Optional Materials in College Admissions

Optional Materials in College Admissions

If you want to maximize your chances of acceptance, don’t consider any optional components of a college application optional. Here are some common optional components:

  • Essays
  • Interviews
  • Video submissions
  • Portolios (art, maker, etc.)
  • Recommendations (any or extras)

Option to write an optional essay? Write it.

Option to interview? Sign up (then prepare for it…more on that here).

Option to create and send a video introduction, for example, like U Chicago and Bowdoin offer? Do it.

Option to send a portfolio? If you have a talent that fits the portfolio requirements go for it!

Option to send an extra letter of recommendation, or to send one at all if optional (many schools require zero LORs, so if you can submit one as an option….)? Request one and have it sent.

Why submit optional materials? By doing so you are going above and beyond what other applicants will do to demonstrate who they are to admissions. This could be especially important this year as schools go test-optional. It demonstrates a greater commitment to being accepted to the school to which you are applying. And because there is more of “you” for them to evaluate, you typically increase your odds of winning over the admissions committee.

Also, for many AdComs, not submitting optional materials looks lazy. If I have applicant A and applicant B on the table, and all things are equal but A submits extra materials and B does not, there is a higher likelihood I am going with A if those materials help me get to know them better. I like to see the extra hustle, and colleges do, too.

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Forté Virtual College Conferences – Fall 2020

Forté Virtual College Conferences – Fall 2020

College Fast Track to Finance Conference
OCT. 15: 4:00 PM ET – 7:15 PM ET
& OCT. 16: 12:30 PM ET – 7:00 PM ET
Open to Sophomores & Juniors from all majors interested in learning more about the many career paths in Finance.

Partners: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, PIMCO, Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Evercore, Hines, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Greystar, Guggenheim Partners, Marshall Wace, MFS Investment Management, The PNC Financial Services Group, Vanguard, Wells Fargo Securities, Virginia Darden, IESE, MIT, Yale

Women of Color College Leadership Conference
OCT. 22: 4:00 PM ET – 7:15 PM ET
& OCT. 23: 12:30 PM ET – 6:30 PM ET
Open to college women from historically underrepresented groups in business – with a focus on the experiences of Black/African American and Latina women – and from diverse academic backgrounds.

Partners: Capital Group, PIMCO, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Citi, Credit Suisse, DaVita, Deloitte, The Dow Chemical Company, EY, Hines, J.P. Morgan, L.E.K Consulting, The PNC Financial Services Group, UBS, Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc., Virginia Darden, Duke University (The Fuqua School of Business), IESE Business School, University of Pennsylvania (The Wharton School)

The application deadline for both events is September 20, 2020. The application is short and it’s free to apply!

If you know a woman that should apply to our virtual conferences, please send her this link — http://bit.ly/fortecc — and also, post on your social channels:

The business world needs more women leaders! Undergrad women can submit an application to build leadership skills, expand their network, and develop their personal brand at a Forté Virtual College Conference this fall. Let’s get #MoreWomenLeading. http://bit.ly/fortecc

Every effort helps! I appreciate it and thank you for spreading the word about Forté’s mission to get more women leaders into the business world.

HOME: Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience

HOME: Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience

When Johns Hopkins was founded as the nation’s first research university, we were charged with a bold mission: Create new knowledge for the world. We believe that bringing together a community of people from diverse backgrounds and lived experiences is fundamental in our pursuit.

The goal of HOME is to connect African American, Black, Latinx, Hispanic, Native American, Pacific Islander, and multiracial high school seniors to the people, organizations, and resources that unite our multicultural community.

To support safety and public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hosting our annual HOME (Hopkins Online Multicultural Experience) program virtually.

HOME Application

This application is required to be considered for the virtual HOME and HOME + Impact Program and all applicants must be rising seniors. To apply, please fill out the application below. Please indicate if you are applying for HOME or HOME + Impact based on your schedule and personal preferences.

Applicants must upload their high school transcript at the bottom of this form in order for their application to be considered complete.

The deadline to apply is September 21. However, applications are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the summer and early fall, so we encourage students to apply as soon as possible. If you have any questions, please email home.program@jhu.edu.

Space is limited for the program, and acceptance or non-acceptance into HOME or HOME + Impact is not an indicator of admissibility to Johns Hopkins University. Your application to Johns Hopkins University will not be negatively impacted in the event that you were unable to attend either HOME program.

5 Action Items for High School Sophomores & Juniors

5 Action Items for High School Sophomores & Juniors

We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and eventually admissions outcomes.

The best time to start prepping to apply to college is now if you are in grade 11 or 10.

Right now you can:

  • Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people that make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (ask us why these connections are so important)
  • Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 11/1 or 11/15 and not taking tests last minute
  • Make the best of campus visits (virtual and in-person when the time comes!) and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
  • Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use
  • Open up a Common Application account to get familiar with the system so by the time you apply you know it like the back of your hand 

Don’t let this time go to waste. Email us to discuss what you can do now to always stay a step—or three—ahead of the game.

 

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Free Online Event: Academic, Testing, and College Prep Strategies for an Unconventional School Year

Free Online Event: Academic, Testing, and College Prep Strategies for an Unconventional School Year

Reminder to join us for an interactive discussion focused on strategies to support students in grades 9-12. Some topics we will cover include:

-What college prep looks like in grades 9-10
-Test prep timing
-Extracurricular planning when most EC’s have moved online
-Researching colleges when you can’t get to campus
-When to apply under test-optional policies
-The COVID 19 essay

Date: August 25, 2020
Time: 8pm Eastern
Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86253772749

Please RSVP at your earliest convenience, and submit your questions for a live Q&A via the RSVP form.

See you on August 25th!

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August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

August Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

We will be taking a break from the blog for most of August through Labor Day weekend, posting only when very important news calls for it. We are focusing on making sure our seniors start school with most of their app work complete, so if you are a rising senior and have not started, now is the time!

Seniors

  • The Common App refresh is complete. If you opened a Common App account before August 1, please log in to “roll” over the base data. Please add schools to your CA Dashboard and begin filling out the school-specific sections; this is where you can also see supp essays and should be double-checking all prompts as you…
  • Continue to complete essays! And as you do, now is an excellent time to start thinking about your application strategy. Even if you are not finished with testing, you’ll want to complete applications this summer.
  • It might seem like a silly piece of advice, but many students are not aware that every college has a set of application instructions that are not located on the online application. Locate and read them for every school on your list before tackling the application process.
  • Colleges may not open for tours before you submit early applications (in October or earlier). Spend time taking virtual tours and connecting with and learning about colleges in other ways (reaching out to current students and alumni is just one example!).
  • Many colleges don’t proactively ask for online resources, but you may have an interest in creating a digital portfolio (LinkedIn, SoundCloud, GitHub, YouTube channel, personal website, and/or blog) to supplement your other application materials.
  • Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in August or September if testing is complete).

Juniors & Sophomores 

  • Work on a purpose project. A purpose project is one that you design and implement (with our help if you’d like!), which taps into your interests and talents (the things you love, that bring you joy, that you want to study in college, or that you feel could best help your school, community, or the world); it is connected to a deeper purpose and has tangible outcomes that you set. Past projects from students include writing a children’s book, completing a literature review or book challenge, creating a trailer for a documentary (and founding a non-profit, a school club, an app), spearheading an innovative volunteer event, fundraising for an organization in a creative way (selling artwork, an Etsy shop, etc.), and hosting a yearly beach clean-up. The possibilities are endless, and colleges love seeing students take part in meaningful, self-directed work. There is still time to design and begin to implement one. Reach out to us if you have questions or want support!
  • Now is the time to plan for testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources, or with your testing plan if you already have one in place and have not shared it with me yet.
  • This year, make a plan to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interests). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond formally leading a club or team.
  • Start to think about your major of interest (and how the activities you are involved in support it!). You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
  • Begin to visit the websites of the schools on your list. Explore the admissions and departmental/academic pages. Attend virtual tours and information sessions; there are so many options, start now!

Freshmen

  • Relax. Enjoy the final month of summer before high school begins!

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More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

Okay, so just about everyone is TO for this year!

Some of the recent additions to the list are below, but please go to FairTest.org for a full list:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
Brown (temporary)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of Charleston
College of New Jersey
Columbia (temporary)
Cornell (temporary)
Dartmouth (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Harvard (temporary)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
JHU (temporary)
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Northwestern (temporary)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Ohio State (temporary)
Penn (temporary)
PSU
Pomona College (1 year)
Princeton (temporary)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rowan
Rutgers
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Stanford (temporary)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Syracuse
Texas Christian University (temporary)
Tufts (3-year trial)
Tulane (1 year)
University of California (temporary)
University of Oregon
University of Richmond (temporary)
University of San Diego
University of Southern California (temporary)
UT Austin (temporary)
UVA (temporary)
University of Washington (temporary)
Vassar (1 year)
Villanova (temporary)
Virginia Tech (1 year)
Washington & Lee (temporary)
Wellesley (temporary)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams
Yale (temporary)

Please note: going TO does not mean schools will be “easier” to get into. And when a school goes test-optional, it does not mean that you automatically should apply without test scores. There are very few students who benefit from applying without test scores to many top-tier colleges.

Also, test-optional and test-blind are two different things; watch out for articles citing schools as test blind when they really mean just test-optional.

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How To Approach the Common & Coalition App Coronavirus / COVID-19 Essay

How To Approach the Common & Coalition App Coronavirus / COVID-19 Essay

This year, both applications have added an optional 250-word essay to address the impact COVID-19 has had on you. The prompt for the Common App is as follows (and you can find the Coalition prompt here): 

Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces. Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N

If you check “yes,” you will see: Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.

Of course, everyone has been affected by the pandemic: many students were not able to complete an internship, attend a summer program, or retake the ACT—and of course, almost all students ended up having to attend classes virtually for the spring semester. Colleges know the pandemic has limited options for every student in many ways! If these normal limitations represent the extent of your experience with COVID-19, we encourage you to skip this essay. AdComs will be reading so many of these essays that an unexceptional one will do little to bolster your application.

If you feel you’ve had an exceptional experience, however, read on for examples of some circumstances that might be acceptable to talk about in this essay. Although this list is not exhaustive, it should give you a sense of what AdComs might expect to read in this new space. 

Circumstances that might warrant an essay: 

  • Illness: You were very sick; a close family member was very sick; or, in the worst-case scenario, someone close to you passed away. 
  • Relocation: You were forced to live elsewhere during this time because you lived in an area with a very high infection rate, because a family member fell sick, or to support a family member with a compromised immune system. 
  • Family Circumstances: A family member lost their job or was furloughed and this affected your family’s situation in a profound way (where you lived, access to basic needs, etc.). 
  • Education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces: Any of the above happened, which resulted in a profound impact on your ability to learn during this time; for instance, you were not able to attend school during this time because you needed to work to support your family or you had no, or very limited, access to a computer with reliable internet. 
  • Future plans: If the pandemic prompted you to rethink your plans for college (you now, for example, want to focus your studies on healthcare policy or ed-tech), it would be acceptable to talk about that impact in this essay. 
  • Exceptional Acts of Service: If the pandemic inspired you to perform an extraordinary act (or acts) of service, ones that had a real impact in either your local community or further away (via online tutoring, for example), admissions officers would want to hear about that, too. 

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Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

Our Favorite (and Free!) Online Courses for High School Students

I have been pushing free classes via edX and Coursera for a while now. They are the perfect way for students to build their academic narrative, which is a must when applying to selective colleges. If you did not jump on this suggestion already, this summer is certainly the time.

Below are some of my favorites from both platforms. Click on the course title for a direct link!

English/Writing

Creative Writing Specialization, Wesleyan

Writing in the Sciences, Stanford

Write Your First Novel, Michigan State

Business/Psychology/Leadership

Leading People and Teams Specialization, U-Michigan

The Art and Science of Relationships, U Toronto

The Art of Negotiation, UC Irvine

New Models of Business In Society, UVA

Arts/Fashion

Circular Fashion: Design, Science and Value in a Sustainable Clothing Industry, Wageningen

Inspiring and Motivating Arts and Culture Teams, Michigan

Hollywood: History, Industry, Art, Penn

Weird/Wonderful

Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology, Smithsonian

Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You, Harvard.

The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture, Smithsonian

 

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Preparing for Interviews? Prep With Us Online!

Preparing for Interviews? Prep With Us Online!

College admissions interviews are a way to demonstrate interest, learn more about the school, and help the school learn more about you.

Colleges are now offering interviews online via various platforms. We are offering interview prep sessions via Zoom and Google Meet this summer and fall. Here’s a sampling of schools offering online interviews:

Babson
Bowdoin
Claremont McKenna
Dickinson
Grinnell
Hamilton
Haverford
Holy Cross
Lafayette
Providence College
Rochester
Skidmore
William & Mary

Some schools with informal online offerings:

Pomona (Zoom session with an AdCom to ask questions)
Richmond (Zoom session with an AdCom to ask questions)

Practice with a parent or friend, or practice with us! Never go to an interview unprepared! Learning how to interview if a skill for life, not just for the college process. Email us if you are interested in learning how to ace your online interview.

Below, you will find some common interview questions.

High School Experience

  1. Tell me a little bit about your high school experience and the courses you are taking currently
  2. Which class has been your least favorite? Why?
  3. Tell me about your favorite class(s) you have taken. Why was it your favorite?
  4. Which classes have been the most difficult (or most challenging)?
  5. What subjects do you plan on studying at [school]?
  6. How have you pursued this interest in school, and outside of school?
  7. What is your dream job?

Extracurricular Activities

  1. What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
  2. When you’re not in class, studying, or doing homework, what do you do with your time (organized activities or things for fun)?
  3. How did you get involved/started with ____ activity?
  4. Which activity is the most meaningful to you, and which one is the most fun?
  5. What extracurricular activities do you hope to continue in college?
  6. If you could only continue taking part in one EC, which one would it be and why?

College Expectations

  1. What type of environment are you looking for in a college/university?
  2. What matters most to you in a college setting?

School Specific

  1. How did you become interested in [school]?
  2. What do you find appealing about [school]?
  3. Why do you think you [school] might be the right fit for you?
  4. Do you know any students at [school]? Have you reached out to them to learn more about [school]?
  5. If you had an opportunity to tell the Admissions Committee anything about yourself, what would it be? What would you want the Admissions Committee to know about you that may not come across on your application?
  6. What have you learned about [school] that seems unusual or surprising?

Miscellaneous

  1. How have you spent your high school summers?
  2. How would your best friend describe you?
  3. How would your teachers describe you?
  4. If you had a year to do anything you want, what would it be and why?
  5. What are you currently reading?
  6. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you wanted to discuss?

 

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