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Admissions Essays Blog
Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Friday, February 3, 2017
When College Application Information Gets Too Personal
Over the past several years, American universities have begun creating space for something new on their entrance applications: gender identity. The space takes different forms. Duke University earned recognition for offering an optional essay prompt inviting students to discuss things such as gender identity and cultural influences, on the premise that students may want to share other dimensions of their self-identification.

Last Spring, the Common Application-used by over 400 universities and colleges-announced that it would be introducing an optional essay question that would allow students to discuss their gender identity. They even begun to include a drop-down menu option (also optional), where students could enter their "sex assigned at birth".

Dozens of universities have followed suit across the nation. In California, all community colleges and California State University campuses invite student-applicants to designate one of several gender and sex identities.

For LGTBIA students and their allies, these options create a safe space and an invitation to discuss the ways in which being gender non-conforming affects their approach to their worlds.

But the news hasn't been universally welcome. College admissions is competitive, and some critics see these new identity options as a threat to the neutrality of the system. They worry that gender non-conforming students may be given preference in admissions. They fear that gender identity-like race-could be used by colleges to populate a diverse student body.

By most external metrics, colleges rely most heavily on grades and test scores in making admissions decisions; essays can tip the scale for students on the bubble. Beyond that is anyone's guess.

College admissions is still inherently opaque. No one knows exactly why some students are admitted and others aren't. It isn't and cannot be a scientific process. So people speculate, and worry that someone will be given an unfair advantage.

This is the nature of the competitive game, and it isn't always pretty.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Moving Through Rejection
A few weeks back, I spoke with a close friend who is in the process of applying for positions as an adjunct professor of psychology. This woman has spent many years in school. She finished her dissertation just months after having her second child. She was elated when she finished and successfully defended it. Knowing that the job market in her desired area was tough, she sent out fifteen applications for professorships in the first month after earning her degree.

Every single one of them turned her down.

She told me she planned to send out the second round within the next month. Was she disappointed? Sure. Did her confidence take a hit? Yeah. Did she wonder if she'd picked the right field? A little. Was she going to keep searching? Absolutely.

I'll be honest. I couldn't imagine having skin that thick. She took it in stride. "They just weren't the right fit".

Thick skin and quiet introspection are things that take years to cultivate. It seems crazy to ask seventeen-year-olds to "relax" about college admission. Disappointment, however, is part of life. And failing to get into a dream college is a pretty benign and high-quality disappointment. (#firstworldproblems)

This doesn't make it any easier to take, but it should serve as a reminder to high school students about the relative importance of a specific college. I'm not suggesting that students lower the bar, merely that they be pragmatic. With acceptance rates at the top universities hovering in the single digits, the odds are you won't be part of that world, and that's okay.

Most of us will never be astronauts either.

If you're grappling with success at the collegiate level, you've already got a foot firmly on the ladder. The ascent may take on many forms, and that's okay too.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Making Sense of Your College Financial Aid Package
Big changes this year to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have meant that students can apply for aid three full months earlier than they had in past years. This means that they will receive notice of their aid packages earlier-in many cases before getting acceptance letters from universities.

The cost of college is often a deciding factor for students in selecting a university. The gap between the college acceptance notifications and the financial aid package notifications has long made this a difficult conundrum for college hopefuls. What good is a Stanford acceptance if your family can't afford to send you there?

Yet even beyond these positive changes in application timing, understanding a financial aid package can be confusing. Often, students are awarded aid in several forms-loans, grants and even scholarships. Deciphering which is which is crucial. Additionally, different universities itemize costs in different ways; for example, it may be that they build cost of living and tuition into their estimated costs, but neglect to factor in books or other required fees.

Consumer Reports recently advised students to take initiative with universities regarding ongoing aid. Colleges sometimes offer generous packages for the first year in order to entice students to attend, but those packages may be quietly contingent upon things such as GPA. Additionally, since FAFSA asks students to update income sources each year, the stream of aid is not always guaranteed.

Financial aid is a confusing but critical factor that most students will have to negotiate as they make their decision.

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Monday, January 16, 2017
LSAT Discrimination Case Reaches U.S. Supreme Court
It has been over five years since Angelo Binno, a prospective law school student from Michigan, first filed his discrimination lawsuit against the American Bar Association (ABA). Binno, who is blind, claimed that a particular written portion of the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), could not feasibly be completed by an applicant who could not see. Because the LSAT is (essentially) a requirement for admission to any accredited law school in America, Binno asserted that the exam's failure to provide adequate accommodations for students with disabilities rendered it discriminatory.

Since 2011, Binno's claims have been repeatedly rejected as his case winds its way through the lower courts. Several courts have ruled for the ABA because it does not actually administer the test. This is where the context is complex. The ABA is empowered in part by the U.S. Department of Education as the primary regulating body for U.S. law schools. In recent years, the ABA has been criticized by the USDoE for getting too lax in admissions standards. In turn, the ABA has put the screws to several lower-performing law schools, putting them on probation and threatening to pull their accreditation.

In the past, the ABA granted LSAT waivers to students with disabilities, a policy that has since been abolished. Binno's attorneys argue that the ABA's failure to grant waivers to students like him is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to grant Binno review of the matter. If they do not, it will prove the end of the line for Binno's suit against the ABA.

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Monday, January 9, 2017
Edit Edit Edit
The famously shrewd wit Mark Twain once advised writers to "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be." To be fair, many students writing at the high school level may not yet have a healthy fear of adverbs. But in college essays, there is no single act as crucial as excising needless words.

At the practical level, students need to learn how to keep it simple. It's rare to find a university that accepts an undergraduate essay of longer than 650 words. Many universities require pesky supplements-often as short as 150 words. Brevity is an effective straight jacket.

Still, what I see in many student essays are hundreds of itinerant words in search of a purpose. Often, teenage writers get mired in the challenge of picking a topic. They understand the weight of import of the admission essay. So they tie themselves in knots trying to brainstorm the perfect story, where no such thing exists.

There are stories lurking in every corner. It may be about that patchwork quilt on your bed that your grandmother stitched for you. It could be that time you got your remote-control drone caught in your neighbor's tree. What it shouldn't be is 500 meandering words bookended by lots of "verys".

Twain's admonition to strip words had to do with the very character of the narrative. For college hopefuls, shedding needless adjectives will help force them to get to the heart of the story. It will necessarily suffocate platitudes, forcing the writer to say something of true import.

And if none of this made any sense-my take-away is simple. Edit, edit, edit. Sleep on it. Pass your essay around to friends, family, teachers; I promise they will see things that you cannot. But remember not to lose your voice. It isn't necessarily what you write about, but how passionately you write about it. "Very" is not a passionate word. Get rid of it, and move on.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017
Keeping Parents Calm During College Admissions Season
For most students, the applications have already been done. Even the latest admissions deadlines passed around the first of the year. Now, the hardest part of the process begins. The wait.

It will be another couple of months before decisions start rolling in. And the people most worried of all might not be the students themselves, but their parents.

Sure, college-bound kids these days are more stressed than ever about "getting in". The admission rates are down, the market is competitive, and only the wealthiest of students can afford consultants. It's no longer a simple game of grades and a top-notch personal statement.

Still, parents are viewing the process through both the reasoned lens of experience, and the totally irrational lens of a parent wanting the best for their children. Parents understand that leveraging a quality education is increasingly crucial to stay competitive in the job market. Parents who have gone to college may understand how vital the college years were to their own emotional development. Parents who haven't gone to college may be desperate to see their kids enjoy greater successes than they did.

Like any season of parenting, the hardest and most profound act a parent may take is surrendering. Control is an illusion. The admission or rejection will come in its own time, and the parent's job will be the same as always: helping your child navigate their new reality with love and support.

After all, by the time your children are headed off to college, most of the good parenting work has already been done. Breathe, and let them go.

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Monday, January 2, 2017
Do Colleges Really Care About Community Service
Most parents of teenagers will tell you that even the brightest and most driven of their offspring still neglect to pick their wet towels up off the bathroom floor. So when it comes to encouraging high school students to engage in community service, is there a way to ensure that the volunteering is being done for the right reasons?

The community service essay is a thing. It usually morphs into some version of "I gained far more from them than they did from me". Student travels to a developing nation or a local soup kitchen, experiences sharp social awakening, and returns home with new sense of perspective and gratitude.

It's unfortunate that this trope has become so trite. Because there are absolutely students who volunteer for the right reasons, and cathartically emerge from the experience with unclouded eyes. The problem is, the admissions game has gotten so competitive, it's near impossible to separate the mockups from the genuine articles. Students understand that universities are looking for well-rounded candidates, and that, where all else is equal (grades/test scores) the soft factors may be the deciding factors.

What it comes down to is a student's ability to show, not tell. If the soup kitchen truly changed the way a student viewed their world, it is likely to reveal itself through their other chosen experiences. Their passion will surface through their words; laundry lists of charity 5Ks won't fool anyone.

Above all, colleges do care about these kinds of experiences, but they are only a small piece of the whole student.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Changing the Face of Legal Research
In the world of higher education, the appearance of prestige is almost as important as prestige itself. The Ivies, and other universities with well-regarded stature also immediately have access to other important things-good faculty, wealthy students, and, wealthy alumni. This isn't to say that auspicious learning institutions aren't actually of higher quality than their counterparts. Still, perception is reality.

This is nowhere truer than in the law school arena in the United States. The American Bar Association is the governing body which accredits and oversees the nation's schools. All of the top schools are ABA accredited. There are a constellation of requirements that schools must meet in order to merit accreditation. One of them has to do with the size and scope of the school's law library. With the growth of on-line research libraries, this component is arguably becoming a more dated metric.

Which is why I was encouraged to find a recent story about a Harvard Law graduate, who is also the head of a start-up company Ravel Law. The graduate-Romeen Sheth-and his alma mater have recently partnered on a $10 million project to digitize Harvard's entire law library, making it accessible to—gasp-the public.

Symbolically, this is a big deal. Unaccredited law schools often remain that way solely because they lack a bricks and mortar library. New legal practitioners pay top dollar for access to databases like Lexis-Nexis. Non-legal professionals have long struggled to find public access to all but lengthy troves of actual statutes.

Digitizing actual libraries suddenly means that institutions like Harvard can no longer keep a golden lock on the doors of their research libraries. It isn't clear what kind of price tag companies like Ravel intend to attach to the digital information, but it does mean that one need not be a Harvard student to have access to its annals of knowledge.

Will members of the public clamor for this digital library? Maybe not. Arcane case law isn't for everyone. But in theory, access to it should be. I, for one, would like this to cause a shift in a very old tide of thought.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Social Media Creating New Hurdle for Law Students?
Across the U.S. there are two components to bar admission for every attorney in the country. A law exam, and a moral exam. The vetting process can take months or even years, depending on the particular state. The central regulating body-the National Conference of Bar Examiners-promises aspiring attorneys that they may be waiting 3-4 months for the results of the background checks.

The fitness exams run the gamut and will look into everything from criminal history to professional misconduct. Some states require law students to list speeding tickets. Areas such as mental health and substance abuse can get particularly sticky; such investigations can run afoul of privacy concerns proscribed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and substance abuse history is arguably not a barrier to practice for attorneys in recovery. Still, the character exams leave few stones unturned.

Which is why it should come as little surprise that investigators may turn to social media accounts of applicants during the vetting process. What better way to uncover a person's moral fitness to practice law than by checking their Facebook page? I write this with only a whiff of sarcasm. While it seems unlikely that a sordid tweet may preclude an otherwise squeaky-clean candidate from bar admission, unsavory online behavior could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back. (Unless you're the President-Elect).

Take the case of Otion Gjini, a Maryland bar applicant whose appeal of his admission denial was affirmed, based mostly on an undisclosed criminal history. But in the course of their review, the regulating body found a series of sexist and homophobic rants on Gjini's Facebook page, which, they claimed, would tend to "breed disrespect for the courts and for the legal profession".

Should all law students rush to scrub their social media profiles? As a matter of professional practice, it isn't a bad idea, but with a looming character and fitness exam, it may just be common sense.

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Monday, December 12, 2016
Women Still Lagging Behind Men in Legal Profession
For many years, one of the most apparently gender-equitable spaces in American society could be found in a rather unlikely place: college campuses. Since the early 1970s, the gap in attendance between men and women has been narrowing. Around the turn of the millennium, women pulled ahead; today, between 55-57% of college students are women.

Unfortunately, this trend hasn't translated well in the working world. Perhaps that depends upon who you ask, but well-aerated statistics indicate that women continue to earn less than 80 cents to a man's dollar. There are 23 female CEOs in the entire Fortune 500. Senior partners in U.S. law firms are overwhelmingly male.

A recent analysis of demographic data within U.S. law schools has also revealed some unwelcome news. While it may not sound bad, just 50% of law school students are women; this means that somewhere between college and law school, women's chances of admission deteriorate. The report notes that there are more women than men obtaining master's and doctoral degrees-why the difference in law school?

Another problem? Law schools accept fewer women than men. And women who do make it into law school tend to be accepted to less prestigious institutions. Anyone working in the legal profession knows just how much pedigree matters.

Like any statistical analysis, drawing conclusions require evaluation of multiple variables. Neither the report nor this post can presume to answer the question of "why", although. Asking it, however, is as important as ever.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Rising Costs of College Admission
Let me start by saying one thing: this post won't be about the rising costs of actual college attendance. That's not because college tuition costs aren't going up (they are). Instead, I'm talking about the long-game. The cost of preparing kids for college.

It starts at preschool.

I'm not being alarmist. I also don't believe kids are actually tracked at age three. What is arguable is that socioeconomic class starts to inform educational trajectory from very early on. With some exceptions, the kids whose parents can afford to send them to preschool will begin kindergarten with many social and some academic advantages.

With some exceptions, kids who attend private elementary, middle and high schools will also have a leg up on their public school counterparts. This is in no way a swipe at public education. It's just that it can't compete with the funding of private institutions, which will offer wealthier children opportunities that poor children will simply never see.

By high school, most kids already have a sense of whether or not college is on the horizon. Private schools-with smaller student to teacher ratios and bigger coffers for paying staff-will undoubtedly be able to support students through the college application process in a more meaningful way. Some public school guidance school counselors are assigned to hundreds of kids at a time.

With a new presidential administration promising to divert federal and state funds away from public schools, the cost of schooling may become even further out of the reach of many American families. This trend is likely to be complicated by slashing the funding of vital early education programs designed to help lower income families. The face of college admissions may be changing, and with it, the demographics of the country's college graduates.

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Monday, December 5, 2016
Time for “Tracking” in Post-Secondary Education?
How do politics affect post-secondary education in the United States? Are they truly a meritocracy, or is the system rigged? Will we ever be able to bridge the wealth gap in college education?

These are just some of the questions now on the front burner as we await a Trump Administration. Obama's tenure can be best described as an era focused on college completion. His administration pushed for transparency in the fiscal value of college degrees. He worked with philanthropic organizations to create post-secondary credentials that had meaning and value in the workplace. And in recent years, the Obama administration made great strides for community colleges.

The Trump administration's position on higher education is still not abundantly clear, but it may end up being eclipsed by a focus on creating jobs. Ironically, the creation of jobs and support for four-year education are things that-in American culture-are often mutually exclusive. Trump has promised a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program; most of the jobs created by such an endeavor would only require a high school diploma.

Which raises the issue of "tracking"-a system common in parts of Europe which typically causes Americans to bristle. Such a system tracks students early on, recognizing that some students will become doctors and some will become plumbers, and that it is equally important to prepare students for both.

This system acknowledges that all students are different, but goes against the grain of the American bootstrap mythology that anyone can reach the mountain top if they just work hard enough. History has proven this to mostly be untrue.

So while a Trump administration will likely (and intentionally) unravel much of the education policy crafted under his predecessor, he may in fact create a professional environment meeting many of the same goals.

It just may be that "success" no longer includes a four-year degree.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016
ABA Sanctions More Schools Over Admissions
The American Bar Association, the regulatory body in charge of policing America's law schools, has recently disciplined two more schools over what it characterizes as lax admissions policies.

The public censure was directed at the Valparaiso University School of Law and Charlotte Law School. This brings to three (including Ave Maria School of Law) the number of schools that have been disciplined by the ABA since August of 2016.

Part of the ABA's roll is to make sure that law school admissions is stringent enough to filter out students who are unlikely to excel academically in law school and pass the bar exam after graduation. Quality control, if you will.

But some of the censured schools raise interesting rebuttals. The downturn in the legal profession has caused a severe curtailing in enrollment. The response of law schools to that has taken on many forms, from laying off staff to increasing tuition. Another trend has involved relaxing admission requirements. Though few schools will admit to doing so, experts have cited declining LSAT scores and bar pass rates as evidence that law schools are evolving through this crisis.

There are 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S. Losing accreditation has different effects on students, depending upon the state in which they are located. However, many states will not allow students from unaccredited institutions to sit bar exams or practice law.

The disciplined schools have two years of probation during which they must meet with ABA standards in order to maintain accreditation. Their failure to do so may have long and lasting impacts upon their students.

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Monday, November 21, 2016
Universities Issue Joint Statement in Support of DACA
Back in late December of 2010, The Dream Act, which stands for “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors” was defeated in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 55-41. This legislative bill was designed to help people who had been brought into the U.S. illegally when they were 15 years old or younger. The Act would have helped those children to obtain U.S. citizenship, providing that they attended two years of college or served two years in the U.S. military. The law required qualifying candidates to have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and graduated from high school.

In 2012, the Obama Administration issued an executive order creating the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This act was a diluted version of the Dream Act, offering deferment from deportation to undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthdays. So long as program applicants had graduated high school or been honorably discharged from the military, they would receive temporary work permits. Unlike the Dream Act, DACA did not offer these young people an alternative path to citizenship.

DACA is now one of many policies created under the Obama Administration that President-Elect Trump is promising to dismantle. Estimates place at around 750,000 the number of people who are currently participants in DACA; over half of those students are from California and Texas. Surprisingly, a movement to defer deportment of those people has received bipartisan support in Congress, although it remains to be seen whether legislation preserving portions of DACA would pass in the Senate.

For their part, a group of 472 university and college presidents across the country have expressed written and vocal support for the safeguarding of DACA and its students. The number of signatures is growing daily. The joint statement calls it a "moral imperative" and "national necessity" to protect the rights conferred on these DACA students, many of whom may eventually face deportment under the current administration.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016
How Early is Too Early for College Admission Preparation?
About three years ago, the prominent professional site LinkedIn changed its membership rules to allow students as young as 14 to create a profile. The idea behind the move was to encourage high school students to begin building a clean social media profile for prospective colleges and even employers.

LinkedIn has long been the squeaky-shoed cousin of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Reserved primarily for professional connections, it can be a great resource for networking. For young students, LinkedIn is an ideal opportunity to begin prepping for the adult world of polished presentation. And for those getting ready for college, it is a good spot for a dry run.

But how early is too early? By 14, most students have decided whether or not college is on the menu, but it is still four full years away. High school isn't a chapter meant to be skimmed, but by junior year, the college hand wringing will have already started. And realistically, most teenage LinkedIn profiles would be understandably thin.

Still, we are now in the digital age-and this is an arena where youth typically shines. Creating a professional profile (digitally or practically speaking) is a valuable exercise-and one to which parents and mentors could contribute meaningfully. And if colleges continue to be as interested in applicants' social media pages as they are now, an impeccable LinkedIn profile could be a very important portal indeed.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Being Poor at an Elite University
It's been nearly three years to the day since I first read (former) Duke University student Kelly Noel Waldorf's article about being a poor student at an elite institution. And on the heels of a U.S. election that has pushed issues of economics and class division to the surface, her story is more relevant than ever.

Her letter, which appeared in Duke's own newspaper on November 11, 2013 went viral at the time. In it, she talks about the practical realities of being poor. She can't afford to go out to eat with her friends. She has to check her textbooks out of the library. Her mom calls her crying because she can't afford the gas money to come pick her up for Thanksgiving break.

But the more troubling aspect of the article involves her anecdote about putting her McDonald's job on her résumé: a Duke classmate asks her if she thinks that's wise. And there it is-the embarrassing culture clash. That painful juncture where one person's reality becomes the object of elite pity. Waldorf got it, and she had the courage to write about it.

Today, things are no better. The majority of students at elite universities come from families with six-figure incomes. Legacy admissions and the exorbitant price tag on private universities means that poorer students either can't or don't even try to attend. The efforts by many institutions to offer services to low-income students may be worthy, but it's a mere ripple in the ocean.

The class divide in our country has never been greater or more apparent. College has long been considered the gateway to success, but it is not always an easy threshold for students to cross. Getting in and getting it financed is the practical battle; moving into a new social class is an entirely different exercise.

To read Ms. Waldorf's 2013 article, click here: Duke Chronicle

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Monday, November 7, 2016
Using Analytics to Find the Perfect College Student
Most people plugged into the college admissions game understand the stakes. We all know that students are evaluated on their grades, test scores, and so-called soft factors-like extracurricular activities and volunteer experience. What people might not know is that some colleges also rely on something else when measuring their candidates: analytics.

These are essentially data points recorded on students, based upon things like geography, race, family income, ethnicity, gender, and high school attended. The process of statistical analysis is beyond the scope of this blog, but using analytics to study people and their habits is nothing new. It is also potentially very valuable for colleges and universities.

Let's be honest-the idea that institutions are reducing human beings to data points isn't likely to sit well with people. At least at first glance. Predictive analysis is riddled inherent biases-take, for instance, the correlation between college graduation amongst students of color or students from low-income families. Colleges have a vested interest in making money and staying high in the rankings, so they are going to pick students likely to perform well.

Still, this doesn't mean that analytics can't be used in a positive way.

Colleges themselves can use analytics to track student performances. Some universities are becoming more invested in retaining their students rather than separating the wheat from the chaff. So when they see a freshman struggling with grades, they can approach and intervene, rather than tossing the student onto academic probation.

As tools of professional management, analytics can be enormously helpful in empowering colleges to better serve their student populations, by having a better understanding of demographics, financial need, and academic interests.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016
What the Presidential Election Could Mean for College Students
Let me start with two caveats. First, I can't possibly sum up the political platforms of both US presidential candidates in 250 words. Second, this is a non-partisan post.

Put simply, the candidates disagree most strongly on "school choice", which is a general term that would essentially eliminate the current model of neighborhood public schools. Put another way, parents would have greater choice in terms of where to send their kids to school, and would not be restricted by geographical district.

What isn't as clear is republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's platform for third-level education. He has promised to reveal it in the furture, but his campaign website offers no details. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the other had, promises to build up federally subsidized programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP: programs that both aim to strengthen the pipeline between colleges and underserved communities.

The cost of college is a big election issue. Generally speaking, Trump wants to divest the federal government of its large role in providing financial education for college students, migrating that role over to private banks. Clinton, on the other hand, wants to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in an effort to encourage more students to apply to college. Trump wants colleges to begin shouldering more of the costs of attendance; he also wants colleges to consider the future earning capacity of students in determining how much to loan them. Clinton's New College Impact, would make four-year public university tuition free for families making less than $85,000 a year and would make community college free.

Noxious as this election cycle has been, the two candidates arguably moor to traditional party lines with their positions on college education and how to fund it. And, as always, there will be sizeable gaps between campaign promises and deliveries.

Nevertheless, this election is an important one for all college hopefuls to watch.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Are the Ivies our New Celebrity Culture?
I'll be the first to admit it: I find it hard to rise above the temptation of click-bait. Just yesterday, I skimmed through a toothless piece about Brad and Angelina's ex-bodyguard. If you don't know who I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky.

About six months ago, I read a Washington Post article about America's "dangerous" obsession with elite universities. It struck a chord with me. If you read about college admissions with any vigor, you'll find it impossible to ignore the mania over Stanford, Harvard and Yale. There's no one disputing their excellence.

The problem is their relevance to the average person.

The vast-and I mean vast-majority of Americans stand no chance of admission to any of them. Put another way in the WP article, just 4% of American students attend universities with an acceptance rate of 25% or less.

Let that sink in. Harvard, by the way, accepts 5.2% of its applicants.

So why, oh why, do we keep fixating on universities that will have little to no impact upon American college graduates? What is so addictive about the unattainable?

Perhaps it is because the ordinary just isn't interesting enough for our byte-sized attention spans. The idea that thousands of hard-working Americans will graduate from solid, regional public universities each year-it's just not a story.

The problem is that it should be. Because our high school students are paying attention. They need to know that success isn't hog-tied to low acceptance rates.

This isn't about settling for less. It's about focusing on what students can and should be doing with their educations. It is about shifting the conversation. In the words of Ben Casselman, it's time to "Shut Up About Harvard".

The Washington Post

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Monday, October 17, 2016
Changes to FAFSA to Help Students with College-Selection
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education gives out over $150 billion in financial aid for college students. The aid is need-based, and any student can determine eligibility by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

For most high school students, the income being evaluated is that of their parents. It is often advised that all students fill out the FAFSA, even if their parents' income is too high to qualify for aid. Because many universities and organizations use the financial information on the FAFSA to make determinations about merit and need-based scholarship awards, it is recommended that all students fill out a FAFSA. The FAFSA also entitles applicants to up to $5,300 in low-interest federal loans.

Integral as the FAFSA is to many college students, it has long posed a problem. With an application deadline of January 1st, most students were applying for aid after they'd applied to colleges. For many students, cost is a major component of college selection. Some students were placed in the difficult position of accepting college offers before they knew whether or not they could afford to pay tuition.

This year, FAFSA has changed its deadline to October 1st. This means students will receive aid decisions well in advance of the college acceptance deadlines. Students will be better able to make informed (read: financially sound) decisions.

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