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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.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
On Pizza, College Admissions and Yale
About a month ago, a tiny corner of the internet was abuzz about a 196-word admission essay that landed 18-year-old Carolina Williams an acceptance to Yale University. The content? A paean to her favorite pizza joint, Papa Johns. Apparently, the Yale admissions committee thought it was hilarious. Williams tweeted the story to Papa Johns. The pizza chain, no doubt sensing a ripe marketing opportunity, offered free pizzas and an internship to Williams. Her local paper took up the story, and the story went viral from there.

Last year, a young student was admitted to a handful of Ivies with her essay about Costco. This admissions season, Ziad Ahmed was accepted to Stanford with an essay that repeated the phrase “Black Lives Matter” a hundred times. These news stories are catchy. These students are brave and creative. But the media does a routine disservice to readers by suggesting that any of these essays on their own got these students into elite universities.

That's because real college admissions metrics make for pretty boring copy.

At its core, a viral internet sensation is the act of comments threads wagging the dog. This story is charming, but hardly an instructive anecdote. Williams also happened to be one of the top students in her class. Two hundred quirky words aren't alone what wooed Yale. But those words gave comments trolls a few things to consider-namely, whether Williams was an accomplished writer and whether or not she had good taste in pizza.

One thing's for sure-Williams didn't want Yale as badly as they wanted her. She declined their admission offer in favor of Auburn University in Alabama, which she described as a "better fit".

If anything beyond entertainment emerges from stories like these, it is that everyone likes a whimsical story. Even admissions officers.

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Monday, June 26, 2017
In Your Law School Admission Essay, Say Something-Not Everything
Ever been on the receiving end of a monologue disguised as a conversation? How long did it take you to tune out? How did you feel when you walked away? If you're like most people, you don't like getting talked at. Particularly if it is long and meandering.

Still, many law school personal statements read just like that. As an editor, I've come across hundreds of these essays, where only one issue is clear: the writer doesn't have any idea why they really want to go to law school. Remember, your reader has heard the phrases "serve justice" and "help people" more times than they'd care to count. However well-intended these goals may be, they aren't a sturdy enough hook to bear the weight of ill-defined ambitions.

The most effective law school personal statements are clear and concise. They don't start with a cliché or platitude. If you want to study law, know why, and tell your reader. Right away.

Remember that this is graduate school. You're approaching this juncture with some academic and professional experience. Talk about it. Don't simply state your interest in law-explain it. It's okay if you don't know what area you hope to specialize in, but you should have some sense of what a J.D. is going to do to enhance your potential.

Stringing many long words together is no substitute for pith. Know what you want, and be able to articulate it. If you can't assemble a persuasive argument in a law school essay, you're unlikely to be able to do it in practice. And that's what this written audition is really about.

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Monday, June 19, 2017
Maelstrom Follows Harvard's Decision to Rescind Admissions Offers
It's been less than a month since Harvard very publicly revoked admissions offers to ten students over offensive memes shared in a private Facebook group. At first blush, the rescission was a deeply satisfying form of schadenfreude-the jokes ranged from the Holocaust to child abuse. Still, it took little time for legal scholars and education experts to weigh in with admonitions about the chilling of free speech.

From a legal perspective, Harvard has done nothing wrong. The First Amendment protects the rights of private citizens against any restrictions on free expression by the government. Harvard is a private institution. In fact, the university has clear rules of their own, reserving the discretionary right to accept or deny admission to any student for any reason.

Still, horrifying as the memes were, legal scholars warn that punishing even this sort of highly offensive speech poses a threat to the policing of all speech. These warnings are coming from some of the most well-known, politically progressive legal minds in the country. Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz called Harvard's decision "a serious mistake". Constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, a Harvard alumnus and the incoming dean at the UC Berkeley School of Law, wrote an opinion piece criticizing Harvard's actions, stating that "speech should not be punished by a campus just because it is offensive, even deeply offensive".

Many students feel the university made the right choice in taking an intrepid stand against hate speech. (One of the students whose admission was revoked is reportedly the daughter of a major donor). The move goes a long way in assuring students that bigotry and violent rhetoric won't be tolerated on campus. But Dershowitz and others say that the end simply doesn't justify the means. Punishing speech of any kind sets a perilous precedent.

At worst, Harvard's decision may represent a threat to free speech on university campuses, a right that Harvard itself has defended vigorously. At best, the very public rescission should serve as a cautionary tale to all students: be mindful of what you post on social media. It is never, ever truly private.

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Monday, June 19, 2017
In India, Numbers of Women in Business School Rising
Each year The Economist compiles a list of the top 100 business schools in the world. The U.S. typically dominates in the rankings, while other countries, like Africa and the Republic of Korea, often don't feature at all. In India, just one institution regularly makes the list; the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) is widely regarded as the top business school in the country. And it has one glaring quality in common with U.S. business schools: a notable lack of female students.

There is, however, some good news. A few years ago, just 14% of IIMA's entering class was comprised of women. Last cycle, that number had grown to 21%; this year, enrollment was bumped again to 28%. There are litanies of social reasons for this. The job market is still highly divided by gender. Legal inheritance rights favor men, placing women at a disadvantage financially in terms of capital investment for start-ups. The shortage of female role models in the professional sector makes it difficult to attract girls and young women into business.

A recent economic census by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), revealed that just 14% of India's entrepreneurs were women, many of them running smaller, rural businesses. A 2017 survey by the accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton found that India ranks third lowest in the world for employing women in senior management positions (17%), and only 7% in CEO/ management positions. These statistics aligns with the business school enrollment figures, so the fact that India's most prominent b-school is making gains in female enrollment gives good reason for some optimism.

While IIMA does not reserve specific space for female candidates, it is putting forth increasing efforts to recruit women from discipline diverse backgrounds. This is a strategic move that's already been employed by a number of U.S. business schools, who recognize the ways in which female professionals tend to enhance performance and growth in the active sector.

As with most steps towards progress, these are small and slow-moving, but important to watch.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017
The Growing Trend of Free College Tuition
In late 2015, the state of Tennessee became the first in the nation to offer free community college tuition for graduating high school seniors. In return, recipients were required to do 8 hours of community service, maintain a 2.0 GPA, meet with a mentor and apply for all available state and federal aid. Tennessee would cover the rest.

Over the past couple of years, others have followed suit. In fall of 2016, Oregon introduced a similar plan. In February 2017, the city of San Francisco announced their intention to fund free college tuition for students in the city, using levies on the sale of properties sold for more than $5 million. In April of this year, New York became the first state in the nation to offer free tuition at both two-year and four-year institutions. This week, Tennessee upped the ante by expanding their free tuition to all adults.

The "Tennessee Promise" program is reporting good results, with both an increase in applicants in year one, and about an 80% retention rate in year two. Retaining students is critical; nationally, only about a third of community college students go on to receive a four-year degree. By extending their program to include all adults, the state is hoping to improve graduation rates. For many students, life gets in the way of going back to college-people start families, take jobs or otherwise lose the ability to feasibly prioritize higher education.

None of the free tuition programs are without flaws. In Tennessee and Oregon, the programs only kick in once students have exhausted state and federal aid programs. The criticism is that the assistance has the most positive effect on middle-income families, and that low-income students aren't receiving the greatest benefit.

However, in the face of a presidential administration that promises sweeping cuts to federal student aid, state-led programs like these are likely to become more common, and critical to accessible higher education.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Harvard Rescinds 10 Admissions Offers in Response to Offensive Social Media Posts
It's been analyzed, documented and shared, thousands of times over. These days, many admissions officers are paying attention to the social media accounts of college applicants. In some circumstances-particularly at the graduate school level-a positive social media presence can help augment an application. There are, however, situations where bad behavior on social media can cause admission to be completely revoked. This is precisely what happened to ten Harvard admittees this week.

This year, Harvard offered admission to 2,056 of close to 40,000 applicants-an acceptance rate of just over 5%. Of those, 84% accepted the offers. These ten students were members of this highly select group before the Harvard pulled the rug out.

According to Harvard's own newspaper, The Crimson, the students were part of an online messaging group that the Class of 2021 set up in December of last year in order to "share memes about popular culture". At some point, the group evolved from lighthearted into one that hazed members by encouraging them to post more provocative memes. The R-rated memes granted them access to a splinter group with a much darker underbelly.

Among the topics "joked" about in the split-off group—child abuse and the Holocaust. On Harvard's official Facebook page for the class of 2021, students are warned that the university may rescind or deny offers on the basis of morally questionable behavior. Even appalling speech is constitutionally protected, but college admission is not a right.

These ten students just learned that the hard way.

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