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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, October 27, 2014
Exploring Early to find the Right College
In American culture, college is more than a simple beginning to a new academic venture. It is a spreading of the wings-a symbolic marker of a student's transformation from teenager into independent adult. If you're lucky and can take your pick, this may be your first opportunity to start over far away from home. It's like closing your eyes, tracing your finger on a map and picking a place to go.

Well, not exactly. But it is a lot easier to relocate before you've got a job, mortgage and kids.

For most students, the only real barrier to attending a school far from home is the higher out-of-state tuition. The reality, however, is that most of us stay close to home. It may be the familiarity, but more likely, it's the cost of simply traveling and researching far-away places. Thankfully we now have the internet to thank for virtual tours, but it isn't the same. Seeing and experiencing a place is something that can't be faked.

I'm not one of those people that advocates college prep for kindergartners, but I do think it's a good idea to plan ahead. So when you take a regular family trip with older kids, think about using it as an opportunity to check out a campus. Let your kids get a visceral feel for a place by just wandering the campus. Sometimes just seeing the majesty of a large university is something that sticks in a young person's memory.

Helping your kinds to mentally map out a larger region of possibility is the first step in stretching the limits of their expectations. Done in the right way, this can be a real positive when the college crunch finally comes to pass.


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Thursday, October 23, 2014
Turning Your Admission Essay from Tired to Fresh
As an editor, one of my least favorite essays to read is the cliche essay. It's also one of my least favorites to critique. Correcting grammar? That's the kind of thing that doesn't hurt feelings. Telling a student their camp counseling story just isn't interesting? That's a little more tenuous.

Remember though, that college admissions isn't about feelings. The person reading your essay will likely never meet you face to face. They will never have to even give you feedback. This gives them the privilege of disliking your essay in private, without heed for your ego.

In theory, you, the high school essay composer, should use this as an opportunity. Let's say you pick an experience topic that we will call, erm, familiar. Camp counseling. Sporting triumph. Church volunteer trip. Habitat for Humanity. I'm not suggesting that these life events aren't milestones. They may be cause for epiphanies. But a lot of the time, they are just things-kids-do-to-beef-up-a-college-resume, and your university can see that.

So find your story. Don't just write about how summer camp taught you independence and responsibility. Tell us about the time the power went out and you had to grill food on the campfire. Don't just write about your water polo championship, write about the time your mom's car ran out of gas on the way to the Finals.

Don't make things up. But think of what story you'd tell at a dinner party. The story you'd tell if you wanted to make someone laugh. The story you'd tell if you wanted to commiserate. The story you'd tell if you wanted to help someone through a hard time. These are the good stories.

These stories are fresh, not tired. These are the ones that you would want to read.


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Monday, October 20, 2014
Bad Legal Job Market Worse for Lower-Tier Law Schools
The big news about law school over the past several years has really been its bleak landscape. But how bad is it, really, for the top 20 schools?

Not that bad. In fact, their knees haven't even been grazed by it.

When it comes to Elitism with a capital "e", it is nowhere more alive and well than in the law school realm. The headlines are stark. Last year saw the lowest numbers sitting the LSAT exam, ever. Applicant numbers are at the lowest they've been since the 1970s (when there were fewer law schools). Law schools are laying off faculty, reducing class sizes, eliminating aid packages, and trimming courses.

The tough legal job market means that it is taking graduates longer to get employed and, when they do, they are, on average, earning less. This makes the effort and the price tag for most law schools rather unappealing.

The thing is, all of these factors are disproportionately affecting the lower tier schools. In the competitive legal job market (from clerkships to big firms), school name has always been important. But with fewer jobs available these days, employers are more likely to skim even less cream off the top. The Yale Law grad is very likely to outrank her evenly matched competitor at a less prestigious school.

So as a general rule, top tier schools aren't hurting. Most in the top 14 have classes of fewer than 300 students anyhow meaning that the elite schools don't need many to apply in order to fill seats with highly qualified candidates.

What does this mean to law school hopefuls? Make sure you really want it. Then do your research to see where you're likely to end up. Where you go may be more important than what you do once you get there.


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Thursday, October 16, 2014
Do not Take that Acceptance for Granted
If you've been keeping up with college admissions, you've no doubt read about the intersection of social media in the process. Blogs and reports everywhere are quick to remind applicants to keep their online profiles scrubbed clean. Colleges do pay attention to Facebook profiles and admissions staff admits that they may be inclined to rescind admissions if they find something unsavory.

But how often do colleges really rescind offers and why?

The number one reason, according to a study by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), is senioritis. In the most recent surveys, colleges reported that 65% of rescinded offers were done so in response to a significant dive in second semester senior year grades.

Second on the list were disciplinary issues. This broad category accounted for roughly 35% of withdrawn offers. Staying out of trouble seems like an obvious admonition to college hopefuls, but clearly, it's an active problem.

Rounding out the top three at 29% was falsification of application information. This also sounds like a no-brainer, but given the highly competitive nature of the process these days, not a surprise.

In short, no acceptance is unconditional. The data should remind students, however, that universities are looking at the whole picture when they take in a candidate. The best test scores, grades and resume in the world won't survive bad choices and questionable behavior.

So clean up that Facebook profile, but by all means, don't stop there.


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Monday, October 6, 2014
Helicopter Parenting and College Admissions
Wondering if you hover too much over your children? Are you reading this blog? Yes? Then you may already have your answer.

Students: let's face it, most teenagers feel their parents are too intrusive. Thought they nagged you a lot about homework? College admissions could make that look like, well, child's play.

The fact is, your hovering parents have probably experienced rejection and regret. They've lost a job or blown an interview or bombed a test. They understand that time doesn't fix the aftermath of all youthful transgressions. So when they see you giving less than 100% to the admissions process, it may feel impossible for them to sit on their hands.

At the undergraduate level, administrators are often quite familiar with the overly involved parent, who may be doing more than simply footing the bill. The thing is, the university is admitting you, the student, and they want to know you'll be able to juggle the demands of college with your own two hands. Having mom call to check in on your admission status? Not a good symbolic gesture.

The solution for parents? Trust that the child-rearing you've done thus far is good enough. Hard as it might be, step back and understand that your almost adult child is going to need to learn about natural consequences.

For students with meddlesome parents? See this as a growth opportunity. Your life will be full of authority figures reminding you how to run your life. Trust that the folks aren't as out of touch as you might think. Know that someday you may find this to be true.


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