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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.
Monday, June 24, 2013
What Will Race-Blind Admissions Really Look Like?
If it seems like I've blogged a lot about affirmative action over the past year or so, it's because I see it as a topic that is central to college admissions, both literally and symbolically. It also happens to be "on trial", so to speak, in the US Supreme Court. A significant decision is due from the court any day now.

While systematic racism plays a role in the furor over affirmative action, I believe it's the sheer anxiety of "getting in", that makes it such a hot button issue. As a general rule, people don't really care about stuff unless 1) it's relevant to them and 2) it's their stuff and someone is trying to take it away.

Which is why its particularly interesting that both opponents and proponents of affirmative action are, in some circles, finding common ground in the area of socioeconomics.

It is commonly reported that poor or disadvantaged students comprise infinitesimally small proportions of the student bodies at selective universities. These students are more likely to go to community colleges or less selective universities, where graduation rates are significantly smaller. This is true even amongst the top academic performers.

There are eight states in the U.S. with affirmative action bans currently in place. In the wake of these bans, several of the states, including California, have implemented programs aimed at courting lower-income applicants.

Many have argued that, if diversity in education is the goal, race-based affirmative action isn't the only answer. Luring disadvantaged students into the privileged world of selective universities isn't a one-stage process, and it may kick into a higher gear if affirmative action is effectively outlawed.

For anyone with an eye on the college admissions process, these unfolding stories may turn out to be game changers.

For a breadth of opinions on the subject: NY Times


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Monday, June 17, 2013
Stripping Down Barriers to Business School Admission
As the Wall Street Journal puts it in a headline this week "Applying to Harvard Business School Gets Easier". The article goes on to remind us that of over 9,000 applicants, Harvard accepts around 1,000. I suppose easy is relative.

What is happening--for the second year in a row-is that Harvard is shaving off some additional essay requirements. Business schools are famous for mandating a litany of personal statements, with often highly specific prompts.

Last year, Harvard cut the number of essays required from four to two. They added a "reflection" statement, but only for students who made it past the first round of interviews. This year, they are eliminating a recommendation letter requirement and chopping the essays down to a single one. There's some sense that the single essay won't actually be a requirement.

Business schools have been at the forefront in embracing new technology. Over the past few years, MBA programs have begun accepting tweets, videos and websites in lieu of essays.

The personal statement is designed to help the university get to know its prospective student. Using other mediums to make that introduction may be changing the face of the personal statement as we know it.

These changes tend to trickle down from schools like Harvard-ones that have the reputation and the wealth to shape new approaches to admissions. Ultimately, fewer essays may be a money and time saver for universities, but the elimination of essays may open up doors to more innovative mechanisms for weeding through applicants.

So is it actually any easier to get in? Probably not. But there may be less writing involved.


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Monday, June 17, 2013
The Best Way to Get into Your College of Choice
You're hoping for an easy answer, right? Like a magical diet pill or an allergy cure.

Actually, there is one. It just won't make much of a difference to most of us. Two words. Legacy admission.

Sure, it's easy to sneer at privileged rich kids. Especially if you didn't make the cut at your college of choice. (Or even if you did-but had to work really hard to claw your way in). Even legacy admits with good academic credentials won't be able to shed the stigma of being handed an education on a silver platter.

The thing is, the stories are really true. By its own reports, Harvard admits around 30% of the legacy admission applicants. By comparison, the university's overall acceptance rate is under 6%. Yale claims to admit 20-25% of their legacy applicants, compared to a 6.7% overall admission rate.

Certainly, the problem is more prominent at selective private schools. This means that both the benefits and the inequities created by legacy admissions are unlikely to affect most students. Still, it perpetuates a system of class elitism that continues to be tightly threaded into the fabric of society. It is a system not based on merit but on money.

And it is really that simple. Alumni are more likely to continue making contributions to their alma maters if their children and their children are students there. Those alumni are more likely to have the resources to pay cash for tuition. And I'll go out on a limb here. People who spend their money generously are more likely to expect something in return.

Arguably, the third-level education system in America is already skewed towards the white and wealthy. A cursory glance at diversity statistics make that abundantly clear. (The litany of reasons why won't fit into this post). So while legacy admissions feed the hungry appetites of university coffers, they may not offer much to society.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Taking your Education Overseas
I've written a lot about re-routing your college dreams. I have a strong opinion about the importance of life experience, and this is just my opinion. There are a hundred others who would say education is everything. I feel like the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I feel like travel is the lifeblood of experience. If you can afford it, you should do it. If you can do a semester abroad---super. But don't stop there.

The flow of American students in and out international universities is larger than you might think. Many students are going beyond the (highly structured) semesters abroad and taking the business of their college education across the pond.

This might mean having roommates that aren't also American. This might mean learning to drive on the other side of the road and eating ketchup that doesn't taste like our ketchup.

Because of the language and the relatively similar cultures, study-abroad programs in countries like Australia and the UK are highly appealing to U.S. students. Another bonus? Easier admission for American students.

There's been a lot of talk about the zealousness of American universities in courting foreign students, largely because international students are required to pay full whack for tuition. The reverse is also true.

Some colleges in the UK, for instance, have a number of admissions spaces reserved specifically for foreign students. (Because tertiary education is largely state subsidized there, a special incentive exists for getting full-paying students on the books).

It's potentially a win-win, since tuition at some of these foreign colleges is still cheaper than tuition at many private American universities. And then there's a third win: life experience. You come home with a whole different kind of education under your belt.

You get a quality college education. You get to travel without being a tourist. And that's something money can't buy.


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Monday, June 3, 2013
Buying the Best College Brand
I'm no MBA graduate but I've always been fascinated by branding. How do we decide what is cool? How do marketing and ad executives preempt-or indeed drive-that decision? How much of it is pure luck?

There was a time, for instance, when all portable listening devices were attached to black headphone cords. When Apple introduced the iPod, they made the ingenious decision to sell it with white headphone cords. Never mind my clunky Discman, I wanted white ear buds.

Even if you're too young to appreciate life before the iWorld, you catch my drift. Is Apple really better?

The analogy doesn't travel seamlessly to college, of course. Much fun as it is to sneeze at the snobbery of the Ivies, those schools do have world-class facilities, celebrated faculty, and high-quality education. Still, that doesn't mean that other colleges don't serve as perfectly good conduits to a successful future.

A recent NY Times Blog article does a nice job of illustrating the challenge of choice for parents and students. Do you follow the scholarship, the experience, or the name? NY Times Blog

I'm not sure what the answer is. I know people who have turned down full scholarships to lower-tier schools (and I don't like that term) in favor of paying the full costs of a more prestigious school. I went to a well-known college, and I like to think I got a good education. Did going to a brand name school permanently change the trajectory of my life? I don't think so.

A friend of mine recently joked that if the CIA ever needed help locating someone, they should enlist the help of her university's alumni association. I tend to agree. My alma mater just called me on my cell phone - an unlisted number I didn't even get until 15 years after I graduated. (They're looking for donations, of course).

It's a tough decision. Whatever you do, make sure you're buying the brand for the right reasons.


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