Navigating College Admissions
Episode 2 : College Applications (Part 2) Transcript
:00:00 Jack W.
So I've asked my teacher for a letter of recommendation. I've taken tests. Now I need to start thinking about my extracurricular activities. Should I go out and join a million clubs and just pad that list of involvement?
:00:16 Grace C.J.
Nah, no, no, here's the deal about extracurricular activities. We look at extracurricular activities that you have been involved in because it helps us get a sense of what you might continue to do or like. What kind of community member you might be. When you get to our school.So if you're like Oh no, it's time for a bunch of clubs were gonna be like hey, that's the dude that says oh, it's time for a bunch of clubs right? And and probably isn't going to be a big contributor anywhere is probably not the kind of person who pays attention to being part of a community until someone's looking man is really.
Like we're not really going to be seeing anything unique or special, or even just like a little bit interesting that you bring to the table that either only you or only a person like you could bring to the table. If your sort of approach to this is that.
So what I really I think is really important is that we really don't care exactly what your extracurricular activities are. We just kind of want to know how you spend your time, and I hope the approach should be more like I want to spend my time doing these things. I think they're interesting. I think this is valuable to me and not like, oh, this is what college wants to see.
This is what I have to do only for college. Like if you wouldn't do it if I wasn't looking. Maybe just stop. Yeah, except for like being nice to your friends.
:01:35 Jack W.
:01:35 Grace C.J.
Yeah I hope you would do that if I wasn't looking but like but you know there are some things that I've I've. Seen on students applications that I've been really impressed by that I know that was the kind of thing that students were only were doing because they either needed to do it or wanted to do it. So you have admitted many students who have pretty significant work commitments outside of school. We had a student who is actually one of our best tour guides ever. Who was the assistant manager of a Five Guys burgers? And he you know he needed to do that. That was something that he needed to do to like really help his family a lot. But I also think that it really showed initiative and it showed like commitment and it showed that he was somebody. That you know not didn't just show up and say, oh, I need this job. He was really working hard there. 'cause it's not that easy to be, you know, assistant manager of anything at age 17 an and was that something that he was probably sitting there going like oh, this is what gives me to college like no, but also in a situation like that when a student is working so hard do we need to see that he was in?
15 extra clubs. One hour per week. We're like, oh there's no. That's that's not really necessary, so that's fine too. The other things that I think are are wonderful. You know there are. I think students is wonderful. If you have leadership experience and wonderful if you have like the drive to be a leader. But we also don't need to have, you know 4 clubs at the University of Chicago that only have presidents right? It would be very weird. Yeah oh gosh really great meeting there. Well great 'cause. But nobody really ever gets anything done and so.
:02:58 Jack W.
That would be fun. Everyones pounding the gavel at the same time.
:03:08 Grace C.J.
Exactly, so don't be afraid if if you're just a participant in something, but you really just like it and you're there every week. Every couple weeks or a couple hours a week or whatever, that's still worthy of telling us that you do 'cause we can look at that and say, oh man, that's going to be the kid that really makes things happen in model UN, even if he's not the secretary general, you know, is that the model UN thing? You know?
:03:27 Jack W.
I think so.
:03:27 Grace C.J.
I don't want to embarrass myself about model UN here at. You know, the home of the Model United Nations. Right, all right you're on model UN turf. Yeah, I'm a little bit afraid. Crisis I. Don't know I'm. Saying model UN words that I know. Hoping. Hoping that like the model you would folk in the crowd book. Yeah, she knows my stuff and . . . .
:03:44 Jack W.
Like I really don't. I'm so happy I must admit you know a lot more model you in terms than I do.
:03:49 Grace C.J.
Well, it's better than my sports terms.
:03:54 Jack W.
Speaking of which, what sorts of things count as extracurriculars? I know if I play a sport that might count.
:04:00 Grace C.J.
Yeah, like would you anything that you do that isn't just part? Of being in a classroom or part of being a normal human so you know if you're on an athletic team, great. It doesn't have. You could be C squad. You could be JV author some sports terms.
:04:16 Jack W.
Oh wow, OK.
:04:17 Grace C.J.
You don't you have to be the captain of the Varsity team, although if you are tell us about it and you know if you are. on a research project, maybe you know with a teacher out but outside of class or somebody at a local University grade or independently, great if you're volunteering wonderful. in, also don't forget about some of those things like having a job. se we talked about I'm not trying to like say clubs are not cool. you really are active in clubs and you like your clubs and these are things where you spend your time, please feel free to tell us about those. other thing that I think can be helpful to know is that there can also be times when like we talked about jobs. s maybe don't have the ability to be involved in something out. of the classroom, in as much of a significant way as some of their peers, so please do feel free to also tell us like hey I am working or I have a little brother who I'm like the primary caregiver for him outside of outside of school. re times when that's going to cross the line like just 'cause you have a cat doesn't mean that that's an extracurricular activity.
:05:21 Jack W.
:05:22 Grace C.J.
I know I've. I know. I think it does, but but you know if if take if you have such a signif significant level of family responsibility or like it takes, you know, well yeah, it's true. Like if you have like 1 cats, we need to talk but.
:05:29 Jack W.
A significant level of cats.
:05:34 Grace C.J.
But that's just a totally different conversation. But you know, if you can, kind of. See yourself and see your peers and say I feel like I really probably spend a lot more time doing this because it's a necessity within my family. Then. Other students might. Then that's the time to speak up about that, but pretty much anything else. Music, drama, creative writing. Memo Robo, If that's how you say that, right? Is it only say that?
:05:59 Jack W.
I don't know it man Arrivo is.
:06:00 Grace C.J.
Oh, when you write a novel in a month?
:06:03 Jack W.
Oh oh, nanowrimo.
:06:04 Grace C.J.
Yeah, I've only ever seen it written down, so anyone ever actually says it.
:06:08 Grace C.J.
But like all of those things, are things that you can talk. To us about they all count as extra creative activities and more. Oh, oh E.
:06:23 Jack W.
So is it more important? Would you say to have a few things that I'm passionate about or a lot of things that I like to do well rounded?
:06:33 Grace C.J.
:06:34 Jack W.
Or you know, very pointy.
:06:37 Grace C.J.
You can be either person.
:06:39 Grace C.J.
Just don't become that person 'cause you think college wants you to be that person so you know there are people in the world who are really just such doers and multifaceted doers that, like you are never going to be pointy because you really do love to do so many different things.
But there are other students who are so passionate about one thing or sort of a group of things. You know, I I I play the cello, I know a lot of musicians who could be described as pointy, but within the music world, they're not only like practicing by themselves, they're performing for others. They might be doing community service or music, or teaching lessons, or all these different kinds of things. So you kind of think, Oh no, I'm not that well rounded. But then within that space. You start to see the rounded Ness that comes out and the way that you're engaging in different types of activities there. But then there's also people who will say no. This scientific research project that I have been working on since. I was in the room is so important to me. That is how I spend 1 of my time outside of school and you might be the next Nobel Prize winner and who am I to say? Like, oh, I don't know. You should have volunteered a little bit more if you were really so passionate about something that that's really what you want to do all the time so you know there's going to be. I would say different students might fit in a little bit better at different types of schools.
I think here we're looking for students on all of those different sides. But you know, don't the general theme that I will continue to talk about is don't worry about crafting yourself into being this random person that you think we're going to be excited about. Just share what you like to do an that will much better reflect our our probably it will help us to see you accurately. On our campus and see how you might fit in and what you might.
:08:25 Jack W.
Contribute, yeah, so this list of extracurriculars that I have.
:08:28 Jack W.
How would you distinguish that from a resume?
:08:32 Grace C.J.
So on the common application or the coalition application, you'll be asked to sort of fill out this activities like extra cool activity section. It's a little bit different from a resume in that there's going to be a little bit more. Well, we can talk about length over as my second, but there is more limited space, so you are not going to be able to describe everything that you do in like the fullest picture. I would say it's more of like a little snapshot. It's like the Twitter version of a resume, basically so like quick description, what is it? What do you do? How long have you been doing it? Boom, there's your like characters with a resume. You do have a little bit more of an ability to describe to show progress to show different levels of leadership. You're welcome to include. A more built up resume I guess. Don't build it up in a way that's not accurate, but you know a Fuller picture of things on a resume. Then you might be able to on. I'm coming up with a coalition application, but we're going to ask you to do the application stuff first so you know. Please don't just say Sue resume right.
:09:38 Jack W.
:09:38 Grace C.J.
Like you know, we're asking for this for a reason. It's going to be a quick scan. On the flip side though, so I'm an adult person and I have a Masters degree and I've been working for about 10 years and my resume is barely 2 pages long. So. And that I felt really awkward about making it into that second page. I would really caution you from trying to make a resume that's like 1 pages long or even 5 pages long. It doesn't need to have a picture of you. It doesn't need to be sparkly. It can be a good way if you feel like, hey, I'm in a lot of clubs that have acronym names. I need to describe them, but I don't have enough characters for it.
:10:10 Jack W.
:10:11 Grace C.J.
That can be great, but you do not have to make it seem like you're like uh-huh. You know I've got this 10 page row. Let's say that describes everything I've done from like birth through age 18. Like, not, not really. What we need to.
:10:23 Jack W.
Like the name of a Game of Thrones character.
:10:25 Grace C.J.
Yeah, exactly exactly, yeah. Some of sort of track team.
:10:39 Jack W.
So I guess we should talk about you mentioned the coalition application in the common application.
:10:44 Grace C.J.
:10:44 Jack W.
I guess we should talk about the difference between those two. What are the coalition and the common application? How are they different? Which one should I submit?
:10:55 Grace C.J.
Yeah. Yeah, OK, so these are fundamentally different forms on different websites that you can use to apply to many different colleges. They pretty much. Don't, well, I'm telling the world I said this would be like pretty much asked the same questions so you know the the way in which they ask those questions or the way in which those things might be laid out can be a little bit different depending on the comment of the Coalition app. But fundamentally it's just a way that you can submit information about yourself to multiple colleges without having to like. Fill out where your parents address is 1 times separately. You should not apply to 100 colleges. I'm back and I'm backing away from that number 100. Let's go 10. Yeah, the common up in the coalition app there are. There are many schools affiliated with each of those. There are some crossovers between those two, but some schools only use the common application. Some schools only use the coalition application and So what? I encourage students to do really is to just kind of take a look at the schools that you are planning to apply to. And see where the biggest degree of overlap is. You know for exam. Well, if you live in a state where your State University only uses the coalition application, then that might be an like you know all the rest of the colleges that you are looking at. Use the coalition application but also the common app. Hey, save yourself having to do both and just pick the one side and on the other side there could be. You know maybe. Only one of the schools they're applying to is on the coalition application, but 10 or on the common app, and then that school is also on the comment. Maybe that's a good time for the common app. We have no preference between the two, it's just a different website that you go to. To submit functionally the same information to us so.
:12:39 Jack W.
So some of the stuff that. Is that maybe the end of the application?
:12:45 Grace C.J.
:12:45 Jack W.
Some of the some of the freaky stuff like I know some schools have an optional or required.
:12:47 Grace C.J.
Who the freaky stuff?
:12:54 Jack W.
I think it's usually optional an interview with Oh yeah, somebody affiliated with the school. I know U Chicago doesn't do that.
:13:02 Grace C.J.
We do not.
:13:02 Jack W.
But if I'm applying to a school that does require that, or has that as an option? How do I approach that?
:13:10 Grace C.J.
Yeah, I think the best way to approach it is to kind of think about it in the same way that we talked about optional materials before. So if you feel like interviewing with someone and sitting down with him and chatting with them in person is going to be a great way for you to share, you know kind of a Fuller picture of you an you feel comfortable doing that. It seems like a. Quality potential for interaction for you then that can be a really great thing to put yourself out there for if you. If it's an option and you really feel nervous about the idea of sitting down with a stranger for half an hour, usually at a Starbucks like that's OK, right?
:13:47 Jack W.
:13:47 Grace C.J.
That might not be the best way for you to put yourself forward. And maybe we'll let the other things shine a little bit more. If a school does require that you interview it, pretty clear that's going to be really valuable to them.
:13:56 Jack W.
:13:59 Grace C.J.
The thing that I think that students should recognize about interviews, though, is that they're kind of a both ways discussion, so it's not just you sitting down and rattling off your resume or rattling off like all of the accomplishments or achievements that you've had. It's also an opportunity for you to be sitting down. Live with somebody who either works at that school or went. And so it can be a really cool way for you to get a little bit more information about what the school is all about, right? It doesn't mean that you should come in blind like knowing nothing about the school like. Where is your school? It's probably not a great question for an interview, but then on the other side, you know, be ready to learn more and be ready to have some questions and get you know a perspective from somebody who was there and like did it. That can be that can be helpful. Now the the last thing that I'll say is. But I will. I will caution students from trying to think that an interview is going to be 1 accurate picture of everything that goes on in a school. You know, as much as schools will try to match you with somebody that has had a great experience or it might be in your field of interest. It can't guarantee that that's going to happen. So if you are an artist and you sit down with a banker, I would. I would love it. If there is some common ground there, but that person may not have all of the information about your intended program, or maybe have been involved in clubs or organizations that you plan to be involved in, But that's that's OK. That doesn't necessarily mean that like, oh, the school is not a great fit for me or. I shouldn't do more to learn about it, it just might be in the exact same way that you and your freshman roommate might be best friends, or might be really different, like there are many different types of people who go to school as there can be time distance differences. You know with an alumni who may be graduated in the 70s versus yesterday in what the experience was like there so so. I love alums that are willing to help out their schools by meeting with students, but students recognize that like that, one person is not always going to be exactly what that school is entirely about.
:15:52 Jack W.
U Chicago does instead a 2 minute video that the students can submit.
:15:59 Grace C.J.
We do that.
:15:59 Jack W.
Can you tell me a little bit?
:16:00 Grace C.J.
About that yeah so, so we recognized a couple of years ago that we just didn't have the ability to interview everybody that wanted to have one. And we, you know, it would be lovely if we had 100 alumni in Wyoming who were all excited about meeting you at the Starbucks that exists somewhere in Wyoming, but we just didn't have that, and so we we felt like it was going to be better to give students the ability to share that side of their voice outside of the one on one interview process.
:16:15 Jack W.
:16:27 Grace C.J.
And it's just that, you know, the video is a way for. I think you just kind of sit down and and tell us a little bit more about yourself. Maybe tell us a little bit more about go into a little bit more depth about something that you really care about or are passionate about and do that in a way that that adds to our understanding of you. The thing to remember, I think about the video interview, is that or video profile. It's not really an interview ISH, but. The. The person who views it is very likely to 100 certainly going to be the person who's read the rest of your application. So in some cases, unlike a more traditional college interview where you might be sitting down with somebody who's never met you before, has not read, your application, knows nothing about you. You can start a little deeper in that 2 minutes. Then you might have been able to sitting down with a person who hasn't met. Yeah, so you know, I encourage students to feel comfortable not having to, you know, say be prepared with resume information or be prepared to talk about like Oh well, my essay is about. Yeah, just read your essay actually so you know maybe it would be more valuable for me to hear a little bit more about like oh, here's why. I love the flute. Or, you know, here's why I love.
:17:33 Jack W.
:17:35 Grace C.J.
I read applications from New York City, I see. A lot of video profiles like here's why I love my neighborhood in New York City and it really kind of helps me like place a person in what they're doing. I also had a student who did a great video profile last year. Who goes to the University of Chicago? Shout out to Mabel who talked about her favorite word and it was just really cool to like I felt like I was sitting down and having a conversation with a student. Like at the lunch table where she was like hey, my favorite word says, here's what I feel like that reveals. I mean, it's a fun fact, but also just like a kind of interesting way to to learn more about her, you don't have to talk about your favorite word, but like I just felt like you know, for somebody who had done a really great job articulating what she was all about and the rest of the application that helped me get a picture of her as like a person in the same way that you know, maybe if you're.
Not sure what to talk about, just talking about something that you would love to share with someone that might not otherwise appear in an essay or. Something like that. Could be a great choice too, yeah.
:18:36 Jack W.
So. Let's say that I am putting together my supplemental materials about the artistic works that I've done. Sure, and I was an artist. Before I read about the fact that I could submit a supplemental material.
:18:52 Grace C.J.
Great, that that's where we want this to.
:18:54 Jack W.
Be coming from, but the problem is that I've painted 10000 paintings that's a lot. Right? So which ones do I submit? Should I send you all of them or just the best ones?
:19:03 Grace C.J.
:19:06 Jack W.
:19:06 Grace C.J.
Yeah, I feel like your your highlights would be the highlight reel. Lot of bad sports analogies here, right? But I feel like you know, if you feel like maybe there are two or two two to five pieces. That you think represent you really well. Maybe if you can share some, you know, here's something I did I you know I painted this and then this is a charcoal drawing or this is something that I felt used color really well and this is something that I felt you shape really well. You know we can get a quick picture of like what your artistic skills and abilities and kind of interests are from that. As much as I know, deep in your heart, it is helpful for you to show everything to us. Be wary of just like a dump of information that can feel more like an avalanche than just like highlights. 'cause then if you don't help me focus, I won't know what's most important to you.
So being able to pick those things curate for me be a curator here. You know when we when we go to the Van Gogh exhibit. It's not every every Van Gogh painting. It's somebody who said, haha, these three are these five within the context of this whole room really represent this type of work? So do that for yourself. And the same way I would. If you're a musician, I know it can be like Oh my gosh, this Concerto that I performed like you really need the whole thing with pets 40 minutes long. So maybe what I need to see is the the two to five minute clip of a part that you worked really hard. An area that you think represents you really well or to slightly bits of different contrasting. Movements of something, or if you're a creative writer, if you're if you're Miss Nanowrimo out there, the whole novel is not going to be something that I can read, but maybe if you feel like the two intro pages are like, really awesome, then that is a good way to highlight so. Help help me to understand you by picking your own highlights rather than hoping that I will find them.
:21:06 Jack W.
:21:08 Jack W.
So zooming all the way out. Through zoom zoom. What do you think is the most important thing to keep like in the back of your mind at all times when you're assembling all of the components of your college application?
:21:23 Grace C.J.
I think the most important thing is that you're going to go to college. I think that really gets lost. First, people you know you focus so intently on like, oh, this has to be exactly perfect. Or this has to be right? Or this has to be, you know. I if I'm not you Chicago material, it doesn't mean any of that. You get to go to college. College is rad, not everybody gets to go to college, and so if you're even sitting back thinking about like, how do I assemble all these things? Just remember that like it's all toward a common goal of having a great experience for four years, learning a lot, and being ready to be. Sort of an adult out in the world. After you do that, and. There are many colleges that can get you there. We hope that you'll put your best foot forward for us. I think this is a particularly good place to go to college, but it's not just about the you know yes or no from a particular school, it's about the whole. It's about the journey Jack. It's about the journey.
:22:21 Jack W.
Thanks for joining us on this episode of navigating college admissions. If you want to continue the college conversation, feel free to email us at college admissions at uchicago.edu or follow us on Twitter at VU Chicago and Instagram at Uchicago admissions. Good luck and happy appin'.