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Facebook Live Recap and Bonus Questions: College Admissions 101

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of my recent Facebook Live Q&A: College Admissions 101. And don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the page, for three bonus questions that I didn’t get to answer live!

The college admissions process is full of twists and turns. In my recent Facebook Live Q&A, I answered many of your questions on college admissions to make sure that everyone gets the basics.

Watch the video below and scroll on for a few BONUS questions!

  • How does one tell if a college really wants your student or is trying to up their application numbers by purchasing lists?
  • Could you explain demonstrated interest? Which colleges track it and which don’t? And how is it tracked? For those colleges that do track demonstrated interest, are applicants less likely to be admitted if they don't visit campus?
  • Does a college ever decide not to admit a student who is well within the admissable range?
  • Do highly selective colleges try to avoid accepting more than one applicant from a small high school? Since you can only apply early to one school, should you avoid competing for spots with classmates?
  • What is the difference between early decision and early action? If a student needs financial aid, should they not apply early decision?
  • When should I start looking for scholarships? Is there a specific website that you know of that offers some financial scholarships?
  • I have heard that there is a “twin discount” at colleges. Is this true?
  • I work at a college that offers a tuition exchange program. If my child applies to other schools within the program, are they guaranteed to receive tuition exchange funds?
  • What are your thoughts on combined BA/MD or BS/MD programs?
  • My son is interested in business. Should my son consider a college that does not have a designated business school if it has a better reputation?
  • My daughter is very interested in attending college in the U.K. Is there a particular resource you can point us to, for assistance in evaluating colleges, programs, financial aid, and the like?
  • My student had above average freshman and sophomore year grades, but took some AP and Honors classes junior year and did not fair as well. Does the Admissions staff look at final grades only or do they look at the entire transcript including term grades?
  • I have a student who suffered from PTSD the first 3 years of high school and consequently has a 2.0 GPA. She is determined to attend college. What schools would you recommend for her?
  • Can you get college credit if you get a good score on an AP exam?
  • Are you required to submit your scores on AP exams? If you don’t submit them, can colleges find them out anyway?
  • My ACT test score is still a little low after taking it three times. Any advice or comment on how this will affect my application?
  • What SAT scores are necessary for Chinese (international) applicants? Is there any selection advantage to an international applicant from China to scoring above minimum standard IELTS requirements?
  • If a college recommends that a student should take Subject Tests, should the student take them?
  • How can you create a memorable application?


1. Can the athletic director of a school write recommendation letters, too?

They can. But usually it's considered "extra" or "supplemental." An admissions committee will usually focus much of their attention on the letters from academic teachers and the counselor of record. And some colleges do not permit "extra" letters.

2. If a student has a so-so junior year, should they apply ED or wait for first semester senior year grades and apply RD even though rates drop?

If the student is still competitive for the college (meaning that their GPA and scores are well into the middle 50% of the admitted pool), applying ED is still going to give the student the best shot. Most colleges will consider senior year grades/courses, but they typically won't recalculate the student's rating (based on their algorithm) with new grades and scores from senior year. The GPA used for the algorithm will be based off of final 9th, 10th, and 11th grades.

3. How do colleges address weighted GPAs? When they transfer to a 4.0 scale, do they bump a bit for rigor? And how do you make a college list with the weighted GPA?

Most of the highly selective colleges recalculate the GPA. When I was at Penn, I would do the following: remove all weighting, use final grades for only academic core classes in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade, average each year and then all three years to come up with a recalculated GPA. Simultaneously, I would count up the number of honors, AP, IB, or other advanced level classes for each year. So, while we removed the weight, we literally counted up how many advanced classes the student took and then compared it to other students from the same high school who applied.