|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, February 17, 2015
Colleges Trolling for Applicants
Perhaps my headline is a little unfair. We all know that the college admissions game is very much a seller's market. Even the top 5% of applicants aren't guaranteed admission at their dream schools. There are #justtoomanyapplicants. If this hashtag isn't trending yet, it should be.
So why, oh why, are some top colleges extending their application deadlines? Why are they spamming potential applicants with reminder emails, full of saccharine cheerleading and tons of exclamation marks?
A recent Bloomberg Business article took the opportunity to ask. The University of Chicago (acceptance rate: 8%) claimed it extended its application deadline in order to make potential candidates aware of new financial aid initiatives. Ok. The University of Pennsylvania (acceptance rate: 12%) claimed their extension was simply designed to make life a bit easier for applicants. Really?
I'm skeptical. These universities receive tens of thousands of applicants. Each application costs between $35-$75. Lower acceptance rates drive rankings. The truth is, these universities just don't need more students. And frankly, students who have already missed an admission deadline aren't likely to be the caliber of students they were seeking in the first place.
Truthfully, it seems to me like they're peddling false hope for a buck. Sure, in theory, a larger applicant pool increases the overall integrity of the student quality. But when we're talking 30,000 applicants, it's fairly impossible to believe any university would have the time or manpower to adequately vet them. Many admissions officers admit to turning away equally qualified students because they simply don't have the space for them.
To me, this practice underscores the need for students to do their research. Find a university that fits your needs. Assess whether or not your scores and grades make you a likely candidate. Then give the application all the effort you can.
Finally, turn it in on time. Your odds aren't that likely to change in the next five days. So breathe, and move on.
Labels: Colleges Trolling for Applicants
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Waiting Game
Everyone knows, the waiting is the hardest part. Naturally, the twelve years of college prep, the arduous junior year of standardized testing, and the marathon of applying to college-well, yeah, that was tough. But waiting for an answer on your acceptance? Excruciating.
For early action or early decision students, the deferral letter may have already come in the mail. Disappointing as that may be, it does have a silver lining in that the deferral letter itself probably comes with instructions. The school should let you know what (if anything) they'd like you to provide by way of updated materials.
For regular deadline applicants, the waiting can feel just as tough. Some university websites make it easy for you to fill this time. The admission sections of their sites may give you lists of supplemental materials they accept during this period of limbo. Dance programs might invite a video of a choreographed performance. Art schools may invite sample projects.
Then there are the rest. The colleges that don't specify and don't ask you to provide anything further. In the case of large schools, this is likely very deliberate. Some schools are processing 30,000+ applications. They just don't have time to read your last plea.
If you do decide to send a follow up letter or email, my advice is to keep it simple. Start by writing about anything that has changed for the better since your application-grades, awards received, community service projects completed. Then, you might consider giving an update on your grades, bearing in mind that many universities will want your high school to send updated second semester transcripts anyhow.
You may also want to use this time to reach out to current or former students at your desired college. If you have connections to faculty or administrators-tactfully contact them and let them know you are still interested.
Finally, take one last moment to remind X University of why they are atop your list. Check out the activities and events that are happening there RIGHT NOW. Talk about how you might take advantage of those events if you were a student.
Then, unfortunately, you still wait. At least you can do so knowing you've done everything possible to put your best foot forward.
Labels: The Waiting Game
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Vaccinations to be Mandatory for College Admission?
As I write this blog, the number of reported cases of measles in California has risen to over 100. What began as an isolated outbreak at Disneyland back in December has begun to unfold into a serious public health concern. Measles is airborne and highly contagious, which means that the threat of its spread is a very real possibility.
The outbreak has seen the long-simmering vaccine debate explode to the surface. Parents of young children are most concerned since the measles vaccine is not administered until age one, with a booster again around age four. It makes sense that schools and daycares are petri dishes for the sharing and spread of illness. Apparently, college campuses are not far behind.
Since vaccinations are not mandatory in California and many other states, and since there is no easy way to track vaccination records for foreign students, the University of California is considering making measles vaccinations mandatory. College campuses, dorms and their surrounding environs harbor large numbers of young students living in close proximity to one another. Diseases thrive in these environments.
Scientists and medical professionals agree that vaccines are effective. For students that may not have received the vaccine or its booster (possibly at the election of their parents), this requirement at the college level could be a reasonable way to prevent the spread of the disease.
To get an idea of scope, the University of California, Los Angeles, is the largest of the UC campuses, with a combined undergraduate/graduate population of over 40,000 students. UC Berkeley isn't far behind, with approximately 37,000 students. This means that the vaccine requirement could have fast and far-reaching effectiveness.
The new rule would become effective for the entering class of 2017.
Monday, February 9, 2015
Law School Standards Slipping? Part Two
The last blog scratched the surface of the changing shape of the law school climate. I poked fun at the snobbery of law school hierarchies. And while I may personally find them distasteful, they are alive and well.
Put simply, it still does make sense to try and get into a T14 school. First of all, they are good schools. Second of all, you're more likely to get a job in an incredibly competitive market. This is a pretty big deal breaker when you're graduating with six-figure debt.
There has been a great deal of discussion about declining applicants and deteriorating LSAT scores. People worry that the quantity and quality of law school applicants is tanking. They then worry about what this means for the profession. There are no actual answers.
There is this. The top schools have been largely unaffected by the downturns. Getting in remains competitive. Graduates get good jobs. Their median LSAT scores aren't going down. The shifts are more apparent at the lower-tiered law schools.
This makes sense. There was always going to be a place for the most competitive students. Big firms still need junior associates and Supreme Courts still need law clerks. They will continue to skim from the top cream.
Whether the changing face of the profession is significant remains to be seen. Students still have to sit state bar exams-the standards of which have not changed. The public will still demand high-quality representation. A more competitive market arguably forces improved quality of practitioners.
The boring truth may be simpler. Fewer people are going to law school, some LSAT scores may have declined, and some law schools may have to re-budget in order to preserve their bottom line. The bigger question for aspiring students is whether or not there is a job waiting for them at the end of the journey.
That's a question mark that punctuates any graduate degree.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Law School Standards Slipping? Part One
Let me start by saying that my title is a bit misleading. In fact, it's become a familiar hook-line for half the internet blogs about the "state of affairs" in law school admission over the past few years.
A few things are actual facts: 1) the legal job market is tough right now, 2) the number of law school applicants is down, 3) some law schools have been making cutbacks. Cue the speculation about what this means for the future of the profession.
This isn't surprising, given the vice-grip within which law students hold the importance of ranking. More than most professions, this is one where pedigree matters a lot. There are well-known tiers of law schools. The bottom doesn't mingle with the top. Federal clerkships don't go to students at mid or low-tier schools. LSAT scores matter more than intelligence.
Am I speaking broadly? A bit, perhaps. But score a 170 or higher on your LSAT and you can pretty much count on an acceptance from a top-20 school. This is law school, of course, so we actually have the Top 14 (which also have their own moniker- "T14"), so named because their graduates are the crop from whom most of the "big" firms harvest their wet-eared associates.
Somewhere in all of this hierarchy, there is possibly space for intellect, innovative thought, perseverance, and good will. You won't find it on internet comment threads. Now more than ever, the law crowd seeks to protect the veneer of its prestige. Blogs hand-wring about the decline in quality of candidates why the profession is in trouble.
The truth-as it usually is-probably lies somewhere in the middle. Is the "profession" struggling? In some ways, yes. Are the top schools suffering? Probably not. Is the legal system likely to come crumbling down? No. But speculation makes for meaty-blogging.
More next week.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Choosing Metrics for a National College Rankings System
It has been about a year since the Obama administration announced its intent to implement an official college ratings system. The system is just one component of the administration's mission to overhaul education on a national scale. President Obama has stated that, in addition to being accessible and affordable, higher education should also have a predictable value.
This does not sit well with many universities.
The administration aims to answer a very simple question-are graduates getting jobs? If so, do those salaries justify the price tag of a college education?
Arguably, the existing ratings systems serve universities better. US News and World Report is one of the most well-known. It bases its rankings on metrics such as mean SAT scores, graduation rates, and, notably-acceptance rates. Such metrics can be problematic for a variety of reasons, the most obvious of which is this: they measure a university's exclusivity, which isn't necessarily the same as its overall value to the average consumer.
The government is hoping to value things such as employment rate following graduation. Colleges may not like this. Public universities balk that many of their graduates may ultimately work in the public or non-profit sector, earning relatively low salaries. They argue that salary shouldn't be the measure of the quality of a degree.
That may be true, but students deserve to be able to make a cost-benefit analysis before dropping huge amounts of tuition on an education they may not be able to afford.
This week, the Obama administration reached out to colleges, asking them to offer suggestions regarding acceptable metrics to use in the ratings system. This places colleges in an awkward position-they must at least appear to embrace the transparency of this new process despite the fact that it makes college sound like a commodity, rather than a pedigree.
Prestige alone, however, won't pay the mortgage. Watch this space to see how the government system eventually shakes out.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Tracing the Roots of College Rejection
I remember when I first discovered the concept of the pass/fail class. I thought it was pretty genius. It meant I could either skate by or excel, and no transcript reader would be any wiser. Over time, I realized this was a double edged sword. I'd never know whether I aced a class or just barely passed. Did I want to know? Would it do me any good?
Anyone who's ever been rejected in the college admissions has asked themselves that question a hundred times. What did I do wrong? Why didn't they want me? Why did I get in there but not there?
It turns out, students may now be able to get answers.
Under the terms of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), students' academic records belong to them. This means that any evaluative notes taken during the admissions process should not technically be shrouded in secrecy. Fountain Hopper, an anonymous website created by students at Stanford University, recently offered a five-step guide for students seeking such records. Apparently it's both legal and successful.
Such information could be ground-breaking for the college admissions game. Someone will find a way to tally and measure the metrics in order to offer prospective students a "better gauge" of what universities are really looking for. Cue also, the lawsuits from unsuccessful candidates. It could be a mess.
But for now, my question is this: Do you really want to know?
Nobody's developed a five-step process to answer that one just yet.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Legacy Admissions: Affirmative Action in a Different Form
When it comes to the injustices in life, we rarely care as much as when we perceive one has committed against us. We just don't like other people getting the stuff "for free" that we had to work hard for. It isn't fair, which is what life should be, no matter how many times our parents told us otherwise.
This sense of equity is what precipitates the discussion surrounding affirmative action in college admissions. On the one hand, affirmative action, aims to level the playing field. On the other, it assaults the purely merit-based model upon which college admissions is purportedly based. In that sense, letting one person in based on an extrinsic quality (race), isn't fair, no matter what (fair) end purpose could conceivably be met.
Apparently, however, when that extrinsic quality is nepotism, no one really seems to care. Do some people have a problem with legacy admissions? Sure. Have there been a slew of ballot initiatives, legislative bills and high-profile court cases over the past two decades surrounding legacy admissions? Well. No.
NPR recently noted that supporters of legacy admissions claim it isn't unfair, per se, it just gives legacy candidates a "thumb on the scale" when it comes to picking a candidate. I love this term. Because there is nothing fair about putting a thumb on the scale.
Without a doubt, legacy admissions are good for a university's pocketbook. We can dress it up in lots of other ways, as many university administrators do. It supports university tradition, encourages fundraising, and the trickle-down-economics answer: it will ultimately help fund programs for potential 'underserved' students.
But from a purely theoretical viewpoint, it is affirmative action-the beneficiaries just happen to (typically) be white and privileged. Which makes it less likely to ever be challenged.
Is that fair? No, but, as my dad used to say, " 'fare' is what you pay to cross a bridge."
Monday, January 12, 2015
What Free SAT Testing Means for College Admissions
Last week, the state of Michigan announced that it would be offering the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) for free to all public high school juniors. On its face, this is great news for Michigan students. In the greater context of college admissions, however, it raises some interesting questions.
For decades, the SAT has been widely regarded as the benchmark test used in college admissions. It was designed to add equanimity into the process. Most colleges primarily consider grades, test scores and admissions essays in the vetting of potential applications. Because academic standards vary so widely across the country, the SAT was once seen as a great equalizer-a test that would help illustrate student aptitude with greater clarity.
Over the past decade, the SAT has waned in popularity, overtaken in many areas (including Michigan) by the ACT another college readiness test administered by a different organization. The SAT has also taken a hit for serving more as an indicator of privilege than intelligence. Typically, wealthier students have access to better test preparation services, and scores tend to follow the socioeconomic curve of the test taker.
In that regard, the fact that the test is now offered for free in Michigan is a victory for lower income students-assuming they have the resources to afford test prep materials.
But the ACT is widely regarded as a more balanced test, and one that offers a more nuanced picture of how a student is likely to perform in college. The fact that the College Board-the body which administers the SAT-won a contract-bidding war to secure the contract in Michigan is also telling. It means that low-income students may simply be stuck with the test they can best afford, rather than the one that might best suit their strengths.
Such a shift would continue to stratify the college admissions process. In the short-term, however, this is good news for public school students in Michigan. The SAT has also recently overhauled the test itself to render it more "user-friendly", possibly leaving the glass half-full, for now.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Does Your Admission Essay Really Matter
Newsflash: I can't really give you that answer. But in the media's ongoing mission to make the college-admission industrial complex a bit of salacious spice, Time magazine is here to tell you it doesn't. Well, sort of. Because all good articles promise answers in the title that rarely follow.
The gist of Time's abbreviated musing is this: the best essay in the world won't dig you out of a pit of bad grades and mediocre test scores BUT a terrible essay can easily become the final nail in your coffin.
The problem with this and every line of enquiry about the mysteries of college admissions is that the vetting process is inherently opaque. It isn't a science, no matter how much data is squeezed from it. There are a million variables at play depending on the school and its individual admissions system, the applicants, the admission cycle, and the other unknowns.
Every affirmative action lawsuit is steeped in our inherent belief that it is possible to quantify a person's worth based on a litany of extrinsic qualities. If we had a perfect GPA and played water polo but didn't get in, it must have been because we were X race. Because we have to find a way to explain it.
So deciding that a personal statement is or isn't a deal breaker seems virtually impossible. Even Time's article notes that some people think it matters and others don't. Helpful? Nope. But so long as the college industry continues to plug along, one thing is for sure-if you don't try hard, you probably won't get in. So until then, pick up your laptop, and start putting your heart into that essay. You truly don't know how much it may count.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Rethinking Gender in College Admissions
Though women's colleges have been around in the U.S. for close to a hundred years, it was not until the 1960s that their function began to evolve. The earliest women's' colleges, established in the mid-19th century, were designed to simply give women access to education in a world that still believed a woman's place was in the home. Many universities would not admit women. It was well-accepted that the rigors of education was literally bad for women's health.
By the mid-twentieth century, there were over 200 women's colleges in the U.S. The sociopolitical upheaval of the 1960s ushered in by the peace and civil rights movement also moved feminism center stage. Women's colleges thus became hotbeds of political activism as the country pushed for equal rights for women.
Federal law allows universities to discriminate on the base of sex. This is how women's colleges have been able to historically decline admission to men. However, a growing societal awareness of nonconforming gender identities is calling some of these policies into question. The women's colleges (which have dwindled to around 40 in number) are at the forefront of this examination.
Some colleges are considering admission to students who self-identify as female, even if they are biologically male. Others, such as Scripps in Southern California, have begun admitting all candidates who are female on their birth certificates, even if they later transition into transgender males.
The changes are raising a different kind of issue regarding transgender students who already suffer grave discrimination at co-ed colleges. It is forcing a discussion of sex versus gender. Whether or not a person is born female, if she chooses to identify as such, she continues to face discrimination in a modern-day patriarchal society. This is a tough pill to swallow, especially at the same colleges that were designed to create outposts for female empowerment.
One thing is for certain-the fact that the discussion is even occurring is a reflection of society's progress in evaluating gender identity. The road may still be long, but once again, the women's colleges are leading the charge.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Business Schools Continue to Nail the Personal Statement
For over a decade, I have guided students through the stormy waters of their admissions essays. I have read essay prompts from hundreds of schools, for hundreds of different programs. I have gleaned at least one certainty from this process: no one writes better essay prompts than business schools.
I have no idea why. Surely it's important for lawyers and doctors and biologists and English majors to write engaging admissions essays. But time and again, the majority of students are up against yawn-inspiring directives like "Submit your academic statement of purpose", or "tell us about the world you come from".
The best writers can churn a mean lemonade from these lemons. That's tough though, especially for undergraduate applicants with limited life and professional experiences.
A fun essay though? Try the Fuqua School of Business at Duke on for size. They ask for 25 random facts about you. Awesome! I like cinnamon on my hot chocolate. I once had a poodle named Cooter. Next!
There are prompts about who you'd invite to your dream dinner party, what you'd do with a few minutes of "found" time, and what the phrase YOLO means to you. Provocative enough prompts to grease the wheels of even the most stubborn writer's block.
But for some reason, it's business schools who are willing to get cute. With the exception of the University of Chicago's undergraduate essay requirements ("what is so odd about odd numbers?"), the best invitations come from business programs.
Is this reason enough to apply to business school? Probably not. Do creative essays make getting in easier? Doubtful. Could other academic programs take a leaf out of the b-school admission playbook? Absolutely.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Does Law School Offer Everything Promised on the Package
I'm inspired here by a recent Kaplan (yep, the test prep folks) survey which highlights the gap between what law students want and what law schools offer. Kaplan notes that the survey included just under 700 LSAT takers who had also used Kaplan's test prep services. Kaplan also surveyed 126 of over 400 ABA accredited law schools. For purposes of discussion, we'll call it a representative sample.
Despite the lore of hyper-competitive law students secretly tearing pages out of one another's textbooks, apparently the majority of law school students hope to learn in a collaborative environment. Most law schools say they offer that.
In contrast to their commitment to collaboration, the majority of students surveyed claim to want schools to place a greater emphasis on individualistic accomplishment. Only about 30% of the schools surveyed promise this approach.
Why the tension here? Litigation involves advocacy, which means that individualist competition is often the key to success. Students pursuing law degrees often enter the field knowing they have the kind of thick skin needed to work in an often-antagonistic profession.
But this may be at odds with the gentle contours of academia. Learning shouldn't be competitive, necessarily. Students are far more likely to gain a well-rounded education with the support of their peers.
Significantly, students want a law education that helps prepare them for practice and the majority of the schools say they offer that. This isn't consistent with the reality of history. Most law schools are heavy on theory, don't teach to a subspecialty, and leave most of the practical training to the firms that hire their graduates.
It's just a survey, but it is certainly food for thought if you're considering law school, particularly in today's very tough legal job market.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Can College Marketing Be Too Promiscuous
In his November 22, 2014 NY Times column, Frank Bruni muses about the dating metaphor that is now college admissions. I've quipped about this myself, writing of the ways in which the search for the right "fit" is much like our quest for finding the right partner in life. Bruni's take is a bit darker.
He claims that colleges have rigged the system to lure students in, only to reject them at the gate. The reason is simple, and well-documented: by increasing the number of applicants without actually being able to offer more spots on the roster, they are making themselves look more selective. The lower the acceptance rate at the college, the higher they shoot up in the rankings. It's kind of like the college version of playing hard to get.
Technology has made this game easier for the universities. The Common Application allows students to submit the same essay to dozens of colleges all at once. And why not cast a wide net? Admission is so competitive, there may seem to be no other choice. But Bruni points out the darker side of the college marketing scheme. Emails that literally lure students into thinking they have a fast track into admission.
"Candidate's Choice Application". "VIP" applications. These are the types of headings being spammed to college hopefuls. Reminds me a little of the old sweepstakes mailings that promise "you may already be a winner", when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
So yes, college marketing can be too promiscuous. It should serve as a reminder to students to trust their instincts, like they would with any relationship. If the fit just isn't right, don't push it. You probably already know your limits and your needs, and aiming too high or too low won't do anyone any favors. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Move on.
For Bruni's full blog post: Ny Times >
Friday, November 28, 2014
Letting your Law School Know You are Still Interested
In law school admissions parlance, "LOCI" actually has nothing to do with science or the pluralization of "locus". (If you're not following me there, just skip ahead). The so-called "Letter of Continuing Interest", is generally an optional correspondence, usually mailed to a given law school after a student has been placed on their waitlist.
However, LOCI can be extremely valuable for several reasons. For starters, schools are likely juggling dozens or hundreds of waitlisted students. They realize some of those won't wait around, and may select other law schools. They also may still be looking for a reason to pluck a certain waitlisted student out of the crowd.
From the student's perspective, the LOCI is an opportunity to update the law school on any professional advancements or other notable changes that have taken place since the submission of their application. Most importantly, it's a way to remind the university that, well, you are still interested.
The content should be self-explanatory. In addition to updating the school on life changes, the student may want to expand upon their particular interest in that school. Don't waste time talking about justice, and sweeping career objectives. Instead, focus on the strengths of the individual school, and how the student is likely to flourish in that environment.
The only admonition with LOCI? Try not to beleaguer the admissions office with your pleas. Keep it short, simple, and to the point.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Re-Evaluating the Merits of College Admission
While the test-optional approach to college admissions is far from being the new norm, it's mere existence threatens to reshape the historical admissions process.
A decade ago, no college applicant would dream of skipping out on the SAT. Yet, in recent admissions cycles, the dinosaur of aptitude tests has watched as it has been gradually supplanted by the more accessible ACT exam. Where the SAT used to be the old standard, some colleges are now opting for an either/or approach to accepting scores from the two exams.
Historically, the SAT was viewed as the level-playing-field metric designed to help colleges evaluate candidates objectively. Over time, it's become evident that success on aptitude tests tends to break down along class/gender/racial lines in a way that is far from objective.
There's also the argument that some smart, creative, interesting people just don't do very well on fill-in-the-bubble aptitude tests. The SAT itself has recently implemented sweeping changes to its format in an attempt to woo test-takers.
More astonishing is the slow-growing trend by some colleges of scrapping the requirement for aptitude testing all together. Well known institutions like Wesleyan and Wake Forest have recently adopted test-optional policies. Some smaller private institutions have even adopted their own set of admissions-testing policies-scrapping the standard format of grades/test/admissions essays.
At the graduate level, many business schools have opened new creative windows to the application process, inviting everything from biographical videos to Tweets.
It's too soon to tell if any of these "outlier" policies will cause larger inroads of change. They are certainly a sign of changing stakes and a fresh approach to evaluating individual merit at the college-entrance level. By all accounts, that's good news for students and universities alike.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Awkward Admission Essay
We've all been there. That awkward moment at a cocktail party/in the classroom/at the lunch table. There's some laughing, some oneupmansship. Then the humor comes to a screeching halt. Someone goes too far with their sharing. The laughter becomes errant, and then mute. Everyone collectively tries to decide whether to acknowledge it, or move on.
Imagine investing hours into your college admission essay. Carefully sifting through memories to try and uncover the shiniest grain. Casting aside all vulnerability, and putting the experience on paper. Then imagine your reader's eyes coming to a screeching halt.
There are some things that just don't work in essays. Let's hit the obvious ones first. Racism, sexism, bigotry. Of course, you can tackle these as issues, and doing so well could churn out some profound results. Just don't make racist comments. Period.
Crimes. Think carefully before writing about your own transgression or one in which you were the victim. This is sensitive stuff. An essay shouldn't be built on the back of something unfortunate, unless it will somehow be relevant to your admissions officer. Remember your audience.
Don't get too gross. There's a time and place for some embarrassing stories. And unless one of them is really at the heart of why you want to go to college, or what led you there, it's probably not appropriate.
Don't get too personal. If it's not a conversation you'd be comfortable having with your reader, you may not want to write about it. That goes for outing other people in your life. It won't reflect well on your ability to set boundaries and make good decisions. For a few cringe-worthy shares that didn't end well, click here: NY Times >
Labels: The Awkward Admission Essay
Monday, November 10, 2014
American Students Lag Behind in GMAT
The Graduate Management Admission Test is a huge hurdle for most MBA hopefuls, but recent statistics suggest that one group in particular is really struggling. American candidates.
The GMAT is administered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and is typically a requirement for admission to most MBA programs. (The growth in popularity of the Graduate Records Examination is definitive but slow, and most graduate business schools continue to favor the GMAT). Over the past decade, applications from foreign students have been on the rise, and seemingly, they are performing better on the test.
The GMAT is divided into four sections: writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative and verbal. The quantitative (read: math) section is crucial for b-schools since it is so often a predictor for student success. Chinese students, who comprise 44% of b-school applicants in the U.S. are outperforming American students by a long shot. So are large numbers of applicants from India and Korea.
A loose analysis attributes the success of the foreign students to far stronger math education in elementary and high school. Some studies also show that foreign students on average put more hours into test preparation.
Whether or not the shift will be a boon to foreign students or a barrier to American students remains to be seen. Quantitative skills are undoubtedly crucial in the business school environment. But American institutions are famed globally for prizing a diversity of academic and real-world experience from their student bodies.
Nearly all business schools accept personal statements, supplemental writing samples and detailed applications from students in addition to GMAT scores. So while the new data may certainly be instructive, it is not necessarily determinative. The long-term effects on business school demographics, of course, remains to be seen.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Winning Personality Ticket to College Admission
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is a small polytechnic college situated in Terra Haute, Indiana. It has a student body of just under 2,000, and an acceptance rate of just over half. It also has some innovative ideas about admission.
Their admissions office is considering the possibility of adding a "personality test" to help measure and evaluate potential applicants. The psychology tool is also called the "locus of control" test. It examines the degree to which students believe they are either in control of their destiny or victims of fate. Students who fall somewhere in the center of that spectrum are the types of self-reliant, pragmatic and driven personality types likely to be successful at the college. At least that is the theory.
Rose-Hulman already uses the test to evaluate retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, and in making determinations of scholarship awards. They are also considering using a "curiosity index" test as a supplemental evaluative tool.
Given the traditional litany of test scores, grades and admissions essays, these ideas sound a bit unconventional. But the evaluation concept is very much the same. In order to succeed in college, students need to be both determined and humble. They need to be ready for challenges and have the stamina to push through them.
These kinds of approaches are becoming more common at smaller colleges around the country, usually (but not always, as here) liberal arts institutions. Tweets, videos, and test-optional applications are just some of the progressive concepts being tried on for size.
Clearly, approaches such as these are unlikely to be mainstreamed, but they may give the larger institutions some creative ideas about better evaluating prospective students. For those capable students who don't test well, who've suffered academically, or been otherwise derailed on the road to college, these open-minded approaches should be a welcome change.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Breaking the Ice in Your Admission Essay
You know how long 500 words is? Not long. I mean, really. And for you Common App crowd-650 isn't either. This means the cliche is true: you've got to make every word count.
This means there's no time for small talk. By the last sentence of your opening paragraph, your reader should 1) know something interesting about you, 2) want to read more.
You may want to take your lead from some of the better admission essay prompts around the country. "Tell us about you and the world around you" is not the stuff of inspiration. However, "What outrages you?", (Wake Forest), "Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it," (University of Chicago), "What does #YOLO mean to you?" (Tufts)-these are prompts I almost want to answer. And I'm not even applying to college.
What works in the quirky essay prompt? The ice is already broken. You get to write about something interesting. Someone has given you permission to speak candidly.
Remember that your admissions committee can see your grades, your role as ASB President, that summer class you took at XYZ University. The admission essay is not a good opportunity to reiterate the fact that you did all those things. See it as an opportunity to write about your first pet, or rollerskating, or your crazy Uncle Joe.
br< These anecdotes often say much more about who you are, what you want, and what is important to you than platitudes that circle aimlessly around the meaty heart of things. Do you want an essay that says stilted chit-chat or lively dinner conversation?
Take a risk. Be funny. Make a confession. Write quirky. Make your reader want to know you. You've only got a few hundred words with which to rope them in.
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