|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.|
Sunday, July 31, 2011
College Admission Essay in Under 200 Words?
If you were one of the students to breathe a sigh of relief when the Common Application reinstated its 500-word limit on personal statements, this will come as good news to you. University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business is offering a full-ride scholarship to the applicant with the top tweet. Yes, you read that right. While at least one standard length personal statement is still required, applicants now have the option of replacing the second essay with a 140-character tweet. It is the ultimate marriage of social media to university admission.
Naturally, the challenge doesn't sit well with everyone. Critics say it undermines the prestige and genuine value of a graduate education in business. Curmudgeons worry that Twitter and social media in general is little more than a badge of the short-attention span and self-absorption of today's youth. The University of Iowa begs to differ, citing the clear relevance of social media in the current business climate. Can anyone remember the last time they clicked on a major website that didn't ask to be "followed" on Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps the university has a point.
Even the most adroit tweeter will be hard-pressed to sell themselves in shorthand, but the real challenge isn't so much brevity as it is creativity. If you had just 140-characters to describe yourself and convince a university to give you $40,000 of free education, what would you say? It's a little early to say whether promotions such as this will really change the ways of college admissions, but it sure does keep the process interesting.
Labels: college essay in under 200 words
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Affirmative Action Ban in College Admissions Overturned
A Federal District court last week overturned Michigan's 2006 ban on affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring policies. The ban, which had become part of the state constitution via a voter initiative, prevented all public institutions from allowing preferential treatment to candidates based on race, gender and ethnicity. The court determined that the ban "impermissibly burden[ed]" racial minorities.
Like most court decisions, the change in law, however dramatic, may take some time to implement-if it is done at all. Michigan's public universities would have to review and take into consideration the effects on college admissions created by the overturning of the law.
Affirmative action is a hot-button political issue, and the decision has drawn vociferous criticism from opponents, who argue that all hiring and college admissions policies should be based entirely on merit. Proponents of preferential treatment for so-called minority groups claim that it is essential in order to maintain diversity and to ensure that those with fewer privileges are allowed de facto equal access to opportunity.
Similar bans still exist in several other states, including California. Given the relative confidentiality and subjective nature of college admissions, it is difficult to determine just how such bans (or the absence of them) affect the demographics of the student body. Whatever your political position on the issue, the developing nature of affirmative action legislation and its affect on college admissions, is something worth watching.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Amidst a Struggling Job Market, Law Schools Change Curriculum
In the wake of the economic downturn, few professional degrees have seen such a dip in employment as those in the field of law. Law school admissions aren't down, but the job market for law school graduates is. Exorbitant tuition and several years of heavy academic investment are not paying dividends for law graduates. Many frustrated law students are blaming the schools for selling promises of greener professional pastures. Some schools are, perhaps, taking head of this criticism, and putting a new spin on this despair.
For most law students, the end goal is to work as an attorney. One of the great ironies of a legal education is that law schools don't actually teach students how to practice law. First year students are assailed with the Socratic Method and promises that a legal education will teach them how to "think like lawyers". Law students not wrung out by the end of the first year can mostly expect to graduate with a well-honed ability to launch a good argument. This is oversimplified, of course, but the reality is that few law students-intelligent and accomplished though they may be-are really prepared to work as lawyers.
As a perhaps long-overdue salve, some law schools are breaking with draconian tradition, and starting to teach students (gasp) practical skills. NYU is teaching classes on skills in negotiation, counseling and fact investigation. Harvard has instituted a "problem-solving" class for 1Ls and Stanford is considering making graduation conditional on a 40-hour internship in the real world of law. Schools are recognizing the fact that only 25% of last year's graduates were hired at big firms. With those kind of corporate cutbacks, there seems to be less time and money for training in novice attorneys.
Fortunately, these kinds of changes can only improve the quality of legal practitioners and the quality of service provided to the public. A silver lining, if you will, in an otherwise tough climate for law grads.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
College Admission Possible
Drowned out in the national conversation about the competitive college admissions environment is a discussion about the students who never even make it to the drawing board. Hopeful high school juniors are veritably snowed under with the stress of standardized tests, US News & World Report Rankings, books on how to game the college admissions process, and, perhaps, pressure from well-meaning but overzealous parents. Well, maybe not all high school juniors.
Each year in the United States, there are more than 200,000 low-income high school students who want to go to college, but don't. Admission Possible is a non-profit organization that was created with the aim of helping at least some of those 200,000 create a different future for themselves-including college admission. The gap between rich and poor students in the path towards a college education creates problems of social inequity, and according to some opinions, threatens the future economic health of the country.
Since its founding in 2000, Admission Possible boasts that 98% of their students have gained college admission. The organization relies on fundraising and federal grants for its operating costs. It has received attention in recent years since its model for staffing is based upon a system of national service championed by the Obama administration (employees are paid a small fixed salary and receive a federally subsidized education credit). Staff work as teachers/mentors/counselors for low-income students, helping them to make college admission a reality.
Organizations such as these help breathe new life into a process that, while grueling, has long been the private province of the wealthier. Surely, opening up the option of college admissions to a greater pool of qualified and valuable students will help make the landscape of higher education more interesting and rewarding for everyone involved.
Labels: college admission possible
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Does the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) Discriminate Against Candidates With Disabilities?
Anyone who has dared broach the law school admissions process can attest to that fact that it is not an easy road. While law schools look at grades and consider the 'whole' applicant, the reality is that the road to law school is heavily cluttered with standardized tests. Naturally, most college graduates have already had to navigate the SAT. Law school hopefuls soon discover that the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is far and away the biggest slice of the pie in the law school admissions process, and the pressure is on. The LSAT is a bear, even for the best, brightest, and most adept standardized test-takers. Imagine then, what it must be like to have the odds stacked even further against you.
Last week, a Wesleyan graduate, with an apparently shiny academic record was denied in her bid to be granted extra time to take the LSAT. The student, who allegedly suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and a 'speed processing disorder', sued the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the body which administers the LSAT, claiming that their failure to grant her accommodations is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Her lawsuit follows closely on the heels of a similar suit by a blind man against the American Bar Association who claimed that the LSAT discriminates against the visually impaired. The LSAC is no stranger to being sued and claims that it reviews discrimination on a case-by-case basis. According to various reports, advocates for the disabled have long criticized the council for its failure to address the needs of test-takers with disabilities. For now, interested onlookers will just have to wait for the outcomes of these two cases, and see what it means for law school candidates with disabilities.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
"Common Application" Places Limits on Personal Statements
If you are an aspiring undergraduate or college transfer student, you have likely heard of the Common Application (colloquially known as the "College App"). For those who haven't, it is a non-profit membership organization providing, amongst other things, a single college admissions application that is accepted at more than 400 participating universities across the United States. By design, it helps to streamline the application process. Students write a single personal statement and submit it, along with their grades and scores to the universities of their choice.
For more than three decades, the Common App placed a 500-word limit upon submitted personal statements. Four years ago, the Common App changed their policy to allow unlimited word counts on personal statements. For the 2011-2012 academic year, they are changing it back. Why? Admissions experts claimed that personal statements were becoming long-winded and generally less well-written. Some students simply didn't know when to stop. Bleary-eyed admissions officers scarcely had the time to take in every word.
What does this mean for students? Good news, in this blogger's opinion. Not because it will be easier to do. Writing shorter personal statements means trimming, extracting and meticulously rearranging your words-no easy feat when you want so badly to impress your reader. What it will do is to force writers to make every word count. As the famous Elements of Style manual decreed, "omit needless words". Keeping a personal statements to 500 words will enable the reader to savor each one. And, after all, isn't that every student's real goal?
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Race and College Admissions
There are few word unions that raise hackles in a conversation like 'race' and 'college admission'. Affirmative action is a touchy subject, not one this blogger intends to tackle. Instead, this post aims to look at race not as a defining characteristic but rather to suggest that, for the purposes of an admission essay something that can serve as a lens through which the college can better understand the student candidate. Recent federal legislation has required colleges to collect additional information on the ethnic demographics of their applicants. As a result, colleges have begun to offer more boxes to check in racial categories, making it easier for multiracial students to fully outline their heritage.
In the competitive college admission process, students are constantly trying to reinvent themselves into the person they believe their dream college wants them to be. By probing the nuances of their own ethnic heritage, multiracial students can bring all sorts of new diversity to the table. The New York Times recently addressed the complexities created by the expanded 'racial check boxes' on college applications, but admissions officers insisted that the change shouldn't make the application process any more difficult. NY Times.
Assuming that 'race' means more to an applicant than merely a checked box, the experiences that are the result of a specific ethnic heritage are what can set a student apart. Test scores and grades may form part of the picture, but the essay is what is left to help flesh out the canvas. Admissions officers noted that, when faced with twenty students of equal academic standing, a unique racial background can ensure that a student will bring a different perspective to the student body. And isn't that what diversity is supposed to really mean?
Labels: race and college admissions
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