Why “Well-Rounded” Isn’t What Colleges Want

Why “Well-Rounded” Isn’t What Colleges Want

by Jason Patel for Niche

Colleges are searching for a diverse student body. They want students with different talents and interests who will make varying contributions to campus.

When building a freshman class, colleges aren’t looking to accept hundreds of students who are identically well-rounded. They’re hoping to find students with unique skills and specialties.

Colleges want well-rounded classes, not well-rounded students.

But you don’t have to take it from us. Here’s what a few top colleges have to say on the subject:

  • “You [should] demonstrate a deep commitment to and genuine appreciation for what you spend your time doing. The joy you take in the pursuits that really matter to you – rather than a resume padded with a long list of activities – will strengthen your candidacy.” –Yale’s advice on Activities
  • “When we evaluate an applicant’s activity list, we’re not looking for a specific number of involvements or even specific types.  We are much more interested in seeing an applicant follow their passions and show dedication over time to a few specific involvements rather than spreading themselves too thin.” –USC Admissions Blog
  • “We are looking for students who will contribute their talents, interests, perspectives, and distinct voices to our community… We are more interested in your focus on a few activities over time (such as work, care for parents and siblings, service, or athletics), rather than membership in a long list of clubs—although we understand that some students can balance an assortment of activities.” –Swarthmore College, “What We Look for in a Swattie”
  • “You’re joining a team. And because we’re recruiting a team of people who will work together, we want a variety of strengths and talents that, together, will form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. So, not every talented student needs to be talented in the same way.” – UNC-Chapel Hill, “Who We Want”

Think of a college’s student body as a puzzle, with each student representing a uniquely important piece. You’re the only one with your exact talents and interests, so demonstrate and deepen those instead of participating in many activities at a shallow level.

ACE your college interviews!

ACE your college interviews!

An interview is a chance for you to meet with someone who represents the college. It’s a great way to show your interest in the college, to start a relationship with people there and to show what you’re all about. Here are some types of questions you may encounter and tips for answering them.

Before Your Interview:
  • Make an interview appointment with one of the colleges I want to attend.
  • Mark the date and time on my calendar.
  • Research the college by checking out its website, brochure, and course catalog.
  • Make notes about why I want to attend this college.
  • Make notes about my academic background and high school experiences.
  • Make notes about my life outside the classroom, including activities, community service, and hobbies.
  • Get familiar with common interview questions and do some practice interviews with a friend or family member. Take turns being the interviewee and the interviewer.
  • Prepare questions about the school to ask the interviewer.
  • Get directions to the interview.
  • Choose appropriate clothes to wear for the interview.
  • Gather documents I might need, such as test scores and my high school transcript.
During the Interview:
Interviewers may ask questions like these:
  • Why do you want to attend our college?
  • What can you contribute to our college campus?

Why they ask: They want to know that you’re really interested in their college. They also want to know what you can bring to the campus. Tip:  Talk about what you’ve learned about the college and why you feel it’s the right place for you. (Remember that you have to research a college ahead of time to answer this type of question well.) Discuss your extracurricular activities and achievements that show your character.

  • What three adjectives best describe you?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Why they ask: They want to see that you can think and speak about yourself. Tip: Give examples of how your chosen adjectives describe you. Talk about how you’ve used your strengths to accomplish something. Talk about how you overcome your weaknesses. For example, you can say, “I have a hard time learning new languages, so I set aside more time to study them.”

  • What activities do you find most rewarding?
  • What is your favorite book?
  • What do you want to do after graduating from college?

Why they ask: They want to get to know you better and learn about your aspirations and values. Tip: Think about the why: Why are those activities the most rewarding? Why is a book your favorite? If you have a major in mind, talk about why you’re interested in that subject. Discuss how you think college can help you meet your goals. Be sincere and honest in your answer — don’t say things just to impress the interviewer.

  • If you had a thousand dollars to give away, what would you do with it?
  • What’s your opinion on the immigration debate (or another topic in the news)?
  • If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?

Why they ask: They want to see that you are informed and curious and a careful thinker. Tip: Stay up-to-date on news and current events. Do you have strong opinions on certain issues? Can you explain your position? Try to spell out your system of values to yourself and think about how you apply it.

More college interview tips
  • Have a conversation. Don’t try to memorize a script.
  • Ask questions. Do express your interest in the college.
  • Be yourself. Don’t try to answer questions based on what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
  • Prepare. Do practice interviews with friends or family. Take turns asking questions.
After Your Interview:
  • Make notes about the interview.
  • File away any business cards with contact information that the interviewer and other admission staff offer.
  • Send a thank-you note to the interviewer. Thank the person for his or her time and refer to something specific we discussed.

Need Interview prep? Email us at info@weilcollegeadvising.com

The Weil College Advising Team

Changes in Federal Student Aid

Changes in Federal Student Aid

There will be some fundamental changes to the way federal financial aid, and institutional financial aid at most colleges is determined. Here is a quick rundown of some of the most significant features.
  • Changes will be effective starting July 1, 2023 for the 2023-2024 school year. The first redesigned FAFSA form will be available for high school seniors on October 1, 2022 for those students currently in 10th grade.
  • The number of questions will be reduced from 108 to 36.
  • The term Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be scrapped. It will be replaced by Student Aid Index (SAI). This is a positive change since many parents are currently misled into thinking their EFC is what they will have to pay when often it is significantly less.
  • If a dependent student’s parents are divorced or separated and not remarried, the parent who provides more financial support to the student will be responsible for completing the FAFSA. “The parent you lived with more during the past 12 months” will be scrapped as the determining factor for which parent should complete the FAFSA. This closes an enormous loophole divorced or separated parents were able to exploit.
  • Colleges will be required to disclose all elements of the cost of attendance on their website whenever it lists tuition and fees. This is a very positive change as some colleges continue to bury their total cost.
  • Income Protection Allowance will be increased, allowing a greater amount of income to be sheltered from the financial aid formula.
  • Asset Protection Allowance, which has steadily declined over the past decade, will remain unchanged and will probably disappear completely in a few years.
  • The FAFSA will no longer divide the family assessment by the number of family members in college. This change will significantly reduce the amount of financial aid available for multiple family members enrolled at the same time, a harsh and regressive change from the current formula.
  • The FAFSA will include a question about the applicant’s race or ethnicity.
  • Charging a fee to complete the FAFSA will be prohibited.
  • Male applicants will no longer be required to have registered with Selective Service.
  • Applicants convicted of the sale or possession of a controlled substance will no longer be ineligible for federal student aid.
  • Several changes to Professional Judgment and special circumstances, including prohibiting financial aid administrators from denying all financial aid appeals.

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC.


Questions from Parents

Questions from Parents

How many colleges do you think my teen should apply to?

Here’s my formula: Three reach colleges (colleges that might be a reach but still attainable, about 30% chance of admission for your student); four “target” colleges (colleges that are a good match for the student, around 50% chance of admission for your student); and three safety colleges (colleges that the student will be at the top of the applicant pool, or around 70% chance of admission). Sometimes I add ONE “wild card” where there is a 20% chance of admissions for that student.

My student is not motivated in school and has his head in the sand when it comes to college applications. What can I do?

Motivation comes from within. Nagging and punishments don’t work. Some students are late bloomers and that’s ok, not everyone reaches life milestones at the same time! My advice: have an open conversation with your child and keep open mind, listen to your child and his/her reasons to shy away from college right now (hint: there might be other underlying issues). Talking to college students can be a big motivator and reduce anxiety. And sometimes we work with students with the understanding that they will apply to college and then take a gap year.

Post your questions here!

Bettina Weil

Weil College Advising

 10 Tips to Help College Applicants Establish Their Social Media Presence 

 10 Tips to Help College Applicants Establish Their Social Media Presence 

#1 Know the 3 Tenets of Social Media

You are never anonymous. Your posts will never disappear. Anyone in the world with an interest in finding everything you’ve ever posted can. These rules apply to all social media activities including Snapchat, Finsta, and social media accounts believed to be private or hidden by any alias.

#2 “Nothing to Hide” Is Not the Same as “Something to Show”

“I know colleges will be looking, so I’ve never posted anything that can embarrass me.” We hear this from students all the time and always ask whether they’re certain about this (see tip #1) and then remind them an empty or neutral digital presence will not help their college admissions chances. If colleges will be looking, then give them something to see.

#3 Create Content for Your Intended Audiences

Personal and college-oriented social media activities do not mix. The content students should be sharing with colleges is very different than the content they are willing to share with their friends and peers. Different audiences demand different content.

#4 Create New Social Media Profiles Specifically for College

Social media is fun, so students need not worry about compromising their online activities with friends (but remember Tip #1). It is liberating for students to separate their social media activities with friends from the content colleges will want to see (see Tip #3). Think about using less popular teen platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to build your college facing digital presence.

#5 Anchor the Social Media Accounts for College with the Email Address Used for College Applications

Creating a Gmail account using a recognizable form of your name in this email prefix should also become your college social media username (firstnamelastname@gmail.com = @firstnamelastname). This technique will lead colleges to discover the social media content students want them to see. This will help students increase their start “likelihood to enroll“ score by leveraging the algorithms measuring their digital activities (see Tip #8).

#6 Build a Digital Portfolio Designed to Showcase Your Strengths

This is the opportunity to take control of your digital narrative. Social media is a great place to showcase your character attributes—leadership, volunteer service, commitment to an activity, teamwork, resiliency. Students can also use social media to build portfolios showing colleges the depth of their interest in their intended course of study— graphic design, art history, architecture, fashion.

#7 Register on College Websites

Once your college list is assembled, visit the admissions webpage and find the “request more info“ link. Some websites hide the link behind other links so keep looking. Register with the email you created in Tip #5. This enables instrument management algorithms to track your digital engagement with that college’s digital content. This measurable digital engagement will increase a student’s likelihood to enroll score.

#8 Follow Student Social Media Ambassadors, Read Student Blogs, Follow Colleges and College Departments on Social Media

Use your college-specific social media accounts to actively engage with the college’s digital community. Follow colleges from your LinkedIn account. Most colleges are very active on Twitter. Follow the main college account. Follow specific schools within the college. Follow professors who teach at those schools. Build a community. Show your interest.

#9 Only Follow, Comment, and Mention Colleges From Social Media Profiles Created or Curated For College

Students would not go to a college interview straight from the gym without first showering and changing the clothes. The same principle applies to social media. Students need to know that colleges see every mention of their name. Social media listening technology is in wide use. Posts such as “I got accepted to X college but will go to Y college if accepted there” Will be seen by both X and Y college.

#10 Invite Colleges to Look at Your Curated Social Media Profiles by Including URLs Within Your Applications

Getting into selective colleges is hard. Getting a large merit aid award is challenging. Use social media to stand out from the other highly qualified applicants. When you embed your social media URL(s) within your college applications and invite reviewers to learn more about you, you are increasing the chances that they will, and if done right, will be delivering compelling and differentiating information directly to the reviewer. This is your opportunity to shine!

Written for IECA by Alan Katzman

Questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil


AP Scores and College Credits

AP Scores and College Credits

Although this year AP tests were “non-traditional”, many colleges have said that they will still award AP credit (see this list by Prompt).  AP scores will be available online beginning July 15.  Scores are released over several days based on the state in which you tested.  View the date and location schedule, and your scores, on the College Board website.  

What is the AP exam score scale? 

There is no “pass” or “fail” on the AP tests.  It’s important to understand the definitions of the AP scores. 

5 = extremely well qualified | Many universities award college credit  

4 = well qualified | Some universities award college credit 

3 = qualified | Some universities award college credit 

2 = possibly qualified | No college credit awarded 

1 = no recommendation | No college credit awarded 

Send Your Scores to Your College 

Be sure you send your scores to the college you are attending in the fall.  The college needs your official AP scores to award you any college credit.  Additionally, your college may use these scores for placement purposes.  Even if you do not receive credit, it’s important to send your official score report.  Check with your college to confirm their policy on awarding AP credit.  You can also find those policies on the AP Credit Policy Search site.  You may also hear this information from your advisor at orientation, or see your college credits on your school’s student web portal.      

What if I have other scores? 

Go to www.apscore.org to view scores on tests you took in previous years. 

I have other questions about AP scores.

You can contact the CollegeBoard directly for AP questions by emailing apstudents@info.collegeboard.org. 

Have further questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Founder, Weil College Advising, LLC