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Facebook Live Recap and Bonus Questions: Ask America's College Counselor (4.21.18)

In case you missed it, here's a recap of my recent rapid-fire Facebook Live Q&A!

During my rapid-fire Ask America's College Counselor sessionsI answer students' and parents' most pressing questions about the college admissions process. If you didn't get a chance to view my most recent Q&A live, you can see a list of the questions I answered and watch the full video below. And don't forget to scroll down for three BONUS questions that I didn't get a chance to answer live!

  • When filling out the activities section on the Common App, a student must state whether or not they want to pursue each activity in college. How should a student respond to that question?
  • Do you find state schools are being more generous in terms of aid for out-of-state students than they used to be?
  • Do highly selective state schools ever negotiate financial aid awards if the student was also accepted to an Ivy and received a better financial aid package there?
  • Does choosing a popular major make it easier or harder to get into a highly selective college? Is choosing a less popular major a good strategy to help get accepted?
  • How important is the foreign language requirement if all other stats are highly competitive?
  • How do you help a student with decision paralysis? Whether narrowing down a college list or choosing a college to attend.
  • How many colleges do you recommend a student visits? What kind of colleges should they focus on: "reach" schools, "target" schools, or "safety" schools?
  • How can being a legacy help a student get into a college?
  • Can being an Eagle Scout help a student's chances to get into college?
  • What elements should a student take into consideration when looking for colleges they should apply to? Is there a place(s) online to compare colleges?
  • My son wants to major in graphic design and entrepreneurship in college. Do you think if he has a strong portfolio it can help the admissions process?
  • I’ve noticed that a lot of schools include “work experience” as a considered factor. My daughter does volunteer work, but she’s never had a job. Should she get one?
  • When a school lists average GPA, should we assume that's on a 4.0 scale?
  • My daughter is going to a college fair this week. Anything else she should do other than say hello and fill out the information cards?
  • What is your advice for a student at a large public school with very limited access to their school counselor?
  • How do you recommend a 10th grader figure out a potential major—especially looking into specialized majors in the humanities?
  • When or how will interviews come into play in the admissions process?
  • What are your thoughts on summer programs on college campuses?
  • Is there an advantage to exploring the Common App as early as sophomore year? 
  • Can you address how to get the college application past the pre-screen readers who might be college students or grad students themselves?


1. How important are outside activities?

Outside activities are just as important as school-related activities. Colleges don't have preferences. However, they may worry if the student has absolutely no activities connected to their school community. But that's pretty unusual.

2. What if our school doesn’t offer foreign language beyond Spanish 2. Will the colleges penalize students?

To be honest, this is highly unusual. Technically, the colleges wouldn't penalize the student as long as it's clear on the school profile that they don't offer anything beyond Spanish 2. But that means the counselor needs to make a point to send that school profile to every college where the student applies. If not, it's up to the admissions officer to find out on their own and not all of them will want or have the time to do that. Frankly, I would probably look into an online course or a local college course to have one more year or semester of Spanish if the student is looking at highly selective colleges.

3. How important is the essay?

HUGELY IMPORTANT if the student is already "competitive" in the applicant pool. If a student has below range grades or scores or something else in the application that isn't as strong, an extraordinary essay usually isn't enough to overcome the academic issues.