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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, January 27, 2013
State of College Admissions 2012
Just last month, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released their annual State of College Admissions report, which includes data for the Fall 2011 admissions cycle. Are you yawning yet? If you're a high school student, I probably lost you at NACAC. Parents, however, might be interested.

This exhaustive report analyzes everything from high school guidance counselor availability to college admissions metrics. Translation? In case you're curious, the report notes that high school guidance counselors spend about 23% of their time advising students on college admissions. In private schools, the number is 54%. The problem? Budgets are tight. Schools can't afford guidance counselors, so those that remain are overburdened with other tasks.

The college admissions statistics may be of greater interest to parents, and hopefully to aspiring students. Once again, the most important measure of a student's chances of getting into a good college are grades. Specifically, grades in college preparatory courses. The universities surveyed attributing "considerable importance" to this factor was a whopping 84%.

Other admissions factors? The difficulty of a student's curriculum and test scores filled the number two and three spots. So, it isn't enough to get good grades in easy high school classes. Standardized testing also matters.

Of notable importance was the weight given to the sample essay, and recommendations from guidance counselors.

Finally, students may want to take note of the importance of demonstrated interest in a specific college. Since applying to college has become cheaper and easier, the same pool of students are applying to more schools. This is why it is more important than ever for schools to assess whether a given candidate is likely to actually attend their institution.

Are any of you likely to read the report? Probably not. It costs $25 to download, and college counselors will do a good job of offering abbreviated reviews. However, since it is one of the more scientific evaluations of the college admissions process, it may be more valuable than you think.


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Monday, January 21, 2013
Picking the Right Law School
When it comes to picking an undergraduate program, the number of guidance resources are virtually endless. College admissions counseling has become a cottage industry, offering books, mentors, spreadsheets, checklists and web advice. If you want to casually research schools on your own, the internet is rife with resources. You can find out everything from a university's average SAT scores to the quality of pizza at the student union.

For aspiring law students, the decision process is more complicated. While all undergraduate institutions are reduced to nation-wide rankings, that list is nowhere more gravely worshipped than in the law school arena. The top fourteen in the national rankings even come with their own nickname (T14) and an aura of awe and sanctity.

The problem is that law schools have taken a notable fall from grace over the past few years. Scandals have rocked big institutions that have been caught falsifying test scores and other data in an effort to boost their rankings. Perhaps more significantly, law graduates are not getting jobs. A woeful market has led to a major decline in applications.

The silver lining here has been the push for transparency from law schools. If we can agree that the T14 have been largely unscathed by the scandal and bad job market, then how can the rest of the aspiring law student pool hope to pick the right school?

Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education group with a self-explanatory name, aims to help. Their website offers statistical overviews of the country's law schools, including crucial regional data and employment stats relevant to students doing some school shopping. The site offers info about the nature and extent of post-graduate employment, as well as overall costs. There certainly isn't as much hand-holding in the law school admission process, but sites like this may be the first step towards a trend in the right direction.


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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Common Cure for Senioritis
Back when I was applying to college, there was a well-known understanding about the second half of your high school senior year. All you really had to do was show up to class and keep your eyes open. Once you'd been admitted to your dream college, your only remaining duty was to warm a chair.

Even in those days, universities threatened to rescind offers of admission from students whose academics fell apart during the second half of their senior year. But that seemed like folklore. The reality was that, if you were a strong enough student to get into a good university, you probably weren't the type to suddenly flunk out of school-senioritis or not. Like most things having to do with college admission, things have changed. Universities are now keeping a keen eye on the second half of the school year. One of the many components of the Common Application is the Mid-Year Report, which must be filled out and submitted by a student's high school guidance counselor.

Obviously, the Mid-Year Report is looking for precipitous drops in GPA. They want to hear about any new disciplinary or criminal actions involving the student-applicant. However, what may be surprising to an outsider is just how much emphasis is placed upon comparing students to their classmates. The report is meticulous in its efforts to measure a student's class ranking against their peers.

This is fair, really. It's a bit like grading on a curve. If you are one of many academically strong students, your ranking may not matter as much. Conversely, if your school doesn't have a terribly rigorous curriculum, your 4.0 doesn't carry as much weight. These things are all major considerations in the initial admissions evaluation. The Mid-Year Report serves as a reminder of just how much they count during that last semester.

So as you seniors head into the downhill slope of your high school career this January, don't take your eyes off the road. Not just yet.


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Sunday, January 6, 2013
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
I once had a wise friend teach me something about acceptance. "I love it when someone tells me yes", she chirped. "I can handle it when someone tells me no. What I can't stand-" she paused, "is when someone tells me to wait".

It's that time of year for many early decision/early action applicants. They're devoted to their school of choice. They've put many hours into researching and picking. They were ahead of the rest of the pack-planning, writing, applying and organizing weeks and months earlier than other college applicants. Early decision students have committed not to go to school anywhere but their first choice college. Their reward? A deferral notice.

After all that effort, they are suddenly relegated to the regular decision pool. Really? On the upside, it isn't a rejection. However, for many early applicant students the greatest frustration lies in their newfound ability to do nothing about it. There is a sense of control in applying to college. There is even a sense of comfort in the finality of rejection. Waiting is another thing all together.

The New York Times college blog, "The Choice" recently offered some proactive ideas for deferred students. Their general suggestion is this-if the school hasn't specifically warned you against contacting them, by all means, keep making your case for admission. No one wants a pest, but there are dignified and effective ways to keep your application on the school's radar. NY Times

The waiting is always the hardest part of college admissions-whether you apply early or not. Yet there is a sense, with deferred students, of a continued need to perform for the admissions committee. What you've submitted wasn't enough to make the first cut, but also not deficient enough to equal rejection.

Now might be a bad time to point it out, but this admissions process is simply a tiny metaphor for my friend's lesson on life. It won't be the first time you have to simply wait. It will be hard, but that yes or no answer will come in the end. And there is always peace in every final decision.


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