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The College Applications deadlines are fast approaching. COVID-19 has changed the contours of the College Applications. It is a good time to review the key College Application parameters.

For example, How should Applicants for Fall 2021 address COVID-19 on their Applications.

We asked a couple of experts.

Lisa Przekop, Admissions Director at University of California Santa Barbara asks applicants to write about COVID-19 only if it “significantly impacted you in some way”.

Cornell LeSane, Dean of Admissions at Allegheny had a simple answer - “Explain. Don’t Complain”.

We discussed this and these other topics with Experts on this Podcast:

  • What are Colleges looking for in their students?
  • Second Look at your Target Colleges
  • Applying to Test Optional Colleges
  • Looking for Financial Aid

If you are serious about US Colleges, this Podcast is a must listen for detailed responses and Tips for College Applications 2021.

Episode Notes

Episode Title: Expert Tips before You Submit College Applications 2021.

Episode summary introduction: The calendar is racing towards the end of the year, which means the College Applications deadlines are fast approaching. COVID-19 has changed the contours of the College Applications.

In this podcast, with the help of expertise from Admissions Officers and Counselors, we offer some tips before you submit the College Applications.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • What are Colleges looking for in their students? [1:27]
  • Second Look at your Target Colleges [3:34]
  • Applying to Test Optional Colleges [7:09]
  • How to Handle COVID-19 on the college application [12:04]
  • Applying for Financial Aid [14:59]

Our Guests:

Resources referred to in this episode:

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Venkat  0:11 

The calendar is racing towards the end of the year, which means the College Applications deadline is fast approaching.

All this means it is a good time for a quick break and review the key College Application parameters.

Hi! Welcome to this episode of College Matters. Alma Matters.

This has been an unusual year, to say the least. COVID-19 has changed the contours of the College Applications.

In this podcast, with the help of Admissions Officers and Counselors, we will walk through the following:

  • Second Look at your Target Colleges
  • Applying to Test Optional Colleges
  • How to Handle COVID-19 on the college application
  • Applying for Financial Aid

On with the podcast.

Venkat  1:14

Let’s start at the top with the types of students colleges are looking for. Here is Lisa Przekop, Director of Admissions at the University of California Santa Barbara.

Lisa Przekop  1:27  [What are Colleges Looking for in their Students?]

So you know, I, I often tell students, I think there's two kinds of applicants to university, I kind of put them in the range of they're either a generalist, maybe that's your student, who, isn't 100% certain at this point in their life, what they want to do academically or as a career. And so maybe in high school, they've really tried to expose themselves to multiple kinds of experiences, clubs, sports, whatever it might be. And, and they're trying things out and we want them to not join 20 different clubs, we want them to join a handful and really delve into that. And so, that student might be competitive because they have very good grades and they really enrich their high school experience through that kind of exploration.

And then you have another student who I kind of refer to, as my specialist who they are very passionate about something. It might be an academic discipline, it might be a community charity of some type, it might be a sport or athletic endeavor. And they have put tremendous time and effort and depth into that activity!

The great thing about our selection process is there's room for both that generalist and that specialist, one student might be competitive because we're impressed at the depth of what they've specialized in. And another student might be competitive because we're impressed that they've gone on such an exploratory journey and have really learned a lot about themselves along the way.

So it's, it's hard to give students what are we looking for? Because what I'm looking for is well, what are you interested in? And what have you done to get there?

Venkat [The Takeaways]  3:19  

Does your application answer the two basic questions that Lisa raises?

  • Number one, what are you interested in?
  • Number two, what have you done to get there?

Venkat  3:34  [Second Look at your Target Colleges]

As you get ready to submit your applications shortly, it might be a good idea to consider the following:

  • According to a New York Times article this week, Freshman enrollment at US Colleges this Fall is down 16%;
  • An Unprecedented number of students have chosen to take a gap year, and plan to be in school in the Fall 2021.

That could drive college acceptance rates higher for the Fall 2021, according to Angel Perez, the CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

So, I turned to Shveta Bagade, College Counselor from Silicon Valley, California for some guidance on this.

Shveta Bagade  4:29  

The admissions is going to look different for all these schools because, majority are going either the majority are gone test optional and there are some that are going test blind,  albeit admissions pictures is going to look for them as well.

You know how they do admissions. So they do things that come into play that they need to attract more students to do the kind of makeup of the difference of the loss from the fear and the uncertainty of how they're doing admissions, because this is the first time majority of the schools are doing it this way. And it should be interesting how this plays out.

But in that same article they do make a comment that the Ivy League's are not necessarily going to be easier and a lot of students think they have a better chance of getting in because of the test optional. and hoping to want more students.

But what they forget is these Ivy League's and big prestigious schools along like Stanford, have big endowments and endowments are perfect, you know, safety nets for situations like this for those universities.

Princeton knew early on based on their deferment for their Class of 2020, that decided to defer for 2021 or sorry, 21. school year. And that they knew that it's the Single Early Action Decision. And they normally rely on that to fill their numbers, but they already know they're already getting a good percentage of those students back because of the deferment.

So now they are, they're looking to fill fewer spots, not needing that kind of early commitment from students.

Venkat [Takeaways]  6:29  

Here are some quick takeaways from this piece. Study the colleges you're applying to one more time and check for the following:

  • One, how did the college do with their Fall 2020 enrollment?
  • Number two, what are the Gap year stats?
  • Number three, if they are an early action, early decision school, what's the status this year? Is it still on? Do they modify it?
  • And lastly, look into the budget situation. Lots of resources and budgets have been slashed.

Venkat  7:09  [Applying to Test Optional Colleges]

You are probably applying to Test Optional Colleges.

First, let’s go to Nitin Jain, Co-founder of Oncourse, a college counseling firm based in Gurgaon India. Nitin has a perspective on how admissions officers will evaluate applications in this Test Optional environment.

Nitin Jain  7:34  

They are looking for more holistic applications clearly. When they say no standardized test, I think and I could be wrong, they will be far more reliance on academic grades, and consistency, starting from the junior classes. So it's not only you know your your the last two years of school, which we'll have a look, they will look at your transcript, starting from ninth grade look at how rigorous the courses you've taken. Right and and how consistently your academic journey has been.

This year, the GPAs are pretty much all over the map, as you know, but I think a consistent academic record will be demonstrated, I think class rank as a tool other than rigor will be extremely important, because that, in a way, normalizes the vagaries of GPA. Right? And this will be an important consideration, at least, and at least will be one important consideration point for them.

The other part that I think the admission officer will value a lot more this year is the letter of recommendation. I know it's been very very, you know, often not given the due importance, but the sanctity of an educational institution has been established also by the not only by the kind of grades students get eventually, but by their recommendation, the counselor and the academic coordinator and the teachers do give. And, and that's where I feel there will be a larger sort of context they will be able to lend to a student's application, both in terms of, you know, the softer qualities, the academic rigor ability, also qualifying, why they have not been able to take the standardized test if they haven't been right.

Venkat  [Takeaways]  9:17  

Here are some quick takeaways from Nitin’s piece without a test score. The following become pretty important.

  • Number one GPAs over the high school years.
  • Number two, the rigor of courses taken in high school.
  • Number three, the class rank.
  • And lastly, number four, Letters of Recommendations from the counselors and teachers.

Now, If you have a Test Score...Let’s ask Athena Lao, Head Mentor at Admissionado, a US-based counseling company to weigh in on this.

Athena Lao  10:00  

I think in these next two years or so, even though schools have maybe officially said this, you do not have to take these tests in order to, you know, be considered for us, which is great for equity and for access, I do think having if you have a strong score, in the standardized tests, like the SAT or ACT, or even the subject test, that's considered that will help you. Because that is an additional data point that shows that you have for whatever this Whatever the score means you got one of the higher scores on it. And they're not going to ignore that they're going to say, okay, like, that's another check. That's another point that we can use to show that demonstrates that you are ready for the academic rigor of this university.

So I think that, broadly speaking, if a student has the opportunity to take those tests, if they are applying in the next, you know, two years or so, and they can do well on them, then they should go ahead and try to do that, in addition to you know, making strong grades, etc.

But the good thing is that because there is more flexibility and an understanding that there are a lot of things beyond student's control, because of COVID that they don't have to stress about. They don't have to stress out as much about it as they might have previously, when it was completely, totally required, and they had no choice but to take it and they know that everyone's present thing, the same information.

Athena Lao [Takeaway]  11:40

If you're a student, listening to this, and you're trying to decide what your best strategy is, that's what I would say,

  • Take one of those tests, if you can,
  • But if you can't, then, you know really think okay, well, what are what are the other aspects of my profile that I can really lift up and highlight to show that I'm ready for that university experience.

Venkat  12:04  [How to Handle COVID-19 on the College Application]

How should Applicants address COVID-19 on their Applications? Here is Lisa Przekop again to shed some light on this.

Lisa Przekop  12:13

So you know, we're getting a lot of students asked, for instance, should I write about COVID in my application? And I think my answer to you would be only if you feel it has significantly impacted you in some way. Because it could be something else that you've accomplished along the way or a challenge that you've overcome along the way feels more significant to you. And then that should be the thing that you talk about.

Maybe it's been a hassle for you and it's definitely made your life unhappy in some ways, but maybe it's not significant enough that you need to write about it, versus some other college applications will ask you a very specific question about how has COVID impacted you, but the University of California is saying is you only really need to tell us about it. If you feel like it's been significant in some way, whether it be a challenge that you've had to face, or maybe like we talked earlier, maybe you've done something really significant to help out your family or community. And you would like us to know about that.

Venkat  [Takeaway]  13:18

Here are some key takeaways from Lisa Przekop’s piece:

  • Talk about COVID only in the context of how it has significantly impacted you, as she said.
  • If it was a hassle, or you are unhappy with it, it's not significant enough.
  • But if it was a big challenge, or you did something significant to help the family or community, then you do want to put that down.

I also asked Cornell LeSane, Dean of Admissions at Allegheny College for his views on how to address COVID-19 on the College Applications.

Cornell LeSane  14:02  

I would say the students know in this scenario, explain, don't complain. 

Yeah. I mean, if there is something that you know, they feel didn't go well as they would have liked, you can explain it, but you know, don't say oh, you know, my, my faculty member, my faculty or my teacher didn't do this for me. And so that's why it happened.

Everyone really is in the same boat and if a school made the decision to go Pass/Fail, that are offered grades we get that that may not have benefited every student, but there's not much you can do about it or vice versa.

Yeah, you know, I'm sure there will be students who will say the learning environment just wasn't the same or it was just tough to adjust. And so my grades aren't what they would have been or what they were before having to go online.

Venkat [Takeaway]  14:49  

The takeaway from Cornell's message is very simple. “Explain. Don't Complain!” says it all.

Venkat  14:59  [Apply for Financial Aid]

Finally, in these tough times, I wanted to make sure that you are all aware of how to apply for financial aid.

For this I turn to Ben Stern of IvyAchievement based, in the US, who has been helping college applicants in India, Vietnam finance their dreams through a number of College-based financial aid programs.

Ben Stern  15:23  

There are two kinds of merit based aid awards, some merit based merit based awards are, are just a don't do not require any particular application. Okay, they don't require any other, any other action, but to apply, there's nothing there's nothing else required. Okay.

Other schools have merit based awards that require a separate application. And that may require additional essays and may require recommendations. There are, there are different, there are different merit based awards to apply to. Some of the bigger awards are, require a separate application.

Venkat  16:01  

So where is in the cycle? Where is this in the cycle of application? Do you.. Is it along with the common app and supplementals and all that? Or is it something that happens post submission of the application?

Ben Stern  16:15  

Sure, so some schools, some schools have scholarships, where you will, you would be eligible for the scholarship if you apply by a certain early deadline date.

For example, example Vanderbilt University in order to be in order to be considered for, for their merit based scholarships, you have to apply by December 1, is by their regular deadline, I believe is January 1 around there, January 1, or second. But their deadline, if you want to apply for scholarships is, is December 1, and then there's additional application for their big scholarships, for their big, their big scholarships have tuition and full tuition and full ride scholarships. That is due shortly thereafter.

So it's due sometimes the scholarship application or do with the application sometimes or do slightly after some schools don't have a separate deadline. And you would just apply at the same time or apply slightly after.

So if there's a separate application, it's usually within a short amount of time of the application itself being due whether it's the regular deadline or an early, early scholarship application deadline. Those are generally what you'll, what you'll find.

Venkat  17:32  [Takeaway]

The key takeaways from Ben's piece are the following.

  • To apply for merit based scholarships. There may be no app, or there could be a separate app, which requires a separate essay and letters of recommendation.
  • Please check the colleges you're applying to to see whether you need a separate app or it is included as part of the general app.
  • The second, is one of deadline. Check to see what the deadlines are, the deadlines may not be the same as the deadlines for the application.
  • So watch out for both these things, and do take advantage of the financial aid opportunities that your colleges may offer.

Venkat  18:20

Hi again!

Hope you enjoyed this podcast with our Experts on College Applications Tips.

I hope it helps you with your application process. Do check out the resources provided in our Episode Notes and Transcript.

All the Best!

For questions to the guest or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [podcast@almamatters.io].

Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.

Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].

To stay connected with us, Subscribe to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters] to stay connected..

Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you!

Summary Keywords

College, Universities, Test Optional, Test Blind, University of California, Deferment, Gap Year, Fall enrollment, College Application Calendar 2020, Common App, Common App Essay, Supplementals, FAFSA, Early Action, Alma Matters, Podcasts, Ivy League, Fall Reopening, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Standardized Test, SAT, ACT, Early Action, Early Decision, Single Action, GPA, University of California Santa Barbara, Allegheny College, Admissionado, Oncourse Global, IvyAchievement, Merit Scholarship, International Student, Application Submission Deadlines

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