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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, December 30, 2013
College Rejection: a Bit like Life
As the calendar year draws to a close, so too does the college admissions cycle. At least from the perspective of the students. At this point, most of you have already clicked the proverbial "submit" button. It's done. Your grades, your scores, your essays are etched in stone.

If you're a college bound high school, it's time to let go.

I can't will you not to stress. I can't stop you from speculating, or checking the mailbox, or drafting several different versions of your future on the inside of your mind. What I can tell you is that this limbo is going to happen to you again.

You've already navigated this queasy unknown every time you've submitted a test or an essay. It will happen again. After you sit for the dream job interview. When you submit a loan application for your first home. After you get pregnant. If you take a professional exam. (California law students wait nearly four months for their bar exam results).

From where I'm sitting, college is pretty much a win-win situation. Most kids will apply to several colleges and get admitted to some of them. In the long term, it isn't going to matter that much where you end up going. Disappointment usually just leads to a shifting trajectory.

If you're talented and ambitious, you aren't going to need Yale to make the future happen. I really believe this.

College is fun. It is the first and maybe only time in your life that you'll have most all the benefits of being an adult without many of the responsibilities. It is a holistic experience. It's more than just academics and pedigree. It's about dorms, and parties, and cafeteria breakfast, and upper-class seminars and on-campus jobs, and semesters-abroad.

If you've put in the work, you're gonna get positive results. Even if they aren't precisely those you've been expecting.

What you do during your time in that virtual waiting room is up to you.

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Monday, December 16, 2013
Jealousy-Good Starting Point for an Admission Essay
"Jealousy feels rotten, but is often a great signpost for what we want".~Kathleen Buckstaff, author.

Buckstaff suggests that exploring feelings of jealousy can help college hopefuls really get a sense of what they want. It's like a backdoor peek into your real hopes and dreams. It's what you want but might not want to ask for.

By its nature, the essay is designed to woo its reader. Students don't mind talking about who they are and what they want, so long as it's framed in a positive light. This can be a twofold problem. An essay that tries to dazzle can sound insincere. It might also be a bit yawn-worthy.

In some ways, that's because our goals-just like our self-perception, is so often tied up with a need to please. This is especially true when you're at the cusp of a new educational experience. You're going to college or grad school because, in a way, there's something missing. Some hole or weakness or void you want to fill with higher education. Third-level education isn't generally just a repository for the bored.

So, just perhaps, what you say you want from life, isn't what you really want. What's the thing you're afraid to admit you want? Power? More money? A better job than your best friend? You may decide not to put pen to paper when it comes to your basest desires, but even tapping into them might help alleviate some writer's block.

Even more importantly, it might highlight the gap (or overlap) between what you want from your education, and what the educational institution wants from you. That's the sweet spot. And if you can manage to exploit or explore it in your essay, you may have just found a way to stand out from the crowd.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Still a Tough Road for Undocumented Lawyers
First, let me say this: I'm relieved in advance that my blog doesn't have a comment section. Want to see some scathing commentary? Go ahead and Google anything having to do with issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants.

A few months ago, California signed into a law a bill permitted undocumented immigrants to practice law. Lest we get lost in the semantics of this-by undocumented immigrants, I mean people who were born in another country and relocated to the U.S., but who do not have documents legally authorizing their presence here.

The reality for many undocumented immigrants is that they can live a somewhat normal life here in the U.S., albeit without the rights of a green-card holder or U.S. citizen. They can attend public school, and attend public university. They can attend law school. They can apply for and pass the State Bar exam.

California decided that if such a student could jump through all of those hoops, there was little reason to deny them a law license.

Such a position is fraught with practical problems. First, employers can be punished for hiring employees who are not legally permitted to work in the U.S. Many states also have moral assessment components to law licensure. These types of evaluations may take umbrage with potential lawyers who aren't legally entitled to be in the U.S. Moreover, there is a constant tension between state and federal laws, which, in situations such as this, are in direct conflict with one another.

One alternative path may be opening a solo practice. Independent contractors are not subject to the same scrutiny as third-party employers. However, declaring income for tax purposes may be difficult for an undocumented immigrant, who won't have a social security number.

Ironically, this is a complex and very fluid area of the law. If one extracts the politics from the concept, it opens many doors to interesting legal discussion. Only time will tell where the future takes this.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The Mission Trip Essay
It's not often that radio shows trot out specials on college admission, but this week I found one. The interview was with an admissions officer at a big university in the Southeast. He talked about the eye-rolling essays, the eye-catching essays, and the essays that are just well, bad.

Somewhere along that spectrum is a theme. One that shows up so often, the admissions officers gave it a nickname. The Mission Trip essay.

It's that essay about the kid who takes a trip with a charity-often a church group-usually to somewhere in Central America. The take-away is invariably a truism about how they expect the trip to be about giving of themselves, but are surprised at how much they get back.

I chuckled.

I've read this essay myself. A lot. There's usually also something in there about learning to recognize privilege. Many of these kids were raised in middle class America. They've never seen a kid living in a shack. It is revelatory for them. Sadly, for readers, it's a cliche.

The problem for today's crop of high school seniors is that the admissions-process hamster wheel has been spinning in overdrive for a few decades now. The essay that got someone into college 20 years ago, has now been done and re-done a million times over. All the while, the stakes for "getting in" have gotten higher.

Today's kids need new material, but it isn't really fair of us to expect them to have any. Sure, parents these days are pushing their college-bound teenagers into more and more application-padding activities. But as that becomes the norm, so too will the Mission Trip Essay.

Colleges can't really have it both ways. Seventeen-year-olds have limited repertories. The message from the colleges is that they have to be unique, they need to have good grades, good test scores, good extracurriculars, and insightful essays. Maybe the kids are simply doing the best they can.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Changing Face of Business School Applicants
Think business school is all about finance and management? Well, sort of, but that doesn't mean the latest crop of incoming students are versed in any of those areas. Not exactly, anyhow.

Traditionally, students seeking graduate degrees in business come from parallel backgrounds. That is, their undergraduate or professional work tends to be in the areas of consulting, accounting, or general business administration. An MBA is an opportunity to round out their existing skills, or give them a leg up the corporate ladder.

A recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of over 140 business schools in the U.S. and Canada revealed a shift. For the 2013-2014 admissions cycle, more than half of the accepted students come from STEM backgrounds-that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

While it may be a notable change, it also makes sense. The tech industry is burgeoning. Graduates fluent in the languages of both business and technology have a real professional edge.

Some experts speculate the demographic shift may lead to more highly specialized graduate school programs, with finely honed professional trajectories. Certainly, the intellectual diversity will enrich the overall quality of the education. Arguably, by turning out students with a broader range of abilities, business schools can bolster their reputations as fertile professional training grounds.

Finally, opening up the channels between historically disparate fields like engineering and business may help the overall health of the schools' professional networks. Whatever the long-term effects, the trend is a reminder that business school--like the marketplace it feeds--is constantly evolving.

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