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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, December 28, 2015
Does GMAT Still Reign in Business School Admissions?
For years, the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), has been the gold standard for gaining admission to business school. The test's relative emphasis on integrated reasoning and quantitative analysis makes it a different creature from its cousin, the Graduate Records Examination (GRE). The GRE is a more generalized test with stronger verbal components and is required by most other non-business graduate programs.

In recent admissions cycles, business schools' approach has begun evolving. According to a recent survey by Kaplan Testing Service, the number of business schools accepting GRE scores for admission has jumped from 24% in 2009 to over 90% in 2015.

Anecdotally, the tests are viewed as somewhat equally challenging. Because the GMAT has historically been the entry-ticked to business school only, it offers less flexibility than the GRE. On the other hand, because the GMAT is arguably better tailored to graduate business coursework, it is still favored by business schools.

Kaplan's survey also notes that business school admissions officers acknowledge that GMAT takers have an edge in admission. No one is sure exactly why. Simply taking the GMAT is a big symbolic gesture: it means you are serious about business school. Perhaps that ambitious and singular focus is appealing to business schools looking for driven candidates.

If, however, you are a student that struggles with some of the more math-based subjects like accounting and statistics, the GMAT may be daunting. If you've got your heart set on b-school, you may just want to power through any fear of math.

The real hope here would be that by accepting more GRE-takers, business schools are truly diversifying the knowledge-base and interests of their students. Any good learning environment benefits from discourse amongst divergent minds. Still, like most test-taking trends, the wheels of change creek slowly.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015
How to Master the Supplemental Essay
If you've ever applied to business school, you know what I'm talking about. This isn't the 500-700 word missive you're required to compose about your life, your background, your ambitions. This one seems easier because it's so short. Two-hundred and fifty words? No problem! That's three short paragraphs. Easy, right?

Right?

As an editor, I can promise you that these supplemental essays are really just lying in wait to trip you up. The admissions committees haven't peppered the application with them out of a sense of boredom. After all, why would they want to add to their reading load? Nope, they're there for a reason.

Here's how to tackle them.

1) Answer the question right away. There is no room for an introductory paragraph. If X University wants to know why you want to be a part of their engineering department, tell them. They want you to prove to them that you've put thought into this.

2) Don't recite their brochure to them. These supplementals often ask for specifics, like why you've chosen Emory, or what you hope to accomplish in their Physics program. Don't tell them what Emory has to offer in general. Tell them why Emory appeals to you. And don't talk about architecture or weather.

3) Pay attention to the question. By the time you're drafting your 150-300 word supplemental, you've already delivered the main course. Don't repeat the generalizations from the main essay. The university wouldn't include the supplemental prompt if they didn't want additional and distinct information.

4) If possible, have fun. Some universities use the supplemental essays as an opportunity to elicit unconventional responses. Don't be afraid to be original. Tufts asks "What makes you happy?" Yale asks "What do you wish you were better at being or doing?" Look at these prompts as opportunities to be creative.

Above all, don't assume that word-count and time-investment are inversely proportional. Give as much time and space to preparation of supplemental essays as you would to the primary essay. Your readers are paying attention. And they're waiting for something good.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Taking a Holiday Break from College Admissions
Let's be honest, Americans aren't great about taking breaks. Two weeks of vacation per year is pretty standard, and most of us are left scrambling to take it over the holiday season. Which is, to say, we take time off to scramble around shopping and cooking to excess. This squeeze starts early, and even young teenagers feel it. Especially high school seniors.

As December draws to a close, the curtains can slowly be drawn over a hectic year of admissions chaos. With the SAT and the admission essay in the rearview mirror, things have settled somewhat. It's time to finally acknowledge that the die has been cast---the fate of the young student is now in the hands of the faceless, enigmatic college admissions officers.

The temptation to stew may be overwhelming. But I'm here to offer an alternative. Let it go.

Whatever you celebrate, celebrate it. The admissions officers are at home doing just that. You've done all your hard work. It's now out of your hands for a few months. You need to rest and gear up for the round of admissions and rejection notices that may be in the future.

Give yourself some breathing space. In a few months, you will be back in charge and making big decisions about your futures. Make sure you have the peace of mind to do so. If you end up getting waitlisted or rejected, you want to be able to tackle those eventualities with a clear head.

As I always say, college admission isn't a referendum on your worth. Sure, it is a big life milestone. It may be a reflection of many years of hard work. Still, it is a moment in time which will pass.

Approach the New Year with renewed energy. Your adult life is just around the corner. There's no rush to get there.

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Saturday, December 19, 2015
Changing the Face of Legal Research
In the world of higher education, the appearance of prestige is almost as important as prestige itself. The Ivies, and other universities with well-regarded stature also immediately have access to other important things-good faculty, wealthy students, and, wealthy alumni. This isn't to say that auspicious learning institutions aren't actually of higher quality than their counterparts. Still, perception is reality.

This is nowhere truer than in the law school arena in the United States. The American Bar Association is the governing body which accredits and oversees the nation's schools. All of the top schools are ABA accredited. There are a constellation of requirements that schools must meet in order to merit accreditation. One of them has to do with the size and scope of the school's law library. With the growth of on-line research libraries, this component is arguably becoming a more dated metric.

Which is why I was encouraged to find a recent story about a Harvard Law graduate, who is also the head of a start-up company Ravel Law. The graduate-Romeen Sheth-and his alma mater have recently partnered on a $10 million project to digitize Harvard's entire law library, making it accessible to-gasp---the public.

Symbolically, this is a big deal. Unaccredited law schools often remain that way solely because they lack a bricks and mortar library. New legal practitioners pay top dollar for access to databases like Lexis-Nexis. Non-legal professionals have long struggled to find public access to all but lengthy troves of actual statutes.

Digitizing actual libraries suddenly means that institutions like Harvard can no longer keep a golden lock on the doors of their research libraries. It isn't clear what kind of price tag companies like Ravel intend to attach to the digital information, but it does mean that one need not be a Harvard student to have access to its annals of knowledge.

Will members of the public clamor for this digital library? Maybe not. Arcane case law isn't for everyone. But in theory, access to it should be. I, for one, would like this to cause a shift in a very old tide of thought.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015
The Problem of Access to College Education
A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California posits that California may hit a shortage of properly trained professionals by the year 2030. Though its metrics and analytics bear greater discussion than allowed here, researchers note that workers with at least a B.A. have better economic outcomes than those without a college degree. A competitive workplace means that college graduates are far more likely to get hired.

In California, however, there is another problem. Not enough people can afford to go to college, and the public system is fracturing from the strains of consistent budget cuts. According to another recent report by the Campaign for College Opportunity, California's population has exploded by 265% since 1950. During that time, public universities have consistently endured cutbacks.

In order to offset these cuts, colleges raise tuition. A lot. Since 2000, the University of California's tuition has soared by 200%. California State Universities have hiked costs by 175%. It doesn’t take a statistician to see that this is problematic.

The goal of the third-level, public education system was to ensure that California had an educated and productive population. Such a workforce is crucial to healthy industry. The current result is that admittees to California colleges are increasingly amongst the very cream of the academic crop from the high schools. Given the necessary costs of attendance, and the limitations on financial aid, the students who can viably attend are those with the wealth to do so.

The governor's budget proposal is announced in early January 2016, and discussion of education funding will certainly be central. The socioeconomic problem, however, persists. How, indeed, does a state expand access to education when it simply cannot afford to do so? What implications does this have in the future health of the workforce?

One thing is certain. It is time for all of us to start paying attention.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Beware of the Pundits
Election Day may still be a year away, but the candidates are still omnipresent in the news cycle. And it's been this way for months. By the time the final ballots are cast, most of us will be so battle weary, we'll be glad to put the noise to rest.

What does this have to do with college admissions? Practically speaking? Nothing. But look at it another way. Like any great job search, political candidacy depends on a myriad of metrics, of which aptitude is only a small component. It's as much about who you know, how you look, and the size of your marketing budget.

Are you with me?

I'll admit, I borrowed the idea from a Washington Post blog, which extended the metaphor in far greater detail than I can here. There was an important admonition though. Beware of the pundits. These are the talking heads, whose voices are the loudest-both from the public pulpit and inside your mind.

For college hopefuls, the words of the pundits can be powerful. The fantasy of a dream school can be far more powerful than the reality that said dream school isn't actually a good fit. It's hard to strive for something we can't yet grasp; hard to prepare for an experience that is wholly unknown.

Which is why it is so crucial to stay authentic. Do your own research. Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Worse, don’t try to be the person you think your admissions officer wants you to be.

The admissions process may leave you feeling battle-scarred. You may feel like your cover letter matters more than your resume, or that no one is really reading either. The truth is, college admissions isn't perfect. The results may be unexpected or even unfair. Still, you want to aim to land in the place you really want to be-not the place you think you should be.

After all, you are a student, not a politician. For that, you may want to be very grateful.

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