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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, March 25, 2012
Law School Rankings 2013
This week, US News & World Report released its 2012 Law School Rankings and the fanfare is rather ambivalent. The top five schools jockeyed for new positions (Stanford scooped up Harvard's #2 spot), but very little changed. Perhaps the most notable slip came for the University of Illinois (down 12 spots from last year's position to #35). This ignominious drop came upon the heels of the revelation that U of I falsified admissions data in an (ultimately ironic) effort to improve its rankings.

While few would argue that U of I's data-tampering is acceptable, its dramatic fall represents one of the biggest quandaries of the entire law school ranking system. Schools are ranked, in part, based upon the quality of their candidates. Candidates, in turn, chose schools based on the quality of their ranking.

Every year, US News & World Report releases information on their rankings methodology, some of which is highly subjective. For example, the report surveys law school faculty, admissions deans, judges and attorneys about the quality of the various campuses. It's hard to believe that even the most qualified respondent would have enough knowledge of the more than 195 schools to give reliable feedback. Peer review is always valuable, but rarely impartial.

Rankings are also based upon more objective data, such as LSATs and GPA, post-graduate hiring statistics, bar passage rates and faculty resources.

However, with tuition price tags starting at $40,000 annually, rankings are arguably as important to the law schools as they are to the students. And while this year's list may be no more than an ego bruise for Harvard, U of I's great topple should be a warning sign to all about the dubious power of rankings.


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Sunday, March 11, 2012
Deconstructing the Business School Admission Essay
About a month ago, I wrote about the recipe for the perfect business school essay. Of course, there is no such thing, but there does appear to be an emerging and recognizable desire from business schools for the candidate who can offer "confidence with humility". Many of the top schools around are rummaging for this ideal, which, at the very least, gives business school candidates some parameters as they sit down and being their narrative for the personal statement.

The ideal MBA candidate, it would seem, is one lathered with skills who doesn't like to gloat about them. Arguably, this is a struggle for business school candidates. What entrepreneur ever made it big without a little arrogance? Playing the financial markets?-not for the faint of heart. Yet business schools don't want to hear about what you can or might do, but simply, what you have done. With some modesty, please.

A recent interview with the managing director of admissions at Harvard Business School is illuminating in this regard. She notes that the admission essay isn't as important as business candidates might think, but in the same breath, remarks that the admission essay is, in fact, "very, very helpful for the candidate". How can students make the admission essay count? She uses the phrase "dejargonize", and encourages "verbs" (, don't tell). Candidates with business backgrounds often find it tough to strip their stories of titles and jargon ("analytic metrics", "data-driven", "pricing management and revenue director"); be careful or you might unwittingly lull your reader's mind into thoughts far away from the task at hand. And then there's the bragging.

I suppose the idea is that, if you are fantastic, that fact will be obvious to your reader from your scores and work experience. So while that admission essay is a great branding opportunity, be sure to self-market delicately.


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Sunday, March 4, 2012
A Personal Statement from your Biggest Fan
Perhaps the greatest balancing act inherent in the college admissions game is that of weighing objective criteria (ie...grades), against subjective (ie...the personal statement). It's hard to put a spin on a low test score, but easier to sell a winning personality with the written word.

What so many students struggle with most is the process of finding their voice in a personal statement, and writing with genuine insight. This is often the point at which they enlist the adults in their lives-from family to admissions coaches-to help place themselves in an appropriate context. But what if those adults could play an even larger role?

For more than 20 years, Smith College, a small, women's college in Massachusetts, has invited parents of applicants to submit supplementary essays in support of their children's bids for a spot at the university. Smith counselors note that no one knows a child better than their parents, and that input from them helps to "provide texture" to a student's application.

Smith is a small school that has the resources to sift through these additional missives. Some might argue that having parents this involved in the application process is too far-reaching. But the premise is unique, and even provocative.

So for those of you applying to places that don't ask for letters of recommendations from mom and dad, consider this: how about trying to write your personal statement from their perspective? Arguably, no one knows you better. No one is better equipped to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. No one else, perhaps, knows how badly you want in to the school of your dreams. A long shot? Maybe. But what part of this whole process isn't?


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