollegeAdvisor. We have so many thoughtful questions and we know that it’s a very complicated process, so we do have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and experts who are prepared to help you and your family navigate the process.

process through one on one advising sessions. You can take the next step in your admissions journey by setting up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy session with an admission specialist on our team by using pure code that is on the screen. During that conversations, they will talk about extracurriculars, how to align your college list application strategy and getting you all the tools that you will need to stand out in a competitive admissions world.

We will leave that QR code up on the screen and get back to our questions. My next question I’m going to have to do a run of questions about the essay. So, um, someone asked, how does the personal statement differ from an essay?

Chelsea: It doesn’t differ much at all. Um, so your personal statement or on the common app called personal essay, um, is oftentimes your first required essay. It’s often the longest essay that you have. Um, And it’s called The Personal Statement or The Personal Essay because the idea behind it is that we should have personal insight into who you are by reading it.

Um, but it is not just a biography or something strictly written in first person. You are able to choose from a number of prompts and you’re able to talk about Um, you’re able to choose a topic, but the personal piece is it needs to be connected to who you are, to your story, and what you want the admissions committee to know about.

Anesha: Our next essay question. What makes a good college essay? Do you feel like your last three points covered that? What

Chelsea: makes a good college essay? Um, so, Again, unique to you, it is about you, the more introspective your essay can be, um, the more you can give admissions committees, um, insight into your beliefs, motivations.

background, um, what interests you, maybe even like vulnerabilities. Like it is very personal. Those are things that, that make a good essay. Um, you want it to be, uh, clean. So grammar, punctuation, formatting, there are those technical pieces that are super important. Um, but the big part is the story. Um, Make sure that there’s a cohesive story.

Make sure you answer the prompt. That seems like a like, of course, I’ll answer the prompt, but no, make sure you answer the prompt. That’s super important. Um, and then also making sure that it is in your voice, right? If you find yourself picking thesaurus while you’re writing your college essay and trying to like substitute words that you think will seem more intellectual, um, that’s probably not the best way to go about this.

This is less about big words and complex sit in structures and more about really conveying a narrative about yourself.

Anesha: All right, um, second to last question, are there any cliches that you would recommend avoiding in the essay?

Chelsea: No. So I, I think it depends on the school. So that, that could be a good question posed to the admissions committees for like particular schools.

Um, because they may have particular pet peeves that you, if they, if they’re willing to share, you want to hear them because those are the people reading your applications. Um, I think generally, um, political beliefs, right? You can kind of stay away from those. Um, some people say anything that is, um, a belief that not everyone might have, um, because there are humans on the other side of this process.

Um, and what you don’t want to do is speak about something that might rub the person reading you the wrong way. Um, so profanity sometimes is like a no, no. I’ve seen it gracefully done. But I’ve seen it done poorly more. Then gracefully done. Um, so just think about, is this an essay that I could give to anyone off the street and it’s not going to offend them.

That’s kind of the space you

Anesha: want to stay in. Last essay question. I’ll turn it to supplemental essays. So someone said many colleges are asking why I’m applying to them in the supplemental essay. Can you recommend how to best answer this question?

Chelsea: Yes. Oh, this is my like, favorite thing. Um, because sometimes I’ve worked with students in the past and they struggle so much on the why school essay.

And to me, it is the biggest red flag that you have not done your research. Um, You should be able to intimately articulate why you’re applying to a specific school. And if you cannot, I encourage you to go back to the drawing board and really determine why, um, this is not just about you saying, um. Oh, I want to apply to your school because you’re ranked number 10 in the country, and professor so and so did this research project, and the grass is really green.

They already know about their school. What you want to say is, I want to apply to this school because you’re ranked number 10 in the country, and I heard that ranking was rooted in faculty research, and this is why I’m Um, or, uh, the campus is really beautiful and this is important to me because I have a vegetable garden at home.

I don’t know. That’s pretty random, but the formula is you make a parallel with something that the college does good, or the college is interested in an authentic parallel in your life in your interest. That is how you explain why you want to go to that school. Um, stay away from like too much name dropping.

Stay away from, um, just repeating back what you know about the school. It should read more about you than it reads about the college.

Anesha: We should still have college specific details.

Okay, this one question is how I changed it from your version. So I’m hoping you’re okay with that. How can I discuss my leadership progression without bragging or showing off?

Chelsea: Brag, show off. That’s it. End of statement. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Um, and very rarely does that come off as pompous or showing off.

This is your one shot to advocate for yourself. This is not the time to be coy or, Or to be modest. That is not what this process is. Um, so you should be doing that. Show off as much as possible.

Anesha: Yeah. The school doesn’t know you. They know they’re starting at zero. So if you give them too much information, it’s all the information.

Um, I think sometimes they’re reading it from the perspective of someone who knows them or themselves. Is it wise to email college admissions offices, letting them know you’re interested in that college in order to get your name out there?

Chelsea: Yeah, I mean, it can’t hurt as admissions counselors. It’s their job to get to know you all to recruit in your cities and towns.

So, no, it cannot hurt. Do not. Apologize about that. You should email even if just if it’s just to introduce yourself.

Anesha: Um, all right. Our next question was from, um, the submission of the earlier registration. Um, does the holistic process review favor? Well, rounded students.

Chelsea: Absolutely. Um, now, I will say. The definition of well rounded can look different for different colleges, um, but generally speaking, yes, um, you want to be multifaceted, you want to be dynamic, you want to present yourself that way in your essay, um, that is absolutely what colleges are looking for.

I think the other side of that coin is, um, we have students that have interests that are pretty, like, decided and Pointed. I don’t want to say narrow because it has a negative connotation, but pointed. So like they’re interested in computer science and everything from their activities to their summer experiences to internships is like computer science.

That does not mean that you’re not a well rounded student. You can be very interested in one thing and have followed that particular interest and still be well rounded. Maybe it’s showcasing your personality, um, or showcasing your culture or background or something that you do for fun. That is also being well rounded.

It does not mean that you have to have like all of these different academic interests.

Anesha: This one student asked, what year should we ask teacher for letters of recommendation? Should we limit ourselves? To junior, senior year teachers.

Chelsea: Um, so you want to begin the conversation about recommendations. Um, I would say second semester of, um, your junior year, and then you want to make the formal ask, um, that first semester of senior year, but you can begin thinking about recommendations super early because you need to identify the people that are going to be good recommenders.

If you wait until your senior year to begin thinking about who’s a good recommender, that’s probably not a good space to be in. Um, so thinking about it as early as sophomore year, having conversations with those recommenders junior year, and then actually saying, Hey, now’s the time. I would say August of your senior year.

Anesha: Um, so to the question about like frequency of, or like, should I reach out? Someone said, how do I communicate with universities? Um, so what might be the different ways of getting in touch if it’s beyond the email?

Chelsea: Um, so email is definitely the most personalized. Way to reach out to your schools. Um, I would also encourage, um, following them on social media.

Most admissions offices, um, have pretty active social media teams at this stage. Um, attending events. Um, yeah, even going to a college fair in your town and scanning the QR code is showing that you were there. These are all ways that you could show interest and make connections with the admissions office.

Anesha: Um, someone said, what goes on a college resume?

Chelsea: So, um, on a college resume, not everyone requires a resume. Um, but you would put any activities or extracurricular programs that you’ve been in. Um, internships. Um, I like to see work experience. If students have work experience, that’s something that you can put on there.

Um, some students will put their GPA or the number of honors or AP courses. Um, there’s a few different formats, but I think because most colleges don’t require a resume, we really see a range of them. Um, but those are some examples of what you can include.

Anesha: Do you have any do’s or don’ts? ways to make a resume stand out.

Chelsea: No big do’s or don’ts. I will say that resumes have gotten more colorful and design forward in later years. Um, Just be mindful of that. Um, don’t want it to be distracting. Um, you also don’t want it to be like so creative that someone might not be into the way that it looks. Like, that’s the worst feeling where you look at something and you think, oh, I hate the way this is designed.

And you can’t even get past the design because It’s jarring. Um, and so in some ways I’m like, when done right, yeah, they’re pretty, but you don’t want to run the risk of it being like this distracting piece of information. Especially if it’s optional because they don’t have to look at it if it’s optional.

Um, you want to make sure that it is easy to read, um, that it is professional. We also sometimes see photos. That one’s hit or miss as well. Um, could your image be helpful? Maybe could it not be helpful? Yeah. Um, so I’m probably of the mind of like, and maybe this is my, my age show. Keep the resume plane. An image may not be necessary cause you just don’t know how it’s going to play in your process.

Admissions committees are trained to check their bias at the door, but we’re people. Right. So there is a person on the other side and you don’t want to share something that in some way negatively impacts your, your chances, um, in this process.

Anesha: Um, someone asked us in regards to, I guess, research, uh, what are some of the things to look for in colleges other than location and costs?

Chelsea: Yes. I would say, um, size. So how big is the college? Um, is it 2000 students? Is it, uh, 30,000 students. Um, is the college in a rural environment or is it in a big city? If it’s not in a big city, is it near a big city? Um, weather, like that’s a very kind of everyday thing, but that’s a big decision maker for some students.

How easy is it for you to get from your college to where you live? Um, is it a short flight? Are there not any direct flights that go? Um, what major should they have? Do they have your major? Um, how are graduates from that college doing once they leave? Are they employed? How much are they making? Um, there are so many factors that can go into, um, what makes a good college for you.

Anesha: Um, one student asked, what kinds of awards or accomplishments should you include in your resume? In your applications, both academic and extracurricular.

Chelsea: Absolutely. Um, that’s probably a short answer. Um, anything on the academic side or outside of the classroom that shows leadership or involvement in a clever organization, you definitely want to include.

Anesha: Sorry, I’m running through questions. Are there any, is there anything that I should refrain from putting in my colloquium?

Chelsea: No, um, like I said, uh, anything that could be considered a controversial topic, opinion. Maybe caution. Um, like I said, sometimes it’s done well. More often than not, it doesn’t go over that great.

Um, profanity is also in that.

Anesha: Okay. All right. We are running through questions and mostly asking clarifying questions of previously answered questions. So I’m going to cut us off there. And thank you so much, Chelsea, for your time. Thank you all of you for joining us. This evening. Um, and I will just say we hope you join us for our future sessions.

Uh, on coming up this month. And so we hope we will have our panel on comparing Ivy League colleges on October 10th. And a couple of days from now, we’ll have a deep dive on financial aid for folks who are wondering about financial aid and applications. We’ll talk about that on October 16th and October 19th.

We will talk about test optimal to submit or not to submit. So for the questions. For the folks who were curious about some of those topics, please plan to join us. Then we hope to see you soon. And until next time, have a great evening. And thanks again, Chelsea, for your time and thoughtfulness and going through all of these questions.

We appreciate it.

Yes, you should talk about your job on your application. That is the last question that I can answer.