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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.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Navigating the Waitlist Headache
Tomorrow is May 1st. In college admissions circles, I guess we can call this Decision Day. It's the date by which most U.S. colleges require students to either accept or decline an official offer of admission. It usually involves some sort of deposit fee in order for a student to secure their position.

It may be a tough decision for some students, but it's a good place to be. You'll be going to college somewhere. But it may be a struggle for waitlisted students. If you've been accepted to the University of Oregon, but you've been waitlisted at Brown, you still have to let Oregon know what you want to do by the 1st. At some point in the future, you may be forfeiting a deposit.

The thing to consider is the waitlist criteria. Almost universally, waitlisted students aren't ranked. So if UCLA has waitlisted a thousand students, they are all pooling in the same bucket. The university is waiting to see which of the "accepted" students are going to put down their deposit on May 1st. After that date, they'll know how many open spots are available. But they don't start by picking the "top" student from the wait list, because there isn't one.

What universities are likely looking for is a balanced or diverse student body. So whether they pick an Engineering hopeful from Namibia or an Anthropology hopeful from Orange County is going to depend on the texture of the students that they've already admitted as of May 1st.

What can a waitlisted student do? Drafting letters of continued demonstrated interest can help. Students may get a huge boost if they have new activities, scores, or publications to share with the college since the submission of their original application.

Beyond that, it is, in fact, a waiting game. One which hopefully resolves for most students sooner, rather than later.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Reframing the College Admissions Model
Call me old-fashioned, but there's something a little predatory about marketing your college to an eighth-grader. If you want to hit the AP classes in high school, you have to lay the groundwork in middle school. To me, that's pressure enough. But marketing to 12-13 year-olds?

The thing about college marketing is that many teenagers don't actually know it is happening. In reality, colleges routinely buy lists of test-takers from the businesses that administer the SAT and ACT exams, for example. High scoring students are a prize for the colleges, so they begin targeting those students-often as early as the eighth grade.

A recent Washington Post article posits an interesting question. If colleges are researching candidates long before the admissions process even happens for them, how important is the college application itself? The advent of on-line applications has made it easier and faster to apply to many schools at once, meaning that many students are merely casting a wide net, rather than making painstaking applications to the schools of their dreams.

So how important should the application be? What does it have to offer that cannot be assessed by simply harvesting information about student scores and grades? If the colleges have access to a student's "work history", the application is little more than a metaphorical "nterview". Is it time to rework the process?

One of the primary problems with the current system is its inefficiency. UCLA boasts of 90,000 undergraduate applications. This may sound prestigious, but it also sounds like a whole lot of busy work, particularly since the vast majority of those students don't stand a chance of admission.

There are too many avenues bearing need for discussion in this post. The system is slowly breaking, but fixing it will be a long, evolutionary journey. For a brief overview, the WP article can be found here: Washington Post

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015
College Admissions Essays Need Not Be Perfect
It's admission time, and the news stories swirling in the collective conscience largely revolve around the students who got into the greatest number of Ivies. Three students have received accolades for being accepted into all eight Ivies. All of them are African immigrants with incredible stories and extraordinary contributions to their credit.

Today, I stumbled upon the apparent admission essay of Gloria Tso, a high school senior who, this week, found out she had been admitted to four Ivy League schools. The essay published was hers for Princeton, and revolved around the question of the importance of public service.

I have no idea what Tso's grades and test scores were like. She makes a brief mention of her extracurriculars in her essay, and they sound impressive. Clearly, she's a highly credentialed candidate. Her essay is well composed and answers the essay prompt. It sounds like a finely tuned, thoughtful composition by a seventeen-year-old girl. It is not maudlin or dramatic. She does not boast or promise ridiculous perfection.

This got me thinking. I see how much agony surrounds the admission essay. I get the sense that students think admissions committees want them to submit essays that sound as though they were written by professional writers. They think the essay needs to blow their readers' mind. Tso's essay, in its quiet simplicity, proves that is not always the case.

I've read many essays by students that gained admission to top schools. Some are quirky. Others are funny. Some are creative and clever. Some are unconventional and eye-catching. Tso's doesn't fall into any of these categories, and yet, it is, clearly, enough.

So for next year's applicants-consider that. You need not be too cute, serious, intellectual or dynamic. Your accomplishments will speak for themselves. Let them.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Long Island Teen Accepted to All Eight Ivies
I write a lot about how a successful college admission has to do more to do with finding the right match than getting into the top schools. No student needs to get into every school they apply to; they only need to get into the one that best fits their needs.

But then someone like Harold Ekah comes along and accomplishes all of the above. This is important not because he should serve as the litmus test for college admissions. It's important because it's rather extraordinary.

Ekah, 18, is the son of Nigerian immigrants. He moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was eight years old. In his admission essay, he wrote of the early difficulties of learning English, and of having an accent so strong that people could scarcely understand him. Many immigrants write of similar experiences, so it probably wasn't Ekah's essay alone that swung the pendulum in his favor.

He's also a straight-A student, with a 2270 SAT score, who is the Editor-in-Chief of his school newspaper and the Chief Executive of his Model United Nations chapter. He was a semi-finalist for the Intel Science Talent Search. He wants to become a neurosurgeon so that he can search for a cure for diseases like Alzheimer's, from which his beloved grandmother suffers.

He is unquestionably inspirational. He has called the acceptances a victory not for himself but for his community. He hopes his success will inspire younger generations to work hard, against any odds.

Ekah has not yet decided where he will attend, but is leaning towards Yale.

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