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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.
Monday, May 27, 2013
Write like You've Got Nothing to Lose
As I swirled this blog idea around in my mug, I wondered whether this was actually sage advice. When settling into drafting that admission essay, should students really throw caution to the wind? Is there no topic, no tone, no attitude that should be off limits in this genre?

Of course not.

What I'm thinking is this. From a percentage perspective, acceptance rates are getting lower. More students are applying to college. The highly competitive schools are becoming more competitive. What got a student into Yale 20 years ago, won't even get them an interview today.

So, for those of you who are floating up there with the cream at the top of the milk, the essay should be an opportunity-not a burden. If your scores are through the roof and you're aiming high, you're in good company. Perfect ACTs? Solid 4.0. Super. You're gong to college. It's just that someone else with perfect ACTs and a 4.0, might be taking your top spot.

Your job? Don't get complacent. Good scores won't hoist you out of a hole dug by a bad essay. Don't assume that being smart is enough. Also, don't play it safe. Your essay shouldn't say the same things about you as your scores. Let each component speak for itself.

My conclusion-write like you've got nothing to lose. If you truly are a stand-out student, you're going to get in somewhere. You will wonder why your academic doppelganger got into Cornell and you didn't, but there's virtually nothing you can do about it.

You will get lots of advice about writing admissions essays. "Speak from the heart". "Think outside the box". "Show, don't tell". Well, I say, add another to your repertoire: "Write with abandon". What have you got to lose?

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Sunday, May 12, 2013
Standardized Tests to go Digital?
It's hard to imagine a world without No.2 pencils and fill-in-the-bubble Scantron sheets, but that day may soon be upon us.

The Associated Press reports that the ACT has announced its intention to begin administering the test on iPads as early as 2015. Functionally speaking, it should be easier to take a test using a touchscreen. Additionally, use of iPads would allow for interactive features making the test-taking process more visually interactive.

The greatest advantage, according to the test-makers? Students won't need to wait as long to receive their scores.

As with any transition, this change is bound to be fraught with hiccups. Computers are expensive. Security breaches (ie...cheating) would be more difficult to monitor. People aren't likely to steal test-sheets; iPads are a lot more appealing. Most of all, not all students will be comfortable using a tablet.

Because of these access and comfort issues, the ACT plans to continue offering the test in written form, raising questions of how to grade digital/written tests equitably.

I see yet another socioeconomic issue arising. Middle to upper class students already have advantages when it comes to standardized testing. Their parents can afford test workshops. Their high schools are more likely to have the resources to focus on college prep. These are the same students who may already have iPads at home.

This isn't to say that digital progress is a bad thing. Let's just hope the ACT--and the testing agencies that may follow in their footsteps-do everything they can to keep the playing field level.

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Monday, May 6, 2013
Buying a Law School Education in a Down Market
The last several years haven't been kind to the U.S. economy. There aren't enough jobs. There isn't enough money. People have lost their homes. The housing market, in particular, has become emblematic of the corruption and loss that has marred the economic climate in recent years.

And while there is no way to take the sting out of loss, there is, the oft-quoted idea that, where there is crisis, there is also opportunity.

People know this and act on it. Always wanted to buy a home? The last few years have been a buyer's market. There's no better time to buy then when a market has tanked. But therein lies the irony. Most people in a tanking economy don't have money to buy things, even if they are cheaper than normal.

Is it tactless to stretch this metaphor into the law school downturn? Perhaps, but there are some similarities.

Law schools are experiencing the lowest applicant pool in over thirty years. (Even that statistic doesn't bear out because thirty years ago there were fewer law schools).

The job market for lawyers is dismal. Generally speaking. There will always be some need for lawyers. It's just that the market became saturated. So people have finally stopped looking at law school as an option.

Bad news? Maybe not, if you still want to be a lawyer. Maybe you're passionate about it. Maybe you're optimistic that there's a job out there with your name on it. Whatever your motivation-there's no time like the present.

As the applicant pool shrinks, the opportunity for acceptance increases. Some law schools are getting creative in a bid to woo students. Some are changing curriculum, adding clinical courses in an effort to better prepare students for the actual practice of law. Scholarship opportunities may be improving.

Whatever the downside, there may also be a silver lining, that might actually be worth the risk.

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Monday, May 6, 2013
Time to Talk Gap Year
It's May. Colleges have made their admissions decisions. Many students have made theirs. For students who didn't get into their school of choice, the soul searching may be a little more gut-wrenching. It's hard to get derailed from the path you'd already inside your head.

If your heart's still set on your dream school, try aiming for it from a different angle.

The gap year, once more commonly known outside of the US, can be a tremendously enriching option for many students. If the gap year was a term paper, it would be an exercise in creative writing.

Some students get a job. They use the year to work, save for college, and collect some life experience. Others take internships in an effort to test professional waters. Still others travel. There are gap year companies, and gap year fairs to help you organize your gap year. (Some argue that paying someone to organize your gap year defeats the purpose of self-directed exploration. I say it's a great solution for young adults who may still need structure in order to stay on track).

I can't see a downside in a gap year, so long as it is well structured. Few times in life are more fertile in terms of emotional and intellectual growth. Colleges are looking for students with rich academic and personal experiences. The gap year can help flesh out the latter.

You might worry about losing academic momentum, but truthfully, this is a risk even for the average college freshman.

At this transitional stage of early adulthood, students are planting all sorts of seeds of future accomplishments. The tilling doesn't have to take place within the walls of a classroom. So think about it. College isn't going anywhere. But you could be.

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