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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, March 29, 2017
America's College Drop-out Problem
For most college hopefuls, the most daunting and labor-intensive part of the college process is admission. It is the topic of countless blogs and self-help books. It has spawned an entire industry of admissions counselors, coaches, and mentors, all promising to offer the foolproof formula for getting accepted. What's lost in all of this commotion are statistics far more sobering than single-digit acceptance rates: the number of students who start college but don't finish.

What if the real social problem is not getting in, but staying in?

Drop-out statistics are notoriously hard to collect, but a soft estimate is that a full 25% of thirty-somethings in the U.S. who have attended college, do not have either an associate's degree or a four-year diploma. Why?

The simple answer is: cost.

One way or another, most middle to high-income students will find a way to finish college. And let's not forget-statistically, it was easier for these kids to become students in the first place. They were not the first in the family to attend college, they went to good high schools, their parents could afford SAT prep workshops and so on.

Lower income students are more likely to have to work during college. They are less likely to have financial help from their parents. They are more likely to take time off from college, and pick up again at a stage in their lives where it is even less affordable. Imagine, for a moment, being a 30-year-old father of three with a mortgage to pay, trying to juggle the workload and costs of college.

Getting additional financial aid towards the back-end of college can be challenging, but if colleges are truly concerned with long-term student success, the drop-out problem merits far more attention. When students don't finish college, society loses. College graduates qualify for higher-paying jobs. They are more likely to pay back student loans, and more likely to send their own kids to college.

This socioeconomic problem looms far more heavily than issues like affirmative action and getting into an Ivy. But it isn't one that too may people are yet having, and that's a whopping loss for everyone.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Harvard Law School to Begin Accepting GRE
The Law School Admissions Test has long been a requirement for all applicants to ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. High LSAT scores are the golden ticket for law school hopefuls. So when the University of Arizona School of Law announced last May that they would accept both the LSAT and the Graduate Records Examination (GRE) for its 2016-2017 applicants, legal pundits quickly began sparring.

Why? The short, editorialized answer is this: the LSAT is a more rigorous test, and lawyers traffic in prestige. The LSAT applies only for law school admission; the GRE for virtually all other graduate programs.

Far more people take the GRE-somewhere from five to eight times more. The GRE is offered on-line, on a rolling basis throughout the year. The LSAT is a written, in-person exam, presented just four times a year.

Both exams appear to be effective predictors of academic performance, but that isn't the primary reason that the University of Arizona and now Harvard are opening their doors to GRE takers. These institutions want to increase the diversity of their applicant pool.

Diversity is a loaded word in academia, but in practice, casting a wider net will allow law schools to consider more international students, and those from a broader range of academic disciplines. If the change sticks, it may loosen the stranglehold of the LSAT as a metric, and could open up the field of law to competent students who might not otherwise have considered law school.

No word yet on whether Harvard's move has people clucking, or whether this is a foreshadowing of a longer-term shift in law school admissions. Still, a space worth watching.

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Monday, March 13, 2017
California Proposes Most Generous College Aid Plan in Nation
With college costs and student loan debts mounting nationwide, legislators in California have crafted an economically ambitious plan. The complex proposal aims to reduce or eliminate the need for student loans for the more than 450,000 students attending Cal State and University of California institutions.

The average annual cost at one of the 23 Cal State campuses is $21,000; at the nine UC campuses, that cost is $33,000. This proposal promises to cover those costs, while continuing to supplement them with federal and state grant programs currently in place. Recipients would additionally be required to work part-time jobs year round, and families earning more than $60,000 annually would receive only partial subsidies.

With more than $2.1 billion in aid offered each year, California is already one of the most generous states in the country. Cost of living in California, however, tends to severely offset these benefits. Several of the UC campuses are located in some of the most expensive cities in the U.S. The state estimates that UC aid recipients currently spend some 60% of their aid packages on housing costs alone.

At the cheaper Cal State institutions, costs of living is also a serious issue. In June of 2016, a Los Angeles Times article reported that one in ten Cal State students was homeless.

Despite the tremendous need and California's robust budget, the proposal faces enormouse barriers. Governor Brown has been cautious in the management of the state budget, even in cash-heavy years. Politically, college affordability faces staunch opposition, particularly given the need for expenditures in other areas such as transportation.

If the proposal leaves the tarmac, however, it could set the stage for similar progressive reforms across the country. With a presidential administration committed to reducing federal student aid, these statewide economic shifts are the ones to watch.

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Friday, March 10, 2017
Politics and Teachable Moments for MBA Students
Following President Trump's January 2017 Executive Order temporarily banning immigration from six Muslim-majority countries, a furor erupted across America. The backlash was not purely political. Some of the loudest voices came from the halls of academia, where immigrants comprise a substantial portion of the student and faculty population. A recent GMAC survey found that 56% of two-year MBA applications are from non-citizens.

This week, the Trump administration issued a new, narrower ban. While it has sparked slightly less outrage, at least some in academia are viewing the ban through a different lens: a learning opportunity.

Bill Boulding, dean of Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, considers both of the executive orders to be teachable moments. Business schools are amongst the most geographically diverse of post-graduate institutions, largely because the world of business is now largely global. Students stand to learn more about context when exposed to cross-cultural models.

Boulding understands the need for delicate handling of a political hot-topic, but his approach is pragmatic. The practical effects of the ban are yet unknown, but it is likely to either prevent or discourage foreign talent from pursuing education in the U.S. In that regard, it may become a forecast of real-world trends under increasingly isolationist U.S. policies.

MBA programs in particular are built upon the backs of case studies. Factoring in global economic shifts and sociopolitical trends is essential in creating hypotheticals that mimic reality. For now, that reality is changing at a dynamic gallop, forcing business schools to square off with a very different academic landscape.

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Monday, March 6, 2017
The Importance of Courting the Right College
As this season's high school juniors slowly slide into the college application season, they may find that things are finally getting real. Having your wheels clicked into the college track is one thing. Picking a university and a major are entirely different affairs.

The majority of high school students don't have concrete long-term plans. There are exceptions, of course, and most have at least a sense of their general interests. It is okay not to know, but students shouldn't be afraid to do some exploring.

This is the time to reach out to professors. These are the people who aren't typically on the front lines of college admissions. Those jobs are reserved for the marketing department. Getting to know faculty will help students to distinguish between schools that look good and schools that are a good fit for their specific needs.

Professors are likely to be impressed by high school students who are doing their homework on the university. Email them. Ask to sit in on a class. Ask questions about course content. Tell them you're not sure what you want to do. If you reach the interview stage, you'll be able to say that you've taken the initiative to get to know a little about the school and its instructors-stuff you can't necessarily find on the brochure.

It's okay to sit in your uncertainty. Indecision need not be paralytic. College application season is intense but short. Like every transition in life, it will fortify the texture of your experience. Any good professor knows all of this. And they don't have to be your teacher to give you some really important guidance.

As a prospective student, you really have nothing to lose.

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