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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 26, 2014
Not Too Late for 2014-2015 College Admission
Though the acceptance deadline for many U.S. universities has now come and gone, not all students may have found a university to call home. Not getting into your first or even second choice can be disheartening. But what about the student with no (viable) acceptance letters in their mailbox? What's next?

As it turns out, there are still options. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) maintains a rolling list of universities that have openings for freshman or transfer students. The current list has over 400 U.S. universities and a handful of international colleges. Most of those are in English-speaking countries.

The colleges on the list voluntarily update their status with NACAC, presumably in an attempt to fill as many vacant seats as possible. NACAC's site offers links to the individual institutions, which have different application requirements and deadlines.

This approach to college application had never really occurred to me. It isn't easy to find blogs, or articles or other accessible anecdotes about students who don't or can't attend the schools to which they applied. No doubt many take a year out to contemplate. Others may hop on the professional track. This idea, though, of simply widening the playing field makes a lot of sense.

Rejection takes some of the pain of decision-making out of the process. NACAC's list offers colleges in many of the 50 states, meaning that if your metrics match up with one of the campuses with spaces, your second-chance story may just write itself.


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Monday, May 19, 2014
College: Just a Reward for the Best Self-Branders?
In an incisive article for The Atlantic, author Rob Goodman boldly proposes a rather preposterous hypothetical. Make college admissions a true lottery. Throw out meritocratic system and base admissions purely on chance. Like pulling names out of a hat.

Clearly Goodman isn't being literal but rather building a discussion on the back of an outrageous proposition. Following his logic takes the reader to a rather eye-opening place of clarity.

The most "prestigious" institutions in the country are now accepting fewer than ten percent of applicants. This year Stanford took in just five percent. This doesn't mean that only five percent of the US population is qualified enough to get into Stanford. It merely means that Stanford received so many applications, the university could only give seats to five percent of applicants.

As Goodman points out, the internet and the ease of actually applying to universities has caused exponential growth in the number of college applications. So while this pool may contain many students who really aren't qualified to get into Stanford, it also means that many students who are have no chance of getting in. Goodman suggests throwing all qualified candidates' names into the hat, then drawing out the number that Stanford is able to admit.

The article highlights one of the great conflicts inherent in the selection process-the idea that colleges are looking for diversity and intellectual curiosity, when in fact, they end up simply admitting the students with the best self-marketing skills. As Goodman puts it: "Can you build a robust intellectual community only made up of self-salespeople?"

On the other hand, "self-salespeople" are the ones leading the pack in real life, even if they aren't the most interesting or the most deserving. Why should college-the first step up that ladder-be any different?

For the full article: The Atlantic


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Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Looking Forward in Your Obstacle Essay
Introspection is hard. So is selling yourself. At least for most of us. That's why job interviews and first dates are so stressful. How can you sound confident without being boastful? How can you really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses in a way that will make a person like you?

This is why writing an admission essay is so tough. It may also be why so many high school students like to write about the experience of navigating challenges. The problem is that many of them don't do it well.

Remember that your reader has read thousands of these essays. They tend to share a familiar formula. The cycle of life means that many teenagers may have lost a grandparent. They may have seen a parent survive cancer. They may have overcome a learning disability. For better or worse, though, these stories don't necessarily make a student unique.

The key to the obstacle essay is not getting mired in the challenge or tragedy. At their worst, obstacle essays read like excuses for your mistakes. Get too maudlin, they come across as insincere. At best, it might sound like you couldn't come up with a better story.

A successful obstacle essay effectively ties the challenge to your personal growth. It isn't enough to simply be sad at the passing of a grandparent. The experience needs to have somehow reshaped you. It's not enough to say that your mom's cancer made you want to work harder in school. That experience needs to have somehow helped you reevaluate mortality.

Most importantly, your narrative must successfully progress through the challenge. College is a new beginning. You want to share a sense of formidable optimism-the ability to clear a hurdle and keep moving forward.

That's the person your college wants on their team.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The Calm After the Acceptance Letter
So your four years (or more) of hard work have finally paid off. You no longer have to agonize over waning acceptance rates, deadlines, personal statements, or really any other decision-making. You've received the admission offer you wanted and you've accepted. You're thrilled!

Now what?

How long does it take for the afterglow of success to wear off? More importantly, what do you do now? The last couple months of senior year seem positively endless in their arbitrariness.

Some of you may do what I did. Coast through the end of the school year and spend the summer abroad. This wasn't a terrible plan, but I did miss a few opportunities to get acquainted with my new school. So here's my small list of suggestions:

1) Don't let your grades tank. I know you're positively counting the days until graduation, but hang in there. Colleges actually can rescind offers if they see a significant drop-off in your last semester performance.

2) Go to your college orientation. Most schools will offer something this summer. I missed mine. It would have been nice to roam the campus a bit more and say, check out my dorm.

3) Get linked in on social media. You're "in" now. Like your university's Facebook page, follow them on Twitter. If you know your desired major or department, do a little digging for their designated pages, and lock in. You never know what kind of important info they might disseminate before the start of the year.

4) Connect with other students that are going to your school. Like any school experience, you may find that your friends at the start of the year aren't your friends at graduation. But by sharing the journey with friends or classmates, you may be able to take the sting out of the early days of transition.

5) Take a breath. Without getting too sentimental-this is the start of a new chapter. You've probably never lived on your own, with no parents, with no one else to buy your groceries. This sounds liberating to a seventeen-year-old, but it will take some getting used to. Enjoy your last summer at home with familiar friends. This is kind of a big deal.

Above all, congratulations. For most of us, the college years are some of the best of our lives.


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Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Making Law School More Accessible
Last month, I wrote about the diversity problem in law schools. In a statistical nutshell, here's one example of the problem. While Hispanics and African-Americans make up just under 20% of the U.S. population respectively, law school enrollment for each group is around 7%. Not all of those students graduate and go into the profession, where there is an even greater void of minority practitioners.

The Law School Admission council developed the program designed to provide mentors and information to aspiring students of color. But in California, six prominent law schools and 24 community colleges are taking diversity a step further.

Beginning this week, the law schools at UC Davis, UC Irvine, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Loyola and the University of Southern California will begin a partnership with two dozen community colleges statewide in order to provide tutoring, mentoring, counseling and networking opportunities for aspiring law students.

The plan, sponsored by the State Bar of California's Council on Access & Fairness opens up opportunities to students at the community college level who often fall outside the privileged class of mainstream law school students. Easier admission requirements and affordable tuition attracts students who are not traditionally on the law school track.

Significantly, community colleges tend to have far greater numbers of working class students and students of colors. Law schools are notoriously thin on these two groups-something which changes the shape of the country's practitioners.

Since community colleges traditionally offer just two-year degrees, the program will necessarily capture students in their early years of college. Planning ahead academically is essential to getting into a good law school.

Arguably, the move is a positive symbolic gesture by the law schools involved. They are recognizing that elite four-year institutions aren't the only viable sources for top law student talent. And that's a good thing for the profession.


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