|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, February 26, 2012
Think You Can't Qualify for a Scholarship? Think Again.
As if getting into the college of your choice wasn't hard enough, the process of applying seems to get more complicated at every turn. For high school juniors, just juggling the demands of standardized testing with regular homework can seem difficult enough. And while the majority of college students apply for and receive financial aid in the form of grants and loans, many still shy away from scholarships. Why?
Scholarships are surrounded by myths. Many students (and I was one of these) are certain they can't "qualify". While many of the highly coveted scholarships are reserved for the academic elite, others are not. If you've heard of some ridiculous scholarship categories bandied about, you probably heard right. Among the many ridiculous ones, there is a $5,000 prize for designing a prom dress constructed solely with duct tape.
Other students-perhaps the majority-just don't have the time or the inclination to research all that's out there. Most scholarships require a letter of intent or personal statement in order to apply-a real deterrent for students whose time is largely consumed by the personal statements already required by the ordinary college application process.
The thing is, there are tons of scholarships out there that don't require students to be shorter than 4'10" or Rhodes' Scholarship material. The personal statements don't need to be terribly different from the admissions essays submitted in the college application process. The scholarship awarding bodies want to know many of the same things as the colleges to which you are applying-who are you, what do you have to offer, and what do you hope to gain? Scholarship applications really offer all of the reward without any of the risk. If you don't try, you'll never know.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Cracks in the College Ratings System
The last year has witnessed a massive shake-down in the law school ranking system, with allegations that some schools falsified post-graduate job prospects and test scores. At the University of Illinois, the law admissions dean falsified grade and test score data in an effort to bolster the school's appearance in the U.S News & World Report rankings, which rank schools, in part, based on median LSAT scores. Last month, a similar scandal emerged at the prestigious Claremont McKenna College, where a prominent official was proven to have falsified SAT scores since 2005.
The uncovering of such unabashed fraud at well-known institutions begs the question of whether or not we are merely scratching the surface of systemic dishonesty. At the heart of the problem seems to be a single issue-the purportedly objective rankings system.
The fabled U.S. News & World Report, which ranks institutions' prestige based on test scores, GPA, and admissions percentage is generally the standard-setter. The gist of the rankings formula is somewhat narrowly formulated around the idea that the most coveted universities are the best. (Harvard accepts just 7% of its undergraduate applications, and is currently ranked #1). The ranking system isn't totally flawed, but may serve a limited function for the other 93% of students trying to make the right decision. Moreover, it is a powerful machine that is driving some admissions deans into deeply unethical waters.
Education reformers have long been proponents of encouraging students to find the right fit with a given college, rather than universally aspiring to the unattainable. Adjusting our perspective about what makes a quality school may just be the first step in recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making the important decision of where to go and why.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Advice for Foreign Students Tackling the Admission Essay
In this blog and elsewhere on the internet, candid informational tips about essay writing are ubiquitous. Keep it simple. Grab your reader in the opening paragraph. Organize, structure, proofread. Even with this guidance at their fingertips, the admission essay is a monumental challenge for students who are native speakers. What then, must it be like for the mushrooming group of international students who are tackling the same challenge without the advantage of fluency in English?
It's safe to say that if an international student is even entertaining the idea of applying to a U.S. college, they must have a decent command of the English language. But even for foreign students who may have years of academic English to their credit, formal writing is still a struggle. This means that for the international students who are still really grappling with English, the essay may be less of an obstacle and more of a complete roadblock. Plagiarism detection websites, and recent media coverage of alleged widespread cheating amongst the growing numbers of Chinese applicants at U.S. schools threatens to make admissions officers even more vigilant.
The solution for students struggling with English? Know your limits. There is a high concentration of international students in fields like engineering and science, so it may not be essential to have flawless prose in your admission essay. It is, however, important to make sure that your finished product reads like something you could actually write. Certain colloquialisms and tone are distinctive to native speakers, so be careful that your editor's voice doesn't sound stronger than your own.
You should be writing something engaging, but understand that the essay is only one component of your total application. Electing to study outside of one's native country takes courage and ambition. Your reader will know this and appreciate the simplicity of an imperfect essay that sounds sincere. After all, whatever your native language, this is what the personal statement aims to uncover.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
When Saving the World Is Not Enough
In piecing together all aspects of the college admissions portfolio, the job of every student is to buff it to its glossiest sheen. Some sections are hard to polish. Test scores and grades don't lend themselves well to refurbishing, though the personal statement may be the only place to explain away foibles and fallibilities. The essay is also a self-marketing tool and one of the greatest challenges for students is selling themselves with sincerity. The Achilles heel for many students-community service.
Perhaps no aspect of the essay can be more transparently hollow than a loosely cobbled together string of volunteer accomplishments. Community service is important to colleges. Want to help eradicate poverty? Go green? Save the animals? There are many sites that tell you where to go. But they also offer this advice: it isn't hard for colleges to sense it when students are padding a resume.
A recent poll conducted reveals that seventy percent of admissions officers prefer to see students involved consistently in a single issue, rather than a large variety of different causes. A whopping 95.8% of admissions officers placed a high value on students who used a gap year to engage in a service project.
Experiences, insights, hardships, aspirations and community service all have a home in the admission essay. The art of drafting a good one depends on a student's ability to thread these concepts together in a sincere, meaningful way. Just remember, if your public services are just another series of bullet points on your resume, your reader will probably know.
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