Talking Transfer: Carving Your Own Path! 

 

This week we welcome Transfer Program Manager, LaSean Price, to the blog. Welcome, LaSean!

Most journeys in life are not linear.  Although linear is the most direct path from one point to the next, life is full of twists, turns and roundabouts.  If you don’t get into your first choice college, don’t be discouraged — there’s more than one way to a destination!   

Venturing into the transfer admission process can feel daunting, and is a significant choice that requires careful consideration.  With over 15 years of experience working with and supporting transfer students, I’d like to offer some guidance and advice while you contemplate navigating this journey. 

Change your lens! 

Do not let fear or judgement hold you back.  Ultimately, the decision to transfer colleges is a deeply personal one that only you can make.  This is your life, and your path will not be identical to family or friends.  Comparisons can be deceptive.  Staying focused on your individual journey will allow you to carve your own path in life. 

Many college and university presidents are actively thinking of ways to recruit you to their campus.   That’s the very reason some colleges and universities have staff dedicated to transfer students.  Institutions with dedicated transfer staff place considerable importance on transfer students. 

Transferring from one college to another is more common than you may think.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), in 2022, over one million degree-seeking undergraduate students were enrolled as transfer students.  Many states even offer statewide resources for transfer students such as California’s ASSIST system or Georgia’s Georgia Transfer site. 

Research is key! 

Carefully consider the pros and cons of pursing transfer opportunities.  Researching and exploring academic programs, campus cultures, locations, financial aid options and co-curricular activities should play an important role in your decision making.   You will have to dedicate time to ensure a smooth transfer process while balancing your current schoolwork and other priorities.  Requirements and timelines vary from college to college, so pay close attention to these factors so you can stay on track.  

Do not be afraid to reach out to institutions of interest.  Attend a Transfer Information Session to learn more about the institution and application requirements and get valuable insight into their review process.  Many times counselors will highlight beneficial tools like accessing the school’s transfer equivalency tool and opportunities to connect with faculty and current students in your desired major. 

Before committing to transferring schools, it’s crucial to understand how your credits will transfer to a new institution.  Research the transfer credit policies of the colleges you are interested in to determine how the credits you have already taken, or future credit will apply towards your degree program.  Take the time to weigh these pros and cons and consider how they align with your future aspirations. 

Help us help you!  Identify yourself by signing up to receive information from colleges of interest.  That allows us to send you information from application deadlines to opportunities to connect with current students from the institution.  

Take advantage of what’s available to you. 

Every time I’m on a transfer panel and get to hear from other institutions, I’m always amazed at the variety of resources being offered at each school.  While you are considering a transfer option, maximize your time at your current institution.  Take advantage of building new community by joining clubs and organizations, exploring leadership opportunities, and/or pursuing co-curricular learning opportunities.  

These activities will expose you to other students with similar or different interests than your own, create networking opportunities, and can even improve your academic performance.  These experiences will help you prepare to take advantage of similar opportunities when you transition to another institution.  Also, many competitive transfer programs will assess your application to learn about your passion and leadership ability.  Having these experiences in both high school and college can help you develop a strong application (wink, wink). 

Don’t take this road trip alone!  Seek support from family members, mentors, and college advisors.  They can offer valuable insight, guidance, and encouragement as you pursue this option.  Transfer student organization or clubs are another great resource that can provide perspective and reassurance about the transfer experience. 

You’ve got options!

If you didn’t know, let me be the first to tell you: you’ve got options!  Deciding to transfer is a significant decision that requires reflection, research, and consideration.  Successfully executing a plan to transfer will take a series of micro-decisions that gradually shift your mindset and build upon the previous ones, moving you closer to your goal.  These small but important decisions will set you up for success.  Trust yourself, embrace the journey and seize the opportunity to carve your own path!  

LaSean Price has supported transfer students in many roles throughout her time in higher education.  She joined Georgia Tech in 2019 and currently coordinates Tech’s Transfer Pathway Programs and leads admission staff in file review of transfer applicants.  Having experienced the transfer process firsthand, she demonstrates a strong commitment to advocating for, supporting, and collaborating with transfer champions across campus.

College Admission SOS

Thursday, February 22 

Atlanta, GA : 5 a.m. 

My vibrating watch alarm went off. After 20 years of marriage, I’ve learned the hard way not to set an audible alarm before 6 a.m. (actually, that only took me about two weeks). Groggily, I drug myself downstairs and fed the cat — which is better than feeding myself and drugging the cat, I suppose. (My daughter wanted to name her using a feline pun and my son wanted a “tough sounding” name. Ultimately, we arrived at Pawly. Technically, it is Muhammad “Pawly” Clark.)  

As I’m putting on my running shoes, Pawly rolled over to be petted. Immediately, recognizing my disinterested and half-hearted effort, she looked at me in disgust (yes, cats can absolutely do that), and walked away slowly, as if to say, “Loser.”  

After a few head-clearing miles, I jumped in the shower, grabbed a banana and a cup of coffee, and headed to the airport. Because I make this drive regularly, I did not need or use WAZE or Google Maps.  

Atlanta Airport: 7 a.m. 

I pulled up my boarding pass from the Delta App and noticed that my phone was showing a “SOS message” in the top right corner. (Note: SOS is an international distress signal: the ship is going down; we are in imminent danger; send help immediately.) 

At this point, I’m convinced it’s a “me problem.” I turned the phone off and back on again. No dice. Still SOS. A flurry of explanations went through my head: 

  1. Maybe Tech’s not paying for this phone any longer in my new role.
  2. Maybe the lint in my pocket finally won.  
  3. My daughter. I mean…you never know. 

Once I boarded the plane, however, I heard other passengers talking about the various phone carriers who were experiencing national outages. While it was moderately relieving, it did not fix the problem.  

Richmond, VA: 10:15 a.m.  

I rent a car and pull up to the exit booth.  

“Ummm…. do you have a map?” 

“No, Sweetie. Where are you going?” 

“Charlottesville.”  

“Ok. Go to the third light, take a left, and follow signs for 64W.” 

Got it.  

My realization that I had no idea how to find my hotel increased as the distance to Charlottesville decreased, but with the names of both the street and hotel, I figured I might get lucky and see one or the other on a highway sign.  

Nope.   

So, I randomly picked one of the four Charlottesville exits. I figured I’d give it five minutes and if I didn’t stumble on them, I’d stop and ask for help. Call it divine intervention or dumb luck, but at the second light I saw my hotel. Boom! 

Charlottesville, VA: 11:45 a.m. 

Grabbing my bag from the trunk I began wondering how someone who had never lived in an Alexa-less, GPS-less, wireless world would have dealt with navigating the journey I’d just made.  

Well, friends, I found out upon entering the lobby, because in an absolute puddle on the coach was a 20-ish-year-old (lots of hyphens there, I know) girl crying hysterically. 

“Can I borrow your phone?” she stammered. 

“Ummm…well, unfortunately, I don’t have any service right now– why don’t you ask at the front desk?” 

Apparently, she had not considered that option, so we went up together.  

I watched her search her contacts and call her mom from the lobby land line.  

Still crying softly, “Mom. I’m trying to get home…”  

She grabbed a pen and scribbled down directions. In the end, she lived about 5 miles away (How do I know? Oh, I was totally looking over her shoulder– I may not pet cats at 5 a.m., but I match their curiosity 24-7). 

My head: Noon 

So many questions and thoughts. 

  1. Was this really an emergency?  
  2. Who is responsible? (You know- because nothing solves problems like pointing fingers.)  
  3. What is the path forward? 
  4. How does this translate to college and college admission? (Naturally)

Admissions SOS 

Over the years, I have asked audiences from Atlanta to Argentina (actually, now in all hemispheres) to give me the first word they think of when they hear: “College Admission.” The number one answer on the board, and the response you’ll get most audibly and consistently, is “stress.” SOS!  

I’ve gotten many other interesting ones too: Hunger Games, black box, and most recently—divorce. Wow! Dark thoughts, people. Seriously, seriously dark. Sounds like the ship is going down and we need help immediately!  

And while I had no tangible solutions to remedy the AT&T outage on February 22– other than asking if someone had tried turning it off and back on again—I do have some thoughts and insight to share about alleviating stress in college admission.  For a more exhaustive exploratory, feel free to buy my book or check out our 8 years archived blogs. For the Executive Summary—read on. 

Question #1: Is this really an emergency?  

Answer: No. (Well, that was easy.)  

As my friend and colleague Katie Mattli says, “Nobody died in college admission today.” SOS is way overstated. Hunger Games? Really? And I don’t even know what to say about the divorce answer. 

Question #2 and #3: Who is responsible? What is the path forward? I’m going to knock those out together here by offering three solutions for both users (students and parents) and providers (colleges).  

Students 

  1. Your list doesn’t have to be balanced. What?!! You’ll hear a lot of people say you should apply to a “balanced list of schools.” What they mean is to identify a few schools you will likely be admitted to, a few where it is less predictable, and at least one that is highly unpredictable.

No, you don’t. The average admit rate for four-year colleges is around 65%. If the places you are excited about and make sense for you each have admit rates above that– well… you are above average. Who said schools with lower admit rates are better, or should be more desirable for you? Conversely, if you apply to 10 schools that each have a 10% admit rate, it does not give you a 100% chance of getting in. Admission math does not always work the same way regular math does— but in this case… yea. Commit to not applying anywhere you would not actually go AND be sure several (or all) are “predictable” in their admission and affordability outcome. Are we getting reception back yet? 

2. How > Where. I heard a Georgia Tech graduate give a keynote speech last night. In it she said, “No college can make you great. You are already great. Pick a place where you will be surrounded by classmates, professors, and opportunities that will bring that out in you.” Spoiler Alert: There are hundreds (not 25 or 50) of schools in America where that can and will happen for you. Your success, happiness, and fulfillment are far more connected to how you show up in college, rather than where. Until you believe that, it won’t matter how many times you turn your phone off and on — the SOS won’t go away.

3. Do Your Own Homework. The girl in the lobby in Charlottesville had clearly just been following Google Maps her entire life without looking around, paying attention, or thinking for herself. Too many smart high school students approach their college search this way. And then stress comes when they “do everything right” and it still doesn’t work out the way they thought was promised. Re-routes, speed bumps, and delays are inevitable. Expect divergences and you won’t end up crying on the couch—ohhh… and that applies not just to college admission but life well beyond.   

Parents  

  1. Parents of high school students should talk to fewer parents of other high school students about college admission, and more parents of current college students or recent college grads. Why? Because parents of other high school students lie. They do. They exaggerate and fabricate. Suddenly, their daughter’s 1340 magically becomes a 1430.  

“Did you hear nobody from our high school got in to X College last year?! (Beware the interrobang) And I heard that four kids from (the school down the road) got admitted with scholarships.”  

Ever wonder why it’s always easier to get in from “the school down the road?” Again, because people make stuff up to fit their narrative, aka THEY LIE. They drive up the stress by speculating, pulling threads of truth and portions of stories and re-telling them inaccurately. 

You know what parents of current college students or recent college grads never say in reflecting back on their experience: “I wish we’d stressed more. Yea, if I had it to over again, I’d definitely bite my nails more, drink excessively, and lose sleep worrying. Now that would have helped and made things better.” 

2. Money Talks. The biggest gift you can give your student is not an open checkbook—it is an open and early conversation (10th and 11th grades) about what you can afford or are willing to pay when it comes to college. This is going to require going into detail on your rationale and allowing your student to ask questions. The bottom line is we don’t give our kids enough credit when it comes to these kinds of discussions. Wait until senior year or after your student has applied or been admitted to talk about money and you’ll only have yourself to blame for the SOS communication blackout that follows.   

3. Success Lists > College Lists. Once your family begins talking about college in earnest (typically junior year), I suggest you write down 5- 10 schools you hope they’ll consider, visit, or potentially apply to—and then next to each school name write 2-3 sentences explaining why. (Note: Because I wish I’d gone there and am vicariously living through you… red flag).  

Then have them do the same and have a “curiosity conversation”—a discussion centered on trying to better understand everyone’s goals, hopes/fears, interests– and how that connect with reality.

But the more important Top 10 list you can create is one of your family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors who have taken a variety of paths to success and happiness. Ultimately, our job as parents is to instill confidence in our kids, so that no matter where they end up, they are prepared and ready to capitalize on that opportunity (unlike the confidence and preparation displayed in the lobby in Charlottesville). We are coaches in perspective! Don’t get sucked into the tunnel vision, paranoia, and zero sum thinking that breeds anxiety. True success for our kids is making sure they have options and choices. Don’t get it twisted. 

Bonus: If you read an article or social media post that features a college(s) with a first-year class size smaller than your local public high school or place of worship, it is not a trend but an outlier. Journalists know that clicks and eyeballs pop when they cite certain schools, which are frequently diminutive outposts, rather than large signposts for the direction or state of enrollment or higher education. Consider contacting the reporter and asking them to change their title to “lower education reporter.”  

Note: I was going to try to work in something about a drinking game with Ivy League school mentions but thought broaching cirrhosis may detract from my larger points. 

Now that we have talked about how the “users” can tamp down stress. How about “the providers?” 

Colleges and colleagues.   

  1. Data disaggregation and transparency.

Colleges should make it clear and easy to find admit rates based on each application plan; Early Action (EA), Early Decision (ED), Regular Decision (RD), and any other iterations, derivations, or acronyms. How do these vary by residency if it is a public school? What has this looked like in recent years, i.e. trends and patterns? Stress often comes from an absence of clarity.

If the college is test optional school, what is the admit rate for submitters vs. non-submitters? What raw number and percentage of students who applied with and without testing? Are there other academic ranges you can provide, i.e. GPA, number of AP/IB/Dual Enrollment courses for each cohort in isolation and comparison?  

Then break that down for the enrolling class and the admitted class. 

2. Eliminate weekend and holiday application deadlines. I mean…do I really need to explain why this would reduce anxiety and stress? C’mon, people. Do the right thing here. This one is easy.

3. Provide multiple mediums for conveying voice.

Ask most admission counselors what they are looking for in an application essay and you will get some version of: “We just want to hear the student’s voice.” Well, let’s solve for that. The truth is that many of these essays are already overly sanitized, AI generated, professionally tailored or tampered with, or a combination of all of the above. And it is the part of the application most students cite as the most stress-inducing. 

Allowing for voice-recorded responses, or short video clips, is the student’s voice, and it is a comfortable medium that could add value and diminish anxiety. Changing the medium of delivery to audio or video – or at least providing either as an option – gives a much better sense of how a student would engage in the classroom or on campus than does the essay. Importantly, if these were limited to a minute or so, it would not add time to review for colleges – and could be a welcome reprieve for the tired eyes of admission readers. Companies such as Initial View are offering this for students, and it is time for the  the Common application and Coalition application to modernize their platforms and integrate technology that allows us to more directly hear and/or see students, and the adults who support them. 

I am way, way over our normal 1000-word blog goal, so if you are still with me—Congratulations!  

At the end of the day, the way we tamp down stress in college admission is by keeping the end in mind: College admission leads to college. And college is about fun, friends, discovery, learning, testing assumptions, growing, and finding your own path to happiness, fulfillment, and your unique future.  

Again, I’d quote our keynote speaker from Tech—you are great! You are going to be great! And you do not need cell reception or a certain bumper sticker to confirm that, because it is already in you. Surround yourself with friends, classmates, and adults who keep helping you bring that greatness out. You got this! 

 

 

 

 

(Not) about me… and the blog 

(Warning: There are a lot of hyperlinks in this blog. If you have an aversion to URLs or words being underlined, proceed with caution. Otherwise, I hope they’ll give you a small sense of what we’ve covered over the last eight years.) 

For the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of leading Georgia Tech’s admission team and our undergraduate recruitment and review efforts (dual enrollment, transfer, first-year). During this time, we have been fiercely committed to continuous improvement, and as a result have overhauled our approach to recruitment, review, communication, policy, and practice… several times over. It has truly been fun to leverage our platform and megaphone in creative ways (including this blog) to help Georgia Tech become a thought leader in the college admission and undergraduate enrollment, and it has been my honor to serve as one of our primary storytellers in Georgia, around the country, and abroad. 

Much of that opportunity has emanated from Tech’s dramatic rise in reputation and impact driven by our research, entrepreneurship, innovation and more. But every team, company, and organization have its weaknesses, and while we have grown significantly in every other category and demographic, we have failed to increase our enrollment of low-income students and Pell Grant recipients. 

Ultimately, admission without affordability is not access, and as a public university- and a public good- we have a fundamental obligation to ensure Tech’s life-transforming, world-class education and experience is accessible to top talent, regardless of a student’s financial background. This is why our Transforming Tomorrow Campaign is centered on raising $500 million for need-based scholarships and our President, Dr. Ángel Cabrera, has made affordability, return on investment, and social mobility top priorities.  

In pursuit of these goals, Tech recently created a new position in our division of Enrollment Management: Executive Director for Strategic Student Access– and as of January 1, I have stepped into this inaugural role. My focus will be on developing/cultivating relationships and collaborating with stakeholders on and off campus, including school and school system leaders, community and government agencies, corporate sponsors, philanthropies, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and donors. 

My goal has always been to leave GT admission better than I found it- and to ensure our team, structure, and office culture are sound. I can say unequivocally that is the case. The talent on our team is incredible and imminently qualified to continue the path of excellence we’ve established in “Progress and Service,” and the culture I have helped create, while far from perfect, is built on trust, encouragement, humility, and a deep concern for the work and one another.

I am excited that my longtime friend and colleague, Mary Tipton Woolley, will serve as the interim director, bringing with her over two decades of admission experience, an established track record of vision and success, leadership positions both on campus and nationally.

So, what about the blog? 

After we released the story about this new role, I received a number of texts, emails, and calls that started with “Congratulations!” And quickly pivoted to, “So, what about the blog?”   

Well…I created the GT Admission Blog in the fall of 2015. My daughter was four; the Cubs had gone more than a century without a title; and tick tock was just a sound.  

Was there a grand strategic vision for the blog in the beginning? Hardly. The truth is it began because at the time, my regular Thursday afternoon “running meeting” was with my friend and Tech’s former director of enrollment communications, Matt McLendon. We’d lace up our shoes and set off with a full agenda. BUT inevitably somewhere along the Beltline (which was largely unpaved), I’d start rambling about a particular challenge or admission issue.  

One day (mid-run/ mid-rant), Matt gently suggested I “write this stuff down.” He asserted that families needed to hear more honesty and openness from admission deans and directors, and my random analogies and anecdotes may actually be a refreshing way to present subjects that often stir anxiety. (Although I suspect it was also his tactful way of trying to enjoy the run and keep us on task). 

In the 8 years and ~300 blogs since, that has been the goal. It has led to: myriad of sports references; many predictions- some of which have been spot on, and many others…spot off; extremely loose parallels; countless puns and dad jokes; an excessive number of (likely unnecessary) parentheticals (see what I did there?); as well as various chronicles of my kids’ childhood. 

But the blog has never been mine or about me. Instead, it is Georgia Tech’s– and it exists for you. Its real strength has always been the variety of voices we’ve featured and the feedback we’ve received. Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular blogs have come from Tech’s talented and brilliant admission colleagues. They have helped realize the initial vision of addressing broad admission issues to provide readers perspective, insight, and helpful tips in a relatable/accessible tone – and hopefully bringing some levity and solace along the way. 

Good news! All of that is going to continue.  

I am still focused on undergraduate enrollment and working closely with our admission team. And arguably there has never been a more dynamic and important time in higher education and college admission. Plus, Matt McLendon now works at the University of Alabama, so I can’t get all of my crazy parallels out on runs If you want to literally hear more from me, you can check out The Truth about College Admission podcast.

We have so many experts on our team who are excited to share their perspectives, stories, and tips with you. So going forward you can expect two blogs each month—one from me and one from a Georgia Tech colleague. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. And please reach out if you want us to cover certain topics, find one of our jokes funny, or vehemently disagree. We welcome all of that- and ultimately it makes this blog an even stronger resource. 

In Progress and Service,  

Rick 

Seniors, Can We ChatGPT?

Last week I wrote a piece for rising juniors about how they could consider using generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT and others in order to assist in their college search. The takeaway is that these tools are helpful for brainstorming, iterating, and sparking thought and reactions, which is essentially what the college search, application, and selection process should be.   

The responses I received via email and direct message were… mixed.  

A few were extremely appreciative– another good resource and a helpful way to open students’ minds to choices and options.  

Others were- let’s just say- less appreciative. Everything from references to an “unchecked Pandora’s Box” to some straight up vitriol. Welcome to the world of blogs and social media.  

Undeterred, this one is for high school seniors.

Here is what we know 

  1. The Common Application does not have a policy for students on using Artificial Intelligence. In fact, if you enter “AI” into their platform’s search, only a list of colleges come up: American International College, College of St. Scholastica, The Citadel, Colby College, Lawrence University. FYI- that’s a very different list than the same prompt on ChatGPT, which again points to the concept of using a variety of sources and resources in your college search, application, and selection process. 
  2. Colleges are unlikely to have uniform policies on the use of AI that cuts across their entire student body. They’ll largely leave guidance and appropriate use to individual professors and courses.  
  3. Most admission offices have not published guidance for applicants or provided public information on how AI should or should not be incorporated as you work on applications, or supplemental questions, etc.  
  4. Most high school students are using AI to some extent for personal or academic purposes.  
  5. Colleges want applications that are full of details, specifics, and insight into who you are, how you think, what you have learned, and what you care about.  

So, in hopes of bridging the void and advancing the conversation, as well as giving students, counselors, parents, and school communities (on the K-12 and higher ed side) something to react and respond to (one of AIs biggest value adds), we consulted with experts on campus- specifically Dr. David Joyner in our College of Computing- in order to develop this framework- Georgia Tech’s applicant AI guidance.  

Tools like ChatGPT, Bard and other AI-based assistance programs are powerful and valuable tools. We believe there is a place for them in helping you generate ideas, but your ultimate submission should be your own. As with all other sources, you should not copy and paste content you did not create directly into your application. Instead, if you choose to utilize AI-based assistance while working on your writing submissions for Georgia Tech, we encourage you to take the same approach you would when collaborating with people. Use it to brainstorm, edit, and refine your ideas. AI can also be a useful tool as you consider how to construct your resume in the Activities portion of the Common Application. We think AI could be a helpful collaborator, particularly when you do not have access to other assistance to help you complete your application. 

 The Activities Section. (Hat tip to my colleague Mary Tipton Woolley for her experimentation with this portion.)  

At Georgia Tech, we call this Contribution to Community. We are looking for students to demonstrated “The Three I’s”- Involvement, Impact, and Influence. We talk about this in info sessions, write about it on this blog, and even include guidance and insight, including videos on our website. Still, sometimes students struggle to think through what they’ve done and how to describe that in the boxes provided on college applications.  

Here was my prompt: can you help me put my work at Subway into the extracurricular activities into the common application  

ChatGPT response:

Absolutely! Including your work experience at Subway in the extracurricular activities section of the Common Application is a great way to showcase your skills, responsibilities, and dedication. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it: 

  • Title and Description: Start by giving your extracurricular activity a title. For example, you can write “Subway Employment” or “Subway Crew Member.” Be clear and concise. Then, write a brief description of your role and responsibilities at Subway. Highlight your key achievements and contributions. 
  • Organization Name: Mention “Subway” as the organization name. 
  • Position/Role: You can list your position or role, such as “Crew Member” or any other relevant title. 
  • Time Commitment: Specify the duration of your employment at Subway. Mention the start date and, if applicable, the end date. If you are still working there, you can write “Ongoing” or “Present.” 
  • Hours per Week: Mention the average number of hours you worked per week at Subway. This gives colleges an idea of your time management skills. 
  • Key Responsibilities: List some of your main responsibilities and tasks at Subway. Highlight skills and qualities you developed while working there. For example: 
  • Provided excellent customer service and ensured customer satisfaction. 
  • Prepared and served food items according to Subway’s standards. 
  • Operated the cash register and handled financial transactions. 
  • Maintained cleanliness and sanitation of the store. 
  • Collaborated with the team to achieve daily sales targets. 
  • Achievements: If you received any awards or recognition during your time at Subway, be sure to mention them. For example, if you were recognized as the “Employee of the Month” or received positive feedback from customers or managers. 
  • Personal Growth: Reflect on how your experience at Subway contributed to your personal growth. Did you develop communication skills, learn to work in a fast-paced environment, or improve your problem-solving abilities? Colleges value personal growth and development. 
  • Skills Gained: Highlight the skills you gained or improved through this experience. These could include customer service, teamwork, time management, responsibility, or any other relevant skills. 
  • Impact and Learning: Explain how your work at Subway influenced your academic or career goals, and what valuable lessons you learned from this experience.

And then it closed with: Remember to be honest and authentic while describing your experience at Subway. Admissions officers appreciate genuine experiences that showcase your growth and development. Including work experiences like this can demonstrate responsibility, time management, and the ability to balance academics with employment. Good luck with your application! 

 Well…thank you ChatGPT. I appreciate the integrity and encouragement!    

Perfect? Absolutely not. You are not going to have space, nor do you need to delve into “Personal Growth” or “Impact and Learning.” But the rest is helpful, accurate, and fairly thorough.  

You’ll also find these tools helpful if you are struggling to fit an activity into the boxes and character count on an application. Rephrasing, reformatting, iterating, and doing so within specific word parameters is a strength of ChatGPT. 

College Specific Supplements and Essays 

Here is our specific advice: 

In the same way you would not copy directly from any other source you may incorporate into the writing process, you should not copy and paste directly out of any AI platform or submit work that you did not originally create. Instead, approach and consider any interaction with an AI tool as a learning experience that may help you generate ideas, provide alternative phrasing options, and organize your thoughts. Ultimately, we want to read and hear your unique and valuable writing style. 

The truth is that getting started with anything is hard. Getting out the door to go to the gym or for a run, cleaning the house, or working on a project. Momentum is tough to create, and we all need help at times.  

Over the years, I have consistently heard students talk about the dreaded blinking cursor. The tyranny of the blank page. How do I get my thoughts out? How do I figure out what I want to write about or how to phrase things?

Some students have built in resources to help- parents, siblings, teachers, counselors, or other supporting adults around them who they can talk through their activities or essays with. Other students pay for that service and assistance.  

AI tools can complement those other resources and fill a void for students who may not have historically had these benefits. This is a good thing.  

What I AM saying 

ChatGPT can write an essay or supplemental response for you.   

Will it have any personal style, unique details, valuable specifics, or soul? No.  

Is copying, pasting, and submitting something you did not write ever a good idea? No.  

Could reading those before you go to sleep be a helpful substitute for melatonin? Yes. 

AND I am also saying that after reading the essay or supplemental prompts, it could be worth asking ChatGPT to generate a response that will help stimulate ideas and ways to improve and personalize your writing. Again, this is a tool, a collaboration, and a way to get started.   

What YOU can expect 

  1. Perfect grammar. These tools are built off ridiculous amounts of information. The grammar will be impeccable.
  2. Inaccuracies and generic writing. After reading what is produced, it will be very sanitized and relatively boring. It will lack specifics and it will not “sound like me.” Some of the content will simply not be accurate.  
  3. A need to revise. Re-enter the prompt adding in details and specifics. When, where, who, why?
  4. Head shaking. Wait… NO. That’s not what I meant. That’s not what happened. That’s not how I want to say it. And simultaneously, YES! That could be a good way to go, or I had not thought about putting it that way.
  5. MOMENTUM! Ok. Now you are rolling. Now your brain is working and you’re homing in on what YOU want to write about. You’ve seen the boring and impersonal way to write about your topic. Now it is time to open that Word document and take some of the lessons you’ve learned and write your own essay or supplemental response.   

As I said earlier, colleges want applications that are full of details, specifics, and insight into who you are, how you think, what you have learned, and what you care about. That’s a lot to ask. And it is a process of brainstorming, iterating, uncovering, discovering, ultimately submitting an application that tells your story. It’s a process. While AI does not make a good author, it can be a helpful stimulator, sounding board, collaborator, and momentum generator.   

Congratulations on your senior year and getting started with your college applications!     

 

Let’s Get A Few Things Straight (about College Admission)

There has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about how much has changed in college admission.

Maybe….

But just like during and following the pandemic, much remains constant. So, let’s get a few things straight.

College Admission is Not Fair. I know some groups may claim to have brought this about with the proverbial wave of a wand or banging of a gavel, but the truth is that no system or process is (or ever will be) fair or perfect. Humans run processes. Humans are imperfect, flawed, and operate in a broken world.

Do not confuse quantitative measures with fairness. I remember when Georgia Tech operated on a purely formulaic basis. We recalculated GPAs so that everyone had a max GPA of 4.0. We did not consider the rigor of the high school, performance of past graduates, or a student’s grade trends. We considered Honors, Magnet, Gifted, AP, IB, Dual Enrollment to all be rigorous and each received an extra .5 bump- again with a max GPA of 4. We effectively “let out the slack” from the top until we had admitted the number of students we needed based on historic yield models.

I’m guessing many of you are already poking holes in how FUBAR this model is– and can likely channel some of the complaints and questions we’d get…

I have all APs and my classmate only took honors level. You’re weighting that the same?

But I had all As in a full IB diploma program and my “friend” only took general courses. Are you telling me that we both end up with a max 4.0?

I made a 1300 on one take with no outside help. My neighbor made a 1200 the first time and then after thousands of dollars in private tutoring ended up with a 1350. That’s going to be the difference? He’s got lower grades than me!!

At the time, I was not the director, but my name was on admission letters for students whose last name started with A-C.  As a result, even though I did not agree with how we were making decisions, I was left to defend them.

One of the most memorable cases was a girl in North Georgia who was the valedictorian of her high school. She had taken the toughest classes, made the highest grades, and accomplished all of this while juggling a 25-hour a week job at a local restaurant to help support her family. She was not admitted because her SAT score was 10 points below our threshold that year– 10 points. Meanwhile, we admitted three other kids from that school who had slightly lower grades, less rigorous courses, and less impact on their community, etc. Fair? Hell no. In fact, I can still remember talking to her mom on the phone and having to suppress my own frustration.

Over the years, we have continued to evolve our file review process to make it more contextual and holistic. Academically, we look closely at grade trends, course choice, rigor, high school history, etc. We do not draw hard lines on test scores and we use macro data to help understand student testing context.

And, of course, a great deal of time is spent in committee looking at a student’s involvement, impact, and influence. Still, I’d be the first to say that neither our process, nor any other college’s in the world, is perfectly fair– it’s not possible or designed to be. Instead it’s designed to be comprehensive and thorough, but fair….NO.

There has been a lot of talk lately about checkboxes on applications. Here is one you won’t see on an application but you need to mentally agree to:

“By submitting this application, I understand I may not agree with the decision I receive, the timeline on which I receive that information, or the rationale I get for why the decision was made.”

Mission Drives Admission. Think of your high school. It exists for a purpose. Maybe it’s a public school and is located to intentionally serve kids from your part of the city or county. Maybe you attend a private or religious school. Again, it was founded for a reason and is attempting to attract and enroll students and families centered on that mission. Companies, community centers, organizations… they all have a mission and are making decisions geared toward moving that forward.

As a public school, Georgia Tech’s goal is to enroll 60% of our undergraduates from our state. This means we prioritize Georgians in our entire process. We attend more recruiting events in Georgia than out of state; we set deadlines earlier for our residents, and inform GA applicants of their decisions ahead of non-residents. Tuition is much lower for Georgia kids and our admit rate is three to four times higher for Georgia students than it is for non-Peach staters.

In an attempt to enroll students from all across our state, we have programs like the Georgia Tech Scholars Program for valedictorians and salutatorians. Are there cases where the number three (or thirteen) student at one school is as strong as the salutatorian from another… and yet decisions vary? Yes. Is the average SAT/ACT from out of state/country higher than it is for Georgia students? Yes. Is mission driving admission? Y.E.S.

A college you apply to may be trying to grow a particular major. That is going to influence their admission decisions. Another school is looking to enroll more students (or less) from your region of the country or nation. That will have an impact.

The truth is you are not always going to know these things. What you do know that is institutional missions – not your particular test, GPA, number of APs, or selected essay topic- drives admission.

What does all of this mean for you? 

1- Apply to a balanced list of colleges. If your current college list only includes schools with admit rates under 20%, you need to re-think. Applying to more schools with single digit admit rates does not increase your odds of being admitted to one of them. That’s just not how it works.

2- Celebrate your wins. Every time you receive an offer of admission, you need to pause, celebrate, reflect on your hard work, and thank the people around you who’ve made that possible, i.e. friends, family, teachers, counselors, coaches, and so on. As always, hug your mama!

3- Control what you can control. Admission is not fair. And mission drives admission. You cannot control where you get in or how much money they offer you in financial aid. You can control how you receive and process admission decisions. These are not value judgments or predictions of future success. Don’t over index.

You can control how  you treat people around you. You cannot control the decisions made in admissions offices you’ll never enter, but you can control the decisions you make in the rooms you enter everyday– your living room, classroom, etc. I hope you’ll make that your mission. Fair?