|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, October 30, 2011
Law School Applicants: Beware of Your Digital Trail
Law school these days has become a bit of a hot potato. Admissions are down. The legal job market is the worst in recent history. A smattering of big-name schools have been exposed for the filthy habit of pumping up test score data in order to make themselves look pretty. Even the American Bar Association has stepped in with a preemptive slap on the wrist to law schools-forcing them to provide real statistics on job prospects for graduates. And while all potential college and graduate students should know by now that tidying up their social media profile is somewhere around step-one in the college application process, on-line discretion is, apparently, paramount for law school applicants. It turns out they have the most to lose.
The snide public scorn reserved for lawyers may be occasionally well-deserved, but the reality is that attorneys are, by law, held to extraordinarily high ethical standards. Most states require attorneys to submit to a rigorous background check before allowing them to practice law. All lawyers are subject to penalties-including disbarment-if they are found to be in breach of statutory ethical guidelines. Perhaps this is just one consideration causing law school admissions officers to place on-line personas of their applicants under a high-powered microscope.
A recent Kaplan survey revealed that 41% of law school admissions officers admitted to Googling applicants or otherwise checking out their online presence. Even more damning was the fact that more than a third of officers who researched an applicant online uncovered information which was potentially damaging to their admissions prospects. These numbers were monumentally higher than those for undergraduate or business school applicants. The moral of the story here-the ethical scrutiny starts early for law school candidates. So be ready and beware.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Business School Admissions A Matchmaking Game
For better or for worse, we live in a culture that idealizes love and regards marriage as the end goal of the dating process. If you've already excused my first pun, you'll perhaps forgive me for using the search for love as a metaphor for the graduate admissions process. Really. Once you've decided on, say, business school, and once you've earmarked acceptance as the only true measure of your success, the process of finding a union with the right school becomes your singular ambition. You try on the idea of a handful of schools, weighing the practicality of which ones might actually accept you and which ones might be out of your league. You see where I'm going with this.
If this kind of desperate need for acceptance and validation were not part of the college and graduate admissions process, the "process" itself would not have become such big business. Each year, thousands of anxious, ready-to-please students descend upon this conglomerate of admissions whizzes the way that lovelorn hopefuls flock to match.com. There is a real sense that who you are as an individual is not enough. You need someone to match you to the school that is the right fit. Moreover, you need someone to look you squarely in the eye and talk odds. If the search for a soul mate and the hunt for an alma mater weren't so complicated, there wouldn't be an army of experts out there, promising to help us find the One we were destined to be with.
Take this recent interview with Derrick Bolton--assistant dean and director of M.B.A. admissions at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. The interviewer rummages for the answer to every hopeful student's ultimate question: "what IS it that admissions committees are looking for?". Bolton's answer is disappointing in the sense that it apparently isn't really within our control. (In an infuriating it's-not-you-its-me sort of way). As Bolton dryly reveals, it isn't about how great you are as an individual, but about what kind of spice you will add to the pot of stew he is trying to create. So basically, you better hope you aren't just one of ten thousand other carrots if he's looking for potatoes. Like life, you have to simply be the best you can, and hope that there's someone out there looking for someone just like you.
Wall Street Journal
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Changing the Essay Question
They say if you don't like what is being said, change the conversation. It works in advertising and politics, so why not in academia? It seems admissions committees agree and are doing just that by changing the question. The University of Iowa's Trippie School of Business recently caught headlines by offering a full scholarship to the business school candidate with the catchiest Twitter-length 'personal statement'. This week, Columbia Business School announced a 200-character cap on responses to the broad question "What is your post-MBA professional goal?" (By the way, 200 characters is roughly 35 words, which is about twice the length of this sentence).
It isn't just the length of responses that is changing, but also the scope of the question. Harvard Business School candidates are now being asked to "Answer a question you wished we'd asked". It's not ground-breaking stuff, but slightly less dry than "describe a setback and how you handled it".
It makes sense to me to start spicing up the questions. As an editor, one of the single most common pitfalls I see students make in their admissions essays is trying to tailor the essay to be what they think the admissions committee wants to read. This means they're churning out cookie-cutter resumes-in-prose that are neither catchy nor unique. Admissions committees are already busy. They don't need to read the same essay from a thousand different candidates. The admissions committees are now speaking. And though no candidate will ever really know exactly what they are looking for, it's clear the universities and their admissions gatekeepers are ready for a change.
Labels: changing the essay question
Sunday, October 9, 2011
How to Master the MBA Setback Essay
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. - Steve Jobs
In this excerpt from his now-famous Stanford Commencement Address, Jobs dispenses more than simple advice on life. He gives prospective MBA candidates a stellar example of how to tackle the classic 'setback' admission essay, so prevalent on business school applications. You know the one. The admission essay that asks students to evaluate a hardship or failure and discuss what they've learned from it. Students have a terrible time with this admission essay for several reasons. First, who wants to talk about failures when they're trying so desperately to prove how wonderful they are? Second, many young business school candidates simply don't have broad enough catalogue of experiences to draw from. So in a week where much of the world has paused to remember the poignant wisdom of this cultural icon, I ask you to consider this passage from Jobs for guidance on how to truly evaluate a setback, and how to write about it masterfully in your admission essay. Acknowledge the obstacle or failure. Don't dwell on it. Don't be melodramatic about it. Don't make light of it. It happened to you, and you dealt with it. Period.
What the setback admission essay measures is not your fallibility but your maturity and your level of self-reflection. A younger business school candidate may struggle to unearth something tumultuous enough to rank as a setback, but they shouldn't agonize over the rating of their obstacle. Instead, evaluate it as you would any other significant occurrence in life, and write about how it changed you. It sounds nice if--as Jobs notes-- it changes you for the better, but it needn't come with a silver lining. It must simply be what any good admission essay should be-illustrative and honest.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Searching for the Perfect College
Looking back on my own college experience nearly two decades ago, I can still clearly remember the agony of the application process-the standardized testing, the admission essay, the waiting. What isn't as clear is why and how I chose to go where I did. I liked the idea of being away from my hometown, but didn't want to go too far. My parents couldn't afford out-of-state tuition. It may sound silly, but a major swing factor for me was the size of the university-I wanted to be smack-dab in the middle of Division I sports and all the fever that came with along with it. I wanted atmosphere. Memories. A big name school. In short, I had no idea what I really needed in a college.
As it turned out, I went somewhere that fulfilled all of these needs, but in retrospect, I am not sure it was the best fit. My grades weren't great. The classes were huge. The student population was massive, and I had no teachers or guidance counselors to shepherd me through the process-something I still needed at that time. My major was interesting, but not very marketable. I share my experience now as thousands of hopeful seniors put the finishing touches on their applications and settle into several months of finger-biting and hand-wringing before making their own final decisions.
Today there is much talk of students basing their decisions on rankings and prestige. This will probably always be the case, but I see it as another potential pitfall. I stumbled upon this recent Huffington Post article that, I think, would have helped me a great deal when I was seventeen: Huffington Post . Maybe I still would have made my choice for many of the wrong reasons. However, this is something I do believe-an imperfect college experience may still be a perfect life experience. In the search for an ideal college fit, there are all sorts of different possibilities.
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