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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.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Are the Ivies our New Celebrity Culture?
I'll be the first to admit it: I find it hard to rise above the temptation of click-bait. Just yesterday, I skimmed through a toothless piece about Brad and Angelina's ex-bodyguard. If you don't know who I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky.

About six months ago, I read a Washington Post article about America's "dangerous" obsession with elite universities. It struck a chord with me. If you read about college admissions with any vigor, you'll find it impossible to ignore the mania over Stanford, Harvard and Yale. There's no one disputing their excellence.

The problem is their relevance to the average person.

The vast-and I mean vast-majority of Americans stand no chance of admission to any of them. Put another way in the WP article, just 4% of American students attend universities with an acceptance rate of 25% or less.

Let that sink in. Harvard, by the way, accepts 5.2% of its applicants.

So why, oh why, do we keep fixating on universities that will have little to no impact upon American college graduates? What is so addictive about the unattainable?

Perhaps it is because the ordinary just isn't interesting enough for our byte-sized attention spans. The idea that thousands of hard-working Americans will graduate from solid, regional public universities each year-it's just not a story.

The problem is that it should be. Because our high school students are paying attention. They need to know that success isn't hog-tied to low acceptance rates.

This isn't about settling for less. It's about focusing on what students can and should be doing with their educations. It is about shifting the conversation. In the words of Ben Casselman, it's time to "Shut Up About Harvard".

The Washington Post

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Monday, October 17, 2016
Changes to FAFSA to Help Students with College-Selection
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education gives out over $150 billion in financial aid for college students. The aid is need-based, and any student can determine eligibility by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

For most high school students, the income being evaluated is that of their parents. It is often advised that all students fill out the FAFSA, even if their parents' income is too high to qualify for aid. Because many universities and organizations use the financial information on the FAFSA to make determinations about merit and need-based scholarship awards, it is recommended that all students fill out a FAFSA. The FAFSA also entitles applicants to up to $5,300 in low-interest federal loans.

Integral as the FAFSA is to many college students, it has long posed a problem. With an application deadline of January 1st, most students were applying for aid after they'd applied to colleges. For many students, cost is a major component of college selection. Some students were placed in the difficult position of accepting college offers before they knew whether or not they could afford to pay tuition.

This year, FAFSA has changed its deadline to October 1st. This means students will receive aid decisions well in advance of the college acceptance deadlines. Students will be better able to make informed (read: financially sound) decisions.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Business Schools Turning to Technology in Admissions Process
It's been about five years since the University of Iowa's Tippie School of Management became the first notable business school to give applicants the option to tweet their way in. The move was a popular one with applicants, who were allowed to chose between a traditional admission essay or a 140-character sound byte; the vast majority chose the tweet.

Since then, the liberal use of technology in admissions has been exploited most deftly by graduate business schools. Back in 2011, Tippie turned to the tweet in an effort to break a cycle of stale admission essays. Business schools are famous for requiring several essays of varying lengths. But there is almost always a primary essay with a limit of 500-1000 words. A tweet would be shorter than the first two sentences of this paragraph (which is 178 characters). Students lapped it up.

In 2016, it's difficult to find a business school that doesn't either encourage or require technology as an admission component. Georgetown now requires a one-minute introductory video from each candidate. Kellogg has dispensed with some of the writing components and now requires three video essays. Tippie, for its part, now offers an option that is potentially limitless; there is no length or file size limitation and the "admission question" may be addressed via video, social media, Power Point presentation, blog post, or other. As Tippie puts it "all options are on the table".

Full disclosure: I'm not a Millennial or even Generation Y. And while I'm pretty tech-savvy, video essays would make me sweat-something that speaks volumes about the demographic that b-schools are courting. At the very least, videos are a shortcut around in-person interviews. They give charismatic students an opportunity to shine. Students with weaker "written records" may be able to use visual media to knock an application out of the park.

In any event, the times, they are a-changin', and business schools are paving the way.

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Monday, October 3, 2016
The Narrowing Down of the Admission Essay
Let me be honest with you from the get-go: there is no single most important aspect of any admission essay. There is no simple recipe for the perfect one. But colleges are trying to help students to be more effective at getting to the heart of a good narrative, and here's how.

The Common Application has significantly narrowed the field of focus in admission essays. With a 650 word limit and four specific prompts to chose from, students have considerable help in shaping the contents of their work. They can then send this same essay to dozens of different schools. So while it functions as a one-size-fits-all personal statement, the Common App gives its student-writers decent guidance.

The trend in college admissions essays is changing. Though most schools still utilize the essay as a vehicle for getting to know a candidate, their questions have become increasingly more detailed. This year for the first time, the University of California is shifting from their two-prompt, one-thousand word model to something very different: a total of eight prompts, from which students must chose four. No essay is to be longer than 350 words.

Students may find it cumbersome to write "more" essays, but the schools who require several are not doing it to increase the volume of information they get from students, but rather the quality of what they are writing. Many universities require a primary essay of around 500 words and often several more within the 250-300 word range.

Shorter essays are often more difficult to write-you don't have the advantage of a long runway for your ascent or landing. But with the tight word limits, they force students to strip away all of the excess and get right to the point. Which is what the essay was supposed to be about in the first place.

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