|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, July 28, 2014
Colleges and the Holistic Review Process
I feel the need to issue a disclaimer right out of the gate. The reference article I'm using for this post is the musings of a single application reader, employed for a single application cycle at one university. I'm not pretending to offer insight into the global admissions process. I'm not promising the answer to the million-dollar question: "what are colleges looking for in a candidate?"
I'm merely drawing attention to the murkiness of the whole process.
Ruth Starkman's year-old article recounts her struggle with the subjectively objective process of ranking candidates using the University of California, Berkeley's "holistic" review process of college applicants. While one would hope that all colleges take a holistic approach to evaluations, the term has become ever more important since California's 1996 passage of Proposition 209-the law making it illegal to consider race, ethnicity and gender in college admissions.
Starkman struggles with the university's acrobatic attempts to completely avoid the conversation of race, ethnicity and gender in college admissions. It's one thing for the law to say none of those things can even be considered. It's another for application evaluators to pretend race/ethnicity and gender don't exist. Particularly when charged with making a "holistic" review of an application.
College applicants may find some consolation in the rigors of the process. People like Starkman, who is a writing professor, are classed as "external readers". They spend an average of eight minutes per application, give the student a rank, and then pass the application on, where it is vetted by a more experienced reader before being passed off to an "inner committee" of admissions officers.
Still, how is this scientific? Who is the best candidate? What makes them the best? Should the student who had to work harder to succeed get extra points for perseverance? Should the student without the funds to compete with their more privileged peers be penalized for being poor? These kinds of considerations make it impossible to call the process objective.
I wish I had an answer, and so do people like Starkman, who are far more qualified than me to provide one.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Texas, Race, and College Admissions
In June of 2013, in a 7-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the hot-button issue of affirmative action back to the appellate courts. Fisher v University of Texas was a 2008 case brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was unfairly denied admission to the university on the basis of her race. The Supreme Court refused to issue a ruling banning the use of race in college admissions, instead requiring universities to use stricter standards in the consideration of race.
The case was remanded back down the chain to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans where, last week, Fisher's case was dismissed. That's the shorthand version of the ruling. Essentially, the Supreme Court said that race can be considered in college admissions, but only if there are no reasonable "race-neutral" mechanisms that would produce the benefits of diversity. Got that?
The Fifth Circuit found that UT's use of race in its admissions policies was acceptable, and not a constitutional violation for a student like Abigail Fisher. Texas' "Top Ten Percent Plan" automatically grants college admission to the top ten percent of all high school graduates. Because Texas' schools are largely segregated, this has the net effect of adding a great deal of diversity to college university bodies.
UT also uses a "holistic" review process, wherein race is one factor for consideration. However, far more minority students are admitted through the Top Ten Percent Plan.
Splitting legal hairs is what helps cases like Fisher to languish in various stages of the appellate process for years or more. Fisher's attorneys have already announced their intent to appeal once again. She has long since graduated from another university, and experts have noted that her GPA and test scores meant that admission for her in 2004 was unlikely, regardless of her race.
For now, a victory for proponents of affirmative action. Watch this space, as the long battle rages slowly on.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Is College Getting Cheaper
Let me start off with a disclaimer. I'm not an economist. I also can't possibly tackle this question in less than 300 words. But I will open a discussion that raises some interesting issues.
The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO, and probably an organization you'll never think about again), recently released a report stating, in essence, that universities are doling out more financial aid today than ever before. They refer to it as an increase in "tuition discount rate".
The reason why? College is getting more expensive, and students are getting priced out of it. If universities want to make any money from tuition, they have to find a way to make it accessible.
A recent NPR article attempts to dissect the new trend, likening discounted private colleges to "cheap sushi". From a marketing perspective, no one likes the idea of getting something cheap. What they do like, is not having to pay full price for it. There is a difference, and colleges know it, which is why they characterize grants and scholarships as "merit-based stipends" and talk in terms of "need-blind admissions".
The problem is that there are still many students who will be scared away by sticker price. They may be the ones who are most likely to benefit from the discount. For most applicants, it's impossible to tell just how much college is going to cost until every last financial aid and scholarship form has been signed and submitted. Without a guaranteed price tag, it may be mostly middle and upper class students applying to the $40,000 a year colleges. That is true even if those same students ultimately qualify for a 40% discount. Low-income students may simply miss out by figuring they can't even play the game.
The lack of transparency is unfortunate. But this study and other analyses like it are a reminder not to take private, non-profit colleges off your list based on price alone.
Labels: Is College Getting Cheaper
Monday, July 7, 2014
A Second Shot at a Good GMAT Score
If you're applying to Business School, chances are, you've got to tackle the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). For the past several decades, it has been the standard fare for entrance exams to most MBA programs. In recent years, its close cousin, the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), has become a second option, though the GRE is more widely used for admittance to non-MBA graduate programs.
A new feature of the GMAT testing option will now allow test-takers to cancel their score shortly after receiving it. Let me rewind. The GMAT is "computer-adaptive", meaning that it can be taken on a computer, and results will be delivered electronically. Historically, a candidate checks their score on line, and if they take no action, that score is delivered automatically to whichever business schools they have applied to.
This new feature gives students the opportunity to discard a bad score before the university ever sees it. The problem with the system is two-fold. First of all, students have just two minutes to decide whether or not to cancel or forward their scores to their schools of choice. There is no opportunity for measured consideration.
Second, the business schools may not see the discarded score, but they will be able to see that a candidate has cancelled a score. This is true for every cancelled score. This may cause schools to begin to read between the lines if a student has a slew of cancelled scores. It's like alerting the university to your tendency to favor "do-overs".
In the past, schools could monitor a student's previous scores, often looking for an upward trajectory pattern. With the cancelled, anonymous scores, those schools won't be able to detect an aptitude baseline for a given student.
On the other hand, it allows students to better filter the information that is being passed on to their desired business school. Schools will never know how low a cancelled score was, so the weight they may give to such scores is still debatable.
The new test feature is "live" as of June 2014.
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