What Do Admissions Officers Want to See?

In this webinar, former admissions officer Joanne Pluff will explore the crucial elements that admissions officers are looking for in college applications. Through her expert insights and real-world examples, you will gain valuable knowledge to help you stand out in the competitive college admissions process. Here are the key learnings you can expect:

Understanding the Admissions Process: Gain a comprehensive understanding of how the college admissions process works, from application submission to decision day.

Crucial Application Components: Discover the essential elements of a successful college application, including GPA, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, and more.

The Personal Statement: Learn how to craft a compelling personal statement that showcases your unique story, passions, and ambitions.

Recommendation Letters: Understand the importance of strong recommendation letters and how to request and utilize them effectively.

Extracurricular Excellence: Find out how to leverage your extracurricular activities to demonstrate your skills, leadership, and commitment.

Demonstrated Interest: Explore the concept of demonstrated interest and how it can set you apart from other applicants.

Admissions Essays: Get tips and strategies for writing standout admissions essays that reflect your personality and aspirations.

Q&A Session: Have your burning questions answered by our expert.

Join us for this enlightening webinar and gain the knowledge and confidence you need to navigate the college admissions process successfully.

Date 10/11/2023
Duration 1:00:13

Webinar Transcription

2023-10-11 – What Do Admissions Officers Want to See?

Lonnie: Hello, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisors webinar, “What Do Admission Officers Want to See.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing We’re first going to begin with a presentation and then we’ll have the opportunity to answer your questions and a live Q and A. On the sidebar, you can also download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.

Now, let’s meet our panelists.

Joanne: Hi, everyone. My name is Joanne Pluff. I am a former, um, admission officer at Hamilton College and Utica. Well, now University, both in central New York. I currently serve as an associate vice president at a university here in In Washington, D.C. Where I’m assuming to you from and I am very excited to answer any questions you might have about this process.

Lonnie: Okay. Thank you, Joanne. So before, um, Joanne gets into her presentation, we would like to know what grade you are in. So let us know because it gives us the opportunity to make sure we’re speaking directly to our audience that’s here. Absolutely. Okay, the responses have come in. All right. So we have majority of our audience tonight are in the 12th grade.

So we have 72 percent 12th grade. Followed by that we have 17 percent in the 11th grade and we have a small percentage of 8th grade students as well as other.

Joanne: All right, very good. 8th grade that’s early, but I, I support it. I think it’s never too early to start. So, um, I’ll go when I’m talking about the application.

Of course, we’re talking about digital applications. We typically utilize the common application, but no. There are a bunch of different application options. There’s the coalition application, the black common application. And, of course, sometimes universities or colleges have their own internal application, but typically, you’ll notice that most schools are on the common app.

So, when we’re speaking about the applicant profile, we’re talking about the information that the student self submit. So if you haven’t started yet, or you’re a senior and you’re getting around to it now, what you need to know is your applicant profile is all the information, demographic information about you.

So it constitutes of your name, address, your contact information, both email and phone number. Um, It is important, students, that you’re utilizing your own credentials, as these colleges, once you submit your application, will contact you, so it’s not time to use your parents email or phone number.

Additionally, you’ll need to list your nationality and or race, um, your guardian information, so who do you live with, who, um, who helps with the bills, and then a list of your current courses. For students who are in 11th grade, typically you can start your Common App application profile sooner rather than later, but there’s really no need to start it, I would say, earlier than the summer of your senior year.

Typically, that information does not change. It, um, is just a requirement for every applicant, whether you’re an international or a domestic student. And then, of course, your list of courses would be something that’s a variable. For every student, that would be something that’s different. So they just want to know, especially for students who are applying early decision or early action, they want to know what courses you are enrolled in.

And then I also should say, um, as we’re chatting here, I typically, it’s hard for me to see direct messages for Q and A, but, um, luckily I’ve got a sidekick tonight. So if you put them directly in the Q and A, we can get to them at the end of this presentation. So, um, this is a question that I think every student asks, but luckily we’re all kind of on the same page when it comes to the evaluation.

So how are applicants evaluated? The biggest thing we’re going to look at is your high school transcript. So while many schools do what’s called a holistic review, holistic review means they’ll review anything that’s submitted by the student. Let’s not get crazy. We’re not saying, you know, a song or a poem, any required, um, application, application documents or optional, um, supplemental essays will be considered.

This means anything that you submit, we will review. So most schools are doing a digital, um, application. So anything that you send to us will be automatically transposed into the screen that we see. So we take a look at your transcript. The transcript being the most important because it tells us if you’re academically, you know, eligible for our school.

While I know that’s tough for some people to hear, and while I am saying that we look at the bigger picture, academically, we do need to make sure that you’re able to do the work. So if you’re not able to fulfill the high rigor of, let’s say, a math heavy school, and you’ve only taken, you know, up to Algebra 2, That may not be beneficial for you, and it’s something to be considered.

So your GPA is definitely, of course, um, the 1 thing that I think is the most important. And then, of course, there are some other factors. We look at what’s called the strength of your schedule. So we will evaluate each student based on the context of their school. So I went to a large public high school in Massachusetts where we had access to, I think, 20 AP courses, honors level courses, IB courses.

My husband, on the other hand, went to a smaller, um, city school district where he was in a class of 200. They did not have access to AP scores. So those are apples to oranges. We evaluate the student based on the context of their school, meaning if your school had advanced classes, did you take them? If you took them, how well did you do in them?

Is there a pattern we can see? Um, did you take dual enrollment or IB courses? So we want to make sure that you’re challenging yourself within your high school setting and you’re not just coasting for those four years. We’ll of course look at your essay. I think a lot of students spend so much time, um, stressing out about the college essay, but you do have to remember that it’s a writing sample and that’s exactly what it is.

So we want to know how well you can write and can you answer the question. Typically the common application, um, prompts don’t change from year to year. So if you have a senior in your, you know, circle and you want to ask them, you can start taking a look at them. The essay prompts to see, you know, and get some general ideas.

We really recommend you starting to work on your essay around, um, August of your senior year, because you want to make sure that you have all the experiences you need to, of course, beef up your application. Testing is something that’s kind of the misnomer right now. So many schools across the country since COVID are SAT, ACT optional.

So many of them are opting not to submit or require test scores. Then again, there are some schools where testing is quite important. Perhaps you’re applying to a highly competitive major, or maybe you’re applying to engineering and they want to see. They may require, but again, for many schools, it is optional.

And the final thing would be the list of your extracurricular activities. So tell us what you’ve done for the last four years, of course, in order of importance. So when we say the holistic review, uh, admissions officer will sit down to the computer and evaluate all of the things that I just rattled off.

In addition, of course, you are required for some schools to submit an essay or I’m sorry, a letter of recommendation. Letter of recommendation will be taken into consideration as well.

Sorry, too far. Okay. So what are the stages of review? So, like I said, academics is definitely the top thing because we want to make sure that you can do the work at our institutions. So, while it’s great that you have done really well. But I want to say, based on the strength of your schedule, if you’re not academically eligible or we worry about your success, it’s not lawful to the student to admit them.

And the reason being, we want you to be successful. College is where you figure out where you’re going to be when you grow up. It’s where you learn about yourself and really, truly learn about your career. So if you’re not academically eligible. That unfortunately does disqualify quite a few students within the early application stages.

The next thing we look at is fit. So fit is all of the above, right? So we want to admit students that are going to enhance our campus community, whether it’s by community service, it’s by research. Um, maybe you bring to us a different kind of geographic diversity. We want to make sure that you fit into our campus population.

Do you do some of the things that our students do? Do you really love Harry Potter and you, you know, would be a great addition to the Harry Potter Club? I have no idea, but when we sit down to review, we take a look to see how a student would fit into our by, um, application population. And then, of course, there’s the final decision.

I will say that for many universities, it’s not just one read and then they’re done. Usually, when a student is being considered for any university, you are taking a look at that application over and over and over again. At my university, our applications, we receive over 32,000 of them. Somebody reads each application.

Um, each application is read at least eight to nine times. So it’s not a light decision and we consider the student from every different angle. So just know that it’s not something we take lightly. We really want to make sure that as much as a student wants to be here, they’re academically eligible and they fit into the community.

So how long will an admission officer spend on one application? I think it’s definitely variable and I also think it is Something that when you are a more seasoned admissions officer, you typically can go a little bit faster because you know what you’re looking for. And, you know, the different parts of the application.

So, based on school sizes, what I would say, but each application gets about a 15 to 20 minute read. Um, and then, you know, some schools will do a one and done at my school. We don’t, we keep reviewing for weeks and weeks and weeks. So the reason it takes us so long to send back the decisions is because we’re deliberating.

Um, for some colleges, it’s, it goes to a committee. So I worked at a school where I would collect my list of applications on a spreadsheet. Um, and I would have to present, um, a five to six minute little narrative on each applicant and why. I made the decision on that student. Um, it is a daunting task, but most people who review applications really enjoy it because it gives us and allows us to, um, really get to know a school and really get to know a little bit more about the student.

We love seeing you submit the supplemental, um, parts of the application. It’s the best. We send you those questions for a reason. We want to know more. The generic questions on the common application, you know, they’re fine. But there’s obviously a reason that somebody is, um, giving you a supplemental essay.

So we always say to do it. And then, of course, it does, um, vary on the type of application. For some of the more selective programs, perhaps there’s a portfolio. Um, perhaps there are, you know, five or six more pieces of the puzzle that you’re required to submit. So it could take longer. But for the most part, uh, we spend between 15 to 20 minutes on Each application, which I know is really crazy to believe.

Um, but we do, we absolutely do. Alrighty. So what makes an application stand out? So I think oftentimes students believe that, um, your essay topic is really what drives how well, um, your application is perceived. And the reality is it’s all of it. So to me, the applications that stand out are the ones that are grammatically correct.

Um, they don’t have any spelling errors, and they share with me a educational and personal journey of what the student has done over the last four years. So when I talk about committee and being able to present for a student, the best part for me is when I close that application, the proverbial close, because it’s digital, um, I should be able to sum you up in five minutes to somebody else.

So, you know, Hey, here’s Lauren. A student from Minnesota who is a first generation student who loves really writing and she’s written poems and it was so exciting to read her essay about her joy of writing. Her counselor says she is excellent at AP English and they believe she’s got some great leadership skills.

It should be a well packaged journey and a well packaged story about your applicant. Now, I’m not saying that every single activity has to tie together. It does help us and help us paint the picture if they do, but it’s not necessary for them to be, um, completely congruent. And the other big thing is it just has to be well written.

So it’s not about the topic. It’s not about the journey itself. It’s about how you’re presenting yourself. So this is Your job, right? So your job is to go to college for four years. So we want to make sure that this res, this massive resume you’re sending us is well written. So we, a CollegeAdvisor, I don’t know, go through iteration after iteration, after iteration of applications.

Don’t let it get you down. It’s not, nobody is reviewing your application to make, we’re reviewing your application to make sure that, you know, that you’re And we know that it’s the best application that you can put forward. So those that are well written, grammatically correct, and can share for us the story, it’s the best. Absolute best.

Lonnie: Okay. Oops. Sorry. I jumped into one slide. That’s okay. Thank you, Joanne. So, um, thanks for sharing, you know, how to make your application stand out. We are now going to go into our second poll. So speaking of the application, we would like to know where you are currently in the college application process.

Okay. We’re going to see the responses coming in. So let us know maybe you haven’t started. Or you are currently doing research. Maybe you’re working on your essays, getting your material together, or you could be almost done. Okay, so I have some responses, and I see that 31 percent of our audience are currently in the research phase, researching their schools, and then we have 26 percent working on essays, 22 percent getting application material together, And then we have 18 percent that are almost done.

So congrats to those who are almost getting ready to press submit. And then 6 percent that haven’t started.

Joanne: Awesome. Thank you.

Lonnie: Yes.

Joanne: And it’s okay. You know, even if a senior has not started, there is still so much time. Don’t think about the time. Just think about being organized and figuring out a plan. I wouldn’t worry about the.

The stress of it all so much. Um, so yeah, what should I first should should or should not include in my college application. So this is Joanne’s ideas of things you should include. Remember, I am one admissions officer from, you know, I don’t represent everybody. So I’m going to give you the best thing I can.

So an explanation of your transcript. Let’s say, perhaps you are a student who, um, maybe you started off in, you know, Your freshman year, your first year of high school, and you didn’t do so well. I think you you all maybe were impacted by covid. Maybe you didn’t learn so well during covid and your math grade took a nosedive.

The thing is this right? Your transcripts. Is the one thing that you that does not speak. However, people write letters of recommendation and you have the option to write an essay. So now that you know that you can control that, tell the story of what happened on your transcript and be honest with us say, you know what, it was a rough couple of months.

The first few months of, um, my high school career and I was trying to figure it out. And here’s how I figured it out by getting organized, speaking with my, my teachers. Going after school and I worked with one of the students in my class. If there’s any kind of a blip on your transcript, you can utilize your essay to speak to, excuse me, speak to that.

Or perhaps you’ve moved schools and you were previously in a school that had a Many AP tests and, and, um, class offerings and you move to a different one. Anything that you feel like is not easy for the admissions officer to pick up is very important. Um, and some will ask, but not everybody has the time to ask on 30,000 applications.

Why? Perhaps you didn’t do so well at a certain class. Now, I’m going to say this, and I hope people are listening. This is not the time to bash a teacher or a learning style. Just tell us what happened. Um, you don’t need to name names, but if you have a blip on your transcript, you should write about it.

The Common Application also gives you the option to add 10 extracurricular activities. Please add 10. Right? So think about it. Sit down with your family and think about, um, volunteering that you’ve done. Is there an MS walk that you’ve done for four years? Was there a time when you were babysitting your neighbor?

And, um, it was really important because your cousin, whatever the thing is, just make sure that you write it. And I will say that now that we’ve gotten past COVID, I think there is the understanding that students don’t always have access to do official clubs or activities within the school. So if you’re a student whose parents both worked and you were responsible for your siblings, that’s a job.

Um, now it’s not, it may not be a paid job, but it’s definitely a responsibility. So any of those personal activities that You know, I think in years past, maybe would not have ended up on the list of activities. I think we are now wanting to give students credit for that, but let’s be serious. We are not going to put, you know, made my bed or did the dishes.

That’s not what we’re talking about. Did you learn an instrument by yourself or learn to speak another language? That’s pretty amazing. Not every student can do that. So those would be some of the more personal activities you can add. An honest, well written essay is also very important. Um, and just know if you’re a student that’s getting, you know, B minuses and C’s and your essay looks not well written, somebody or overly written, somebody will question that.

Somebody will question if it’s written in your true voice. So make sure that’s an actual accurate representation of your own work. Support is letters of recommendation. So for the seniors in here, by now, you probably have asked or have requested letters of recommendation from one core teacher and then a guidance counselor.

Sometimes students make the mistake of asking somebody who would not represent them. Well, please figure that out sooner rather than later. Um, and additionally. Some schools will allow you to submit a third letter recommendation, which can be from perhaps a volunteer coordinator, your boss at work, um, for homeschool students.

This is important. Just make sure it’s not your mom again. Okay. So if you’re a homeschool student and you are, your mom is the principal, the teacher and the guidance counselor. Find someone within the community to, um, assist in your letter of recommendation. And then the other thing you should include is the testing if it is relevant to the school’s academic profile.

So every year the schools will poll and do averages of the fall class. So for the fall class of 2027 or fall 23, there should be on whatever college you’re applying to a profile. The profile will tell you the Average SAT, GPA, AP, IB Scores. If they’ve taken them, it’ll give you all that information.

So before applying, and if you have the option to be test optional, or even when you’re making your list, you really should look at the student profile to see how you fall within that because that will tell you, um, if you should submit the scores and if you should submit should submit an application at all.

The things that you should skip are a poorly written essay and any incomplete sentences, right? So you’re applying to an institution of higher education and advanced learning. We want to see that you can write and put together a sentence.

All right, so what are the most influential factors that go into an AOS decision? Um, number one thing I would say that takes half of that pie is the GPA. So unfortunately, or fortunately for students, we’re pretty forthcoming about what we’re looking for using those school profiles. Um, and be honest, right?

So if you’re a student that’s creating and curating your list right now, you have to be honest with yourself, be honest with your parents, There’s no sense on making a college list, um, and applying to schools that you don’t fit within the GPA requirement or even averages. So make sure that you are really, really, truly evaluating yourself to see if you fit in, because GPA is the number one thing that we’re looking at.

Next, of course, we’re looking at coursework. Like I said, do you have AP courses? If they were offered. dual enrollment, um, did you take four years of math, science, and English? And know, of course, that we will get an updated, um, school transcript at mid year that will tell us what you’ve been doing. So, yes, we, if you’re applying early decision and early action, the first transcript that we’ll get will have only your junior year grades.

You need to, and will be required to, at some point, to submit a final high school transcript. I have seen schools rescind Um, admission for students who kind of coasted and didn’t do well the end of their senior year. Don’t be that student. You have to finish out. The reason they’re admitting you is because you had a strong schedule and you fit within within their academic profile.

If you end up just taking fluff classes. It doesn’t look so good for you. Um, we always love to see trends and grades. So did you do an upward movement? Um, if you did downward, that’s not great. Um, did you just maintain? Were you a solid B plus student? That’s your jam. That’s who you are. And you’ve done well.

Awesome. Or are you an A plus student? Um, and I’ll say again, just, I don’t want to harp on the GPA thing, but for students who attend a school where you have over a 4.0 GPA, you can have a 5.0 or 6.0, know that we will recalculate your GPA. So yes, you may have a 5.0 at your school, However, in our context, we will recalculate your GPA to a 4.0 scale. It’s not to disadvantage students. It actually will level the playing field because we’re, that’s what we’re evaluating students on. So we will set the baseline and recalculate your, um, GPA. Of course, uh, we will read your essay. Um, oftentimes students are like, there’s no way you guys read all of my, all of these essays.

We read them. Oh, do we read them? We read all of them. It’s probably my favorite part of the application because it’s just a little peek into what the student is thinking. So we will read them, um, and some will make comments on them. So again, you need to make sure that you have a well written essay. And then this of course, um, depends on the school that you are applying to, but some will look at the rank.

So does your school have, um, the ranking listed on the transcript or if you have access to it? If you decided to submit testing, we’ll definitely check that out. And then, um, the other factor is demonstrated interest. So perhaps it’s a school where you have to show them that you’re really interested. They may look at, um, if you’ve been to any of their visits, if you’ve gone to their website, um, if you’ve had an interview, there are many other, uh, parts of demonstrated interest.

Which leads us to the interview question. So I love a good college interview. Um, I think it’s a great way for students to connect with admissions officers. You have to recognize that this is a human process, right? We don’t do it by computers for a reason. We want you to feel like somebody is taking care of you and is evaluating you.

Therefore, when we have the opportunity to review, um, or meet a student, it’s an icing on the cake. And I will say that again, with this holistic review, we review what we have. And if we don’t have an interview, it does not mean that you’re not as good as a student with an interview that has nothing to do with it.

It’s if you interview, how did you do? So some schools will do evaluative where they literally grade you from, you know, an F. To an A and then some schools will use it as just informative. Um, I’ve worked at schools that have done both. So for the evaluative interviews, um, typically you can find that information directly on the website if the school is doing evaluative.

Um, and while AOs, uh, admissions officers and admission staff are typically the ones conducting, sometimes, um, there are alumni interviewers that people can. And those are typically more evaluative. So no school is going to give out any kind of a rubric base to base your evaluative interview on. Um, but they’ll definitely give you some tips of what to share.

So students that I’m prepping. I always tell them, this is a chance for you to jump off the page. So, the piece of paper that we read is, it’s black and white. There’s no color, there’s no picture. You have to be the color in that. So, it is the goal, and typically every admissions office does this, does some kind of little write up that will go directly in your interview.

in your application file. I believe that the interviews definitely enhance a student’s application if you’re able to find the time to sit in front of someone. I know not every student is offered that opportunity, but if you can do it and the school is allowing you to, I definitely would recommend it.

Interviews you should go into with great preparation. At CollegeAdvisor, we do interview preparation, so it’s not something you should go into cold. If any of you all are on Reddit, usually for the schools who use the same questions over and over again, you can find their questions on Reddit.

So in my humble opinion, what’s the most important component of the application, so I can’t reiterate this enough, um, is the student GPA and transcript. So, The question of, can you be academically successful is what we are answering. So yes, we want you to be in our clubs. We want you to play our sports. We want you to be in the band.

We want all of those things. We also need you to graduate and we want you to be successful. So if you can’t do the work and you’re not successful, you’re not going to be able to do any of the extracurricular things. So to me, that is the single most important part of the application. And it is how we determine.

If you can be within our school community, so it’s great if you have all these extracurriculars, um, you’re a 3. 2, but the school requires a 4. 0, it probably will not work out for you. Um, I hate to be blunt, but we try to be as honest as possible. And if you call any school, if you can’t find their academic profile, they will tell you.

They’re not going to tell you where they would fare either way, whether the student would be admitted or not admitted, but they’ll definitely give you an idea of who is academically. Um, viable for the school. So last advice that I have for students. Um, I, I just can’t stress it enough. I know that. College is a really stressful time, and I don’t think that every student wants to have their parents kind of over their shoulder, but this is one of those things that it’s so expensive and so important that students have to let people in.

And if it’s not going to be your parents, find somebody to work with, because the checking and double checking is so necessary. We don’t want students to feel. like they’re rushed. We want you to feel prepared. We want you to feel like this application is the best representation. And the only way to do that is to double check.

And when I tell you I’ve read the list of extracurriculars and essays like hundreds of times, I’ve done that and it’s fine. And I, I just, I don’t want students to feel like they need to get a chip on their shoulder about it because it just is what it is. We’re not evaluating you, And tell you that you’re a bad person.

We just want the best for you. So checking and double checking will be annoying, but it is definitely necessary for success. And then, um, like I was sharing with you all before, some schools use the, uh, the committee review process where you have to present a student. So, have somebody that you don’t really know, as well, read your application and see if they can tell your application story.

If they can tell your story, you’ve done a great job. You were able to, um, Complete and make sure that your package has a bow on it if they’re not able to tell a story about your academic and personal history. I would try to figure out how you can beef up your application. Um, are there supplemental essays?

Are there additional things that are missing? Is it just cleaning? Just make sure, check, double check, and make sure that we can evaluate and sum you up in less than five minutes.

Lonnie: Okay. Thank you for that last advice for, to our students. Um, we are going to move into our live questions and answers. So you have the opportunity to submit your questions in the Q and a tab. And thank you to our audience who have already began submitting their questions. Um, if you notice that you can’t find the Q and a tab, um, just try logging off and then logging back in through the link that was sent in your email.

Um, and to ensure that your question gets answered, we just ask that you do place your. questions in the Q and a tab for us. All right. So our first question reads, if I changed schools my senior year so that I can have the option to take dual enrollment, would this be important to note in the additional information section?

Joanne: Absolutely. Um, because I think for extenuating circumstances aside, your average high school student, the family tries to finish in the same school. So I would just. Yeah, absolutely. Let them know. I mean, this is a great thing. You’re moving schools to get a better education or access to better courses. I think I would definitely tell them, um, your guidance counselor probably likely if they are the new guidance counselor will say this student came to us in senior year because they were looking for XYZ.

So usually that’s one that’s kind of covered. But yeah, I would definitely take the opportunity to put that in there.

Lonnie: Great. Our next question is, if AP Calculus is an option, but my child decides to take one semester of Calculus and another semester of a different math course, will this hurt their application?

Joanne: I don’t think it would hurt the application, but I, if I was reading that, I would. Want to know why? So why did the student decide not to? Um, was it, uh, academic? Were they not able to do the course? Were they not enjoying it? It’s kind of one of those things that even if your kid is not enjoying it, but they’re doing fine in the course, we may need to stick it out.

Um, somebody just needs to talk about it. And again, your guidance counselor, or perhaps the new math teacher can speak about it. But typically, if you’re in the class and you’re doing well, there’s no reason to back out of it.

Lonnie: Okay, if my common essay, um, talks about some key performances I did, is it okay to include a link to the, um, a link to video clips in case the reviewer wants to watch them?

Joanne: So I love watching links and things that students send. I think it’s my favorite. Um, I work at a school where students can apply for performing arts, so we get to see some of their videos. If you have the opportunity to, yeah, absolutely. Um, just know, and this is important, so if you’re putting a link to your Instagram and it may not have the best representation of you for all of your years, you probably don’t want to do that.

Um, for the students, for the Performing Arts majors, they typically create their own YouTube channels and put the links there. So that’s what I would suggest, is creating a channel, putting your links, and then you can put the link. to your links in the application. I think it’s great. Um, like I said, we literally read and review everything that you submit.

So it wouldn’t be bad. Um, and I think it also would be pretty cool to watch. We love seeing that kind of like special interest stuff.

Lonnie: Great. Great. That’s really good insight. Um, does it hurt the application to not do blind recommendations? So I would assume this is, You know, basically stated that you want to view the recommendation.

Joanne: Yeah, I don’t think so. Um, I think that is just a question for your reviewer. Some reviewers or recommenders don’t want the students to see. And some do that. That’s not really a factor at all. That doesn’t so much matter to us. I think either is fine. But again, it’s just about. us getting to know you and making sure that the person representing you is doing the best for you.

Lonnie: Do you have to use complete sentences in the activity section?

Joanne: We highly recommend it. There’s no reason not to. There’s enough for you to write a nice little sentence. So do it, especially for like random clubs. Like, like I said, you read so many applications. You can’t assume that anybody knows what NYSFA or whatever stands for.

So we need to know. So if you’re going to use the acronym because it doesn’t fit in this place, just say it is the state band competition. Great. That’s it. It takes you two seconds, an extra two seconds.

Lonnie: Um, when you say influential GPA, is that junior year or, sorry, is that junior year only or average of all high school years?

Influential? Mm hmm. When you say influential GPA?

Joanne: So it’s the average of all four of your years, right? So if you’re applying early decision, we will recalculate what you have. Mm hmm. But know that, um, your school will submit your mid year report and likely your GPA will be recalculated. This seems crazy, but we make sure that everybody’s on the same GPA scale.

Um, we, we want to make sure that everybody is at a level playing field. And there’s a really good question here that somebody’s asking about, um, a school that does not do GPAs. But they do more narratives for their courses. So it is a unique thing. Um, and I think it’s actually pretty cool. Um, I’ve read many applications for students where the school submits a narrative instead of a grade.

Usually the school will give us a general idea of where the student would fall. We provide a scale and we say, can you tell us where the student would fall within this scale? Um, but it is a judgment call. Um, and you definitely know if a student is being spoken about positively and you definitely know if a student is being spoken about negatively with the narratives.

It usually is pretty black or white. They’re doing great. Or. They may have had some issues this semester. Um, but it’s something that we’re all used to. There are schools in, I would say, every district, every corner of the U. S. that somebody does this. So we’re pretty used to it by now. I’m actually shocked more schools don’t do this.

Lonnie: Um, and I think the question that you kind of were referring to, I just want to read that one, but, um, this is for the high school that doesn’t, um, take the letter grades. And so they wanted to know, have you seen, have you seen much of this? And are there any unique tips for this situation?

Uh, let’s see our student athletes consider for what they contribute to the team.

Joanne: So sort of, um, I’ll tell you like systemically, we can’t athletes play a role on every campus. And coaches are playing to win. So those coaches are going to put forward and tell you this student is going to be a program changer, right?

Any program changer is welcome at any university. However, if they cannot pass the courses and they academically just aren’t up to snuff, Um, they likely will not be able to go play at that school. Most academic schools or high academic schools with athletics do what’s called the pre read. It’s where the athlete submits, um, a copy of their transcript and their SATs or ACTs, and somebody in the admissions office will look at it and say, okay, we think that they’ll be okay.

So usually, you know, for seniors, you kind of know whether or not you’re going to be. Admitted or what you need to do. And the athlete, the admissions athletic team may come back and say, we need them to take the S. A. T. S. Or a C. T. S. Again and get a better score or this may not work out or the student is fine.

We think that they would be admissible and, you know, will will be able to continue. support that their candidacy through the application period. You pretty much know, especially when it comes to your division one schools, whether or not, um, the school is seriously considering admitting you.

Lonnie: Um, if I get waitlisted, can I reapply?

Joanne: No. Well, you can’t reapply in that cycle. So if you’re waitlisted, let’s say for my university, I waitlist you in early action. Um, You cannot reapply until the next year. So you can only submit one application for each school per application cycle.

Lonnie: What is the admissions perspective of an officer or a potential recruited athlete?

Joanne: So I think it kind of depends on the person to be honest. Um, I was a college athlete and I tried to really make sure that I am looking at it from that lens. Um, knowing that only three percent of students or high school athletes actually go on to play on a field or a team in college is a really big deal.

Um, there are the schools where academics are a hundred percent first and, you know, everything else is last. To me, a student who plays on a sport for four years likely has played and has been committed to that sport for, you know, their entire life. Like I played soccer and lacrosse from when I was five years old until I was 22 years old.

So to me, it shows they’re like super committed to that sport and they want to excel at it. I also think about athletes who, you know, Did you have a job while you were playing a varsity sport and you’re on a club team? Like that takes a lot of juggling and mental fortitude to get yourself up early, to finish that homework, to be on time.

To me, I think of a college athlete as somebody who it’s a different kind of a lens because I think they can multitask. They can, you know, They’re flexible, they go with the flow, they love the schedule. I think of it as a positive. And I try to impart on my admission readers that this is something that not everybody can do.

Not every person, like my swim team in high school, they used to swim at six o’clock in the morning. Your average, you know, 14 year old is not getting up to swim that early in the morning. So you have to think about how that affects a family and their commitment. So to me, I think it shows like there’s such a high level of commitment for a student and I try to not reward them, but I think about that as I’m, I’m reading through their application.

So perhaps, you know, they only have two Um, extracurriculars on their list. Maybe it’s working and maybe it’s, maybe it’s three, maybe it’s working playing for the high school and playing for a club team, I know in the back of my mind, the juggling that it takes to do all of those things. And just as an adult, like a tire thinking about it.

So I think of it as like, Oh, wow, this student really, you know, was able to master all of these things. So even if they only have three, it’s really nice that they excelled and did well at those three things.

Lonnie: Okay, next question is, how much would it matter if you are just below a college average GPA, but above the required GPA?

Um, This one added a specific number by 0. 1, um, but are within slash above their average for SAT and ACT test scores.

Joanne: So, um, I’m gonna be honest. I mean, that sounds like kind of a defer or wait list kind of person depending on the applicant round. What I would say to them is apply early, um, try for an early decision or early action.

If it’s a school you really want to be at so that you’re in the first application round of that school. So that they have fresh eyes and making sure that your application is ready to go is, is excellent. Um, it’s, it’s really hard. Like I said, we read and read again and read again and read again and read again, all these applications.

So if you have the option, if the school looks at demonstrated interest, make sure that you show them that you’re interested, do the interview, do the supplemental essays. Um, All of those things if your GPA is slightly lower or SAT is slightly lower than their prior. If the school is SAT optional and you’re like 0.

1 below, don’t send the ACTs or SATs if they are on the lower average range. When I wouldn’t even send it, just enhance the rest of the application portions that you have.

Lonnie: Okay, next question is what would you ideally want to see in the additional information session section? And to be more specific, I have a class that I think of as an extracurricular, but couldn’t put it in as an extracurricular, but I want to still mention it.

Can I still put this in the additional information section?

Joanne: Yeah, I think that’s awesome. I think it’s such an awesome idea. Um, and an easy way to again for your application to jump off the page and speak to something that, um, you may not have been able to tell us in the extracurriculars. And I will also say, you know, with the extra, the additional comments section.

Just don’t use it to whine and cry. Use it. Use it wisely. You know, enhance is the word I keep saying it and it’s important. So use it to tell us something about you that your application doesn’t. So yes, that’s an excellent place to put that. And if you have a link to whatever it is, you know, we like to see that too.

Lonnie: Can I include extracurriculars that aren’t official like school clubs or competitions, but something I’ve spent a lot of time on?

Joanne: Yeah, definitely. Um, I wouldn’t put like did my laundry for my mom. Like that’s not an extracurricular, but you know, I had a student who she used to make miniature, um, like doll scapes with clay, spent a ton of time doing it, had all these pictures of it was her hobby.

Absolutely. Put it down. I absolutely think you should. We love to see an out of the box extracurricular activity.

Lonnie: Okay, we’re going to take a short pause so I can share more about the work that we do within CollegeAdvisor. So for those who are, aren’t already working with us, um, we know how, you know, competitive the process can be, especially for competitive applicants like yourselves.

Um, our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigated all in one on one advising sessions. Take the next step in your college admission journey by a free consultation using the QR code on the screen during the consultation a member of our team will review your current extracurricular list Discuss how it lines up with your college goals and help you find opportunities for growth and leadership After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date and time for a phone conversation With a member from our team.

Okay, so I will continue to have the QR code On the screen as we move into our next question, and so this question reads, How does admissions look at an applicant who is perhaps first generation versus coming from a family of college graduates?

Joanne: That’s a great question. Um, for me, when I’m reading a first generation application of a student, it means in the back of my mind, I know that they may need a little bit more support through the process.

Um, maybe they didn’t know that the application, you could start working on the profile now. And maybe there were some essays. I’m not saying that I’m giving them a pass, but we use it just to kind of say, Okay, so this student may not have had as much help as another. Um, it’s not a bad thing. It’s not a good thing.

It’s just a thing. I think it’s just a reality. And with our 1st gen applications, the other thing that it’s used for is on our side of the house. Once a student is enrolled and or admitted. We create a cohort of first generation students, so it means that we have extra support for them. So at my university, we have a first gen club where we work with them to do their FAFSA every, um, every time it’s up for renewal.

We talk about financing for college. We talk about, you know, rooming at college, doing internships, studying abroad, everything that your average who went to college new, we try to fill in the blanks for them to support them through the process.

Lonnie: All right. Do oncologists use weighted or unweighted GPA?

Joanne: So we use unweighted and again, we’ll recalculate.

Lonnie: Um, this question reads that my essay is really sensitive and reveals so much about me that I haven’t told anyone. Is that okay?

Joanne: I think it’s okay. Um, just recognize that many people will read it.

It’s not like it’s going to be, you know, plastered all across billboards and things like that, but somebody will be reading the application. So I hope, um, for your sake that there is someone in your life that can review it for you, whether it’s your counselor, even a friend, just make sure that someone does read it before you submit it, but it’s okay to be very personal.

Just like err on the side of caution, um, we don’t need to read everything, but you know, if it’s your journey, it’s your journey. Who am I to stop you from telling your story? I think it’s great. We, we welcome, um, we appreciate, you know, that your candor and your candidness. So it’s not a bad thing, but just make sure that someone reads it.


Lonnie: Um, how significant are supplemental essays when compared to the personal essay?

Joanne: So, uh, I don’t know about you, but I always tell my students if it’s a supplemental essay, we are going to do it. We’re going to do it. Um, and the reason the supplemental essays are put into place is because If you’re using the Common App, everybody kind of, that, those questions everybody is asking, right?

So the reason we’re asking is we want to know something specific from you. That is a place where you need to be ultra specific, like go to their website, go to their campus, do research, speak with somebody about the classes and things like that. So supplemental essays to me kind of outweigh the Common App essay because it’s a lot easier.

It’s usually pretty specific to the school.

Lonnie: Um, is it okay to talk about multiple experiences in the essay instead of a complete story?

Joanne: Yeah, I think so. Um, I was just reading an essay where a student, like, broke their essay up into four individual parts. It’s not so much, um, I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

It just makes sure it flows well, right? So, like, there’s a great way to do that. Like, don’t write a one sentence paragraph and then go to a different subject. Expand. Elaborate. 500 words to a thousand words is a lot. It’s a short essay. So do with that what you please. Um, we don’t care about the sections.

We just really hope that it’s well written and this is a nice little, you know, a little essay about what you have going on.

Lonnie: Okay. Um, for colleges that are test optional, how Um, how do you decide if it’s worth submitting your S. A. T. Scores if they are, you know, not solid. Um, they’re solid, but they’re not exemplar, um, exemplary.

Will it hurt you to submit the scores?

Joanne: I would say submit if you’re on the high end of end of the average. I don’t think it will hurt. Um, but if you’re on the higher end of the average, yeah. Good job. Do it. Um, if you’re on the lower end of the average, don’t do it. Don’t bother. Um, it, it does hurt if you are falling between that lower range of where the student applicants are.

So why would we submit if, if you don’t have to, right? So don’t feel weird about not submitting. It’s okay. They’re not required anymore. We literally remove them from your application when reviewing. So it won’t hurt you.

Lonnie: Next question reads. What are your suggestions for the type of wording colleges are looking for in the activity section?

Joanne: So, it’s, to me, it’s just a simple sentence explaining what it is, you know? So, um, book club. What is book club? It’s a group of individuals who get together to read one book a month.

It’s really that simple. It doesn’t have to be, you know, some over thesaurus sentence. We just need to know what it is. Because again, what I think, um, you know, book club is maybe different than what your other, your average other person is, is thinking. We read so many essays, we just need to know exactly what it is.

So that it’s just a one sentence transcriptor.

Lonnie: Um, someone just asked, um, could you shed some light in the process, um, the processes for, I’m recruiting an athlete. If a football coach offers, you know, post junior year season, do you, do we still go through early decision, um, et cetera, or like the regular college application process?

Joanne: So each school will be different and they’ll tell you. So the coach will say. If you want to play at da dun da dun, you need to apply this way. And you and your family have to decide if that’s what you want to do. Usually the coaches are pretty upfront and forthcoming about where you fall. Um, so it, it really depends.

I would say, you know, early decision and early action kind of come into play for your heavily recruited Division 1 athletes. For Division 2, Division 3, it’s not as strict and strenuous, but, um, the coach will tell you what type of, um, application you should be applying for, for sure. And if you’re not okay with that, then likely you should not apply because that that’ll be your coach.


Lonnie: um, Should applicants reveal learning disabilities? I

Joanne: think you can. Um, it doesn’t hurt. Again, when we are asking, um, like these questions of you, it’s really so that what happens is your application pushes information into our student information system. So we use a program called Workday. So from your Common App application, all the questions that we’re asking, like, do you have a 504?

Um, do you have allergies? Do you, are you first gen? It goes into your student profile so that we can create programming for you. It’s never a bad thing, right? So like, if you’re dyslexic or have ADD, nobody’s ever going to discount you for it. The reason we want to know is so that I can prepare student services and say, Oh, you need a list of the students coming next year who have a learning disability.

I can gather that list for you. And it’s something readily available. It’s there. It’s not going to hurt you. It, if anything, it gives us insight into how hard you’ve probably been working to be successful with a learning disability, because let’s, let’s be honest, right? So it’s tough. You know, I have a brother who has ADD and has struggled.

And when he finally got on track, um, and enrolled in the school that he wanted to go to, because he had the right supports. So any of those questions lead to us supporting you. If you’re not comfortable with it, that’s fine. Usually it accepted student stays and, um, your onboarding and orientation, they’ll give you the opportunity to reach out.

But the reason we ask is so that we can build those lists for those offices. So it’s easier for us to prepare for your arrival in the fall.

Lonnie: Um, what might help one’s chances to get into one of their targets? Schools,

Joanne: target schools. I mean, your changes should be pretty good. If it’s a target, it means you’ve met the G-P-A-S-A-T, you know, all the, the class requirements, all of that.

Um, it, I would say go visit, make friends. Every college has a list of their admissions officers on their website, usually broken down by, um, region. Go be their friend, tell ’em how much you’re interested and fill out that application. Do all the optional essays and supplements and crush it. That’s it. Just go and do you because essentially if it’s a target school, you fit all of the requirements.

You do the sport, you are in the club and activity they have, you read those books, you academically fulfill, so you should be just fine.

Lonnie: Okay, what would be the best approach to a YS supplemental essay prompt?

Joanne: Oh, be as specific as possible and Don’t BS them, right? Like any person can do research on a college website, but if you’re going to do the research and not actually talk to somebody, be highly specific because you could be like, Oh, this school will make me a better dancer and I’ll be able to dance the ballet in New York.

Okay. What does that say about the school? Say this school will teach me this type of dance to qualify for the American Ballet in New York City. And, you know, being able to train in this space, overlooking this forest on Tuesday nights when open performing. Be specific, as specific as possible. And we know, because we read billions of these why.

Lonnie: Um, I have another, another sports related question, which is great. Um, does AP honor classes help to make a football quarterback recruit more attractive for colleges? Where can I go to check admission stats for colleges? Is it on their individual website?

Joanne: Okay. So first of all, um, It doesn’t matter what position you play, right?

So they’re recruiting you based on your academics and of course, how you play. So it doesn’t matter if like you’re an attack for lacrosse or you’re a diver for swimming, I would take that part out of it. AP or honors classes does make any applicant more attractive to college because it means you’ve been working your tushy a little bit harder than your average student because know that AP classes and honors classes are harder.

Okay. So let me just say that where you can go to check the statistics. I guarantee if you Google, um, You know, princess school class profile of 2027, it will come up and if it doesn’t, you call that office because we’re all required to have that information on there. So every school will generate for you that information and it should be readily available.

If it’s not, um, call the office because it should be there for you. And every college website should have it. It should be under the admission page. And you’re looking for academic profile or class of 20, 2027 profile.

Lonnie: Okay. So with that, thank you, Joanne, for this great information and, you know, giving our audience a more unique perspective into what admission officers want to see.

And thank you audience for your great questions that you’ve asked. Um, this is now concluding our webinar before we end our webinar. Um, I do want to share with you all that we do have more webinars that are coming up this month, and so please check them out and we look forward to seeing you in a future webinar.

And thank you all once again, good night.

Joanne: Thank you. Good night.

Lonnie: Thank you.