|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 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
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Navigating Your Way to the Right College
Ever had a ton of questions about a college that you didn't want to ask? Is it a party school? Does it have a big sports program? How much will it really cost? What is its home city really like?
High school students and their parents may have entirely different sets of standards when it comes to selecting a college. Parents may zone in on things like cost, retention rate, and transparency of post-graduate employment—the sort of things that cause young students' eyes to glaze over. I remember applying to a couple of schools because a friend told me to. Back in those days, there was no internet to give us the real scoop.
This is why sites like the National Center for Education Statistics' "College Navigator" are so fantastic. (Don't let the source or dry title fool you). Their website allows students to easily search colleges by geographic location, and multiple filters—private vs. public, four-year vs. two-year, tuition and fees, mean SAT scores and more. Within those parameters, students (or parents) can put each of these schools under a microscope. The NCES is also an objective resource-something that is often difficult to find in the college admissions process.
In addition to general information about costs and majors, College Navigate allows users to research crime statistics, veteran/active service member benefits, and even the default rate of student borrowers. In short, it offers answers to questions you may not have even thought to ask.
In an era of pricey college consulting and ever-increasing competition, websites like these can be invaluable. For a start, it's completely free. Students who've already vetted their desired college can use this to refine their search. For those who don’t even know where to start, it is the perfect preamble.
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Oregon to Lower Minimum Passing Score on Bar Examination
The Oregon Supreme Court has officially ruled that bar examination takers in the state will be held to a new, lower minimum pass rate. Oregon had the third highest score requirement in the nation, behind Delaware and California. In February of 2017, just 67% of exam takers passed the state's bar examination.
Critics worry that lowering the passage standard will flood the market with sub-par attorneys. Others feel that the problem isn't the difficulty of the examination itself but rather inadequate preparation of students by the law schools themselves. For their part, however, the deans of Oregon's three law schools argued that the bar exam is only one of several filters that serves to preserve the talent of practicing attorneys.
Pinning down factors for failing scores is tricky. The LSAT, which serves as the front-end filter for law students, is often an adequate predictor of law schools success. LSAT scores at all three of Oregon's law schools have declined in the past five years.
In neighboring California, home of the most difficult bar exam in the country, the Supreme Court is currently reviewing this exact issue. In February of 2017, only 34.5% of exam takers in California earned a passing score. The Court has already promised to lower California's pass rate, but is awaiting feedback from the committee of bar examiners. A determination will be made before December 1, 2017. Their decision could retroactively affect students who took the July 2016 exam.
Ideologically, it's hard to assess whether or not lowering pass scores will be a net success to society. Proponents argue that the legal market is in need of more practitioners, but poor job prospects over the past decade have caused an overall decline in law school enrollment.
It's easy to presume that making the exam easier will alter the quality of legal practitioners, but examinations alone aren't always a sufficient gauge of talent. What's certain is that the landscape of law schools and the legal profession is in dynamic flux.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
The Truth About Legacy Admissions
Even before the tumultuous election year of 2016 churned up the ugly sludge of America's racist history, the broiling issue of affirmative action in college admissions simmered ominously in the background. Last week, the issue was pulled to center stage when it was discovered that the Trump administration intended to investigate affirmative action-in order to make sure that white students weren't being unfairly overlooked.
Setting aside, for the moment, the unassailable fact that white and Asian students comprise the vast majority of all university students, a conversation getting less traction in the media is the one that should be happening, about legacy admits.
It's fairly easy to track the racial make-up of existing students. It's much harder to track statistics on students who applied and did not get in. But various higher education analyses reveal that legacy admits are several times as likely to be admitted than non-legacy applicants. Legacy admits also come overwhelmingly from the upper class-a group of students that already has a thumb on the scale of privilege.
It's worth noting that legacy candidates make up a relatively small percentage of admittees (around 6%), and that legacy advantage seems to be greater at highly selective colleges. Legacy admits are overwhelmingly white and wealthy, and because they are a monetary boon to the universities, the practice is unlikely to be questioned or abolished.
It is, however, another form of the very affirmative action that many raucously oppose. Despite the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by the dominant classes in higher education, there exists a palpable fear that non-white students will somehow be handed something for free. This is the very ideology that underscored the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia this week.
It's crucial to remember that universities are much more than hallowed institutions of learning. They are big businesses. Legacy admissions are vital to their brand and their bottom line. Strip all that away, however, and you’ll find that they are simply another form of preferential admission. One that hides quietly in the background, largely unchecked.
Monday, August 7, 2017
UCI Under Fire for Rescinding Admissions Offers
In March of each calendar year, the University of California sends out hundreds of thousands of acceptance letter. Acceptance rates vary by campus, but all students typically have just a couple of months to commit to attending. The UC, like any university system, understands that this is a numbers game. Like airlines overbooking seats, the UC sends out more admissions offers than it can actually accommodate. That's because they know that not all students who are admitted will actually attend. Universities, like airlines, don't want to run the risk of having empty seats.
Last week, the University of California at Irvine, drew sharp criticism for rescinding the admissions offers of 499 students. UCI had accidentally overbooked its flight. In order to save face, the university searched for loopholes.
Admission is provisional for all students, contingent upon their academic performance in the second semester of their senior year of high school. This year, because UCI had underestimated the numbers of incoming students, the university was forced to scrutinize those second semester grades and make some pretty brutal cuts.
Still, this was a case of soft administrative fumbles. In some cases, high schools had failed to timely mail the students' grades to UCI. After the rescission letters went out, UCI was unable to keep up with the frenzy of email and telephone queries from shell-shocked students. Because universities don't always get around to looking at post-acceptance grades, the rescission came as a huge surprise to students.
Within a matter of days, UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a public apology and reinstated 290 of the 499 students. Many of the remaining students had grades that had dropped below Cs in their last high school semester. Of those who appealed, just eight have been reinstated.
This is not the first time technical glitches have plagued the UC. In 2009, roughly 28,000 students received acceptances to UC San Diego in error. However, while misfires such as these may draw attention, they are unlikely to dilute student demand. The University of California is the largest university system in the world in terms of economic impact. The system employs tens of thousands of some of the top educators across the globe. Each year, there are more than 250,000 students attending the UC's nine campuses.
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
Trump Takes on Affirmative Action
The Department of Justice announced this week that it intends to conduct an investigation into affirmative action practices at U.S. universities. Its intent is to uncover policies that discriminate against white applicants. The enquiry will be run by members of the DoJ rather than through the non-partisan Educational Opportunities Section, which is typically in charge of such matters.
The furor surrounding affirmative action is symbolic of the nation's larger problems with race. The practice was originally intended to aid historically oppressed groups who were (and remain) proportionally underrepresented at U.S. universities. This has always irked the privileged classes, who have poured years of time and money into undermining affirmative action policies.
Though race-based college admissions is now outlawed in many states (even progressive California), universities have since modified policies to give them the flexibility to evaluate incoming students holistically. Beyond grades and test scores, universities have a great deal of latitude in filling up their freshman classes. This gray area infuriates students who don't get in.
In 2016 U.S. Supreme Court upheld race-base admissions policies in the State of Texas by a ruling of 4-3 in Fisher v University of Texas. Abigail Fisher, a white student, brought the suit years ago after failing to be admitted at the university. Similar suits (by white and Asian-American students) have been waiting on the Fisher result before winding their way through appellate courts.
Like many of the Trump administration policy changes, this one is likely to galvanize a conservative base, and it's impossible to know whether or not (or when) the DoJ will take action. Also unclear is what such an investigation is likely to accomplish. Admissions criteria are notoriously opaque, and race is just one of countless demographics colleges may consider in accepting new students. On this and other issues, the long-term effects of the volatile political climate in the U.S. remain incalculable.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
California Supreme Court to Lower “Cut” Score on State Bar Exam
Today was a big day for thousands of California law students as they sat through day one of the state's biannual bar examination. Tomorrow they sit through six hours more. But this is where this year's exam becomes momentous: there is no longer a third day. California was one of just a handful of three-day bar exams in the country, and is widely regarded as the most difficult in the nation. The pass-rate for first-time takers in 2016 was just 62%.
If lobbing a day off the grueling test wasn't good news enough for law students, there is new cause for celebration. The California Supreme Court has announced its intent to raise the minimum score required for passing. The move comes following years of debate amongst legal professionals and scholars, who claim that the exam's rigor had a chilling effect upon the stream of qualified candidates entering the legal profession.
Last year, just 51% of graduates of Hastings School of Law passed the exam. Earlier this year, Whittier Law School announced that it would close, due in part to poor performance on the exam. While some purists will argue that the exam is a highly functional filter, the reality is that many who don't pass the examination in CA, would easily qualify in other states. In other words, as a screen, the exam is not porous enough.
Of particular note is the retroactivity of the court's order. Students who may not pass the July 2017 exam, may simply need to wait until January 2018, when the court raises the minimum score, at which point, they can be admitted to the bar. Unfortunately, July exam takers will get their regular results in November 2017, so unsuccessful candidates will be subject to several months of nail-biting.
Cynics argue that the move is designed to rescue law schools from hemorrhaging enrollment numbers. Whether CA's legal job market will be able to sustain an influx of additional practitioners is something that remains to be seen.
Monday, July 24, 2017
Keeping Your Eye on the Ball in College Applications
If you missed the baseball metaphor, what I'm suggesting here is that college hopefuls keep their eyes on the prize, tuning out the activity happening elsewhere on the field. In college admissions, there is a single question that plagues every applicant: what are colleges looking for in a student? In endless blogs, books, advice columns and social media forums, students circle the drain in a frenzy, trying to figure out how to make their dream college want them.
I'm suggesting that most of this is a distraction. One of the most hotly debated issues in college admissions is quotas. It is a mysterious gray area, clouded by legal challenges, racial discrimination, unspoken legacy admissions, and financial bottom lines. Challenges to affirmative action have been raised across the country, and even at the federal level and met with a wide swath of different results.
In reality, the cards are stacked against all applicants, to varying degrees. Competition for colleges is fierce. Race, national origin and ability to pay are all very real factors. They are also things that most students can't control. This doesn't mean that conversations about diversity and equity aren't important. It means simply that college hopefuls should narrow their focus: put your best foot forward, and let go of all of the what-ifs. The reality is far more frustrating: thousands of highly qualified students will get turned away.
If you're a spectacular student, don’t waste your admission essay discussing your grades. If you're a less than spectacular student, don't use the essay to air your regrets. Use it to let the college know who you are, whatever that means to you. Be creative, be forceful, be optimistic. Don't get stuck in the weeds. And while you can't map your way in everywhere, you can be assured that there is a place for you. Your job is to find it.
Monday, July 24, 2017
Louisiana Passes Law to “Ban the Box” from College Applications
In the spring of 2016, the U.S. Department of Education issued a sweeping call to colleges and universities across the nation, urging them to remove application questions regarding students' criminal histories. Such inquiries, they argued, tended to discourage otherwise qualified candidates from applying. Perhaps surprisingly, people listened.
In a report entitled "Ban the Box", the Department of Education outlined the many reasons why criminal history questions on college applications serve as a barrier to access. Between 70 and 100 million Americans have criminal records. Higher education is key to long-term rehabilitation, and some studies have shown that disclosures of criminal history have done relatively little to improve campus safety.
Last week, in a unanimous vote on the House floor, Louisiana State banned such questions on all state university applications. The bill received enthusiastic bipartisan support from lawmakers who appreciate the importance of higher education in long-term success and rehabilitation. Louisiana has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. The prohibition is not extended to private institutions.
This practice is nothing new to the University of California, which has never required students to list criminal history on their initial applications. New York State's public school system does not require such disclosure, and other private universities, such as NYU, have followed suit. In 2016, the Common Application removed a question regarding past crimes.
Louisiana's new legislation makes it the first state to institute such a ban at a governmental level. University presidents reportedly requested exceptions for students with a history of stalking or sexual assault. FAFSA and other aid applications, as well as housing associations, may still be able to ask questions about an applicant's criminal history after a student has been accepted.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Do Aptitude Tests Accurately Measure Merit, or Privilege?
It may come as a surprise to you that the Scholastic Aptitude Test was first administered all the way back in 1926. Though it didn't transform into its modern structure until the early 1950s, it was widely utilized as a rudimentary tool of meritocracy measurement. The test administrators gained their biggest client in 1960, when the University of California first made it a requirement to entry. Eventually, virtually all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. made the SAT mandatory.
There is no small amount of irony in the test's insidiously racist origins. Its creator, Carl C. Brigham, was an accomplished scholar and unabashed white supremacist, who believed that the "Nordic" descendants in America were fundamentally superior. He declared that aptitude testing scientifically proved that "American Negroes, the Italians and the Jews were genetically ineducable". Utilizing aptitude tests, he reasoned, would ensure that the intelligence of the white race would not be diluted by allowing non-whites into the university environment.
Almost a century later, the SAT and related aptitude tests arguably work just as Brigham intended. Good performance on the SAT does correlate with success in college. But it also tracks visibly along socioeconomic and racial lines. Wealthy students are far more likely to attend better high schools, have college educated parents, academic support at home, and-most significantly-the means for SAT preparation workshops and materials. Those students are overwhelmingly white.
The biases inherent in test scores are recognizable enough to modern universities, that close to a thousand colleges in the U.S. are now "test-optional", meaning that the SAT, ACT and related exams are not a requirement for admission. What's problematic is that most of these schools are smaller, with fewer applicants, giving them the time to make a more holistic assessment of a student's potential. Big universities receive so many applications each year that the SAT is a crucial filter for high volume. Because poverty correlates largely with race in the U.S., the test is effectively a barrier to access for students of color, who are already disproportionately under-represented in third-level educational institutions.
Though Brigham later walked back some of his assertions about the science of racism, the damage was already done; he'd lit the firey rage of anti-immigrant sentiment and zeal for eugenics. The country, apparently, has yet to recover.
Monday, July 3, 2017
STEM-Majors Outperform Humanities Students on LSAT
In news that should surprise virtually no one, college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math generally do better on the LSAT than students of history, English, and sociology. They also account for fewer than 6% of law school applicants-a deficit that many experts claim is diluting the quality of the intelligence pool.
As a first year law student, I attended a massive test-prep workshop in Los Angeles where the animated host devoted a large chunk of time to precisely this subject. I'd always thought that English and Philosophy were the feeder-majors for law school. Here we were being told to approach law school and the bar exam with the minds of scientists. And, while terrifying, it made sense.
As its name professes, the LSAT is an aptitude exam. This means that it tests quantitative and analytic skills. It is largely multiple choice, with a single writing section that is not scored. Critical thinking (questioning absolutes!) is the backbone of humanities study. In practice, law leans heavily upon nuance, theatre, deft debate, and calculated spin. Successful litigation depends as much on toppling notions of existing law as it does in advocating for their stringent administration. The LSAT does not test critical thinking skills, at least in their most classic context.
The LSAT is recognized as an effective predictor of law school and bar exam success. Students with strong quantitative and scientific skills tend to perform better on tests of absolutes. While it is crucial to the integrity of the legal profession to front-load admission with watertight filters, the theory that the profession is suffering from a lack of STEM practitioners isn't exactly science.
The real problem isn't that psychology majors are bad at multiple-choice tests. It's that STEM students don't want to go to law school. This should be the critical discussion point, particularly in a post-graduate field that continues to see declining enrollment and job placement. For better or worse, the LSAT remains the standard-bearer in the adjudication of legal talent.
It's ongoing efficacy as a gatekeeper is a story for another day.
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.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Does a College Degree Make You Happier?
According to a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the answer is a resounding "yes". It has long been understood that college graduates go on to have higher incomes than non-degree holders. But EPI's report notes that the pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is wider now than it has been since 1973. Specifically, in 2015, college graduates earned an average of 56% more than people who did not attend or graduate from college.
That may seem obvious. What is less visible are other compelling statistics, such as the college dropout rate, which hovers around a staggering 40%. Finances are one major factor for students leaving college early; they are often then stuck with enormous debt and no marketable degree to justify it.
Income is an obvious advantage for college graduates, but, statistically speaking, they also enjoy a higher quality of life. College graduates are more likely to have a job, be married, own a home, and be a union member. They are more likely to have retirement funds, and have greater geographic mobility.
Experts note that the solution is more complicated than making traditional college accessible. The U.S. has a difficult relationship with so-called vocational schools and apprenticeships-both of which are far more common in other nations. Professions such as x-ray technicians and paralegals don't require a four-year degree, and offer far better compensation the than minimum wage jobs which many high-school graduates are forced to take. This is particularly relevant given that minimum wage workers can no longer afford rent on a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country.
With government-backed financial aid on the chopping block, college is likely to become even further out of reach. Of course, it isn't the degree that buys happiness-it's the income that accompanies it. Any viable long-term solution will need to focus on finding ways other than four-year university degrees to boost earning capacity. The economic health of the country now depends upon it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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