On August 31, Expert Admissions hosted a webinar – “Making the Most of Your Common App: In Conversation with Tulane and Penn State Admissions” – to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the college admissions process. Our panelists discussed how college applications are read, gave advice on how to approach different sections of the application, and provided some tips for learning more about a college and getting connected with regional admissions reps.
The Admissions Process: What happens after you hit “submit”?
First, rest assured that each application is read in full! Though, the process for reading applications differs at Penn State and Tulane.
Both schools emphasized the importance of students’ academic records, including the rigor of their course load. They also made it very clear, though, that transcripts are evaluated in the context of each student’s high school (so, for example, if your school doesn’t offer AP classes, it won’t be held against you that you didn’t take them).
Extracurricular activities were also a big topic of conversation, as both Penn State and Tulane want to see a variety of different interests represented on campus.
Common App Advice
The Activities Section: Order your activities in order of their importance to you. The activities you care about most should be in the first few spots on the list. More on this in the recording!
The Personal Statement: The essay is your opportunity to speak directly to the person reading your application. Great essays don’t have to be about a remarkable moment in your life and your experiences don’t have to be unique. Our panelists even gave some fun examples of memorable essays that focused on everyday life.
Recommendations: Penn State does not require recommendations, and Tulane only requires a recommendation from a school counselor. But both counselors said that they often enjoy seeing recommendations from teachers or mentors who know you well. They included some helpful tips for choosing your recommenders, but also cautioned against overloading your application with letters.
Test Scores: Penn State and Tulane are both test-optional, and saw many students admitted last year without standardized test scores. Both schools urge students to be strategic about sending test scores only if they will help their application.
When to apply: Both Tulane and Penn State were candid about the fact that early applicants have a better chance of admission at their universities, whether applying under an Early Decision or Early Action plan.
Supplemental Essays: Both Tulane and Penn State have optional supplemental essays, but they really like to see students answer them – Tulane’s rep even said it’s her favorite part of the application! Note that Tulane did add an additional supplement this year on identity and culture, and assured us that this one really is optional.
Although different colleges may or may not officially track demonstrated interest, it never hurts to get in touch with your regional admissions officer, if you have legitimate questions. Demonstrated interest is tracked at Tulane, and they like to see that you’ve taken the time to get to know whether it’s the right school for you.
One way to get to know more about a college is to speak 1:1 with an admissions representative. Tulane offers virtual interviews for this purpose, and although Penn State doesn’t offer interviews, Wax noted that admissions officers at Penn State enjoy speaking with students. So don’t hesitate to reach out to your regional rep with questions!