|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, January 29, 2012
We Are the 6% - Elitism and College Admissions
As January slowly fades into February, the pulses of high school juniors all over the country begin to quicken. This is it. The year that really matters. Many students will have already taken the PSAT. Maybe more than once. The SAT, ACT and maybe some AP tests loom, and all of this falls on top of regular homework and basketball practice and worrying about that great albatross-the college admission essay. Then, of course, there is the anxiety about whether any of this will actually be enough to get into the college of your dreams.
The elite colleges are never helpful in fostering confidence amongst prospective undergrads. Last year UPenn admitted 12% of its applicants, Stanford 7%, Columbia 6.9%, and Harvard just 6%--prompting a student group to start peddling t-shirts boasting "We Are the 6%". To be sure, the students comprising that tiny syndicate of academic elitism should be congratulated. The other 90-95%, however, should not feel as though their futures are swirling down the drain. In fact, many of these same top colleges have posted downturns in the number of overall applicants over the past few years. Perhaps students are taking more conservative assessments of their odds, but if they're listening to admissions experts, they know that chasing rank is not the only key to a successful future.
In current politically-charged parlance, most students aren't "the 6%", and being part of the majority doesn't mean they aren't special. Instead, it means they aren't alone. Not by a long shot. And with that in mind, the daunting college application process should be viewed with a little perspective. Scores, admissions statistics, Ivy League pedigree-these things are only stepping-stones towards the future, not permanent, defining characteristics. So go ahead and reach high, but understand that this college admissions game isn't just about winning-it's about just stepping out on the field.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Problems with Diversity in Law School and Legal Practice
For all of the discourse about affirmative action initiatives at the university and post-graduate level, what's often left out of the discussion are the de facto realities for minority professionals in the white collar world. Whatever your position upon the idea of preferential treatment in college admissions (and even the semantics are politically charged), people of color are still grossly underrepresented in high-salaried, high-powered professions. Are we living in a post-racial society? Probably not.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), an association dedicated to career counseling and planning for legal professionals, also tracks the presence of women and minorities within law firms across the country. In November of 2011, the NALP released a significant report noting that women still comprised fewer than 20% of national partnership positions (women account for just over 30% of associate positions). Minorities account for just 6% of partnership positions, with minority women comprising just over 2% of partnership spots. A January 2012 bulletin from the NALP reiterates the fact that, while the numbers of minority and women have been steadily growing over the past few decades, the growth is slow and statistics must be carefully parsed. For instance, many firms have no minority partners at all. Further investigation demonstrates that the growth in minority associates and partners is largely attributable to Asians, who account for nearly half of all associates in the firms polled.
Certainly, this is just one report, but both the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), recognize the need for encouraging minority enrollment in law schools. Discoverlaw.org is the LSAC's answer to an outreach program introduced at the undergraduate level in order to encourage enrollment. Clearly, there's no quick fix for racial inequity in the legal profession, but keeping an eye on the current reality and trying to shift the current tide is an important first step in the right direction.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
College Admissions Interview-the Icing or the Cake?
I've always wondered about the much hallowed college admission interview. If test scores and GPA are meant to be the objective markers for admission, then the interview-like the admission essay-is that portion of the process that should allow the student to showcase what makes them unique. What could be more subjective than an in-person interview? Yet schools have historically placed an incongruent sense of importance on the interview, if interviews are offered at all. This puzzles me.
Almost across the board, the admission interview is characterized as "supplemental". It is optional and in fact only offered in certain geographical areas. The colleges assure non-interviewing students not to fear-apparently "not having an interview will not be held against you" (this from Penn). Stanford promises that there are no adverse effects for students who don't interview and that their applications will still be considered in their entirety. Why then, does the interview process exist at all?
At most universities, 50-90% of the admissions interviews are conducted by specially trained alumni, and even current students. With many elite graduate programs only employing 6-10 full time admissions officers, this volunteer alumni corps certainly lightens the workload and the payroll, but begs many questions about objectivity. Perhaps objectivity isn't that important given that the interviews don't technically "matter" in the admissions process, but the fact that interviews are an option at all would seem to support the idea that they are not valueless in the admissions process.
At the business school level, Wharton has recently pink-slipped its alumni interviewers, citing a need for "consistency" in the interview process. Such moves further complicate assessment of the value of the interview, but seem to suggest that these in-person dialogues are much more than simple icing on the cake. For the full article: Wall Street Journal
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Reading Your Acceptance Letter-Before it Arrives
Having trouble gauging your chances of getting into your dream school? Already sent out your college admissions applications and looking for something to do while you're waiting? How about taking a sneak-peak into your college future? Parchment.com may be just what you need. It is a website fully dedicated to making the college admissions process more transparent. Specifically, the site allows prospective students to input personalized information-- such as personal interests and SAT scores-- and crunches that data in order to give each student an idea of their chances of admission to a given school.
Powered by data from over half a million actual college applications, the website offers a real-time window into admissions trends, but allows students to dig deeper on college admissions statistics. For instance, most students can figure out that if Harvard has less than an 8% acceptance rate, the odds of admission are stacked against them. What they might want to know more specifically is which schools are accepting students with an arts background, from Oklahoma with a 3.6 GPA and an SAT Critical Reading score of 600.
In addition to providing highly tailored results, the site serves as a community forum where students can share and receive peer feedback on their college admissions essays and ask and answer questions like "What are my chances for getting into Notre Dame?" If the college admissions process is indeed a numbers game (and an emotionally taxing one at that!), it may be nice for anxious students to have a place where they can go to see just where they fit in to the bigger picture. Even if the answer isn't the one they are hoping for, it is nice to know they are not alone in their musings.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Changing Face of Admissions Applications
Electronic media means that the times are rapidly a-changing, and these days the college applications process is no exception. For some time now, companies like the Common Application have streamlined admissions by not only offering students a central hub for multiple applications, but making that hub available on-line. Today's college students think nothing of submitting entirely paperless applications-something almost unheard of just a decade ago. A new company, Matchbox, is attempting to nudge the admissions process into an even faster lane, providing, in its own words, "jet fuel for university admissions". Matchbox has created an iPad application that allows universities to essentially process admissions applications without a sheet of paper. A candidate's entire application is stored electronically-which creates an obvious ease of accessibility, and Matchbox's software further allows for the information to be categorized, organized and interpreted in a more streamlined manner. Matchbox claims that the admissions officers spend a majority of their time simply sifting and organizing a massive volume of information. If the app works as intended, admissions officers can instead devote their time to real analysis and review of the candidate's qualities.
From a practical standpoint, having all of the admissions data at their fingertips means that admissions officers can review applications anywhere, freeing them from the burden of being tied to physical stacks of information in a single office space. It is too early to say whether or not the new method of processing admissions data will improve the way a student's information is considered. From a perspective of convenience, it certainly makes sense.
It's still a little early to assess the efficacy of Matchbox's app, but they're pushing out of the gate with a couple of good endorsements. Just last week, MIT's Sloan School of Management and UCLA's Andersen School of Management announced that they would be utilizing the app for the bulk of their MBA program applications.
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