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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.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
ABA Sanctions More Schools Over Admissions
The American Bar Association, the regulatory body in charge of policing America's law schools, has recently disciplined two more schools over what it characterizes as lax admissions policies.

The public censure was directed at the Valparaiso University School of Law and Charlotte Law School. This brings to three (including Ave Maria School of Law) the number of schools that have been disciplined by the ABA since August of 2016.

Part of the ABA's roll is to make sure that law school admissions is stringent enough to filter out students who are unlikely to excel academically in law school and pass the bar exam after graduation. Quality control, if you will.

But some of the censured schools raise interesting rebuttals. The downturn in the legal profession has caused a severe curtailing in enrollment. The response of law schools to that has taken on many forms, from laying off staff to increasing tuition. Another trend has involved relaxing admission requirements. Though few schools will admit to doing so, experts have cited declining LSAT scores and bar pass rates as evidence that law schools are evolving through this crisis.

There are 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S. Losing accreditation has different effects on students, depending upon the state in which they are located. However, many states will not allow students from unaccredited institutions to sit bar exams or practice law.

The disciplined schools have two years of probation during which they must meet with ABA standards in order to maintain accreditation. Their failure to do so may have long and lasting impacts upon their students.

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Monday, November 21, 2016
Universities Issue Joint Statement in Support of DACA
Back in late December of 2010, The Dream Act, which stands for “Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors” was defeated in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 55-41. This legislative bill was designed to help people who had been brought into the U.S. illegally when they were 15 years old or younger. The Act would have helped those children to obtain U.S. citizenship, providing that they attended two years of college or served two years in the U.S. military. The law required qualifying candidates to have lived in the U.S. for at least five years and graduated from high school.

In 2012, the Obama Administration issued an executive order creating the program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This act was a diluted version of the Dream Act, offering deferment from deportation to undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthdays. So long as program applicants had graduated high school or been honorably discharged from the military, they would receive temporary work permits. Unlike the Dream Act, DACA did not offer these young people an alternative path to citizenship.

DACA is now one of many policies created under the Obama Administration that President-Elect Trump is promising to dismantle. Estimates place at around 750,000 the number of people who are currently participants in DACA; over half of those students are from California and Texas. Surprisingly, a movement to defer deportment of those people has received bipartisan support in Congress, although it remains to be seen whether legislation preserving portions of DACA would pass in the Senate.

For their part, a group of 472 university and college presidents across the country have expressed written and vocal support for the safeguarding of DACA and its students. The number of signatures is growing daily. The joint statement calls it a "moral imperative" and "national necessity" to protect the rights conferred on these DACA students, many of whom may eventually face deportment under the current administration.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016
How Early is Too Early for College Admission Preparation?
About three years ago, the prominent professional site LinkedIn changed its membership rules to allow students as young as 14 to create a profile. The idea behind the move was to encourage high school students to begin building a clean social media profile for prospective colleges and even employers.

LinkedIn has long been the squeaky-shoed cousin of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Reserved primarily for professional connections, it can be a great resource for networking. For young students, LinkedIn is an ideal opportunity to begin prepping for the adult world of polished presentation. And for those getting ready for college, it is a good spot for a dry run.

But how early is too early? By 14, most students have decided whether or not college is on the menu, but it is still four full years away. High school isn't a chapter meant to be skimmed, but by junior year, the college hand wringing will have already started. And realistically, most teenage LinkedIn profiles would be understandably thin.

Still, we are now in the digital age-and this is an arena where youth typically shines. Creating a professional profile (digitally or practically speaking) is a valuable exercise-and one to which parents and mentors could contribute meaningfully. And if colleges continue to be as interested in applicants' social media pages as they are now, an impeccable LinkedIn profile could be a very important portal indeed.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Being Poor at an Elite University
It's been nearly three years to the day since I first read (former) Duke University student Kelly Noel Waldorf's article about being a poor student at an elite institution. And on the heels of a U.S. election that has pushed issues of economics and class division to the surface, her story is more relevant than ever.

Her letter, which appeared in Duke's own newspaper on November 11, 2013 went viral at the time. In it, she talks about the practical realities of being poor. She can't afford to go out to eat with her friends. She has to check her textbooks out of the library. Her mom calls her crying because she can't afford the gas money to come pick her up for Thanksgiving break.

But the more troubling aspect of the article involves her anecdote about putting her McDonald's job on her résumé: a Duke classmate asks her if she thinks that's wise. And there it is-the embarrassing culture clash. That painful juncture where one person's reality becomes the object of elite pity. Waldorf got it, and she had the courage to write about it.

Today, things are no better. The majority of students at elite universities come from families with six-figure incomes. Legacy admissions and the exorbitant price tag on private universities means that poorer students either can't or don't even try to attend. The efforts by many institutions to offer services to low-income students may be worthy, but it's a mere ripple in the ocean.

The class divide in our country has never been greater or more apparent. College has long been considered the gateway to success, but it is not always an easy threshold for students to cross. Getting in and getting it financed is the practical battle; moving into a new social class is an entirely different exercise.

To read Ms. Waldorf's 2013 article, click here: Duke Chronicle

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Monday, November 7, 2016
Using Analytics to Find the Perfect College Student
Most people plugged into the college admissions game understand the stakes. We all know that students are evaluated on their grades, test scores, and so-called soft factors-like extracurricular activities and volunteer experience. What people might not know is that some colleges also rely on something else when measuring their candidates: analytics.

These are essentially data points recorded on students, based upon things like geography, race, family income, ethnicity, gender, and high school attended. The process of statistical analysis is beyond the scope of this blog, but using analytics to study people and their habits is nothing new. It is also potentially very valuable for colleges and universities.

Let's be honest-the idea that institutions are reducing human beings to data points isn't likely to sit well with people. At least at first glance. Predictive analysis is riddled inherent biases-take, for instance, the correlation between college graduation amongst students of color or students from low-income families. Colleges have a vested interest in making money and staying high in the rankings, so they are going to pick students likely to perform well.

Still, this doesn't mean that analytics can't be used in a positive way.

Colleges themselves can use analytics to track student performances. Some universities are becoming more invested in retaining their students rather than separating the wheat from the chaff. So when they see a freshman struggling with grades, they can approach and intervene, rather than tossing the student onto academic probation.

As tools of professional management, analytics can be enormously helpful in empowering colleges to better serve their student populations, by having a better understanding of demographics, financial need, and academic interests.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016
What the Presidential Election Could Mean for College Students
Let me start with two caveats. First, I can't possibly sum up the political platforms of both US presidential candidates in 250 words. Second, this is a non-partisan post.

Put simply, the candidates disagree most strongly on "school choice", which is a general term that would essentially eliminate the current model of neighborhood public schools. Put another way, parents would have greater choice in terms of where to send their kids to school, and would not be restricted by geographical district.

What isn't as clear is republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's platform for third-level education. He has promised to reveal it in the furture, but his campaign website offers no details. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, on the other had, promises to build up federally subsidized programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP: programs that both aim to strengthen the pipeline between colleges and underserved communities.

The cost of college is a big election issue. Generally speaking, Trump wants to divest the federal government of its large role in providing financial education for college students, migrating that role over to private banks. Clinton, on the other hand, wants to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in an effort to encourage more students to apply to college. Trump wants colleges to begin shouldering more of the costs of attendance; he also wants colleges to consider the future earning capacity of students in determining how much to loan them. Clinton's New College Impact, would make four-year public university tuition free for families making less than $85,000 a year and would make community college free.

Noxious as this election cycle has been, the two candidates arguably moor to traditional party lines with their positions on college education and how to fund it. And, as always, there will be sizeable gaps between campaign promises and deliveries.

Nevertheless, this election is an important one for all college hopefuls to watch.

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