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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.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Letting your Law School Know You are Still Interested
In law school admissions parlance, "LOCI" actually has nothing to do with science or the pluralization of "locus". (If you're not following me there, just skip ahead). The so-called "Letter of Continuing Interest", is generally an optional correspondence, usually mailed to a given law school after a student has been placed on their waitlist.

However, LOCI can be extremely valuable for several reasons. For starters, schools are likely juggling dozens or hundreds of waitlisted students. They realize some of those won't wait around, and may select other law schools. They also may still be looking for a reason to pluck a certain waitlisted student out of the crowd.

From the student's perspective, the LOCI is an opportunity to update the law school on any professional advancements or other notable changes that have taken place since the submission of their application. Most importantly, it's a way to remind the university that, well, you are still interested.

The content should be self-explanatory. In addition to updating the school on life changes, the student may want to expand upon their particular interest in that school. Don't waste time talking about justice, and sweeping career objectives. Instead, focus on the strengths of the individual school, and how the student is likely to flourish in that environment.

The only admonition with LOCI? Try not to beleaguer the admissions office with your pleas. Keep it short, simple, and to the point.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Re-Evaluating the Merits of College Admission
While the test-optional approach to college admissions is far from being the new norm, it's mere existence threatens to reshape the historical admissions process.

A decade ago, no college applicant would dream of skipping out on the SAT. Yet, in recent admissions cycles, the dinosaur of aptitude tests has watched as it has been gradually supplanted by the more accessible ACT exam. Where the SAT used to be the old standard, some colleges are now opting for an either/or approach to accepting scores from the two exams.

Historically, the SAT was viewed as the level-playing-field metric designed to help colleges evaluate candidates objectively. Over time, it's become evident that success on aptitude tests tends to break down along class/gender/racial lines in a way that is far from objective.

There's also the argument that some smart, creative, interesting people just don't do very well on fill-in-the-bubble aptitude tests. The SAT itself has recently implemented sweeping changes to its format in an attempt to woo test-takers.

More astonishing is the slow-growing trend by some colleges of scrapping the requirement for aptitude testing all together. Well known institutions like Wesleyan and Wake Forest have recently adopted test-optional policies. Some smaller private institutions have even adopted their own set of admissions-testing policies-scrapping the standard format of grades/test/admissions essays.

At the graduate level, many business schools have opened new creative windows to the application process, inviting everything from biographical videos to Tweets.

It's too soon to tell if any of these "outlier" policies will cause larger inroads of change. They are certainly a sign of changing stakes and a fresh approach to evaluating individual merit at the college-entrance level. By all accounts, that's good news for students and universities alike.


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Awkward Admission Essay
We've all been there. That awkward moment at a cocktail party/in the classroom/at the lunch table. There's some laughing, some oneupmansship. Then the humor comes to a screeching halt. Someone goes too far with their sharing. The laughter becomes errant, and then mute. Everyone collectively tries to decide whether to acknowledge it, or move on.

Imagine investing hours into your college admission essay. Carefully sifting through memories to try and uncover the shiniest grain. Casting aside all vulnerability, and putting the experience on paper. Then imagine your reader's eyes coming to a screeching halt.

There are some things that just don't work in essays. Let's hit the obvious ones first. Racism, sexism, bigotry. Of course, you can tackle these as issues, and doing so well could churn out some profound results. Just don't make racist comments. Period.

Crimes. Think carefully before writing about your own transgression or one in which you were the victim. This is sensitive stuff. An essay shouldn't be built on the back of something unfortunate, unless it will somehow be relevant to your admissions officer. Remember your audience.

Don't get too gross. There's a time and place for some embarrassing stories. And unless one of them is really at the heart of why you want to go to college, or what led you there, it's probably not appropriate.

Don't get too personal. If it's not a conversation you'd be comfortable having with your reader, you may not want to write about it. That goes for outing other people in your life. It won't reflect well on your ability to set boundaries and make good decisions. For a few cringe-worthy shares that didn't end well, click here: NY Times


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Monday, November 10, 2014
American Students Lag Behind in GMAT
The Graduate Management Admission Test is a huge hurdle for most MBA hopefuls, but recent statistics suggest that one group in particular is really struggling. American candidates.

The GMAT is administered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and is typically a requirement for admission to most MBA programs. (The growth in popularity of the Graduate Records Examination is definitive but slow, and most graduate business schools continue to favor the GMAT). Over the past decade, applications from foreign students have been on the rise, and seemingly, they are performing better on the test.

The GMAT is divided into four sections: writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative and verbal. The quantitative (read: math) section is crucial for b-schools since it is so often a predictor for student success. Chinese students, who comprise 44% of b-school applicants in the U.S. are outperforming American students by a long shot. So are large numbers of applicants from India and Korea.

A loose analysis attributes the success of the foreign students to far stronger math education in elementary and high school. Some studies also show that foreign students on average put more hours into test preparation.

Whether or not the shift will be a boon to foreign students or a barrier to American students remains to be seen. Quantitative skills are undoubtedly crucial in the business school environment. But American institutions are famed globally for prizing a diversity of academic and real-world experience from their student bodies.

Nearly all business schools accept personal statements, supplemental writing samples and detailed applications from students in addition to GMAT scores. So while the new data may certainly be instructive, it is not necessarily determinative. The long-term effects on business school demographics, of course, remains to be seen.


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Thursday, November 6, 2014
Winning Personality Ticket to College Admission
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is a small polytechnic college situated in Terra Haute, Indiana. It has a student body of just under 2,000, and an acceptance rate of just over half. It also has some innovative ideas about admission.

Their admissions office is considering the possibility of adding a "personality test" to help measure and evaluate potential applicants. The psychology tool is also called the "locus of control" test. It examines the degree to which students believe they are either in control of their destiny or victims of fate. Students who fall somewhere in the center of that spectrum are the types of self-reliant, pragmatic and driven personality types likely to be successful at the college. At least that is the theory.

Rose-Hulman already uses the test to evaluate retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, and in making determinations of scholarship awards. They are also considering using a "curiosity index" test as a supplemental evaluative tool.

Given the traditional litany of test scores, grades and admissions essays, these ideas sound a bit unconventional. But the evaluation concept is very much the same. In order to succeed in college, students need to be both determined and humble. They need to be ready for challenges and have the stamina to push through them.

These kinds of approaches are becoming more common at smaller colleges around the country, usually (but not always, as here) liberal arts institutions. Tweets, videos, and test-optional applications are just some of the progressive concepts being tried on for size.

Clearly, approaches such as these are unlikely to be mainstreamed, but they may give the larger institutions some creative ideas about better evaluating prospective students. For those capable students who don't test well, who've suffered academically, or been otherwise derailed on the road to college, these open-minded approaches should be a welcome change.


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Breaking the Ice in Your Admission Essay
You know how long 500 words is? Not long. I mean, really. And for you Common App crowd-650 isn't either. This means the cliche is true: you've got to make every word count.

This means there's no time for small talk. By the last sentence of your opening paragraph, your reader should 1) know something interesting about you, 2) want to read more.

You may want to take your lead from some of the better admission essay prompts around the country. "Tell us about you and the world around you" is not the stuff of inspiration. However, "What outrages you?", (Wake Forest), "Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it," (University of Chicago), "What does #YOLO mean to you?" (Tufts)-these are prompts I almost want to answer. And I'm not even applying to college.

What works in the quirky essay prompt? The ice is already broken. You get to write about something interesting. Someone has given you permission to speak candidly.

Remember that your admissions committee can see your grades, your role as ASB President, that summer class you took at XYZ University. The admission essay is not a good opportunity to reiterate the fact that you did all those things. See it as an opportunity to write about your first pet, or rollerskating, or your crazy Uncle Joe.
br< These anecdotes often say much more about who you are, what you want, and what is important to you than platitudes that circle aimlessly around the meaty heart of things. Do you want an essay that says stilted chit-chat or lively dinner conversation?

Take a risk. Be funny. Make a confession. Write quirky. Make your reader want to know you. You've only got a few hundred words with which to rope them in.


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