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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.
Monday, May 28, 2018
Why Work Experience is Critical for Law School Applicants
Over the past decade, beleaguered law schools and an economically depressed professional environment has caused the study of law to get a disproportionate amount of negative attention. Experts on all sides have floated what-went-wrong theories along side how-to-fix-it speculation. This post doesn't promise to do either. Instead, I'm posing a single question: why don't law schools place a higher premium on incoming students' work experience?

It isn't uncommon for professional degree programs to swoop up brand new college grads. Post-bachelor "gap years" aren't really a thing. Yet law school is one of the only places where students aren't trained in practical skills or encouraged to acquire them before studying the law. Even medical students have required practical training as residents. Business schools welcome professional experience, and executive MBA programs effectively require it.

At the top law schools, securing summer associateships is seen as the fast-track to post-graduate Big Law employment. But for the vast majority of law students, these coveted spots are out of reach. And while law schools steep their students in case law and the Socratic method, they churn out thousands of highly intelligent but completely inexperienced graduates every year. It has long been expected that first-year associates simply learn on the job.

This is an unnecessary waste, but not entirely surprising. After all, many tenured law professors have little to no practice experience and students going on to clerkships don't necessarily need to pass the bar. Yet, legal practice, like any professional realm, needs attorneys who can perform in the courtroom, manage client expectations, and keep pace with procedure as readily as they can with substantive law.

From a public policy perspective, producing better-rounded graduates enriches the entire profession and the people it serves. Law isn't always applied theoretically, and shouldn't always be taught that way.


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Monday, May 21, 2018
Too many college applications
In 2016, the number of freshman that applied to more than seven colleges was 35%, a figure that was just 9% back in 1990. The Common Application, and other technology advances have made it far easier for students to apply to more colleges with the click of a button. With this uptick in applications, college acceptance rates have plummeted, creating a cycle of hysteria in what is now a fiercely competitive college admissions climate.

What if colleges began to place a limit on the number of schools to which a student applied? It would certainly solve a lot of problems. Though colleges charging application fees are reaping the rewards of over-application, they are facing costs of processing those applications the back-end. After all, someone has to read and evaluate those admissions essays. Fewer applications would allow colleges to trim the budget for review staff.

Limiting application numbers could offer a morale boost by increasing acceptance rates. It would offer substantial relief to applicants, who in some instances are drafting dozens of supplemental essays to complement their multiple applications. Psychologically, narrowing the field would help hopeful students to work harder to apply only to good-fit colleges. It would also reduce the number of rejections.

Uniform implementation is the problem. Universities are in competition with one another for business, and federal anti-trust laws largely prevent them from working in unison. Restriction on application numbers would have to occur within private groups like the Common Application, who would need to have the financial incentive to do so.

Motivation would be a key factor for the universities themselves, who benefit from low yield numbers and high application figures. Exclusivity is a well-heeled marketing strategy. In filling seats, colleges also benefit from the ability to pick from a larger pool of talent.

Still, with the admissions bubble swelling to bursting point, limiting applicants could be a practical and financially feasible solution.


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Monday, May 14, 2018
Using Data Analysis to Improve College Success
Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta is the largest research university in Georgia with over 52,000 students. Founded in 1913, GSU was racially segregated until 1962 when Annette Hall, a social studies teacher, became the first African-American admitted as a student. Today, more African-American students have earned bachelor's degrees from GSU than any other nonprofit college in the country.

Given its bleak history of racial oppression, the emergence of GSU as an institution that so successfully supports black students is particularly encouraging. Georgia is home to some of the most well-known HBCUs in the nation, which were formed in response to Georgia's racial segregation in higher education.

GSU has become an interesting case study for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its use of data analytics to track and help improve student success. Its undergraduate advising program monitors the daily progress of more than 40,000 students deemed to be at risk for not graduating. Anything from a low score on a quiz to absences from school can trigger a call from the student's counselor.

Significantly, the school offers microgrants-small stipends given to students who fall just short of tuition and other school-related costs. In that way, the school effectively serves as the sort of support system which tends to be built into the family structure of wealthier white students.

With big data driving everything from targeted advertising to the reshaping of political campaigns, it is encouraging to see it being used, as the New York Times puts it, as an innovative engine of upward mobility.


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Monday, May 7, 2018
The Cruelty of The Waitlist
According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), in 2016, fewer than 23% of waitlisted candidates eventually got into four-year universities. At more selective colleges, that number was around 14%. These percentages don't seem particularly outrageous, until you consider the sheer size of waitlists at some of the country's most prestigious schools. It's a university habit that begs the question: why be so cruel?

A recent Inside Higher Ed piece examines the practicality of waitlists, their effect on hopeful students, and their usage by colleges as a strategic marketing tool. As a matter of practice, all universities admit more students than they have space for. They know not every student offered admission will accept, and their bottom line depends on filling all their seats. So, for example, Brown University's 2017-2018 freshman class had 1,719 students. This year, Brown admitted 2,566 students. So even if a full 847 students decline, they've met their goal. But there's more. They've put an additional 2,724 people on the waitlist. You need not be an actuary to figure out those odds.

The director of undergraduate admission at Boston College says of the waitlist policy, "To some extent, we want to be respectful of how hard [waitlisted students] have worked and how difficult it is to receive an outright rejection". And while this sentiment may come from the right place, isn't it somehow less cruel to just tear off the bandaid? With a waitlist offers coming out as early as March, and some universities not filling their rosters until late summer, doesn't it seem kinder to stop stringing students along?

It isn't just about filling seats, either. It is a premeditated marketing tactic designed to bolster the university's appeal to students and parents alike. A cynic might call it an act of stroking the consumer's ego. And to what end? There is little that waitlisted students can do to improve their odds. Letters of continued interest are a good start, but given the size of some waitlists, such letters may prove weak currency.

As a practical matter, the best course of action for waitlisted students is to accept offers from schools where they've actually been admitted. If, by miracle, they eventually get an acceptance from their waitlist school, they'll just be out the cost of their monetary deposit.


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Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Increasing Access to the SAT
At first blush, the cost of taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test doesn't appear exceedingly prohibitive. It's $60 to take it with the essay portion and only $46 without. That's about where the simplicity ends.

Major revisions to the test in 2016 rendered the 50-minute essay portion to be optional. In response, many-but not all-universities followed suit, dropping the essay requirement for admissions. The problem for students is that the essay portion is not offered as a stand-alone option. So if there is any chance a student may try to gain entry to a school requiring the essay, they need to take the $60 version of the exam.

Then there are the add-ons. It costs an additional $15 to register by phone, $30 to change a test date, $12 to order additional score reports, and so on. There is the cost of preparatory workshops, of taking the PSAT, of repeating the SAT for improved scores. These are just some of the reasons why high-income students are at an advantage.

The College Board-the body that administers the exam-does offer benefits for low-income students, including free additional score reports and waivers for college application fees. In about eight states, the SAT is free for all high school juniors. States renegotiate contracts with the College Board annually, so it is important for students to check the status on free or reduced testing costs in their home state.

Obama-era legislation (on the chopping block under the current administration) incentivized accountability testing by offering states federal funding if they participated in standardized testing for high school students. Many states use(d) the SAT as a measurement, which was essentially federally funded, and therefore free to students.

In early 2017, the College Board also began offering testing supports for English Language Learners (ELL). Students taking the SAT at school now have access to testing instructions in at least eight different languages.


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