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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.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Will US Schools Actively Recruit Cuban Students
This week was a big one for Cuba and the United States. After severing ties with Cuba in 1961-largely in response to Castro's Communist regime-the two countries resumed diplomatic relations on Monday of this week.

There continues to be a commercial and economic embargo, preventing the two countries from formally doing business. But the U.S. has reopened its embassy in Havana and travel restrictions between the two countries are slowly being loosened. The gradual reestablishment of the relationship between the countries is being referred to in the media as the "Cuban Thaw".

With the status of the new logistical relationship still up in the air, it is difficult to see what this will mean for higher education. Cuban business students, however, offer an interesting demographic for U.S. business schools. The Wall Street Journal reports that Cuban higher education is known for its strength in the sciences. The diplomatic and economic flux between the two countries also presents fertile ground for academic discourse.

Among the logistical hurdles-access for Cuban students to standardized tests such as the GMAT. There is some concern that many students may not be able to finance costly U.S. educations. Of course, access to information and ease of communication between the two countries will slowly lubricate the process.

In the mean time, the trickle down effects of this watershed political moment may mean big changes on the academic horizon.

For the WSJ take: Wall Street Journal

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Admissions Essays and the Power of Editing
I've been doing editing work in various shapes and forms for well over a decade. My experience in the college admissions realm is well known within my large extended family. In the last ten years, at least half a dozen of my younger cousins have gone to college. Sometime around their junior year, they ask me for editing help. I don't mind. Honestly.

I think that the years have taught me to be diplomatic. It's one of those soft factors in editing that is the most delicate. I don't feel bad correcting grammar or sentence structure. Tone? Substance? Purpose? Those concepts are tougher to tackle.

My visceral response to things I read is immediate. Sometimes the cringe is a flicker. Other times, I feel a silent leap as my eyes are tugged by a jovial turn of phrase. The worst is when I'm bored. How does one inspire someone to write better by calling them tedious?

Still, these responses are what no writer wants to hear but what every writer needs. There are thousands of google hits that will tell you how to write a better admissions essay. They like giving you bullet points. Start early. Be honest. Proofread. Rewrite. All good advice.

What you really need, however, is a second set of eyes.

I looked at some essays for a family member several years back. Academically speaking, I would've been indiscernible in the shadow of his trajectory. His writing was good, but had room for improvement. He took all my criticisms on board and was very grateful for my input. Later, he told me my comments had been a bit like sandpaper on silk. Still, he appreciated them.

That's the thing about editing. No one else can see your work through your eyes. And that's important. It may just be what saves you from yourself.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Jump in LSAT Takers a Good Omen?
I cannot honestly remember the last time I blogged about law school with a hint of optimism. For the past several years, the profession and its pursuit has sagged under the weight of a bad economy and academic scandals. The cost of a law school education has lagged behind its value. Year after year, the number of students taking the LSAT is down, the number of law school applicants are down, and law schools are scrambling to stay afloat.

June 2015, however, may have given law schools a reason to tilt their chins up. For the first time in five years, the number of LSAT takers rose by 6%. The test is offered four times a year. This is the third consecutive increase by cycle. This means that the numbers of takers is rising steadily and consistently. At least for now.

Law school application numbers are still down. The LSAT is relatively affordable and because students can take it multiple times, it is a reasonably low-risk endeavor. Still, students aren't likely to take the LSAT unless they have serious intentions of going to law school.

Naturally, it's too early to draw any broad conclusions from the trend. It should, however, give breath to the notion that the declines of the past few years were cyclical rather than permanent. With the economy rebounding, the investment in a law school education may no longer carry such burdensome risks.

Maybe the numbers are up precisely because students think law school admissions may be easier during a downturn in law's popularity. The causation remains to be seen. But the increase changes the color of the law school narrative. For that reason alone, it is worth watching.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015
The Problem with Asian Students
This topic is nothing new. The stereotype of the Asian mathlete who's been doing tae kwon do and piano since the diaper days is well-branded into the American psyche. Relative to their numbers in the U.S. population, Asian students have comprised large percentages of college student bodies for decades.

Which is why the recent lawsuit against Harvard University, filed on behalf of 64 separate Asian-American groups, raises some interesting questions about race in college admissions. The lawsuit, filed in federal court by a group called Students For Fair Admission (SFFA), isn't as simple as it might seem on its face.

The gist of the complaint is that Harvard unfairly discriminates against Asian students in its admissions process. The plaintiffs claim, in essence, that Asian students have to work harder and score higher than students of other races in order to get in.

Like many of its ilk, this lawsuit is, for legal reasons, filed on behalf of a rejected student who will likely have graduated from college by the time the suit is resolved. Arguably, the suit also fails to speak for "all Asians". Put simply, the suit is an attack on affirmative-action policies, which many Asians wholeheartedly support.

With around a 5% acceptance rate at Harvard, it will be difficult for the plaintiffs to prove that race alone is the reason more Asian students are not admitted. In fact, most people of any race are not admitted to Harvard.

Nevertheless, it is well accepted in the college consulting industry that many Asian students are stereotyped by admissions committees. Arguably, they may be forced to try hard to look less Asian in order to stand out from their Asian competition.

The multi-layered problems with race and college admissions affect different groups in distinct ways. This conversation may be precisely what SFFA's lawsuit will start to unearth. Whether it makes college admissions any easier for Asian students is something that remains to be seen.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Women Still Underrepresented in Business School
According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, the percentage of women applying to business school is hovering somewhere around 35%. Some of the top schools boast enrollment of around 40% women. Yet, with fewer women applying, the prospect of evening out the numbers in MBA programs seems bleaker.

For many years now, certain business schools have sought to fight the locker-room stereotype that plagues them. Though it's impossible to measure all the reasons why women aren't pursuing graduate business degrees, it is a conversation that needs to be had. In an effort to galvanize interest for women, some schools are broadening their reach.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some business schools, such as the Kelly School at Indiana University and Carlson at the University of Minnesota, are targeting high school girls. The schools are inviting high-school juniors and seniors to all-female programs and tours designed to stoke early interest in graduate degrees. The University of Michigan’s Ross school is even offering a day-long mentoring program for Girl Scouts.

Big-name schools like Harvard (HBS) and the Stern School at NYU have long had strong, supportive networking programs for women in the field. Yet business schools have had a tough time shaking the antiquated image of business as a man's world (which it still is).

Fortunately, these schools see the benefit of bringing more women into the fold, and the importance of doing a better job of articulating what MBA programs have to offer to women in particular.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Starting Early—Big Advantages for International Students
A report from the Institute of International Education and the U. S. State Department noted that, for the 2013-2014 academic year, there were 886,052 international students enrolled at U.S. universities. Though this constitutes just four percent of the overall enrolled students, the number represents the eighth straight year of growth. The U.S. also hosts more of the world's 4.5 million students than any other country.

Despite the increasing numbers, navigating the U.S. college system is not easy for foreign students. As evidenced by the blossoming college consulting industry in the U.S. and abroad, there is a significant familiarity gap. And that should come as no surprise. U.S. college preparations start early in high school in the form of AP classes, PSAT prep workshops, and college fairs. These things are not part of the landscape for students from other countries.

Fortunately, students live in the age of the Internet. Amenities like the Common Application and virtual tours make it easier to access college from across the pond. Still, it's hard to know what you should be doing and when you should be doing it.

So why not start early? By early, I mean high school. Spend a year (or longer) in the U.S. as an exchange student. Chinese students, who, at 31%, make up the largest number of U.S. foreign students, routinely attend U.S. high schools in preparation for collegiate study.

The advantages? The language and cultural barriers which often prove isolating to new foreign college students can be tackled within the safe confines of a host family situation. Students have access to U.S. guidance counselors. They get the opportunity to talk college prep with other U.S. students who are still in the midst of the process. They can stay on top of deadlines for standardized tests.

By the time college rolls around, America won't seem so daunting or, well, foreign.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015
UC Tightening its Belt on California Students
With annual tuition costs hovering around $13,000, it's easy to forget that the University of California was originally created as a state-funded educational system. The oldest of the UC campuses at Berkeley, was established in 1868-just two decades after California ratified its first State Constitution. The aim of accessible education was one of its tenets.

In the years since, the UC system has blossomed. Ten campuses exist throughout the state, boasting undergraduate and graduate student enrollment of over 230,000 students. Some of the UC institutions are amongst the most prestigious centers in the world for learning and research. It's two most competitive campuses, at Los Angeles and Berkeley, are as highly sought after as many of the nation's top private universities.

Unfortunately for Californians, the UC appears to be growing less accessible to locals. State funding for the UC has been slashed again and again in recent decades (by about $1 billion since the year 2000). Universities are forced to fundraise in order to cover their budgetary gaps. But one of their greatest resources comes in another form-out-of-state tuition.

Foreign students and non-California residents are charged nearly triple the rate of tuition as in-state locals. That's around $36,000 a year. And those students come at no extra cost to the university. It is pure profit for the UC and it all turns on the address of the applicant.

For the 2015-2016 academic year, just 60% of California applicants were offered spots at UC schools. The LA Times reports that this figure is down from 79.9% in 1999. The UC makes no secret of their reasons. It’s a budgetary policy. They simply cannot afford to accept more local students while still covering their own costs.

For aspiring UC students who are residents of California, this may come as frustrating news. So long as the state budget remains strained, and college admissions remain highly competitive, there appears to be no relief in sight.

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