|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, September 25, 2017
West Virginia Makes SAT Mandatory
This week, West Virginia's Department of Education announced that it would require all high schools to administer the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) as the standard college entrance exam. Although it is not completely clear how and why this is being implemented, it will be a welcome move for students of moderate means.
The fee for taking the SAT is about $52, but, like shopping for a new car, figuring out the costs of various add-ons is confusing. The College Board, which administers the test, has separate fees for each SAT subject exam, late registration, additional copies of scores, registration by telephone, and so on. Students from low-income families can apply for a fee waiver, which is granted based upon household size and income. Fee waivers aren't available to undocumented students, and the application itself may be off-putting to many parents who are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the college application process.
In West Virginia, the test will now be mandatory and administered at no cost to all high school juniors. They will be able to take it in their own classrooms. (The SAT is otherwise offered at independent testing centers, usually on the weekends). Exceptions will be granted only to students with cognitive disabilities. Students taking the exam will be able to send it to up to four different colleges, free of charge.
For decades, the SAT has been the standard-bearer in college admissions assessments. Most colleges require it for admission. Since high school educational environments vary wildly across the U.S., the original purpose of the SAT was to level the playing field, allowing colleges an objective metric to evaluate. But critics have found increasingly strong data suggesting that the SAT skews mostly along socioeconomic lines. Preparation workshops can be prohibitively expensive for lower-income families. Students performing well are likely to come from wealthier families where one or both parents are college graduates.
So while equity may have not been the motivation for this change, it will likely be one of its ancillary benefits.
Monday, September 18, 2017
Keeping Your Admission Essay Small
Yes, I meant "small". Not short. Not meaningless, but narrow. I've been working with students on their admissions essays for over 15 years. One of the greatest pitfalls I still see all the time, is the student trying to squeeze their autobiography into a 600-word matchbox.
The first thing to do as you sit down to start brainstorming ideas is this. Grab a post-it and scrawl these words on it: write about yourself, not your activities. Every time you feel yourself reaching back to yearbook club or your National Merit Scholarship, peer up at that note, and start over. I'm not the first or last person who will tell you this.
Colleges often call the essay an "opportunity to get to know you better". When you first meet someone new, do you tell them that you've been in AP English for four years or do you talk about last night's football game? In real life, conversations start small. And you can glean a lot from them. Humans are generally good at reading each other.
This is a great frame for your essay. Start with the presumption that you have no obligation to tell your reader everything about you. Try to avoid broad topics like leadership, compassion, and hardship. Don't be afraid to write 650 words about the thrill of catching a single wave, about learning how to sew, about gardening with your favorite aunt, your favorite smell. I promise you, these are the stories that resonate with readers.
Above all, trust that you have something interesting to share, no matter how small it may seem. It's the details that count the most.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Digital Technology and the Enhanced Art of Cheating
When I sat the California bar exam a decade ago, the use of laptops for taking the test was still a relatively new thing. To this day, I can't imagine writing by hand for six straight hours, three days straight. But the administrators took laptops seriously, and we all had to install lock-down software that prevented us from using the computer for any other purpose during exam time.
Virtually nothing else was allowed into the testing site, and the things that were allowed-highlighters, earplugs, paperclips, diabetes medication (but not food)-had to be carried in a clear Ziploc bag. It all sounds so quaint now.
Enter wearable technology.
Test administrators are getting out in front of the problem. The College Board, which administers the SAT and AP exams prohibits all wearable technology in their testing centers. Students who try to break this rule during the GRE will be kicked out, their test scores forfeited. GMAT takers may not wear any sort of watch-digital or not. Many state bar exams include the same prohibitions.
So while professional test administrators have figured out the ease with which technology can be used to game an exam, oversight may be more difficult for, say, your average high school teacher. Add to this the contrast in digital confidence between millenials and their elders, and you've got a legitimate problem.
Just this week, the Boston Red Sox became embroiled in a cheating scandal involving a coach with an Apple watch. YouTube is rife with tutorials on how to use digital watches to cheat on exams. The Internet is unabashed with sites devoted to the topic (hint: you can whisper "derivative" to Siri and a list of mathematical formulas appear on your watch).
That technology is a double-edged sword is not a revelation. That students will continue to devise creative ways to cheat is a certainty. The biggest truth of all: keeping up with those changes will be critical.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Spelman College to Start Admitting Transgender Students
In a letter sent out to students last week, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell announced that the all-women's college will begin accepting transgender students, commencing with the 2018-2019 academic year. Spelman is one of just over a hundred Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S., and has a student population of about 2,200.
Since 2014, at least nine women's colleges have formally changed their admissions criteria to allow trans-women to attend. Among those, Mills College in Oakland, California was the first, followed by Wellesley, Smith, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke and Scripps. Spelman becomes the first HBCU to do so.
Many of the country's women's colleges were founded in the early twentieth century in an effort to give women opportunities in higher education that had previously been reserved entirely for men. As society moves very slowly towards an understanding of gender as a spectrum, institutions are forced to administratively adjust to a non-binary application of gender. The subject is delicate and polarizing; one need only look at the corrosive national dialogue over public toilets. Same-sex women's colleges have quickly found themselves at the center of a discussion of what it means to be female, and how that should align with admission policies.
HBCUs have a depth of history, rooted in the post-Civil War years, when black Americans were barred from entry to higher education institutions. In response to legislation guaranteeing education rights to black Americans, many of the southern states created segregated colleges. Even as desegregation became the law, many states were slow to implement the policies, continuing to drive black students to HBCUs. In a post-secondary education climate that is still dominated by white students, these HBCUs are critical for providing the education, networking and support for black students that is still lacking at many universities across the nation.
Through these new policies, Spelman makes a strong statement for transgender women of color, and signals an ongoing progressive shift towards greater inclusion in college admissions.
Monday, September 4, 2017
Trump Promises to Eliminate DACA
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, is an immigration policy created in 2012 under President Obama. Under the act, undocumented residents who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, can be granted a work permit and a two-year reprieve from deportation. One of President Trump's early campaign promises was to eliminate the program. Today he did just that. What's surprising about the move is not that Trump did it, but that he is facing opposition from so many different corners.
DACA's predecessor, the Dream Act (which failed to pass in the Senate) was legislation that attempted to provide amnesty to the thousands of children brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents. In 2015, it was estimated that more than 65,000 undocumented students graduate from U.S. high schools every year.
When Trump made the repeal of DACA a centerpiece of his agenda, the blowback was loud and swift. In November 2016, more than 600 university and college presidents across the country signed off on a letter calling for DACA's preservation. Four days ago, hundreds of the top CEO's and business leaders in the country, including Warren Buffet and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg issued a similar letter to the White House and Congress.
More than 800,000 undocumented workers are benefitting from DACA, meaning that a dismantling would likely wreak havoc on the U.S. and global economy. Even Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican members of Congress oppose the repeal. Roughly 10,000 undocumented immigrants matriculate from U.S. universities each year. It is estimated that close to 2.1 million people may be currently eligible for DACA.
Many opponents of DACA, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, believe the program is an illegal overreach; some even claim it is being used as an unlawful pathway to permanent residency. Politics aside, its elimination would have palpable effects on the economy and educational institutions of America.
The White House is delaying the repeal of DACA for six months, during which time Congress-if they so choose-have the power to block the elimination of the program.
Labels: Trump Promises to Eliminate DACA
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