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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.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
B-School Essay is No Place for Jargon
I want to start this post by promising to tread lightly on my soap box on this one. But please, business school candidates, consider my plea.

I do not have an MBA and have never entertained the idea of business school. I don't work in the "corporate" realm. This places me in the shoes of many, many admissions officers-even those reading your business school personal statement.

What this means is that I don't know what the phrases "supply-chain-management", "complex distribution channels", or "procurement" mean. Yes, I know the definitions of those words, but the phrases themselves land gently at my feet as I read them, and I'm really too apathetic to pick them up. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. If you don't care what I think, at least consider your reader.

It isn't that it's bad to "think outside the box", or leverage assets, or implement "best practices". It's that all of these phrases are bubble wrap. Their only function is to fill up space in the box and prevent your reader from seeing what's really inside the package.

I understand that many business schools ask about your real world experience. They also ask about your goals. I think it is possible to describe both without using corporate terminology. There's a place for "core competency" and "price points" (I guess), but what does either really say about you, your skills or your ambitions?

Sometimes I think b-school types just can't suffer the glittery sparkle of creative writing. Ok. You're taciturn. You loathe talking about yourself. You prize brevity above all else. Fine. Just don't let these qualities strip your essay of all vibrancy and life.

And please, please, don't substitute substance with jargon.


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Monday, November 18, 2013
Finding a Reason Not to Go to Law School
How about a thousand of them?

The Chicago Tribune reports that a local personal injury attorney Matthew Willens is launching an "Anything But Law School Graduate Scholarship", awarding $1,000 each year to students who pursue graduate studies in a non-legal realm. Publicity stunt? Sure. A thousand dollars a year might buy a grad student some textbooks. But his point is clear.

The legal job market is not improving. Law school applications were down 18% last year. Things are not better for newly minted lawyers. At least not generally speaking.

Is Willens going to turn the tide? Of course not. He is a practicing personal injury attorney (enter venomous internet snipes), and this will raise his profile. Publicly, he's trying to ward students off from the monumental investment in a law school education, given the diminishing returns in the current job market.

He's also making an economic point. If the supply of lawyers outweighs the demand for their services, well, then you have a bunch of unemployed lawyers. The remedy? Fewer lawyers. Go to grad school to do something else.

Each time this conversation bubbles to the surface, it's eventually followed by talk about how law schools can reverse the tide. Sure, leveling out the supply/demand balance will help. But how about better equipping law students to practice law?

Fresh out of law school law students have very few practical skills. Law firms that are bleeding money no longer want to take the several years required to train new associates. Why not churn out law students who have more to offer to the market, and right away?

Seems more effective than a $1,000 scholarship to another grad school, but, touche, Mr. Willens. You got us talking.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Colleges Look to Social Media to Vet Incoming Students
Some colleges use social media to vet students in the college admission process. Sometimes. And no one really knows why or how much. In fact, while many colleges admit to rejecting students based on negative social media profiles, some pay no attention to it at all.

The NY Times published a warning article on the subject this week which has gone fairly viral: NY Times . I couldn't help but wonder why this was so newsworthy, given that this isn't new news.

As usual, emotions seem to run hottest in the comments section.

Some people seem bothered that schools would reject students based on an offensive Twitter post, without first telling them. Like it's some kind of due process violation. It seems to me colleges have been rejecting students for years without ever having to divulge their reasons. The college admissions process has never been fully fair.

Another constitutional fear seems to be the potential restriction on free speech. Um, okay. Students should be allowed to post what they want on Facebook without fear of retribution from the college that hasn't yet accepted them. That's a little like streaking through Microsoft's boardroom for your interview, not getting the job, and then grumbling that the company's cramping your freedom of expression.

To me, the take-home message here is simple. If your college of choice is reading 80,000 applications for 10,000 spots, they probably don't have time to comb through your Twitter feed.

If you're applying somewhere smaller, maybe you take your beer bong pictures off your Facebook page. Will drunken pics hurt your chances of college admission? Who knows? I certainly can't think of a scenario where they'd help.

Finally? It's okay to be young and dumb. Sometimes that has consequences, and sometimes it doesn't. Growing up is about measuring those sorts of risks.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
How Not to Waste Essay Time
I love unearthing good essay tips. As an editor, I'm constantly trying to reshape the feedback I give to students. How can I give a critique that is actually helpful? How can I articulate it when something just doesn't sound right?

Cruising the interwebs, I skidded over this gem from an educational consultant: many students waste too much time starting their engines. Yes. And yes. I feel strongly about this one because it is an easy trap. I trip over it each time I sit down to write a 300-word blog.

When I do it, it's because I don't really know what I want to write about. It's because I want to just get it done. It's because I haven't lassoed my "point" before I start typing. Students do this in admissions essays all the time.

Often times, students meander through several paragraphs of drivel before finally reaching their thematic destination in their second-to-last sentence. There's gooey center-it's just not in the right place.

I know, it's hard. You eat through your 500-word count limit by paragraph three. You don't want to trim any of that gold you've already written because it took forever to come up with it.

Dry as it sounds, I think the best antidote for the long warm-up is an outline. It doesn't have to be extensive. It's just your hook, your build-up, your little-anecdote, what-you-learned-from-it, and conclusion. Know what each of those components will be, before you start writing. Don't wait for divine inspiration.

But here's the thing. Each of those sections should have pretty equal weight. No one part is really more important than the next. You can't have a branch without a trunk. In a perfect world, you also write about the leaves. So before you start that admission essay, stop. Think. Sketch. Breathe. (Now, hurry up).


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