Admissions Essays
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Admissions Essays Blog
Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, March 10, 2014
SAT Gets a Face-Lift
Love it or hate it, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)---which turns 88 this year---has long been a primary fixture in the college admissions process. Originally, the test was designed to objectively measure academic merit. The wide variation of academic standards across the country's high schools meant that colleges needed a more accurate way of assessing talent.

To modern-day proponents, the SAT does just that. To critics, it has simply become a litmus test for affluence. Wealthy students do better for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the cost of test-prep workshops, tutors and materials.

In recent years, the SAT's invincibility has been questioned. Its main rival, and fellow college-readiness-assessment the ACT recently surpassed the SAT in popularity with test-takers. Nearly all colleges accept both. The ACT has a reputation for testing on material more relevant to high school coursework.

By contrast, the SAT has long relied on complex and often arcane methods of "testing" intelligence. The infamous verbal section once had students scrambling to memorize the definitions of words like "abnegation" and "pellucid"-whether or not any of that material was relevant to any of their high school English courses.

The salient changes to the current format include: 1) making the dreaded timed-essay optional, 2) shortening the exam by 45-minutes, 3) ditching the penalty points for wrong answers on the multiple choice section, and 4) banish the obscure vocabulary words.

Perhaps the best part is a commitment to FREE test-preparation on line.

College Board President David Coleman promised that the new test would, "offer worthy challenges, not artificial obstacles." Let's hope this is a worthy step towards a more level playing field.


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Monday, March 3, 2014
Got Time for a Tour?
Spring Break will soon be upon us, and if you are a junior in high school who sees college on the horizon, you may want to consider this a working break. With application deadlines months away, it may be hard to get yourself in the game, but there is no better time to visit college campuses than in Spring. Why?

For a start, there's the weather. If you're considering anywhere East of California, weather may literally make it hard to get around in winter. Yale may be beautiful, but no one wants to walk the campus in a blizzard. Spring is the time of year when you can see the inside and outside of your campus in all its glory.

Second-time is on your side. Starting the visits now gives you an opportunity to mull it over. You're even leaving yourself wiggle room for a second visit down the road. You don't want to be cramming in half a dozen visits this fall, when you'll already be bogged down with the application process itself.

Finally-and most importantly-school is in session! Visiting colleges in the summer time will not give you an accurate sense of the campus energy. Ideally, you should be sitting in on classes, catching a sporting event, checking out the campus coffee shop, and taking in the sights and sounds of a university while it is filled with active students. Summer visits may seem desolate, and will give you little more than a sense of campus geography.

If your school of choice is far away, an actual visit may not be in your budget. Enter the internet. Spending five minutes on sites like You Visit makes me want to go back to college. With everything from slideshows to virtual tours (with human tour guides!), you can get a pretty visceral snapshot of a college from the comfort of your couch.

With many colleges placing great emphasis on your "demonstrated interest" in their campus, tours may even have some impact on your chances of admission. If you live just a few hours from some of your school choices, it may reflect well upon you to make the trek and introduce yourself.

So yours may not be a Spring "break", but it will be time well spen


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Monday, March 3, 2014
The Problem with Need-Blind Admission
For those of you who don't know, the "policy"-affirmed by many universities-professes not to consider the financial status of a candidate in the college admission process. In short-colleges promise to base admission solely on the merits of the student-applicant.

This should be obvious, right?

Well, not exactly. Most people understand that colleges are for-profit ventures. They make money largely from tuition and endowments. Accepting students who can afford to pay tuition is a good business decision. Students who can afford to pay probably come from families who can also afford to donate. And these are good people to have on your university investment team.

On the other hand, promising to be need-blind in your admissions policy sounds a whole lot more morally righteous. College is meant to be about expanding horizons. The holistic educational experience should involve diversity of thought, ethnicity, financial background, and race.

One of the problems with stating such a policy is that it isn't really enforceable. There are plenty of "tells" on the application and in the body of the admission essay that will give the student away, such as their parents' professions, their high schools and even the cities in which they live.

Another glitch? The policy is, by its nature, self-defeating. Subsidizing low-income students is costly. Conversely, wealthy students are the bread and butter of a healthy portfolio. How then, can a college make a decision that may benefit a student but not the university?

College acceptance should be based on academic achievement, but when a college's ability to continue to provide quality education is dependent upon finances, this becomes a tough decision to make.


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Monday, February 24, 2014
Getting Started in the College Selection Process
For younger high school students, the process of college discovery is more of a marathon than a sprint. Sure, a few of you may have parents who are alums at X University, and that may be the only destination on your map. But for most of you, deciding where to go to college and why is not something you can expect to figure out overnight.

The "right" college for you is going to be the sum of an equation of many things. Do you want to stay close to home? Is out-of-state tuition in your (or your family's) budget? How do your grades match up with your college choices? Are there good community colleges in your area?

If you've been able to answer some of those questions, you may be able to dig deeper. What are your professional goals? Your collegiate academic goals? What is your learning style? Are you likely to succeed in a small educational environment, or are you open to the idea of a densely populated campus?

Most of all, how do you start answering these questions?

Last week, I wrote about the importance of college tours. If it's in your budget and you have the means of transportation, you should make tracks to universities that may be of interest to you. Getting a tangible feeling for their atmospheres can be a good start in the selection process. If touring isn't a possibility right now, start browsing colleges on line.

Another great option is a college fair. Almost every high school guidance counselor knows where to find one. This can be your opportunity to collect some brochures and speak to college reps face to face. Even the process of approaching strangers with proactive questions about your future is an important experience.

Fairs and tours are a great way to simply warm your mind up to the college search process. Each gives you the chance to test the waters during those early days of discovery. Keep an open mind and let the adventure begin!


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Monday, February 17, 2014
The Hardest Part
As we amble into the second week of February, college hopefuls may start to again feel a restless twitching in their feet. October deadlines, Thanksgiving and Winter Break are just a blur now, but it's really been just a few months since the utter chaos of the application season.

By now, you've recovered from the shock of clicking "send" on that application. The no-turning-back-now sense of dread has now receded a bit. Maybe you've even spent the last month or so focusing on high school, instead of college. Funny how that happens.

Just waiting for the blow of big life changes is impossibly hard. The lack of certainty is tough. Especially since you spent the better part of last year laying the foundations for your college future. It's hard not knowing where the chips may fall.

The thing I've learned is that waiting doesn't seem to get any easier with age. It won't always be college admissions, but it will be something else. Waiting to see if escrow closes on your first house. Insurance applications, medical test results.

In that way, getting the envelope should be a relief-either way. Most adults will tell you that, while college was important, it wasn't everything. I got into my top college and enjoyed it, but as an adult, I often wonder if somewhere else would've been a better fit. Either way, life turned out okay.

None of this is easy to hear when you really want something, but it is the truth of life. Waiting is the worst. What you do when you get your answer-that's the satisfying part. So take heart. It will be okay. For the next few weeks, try to remember that today's moments are tomorrow's memories. Keep your eyes peeled for those.


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Monday, February 10, 2014
Apologies for Sexism in Business School-All Talk?
This week something rather significant came out of the mouth of the Dean at Harvard Business School (HBS). While speaking at an event entitled "50 Years of Women at HBS", Nitin Nohria was quoted as saying to the women in the audience "I'm sorry on behalf of the business school. The school owed you better, and I promise it will be better".

A discussion of the under representation of women in business school is nothing new. None of the top campuses in the U.S. have gender parity in enrollment. The numbers are getting better-even at Harvard, women now make up around 41% of the student body. The problem is that the slight improvement in numbers isn't playing out in the real world. At least not yet.

According to, the percentage of female CEOs in Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies in 2013 was 4.6%. That is woeful. Nationally, the number of female CEOs in all companies is around 20%. This is true even though women comprise over 56% of the labor force.

Naturally, there are a variety of reasons for some of the numbers, not the least of which is having children. Women are far more likely than men to leave the workforce-temporarily or permanently-in order to raise families. They thus fall off the promotion treadmill and find it difficult or impossible to catch up.

Still, with women comprising around 50% of students in undergraduate education, professional schools still have a great deal to answer for. At HBS, Nohria promised some practical changes, such as adding more women to case studies. Many business schools also offer mentoring and networking support for women.

Whether or not Nohria's words will have any weight, remains to be seen. Most change moves at a snail's pace, but at least he's saying the right thing to the right crowd.


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Monday, February 3, 2014
State of College Admissions
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released it's annual "State of College Admissions" report last week, with welcome news for students who cringe at standardized tests. (Perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit). High school grades are the most important factor in college admissions.

This should come as a welcome reminder to students who have performed consistently well in school over time. The NACAC report notes that colleges also place great emphasis on the rigor of the academic courses at a given school. They also tend to devalue things like class rank, since the difficulty of courses can vary so widely in schools in different regions.

For students shy of standardized testing, it may also come as a bit of a relief. Certainly, at the high levels of competition, test scores matter. A lot. That's mostly because many colleges receive such qualified candidates that they have to find a place to draw the line.

However, the emphasis on grades shows that most colleges are looking at the academic level students can sustain over time. Grades demonstrate a student's ability to perform across a broad arena of subjects, over time, in different settings, with different instructors and different examination methods. So if you're one who suffers from test anxiety, or simply doesn't excel in the multiple-choice, genre, this is good news.

This isn't new news, but it is valuable for students to remember. It is definitely a far more reliable objective measure of academic strength.

The people at NACAC should know. They represent an association of over 10,000 high school counselors, college admissions officials, financial aid officers and other independent college counselors. Their general goal is to help students in the process of transitioning from high school to college.


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Monday, January 27, 2014
Where Are All the Women in Science?
This is a question plaguing Eileen Pollack, one of the first two women to graduate from Yale with a degree in Physics. In 1978. She went on to earn an MFA in Creative Writing and has since become a published writer. She may know a thing or two about what scares women away from the so-called STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Her recent NY Times article explores the question in greater depth.

Naturally, she isn't the first to wonder. The White House is on board. The Office of Science and Technology Policy collaborates with the White House Council on Women and Girls to try and encourage more women in the profession. Million Women Mentors ( is an awareness-raising organization that attempts to increase the interest of girls and women in STEM study and careers.

Such organizations recognize the fact that, over the last decade, job growth in the STEM-sector has tripled in comparison to non-STEM jobs. Eighty percent of the fastest growing occupations in the US are in the STEM sector. Unfortunately, women comprise just 24% of STEM professionals. Pollack notes that the numbers are notably paltry in academia, particularly in faculty positions.

Pollack and many of the engagement programs agree-part of the problem is that girls and women aren't welcomed into the field. From a very early age, girls are discouraged from even exploring interests that lead to proficiencies in the fields.

Goldieblox, a toy manufacturer, has created a line of building and invention toys targeted for girls. Their goal is to encourage girls to engage in the kind of play-based engineering historically reserved for boys.

Female professionals across the board earn less than their male counterparts. Finding parity in some of the most lucrative professions of all is an important step in closing that gap. If awareness is a key step, then we are already well on our way.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Women Closing the Gap in Test Scores
The good news first. Women are doing better overall on the Graduate Management Admission Test than they were ten years ago. The GMAT is a standard requirement for the vast majority of business schools. Though the majority of B-Schools now also accept the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), the GMAT is still the standard-bearer.

The bad news? Women are still lagging behind men on test scores for both examinations. In the 2002-2003 admissions cycle, women were scoring-on average-40 points below the men on the GMAT. For 2011-2012, that number has dipped to 20 points. The GRE disparity was more nuanced, with women outperforming men in analytical writing, matching the men on verbal reasoning, but underperforming against the men in quantitative reasoning.

The GMAT tends to be heavy on graduate business subjects like economics, accounting, and chart interpretation. Conversely, the GRE, which is generally required for graduate degrees of all types, has a humanities base, with focus on grammar, literature and logic.

Applying statistical data to social trends is fraught with complications. Still, with women continuing to comprise less than 50% of student populations in business schools, an examination needs to be made. Why do women underperform men in quantitative reasoning tests? Why is this a distinctly American trend? (In China, women actually outperform men on the GMAT).

Fewer women still apply to business school, which may be an indicator of interest. That is, if men are generally more invested in the idea of business school, they may be better-prepared test takers. So long as the profession itself still lags itself in gender-equity, it may just not be as appealing to women. Why go for the MBA if your long-term prospects already have a lower ceiling?

There's no right answer here. For now, the hope is that women aspiring towards an MBA just keep moving the same direction.


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Monday, January 13, 2014
Does College Produce Engaged Citizens?
Probably not, says Robert J. Sternberg, in his book "Successful Intelligence". Sternberg was a Yale professor for three decades before becoming a Dean, Provost and then President at three subsequent universities. So he has some perspective on the subject.

Sternberg's question is not necessarily unique. In a merit-based system which relies heavily on objective, quantitative data like grades and test scores, how is it possible to get the best student? More importantly, how do we define "best"?

Affluent children tend to be taught to focus on analytical and critical thinking skills. Children from lower socioeconomic classes tend to be raised with greater emphasis on resilience and problem-solving. Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT favor the wealthy, largely because they test analytical thinking.

But in the real world, resilience, creative thinking, problem-solving and confidence are the markers of success. The gap between street-smart and book-learned is often far and wide, but both skills are necessary to real life.

So how can we make the ivory towers a place where students can be taught to think as well as cope? What good is a university education if graduates fail to invest their knowledge adequately in the society around them? Is it possible to do so in a structure that still allows student performance to be adequately measured?

Sternberg says yes to this one, but notes that colleges first need to change their standards and curriculum. Some universities are edging in that direction-accepting videos and self-made websites as part of the admissions process, and embracing social media as a form of self-expression. But change is a slow traveler. Only time will tell if we as a society can redefine academic success.


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Monday, January 6, 2014
Dating and College Admissions
What's the hardest part about dating? The insincerity? Awkward dinner conversation? The energy involved in keeping your guard up? The rejection? Ever thought about how much it feels like the college admission game? No?

Indulge me for a moment.

A recent story reported on National Public Radio, details a now infamous college application brochure for the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The brochure depicts students at a football game, clad in the UW red and white colors, cheering and smiling. All of the students in the picture are white. At least they were. Before going to the final print, the university decided to photoshop in the face of an African-American student.

Diallo Shabazz was, in fact, a UW student, but he'd never actually been to one of their football games. He later sued the university for using his likeness without his permission. The university acknowledged that they wanted to appear more "diverse" for the purpose of wooing students.

Deconstructing the racial dimension is too complex for this post. What the decision says to me is that colleges are engaging in as much puffery as the students that apply to them.

While students are busy dressing up their 10-day trip to Nicaragua as sweeping humanitarian work, colleges are busy literally Photoshopping fabrications into their brochures. What happens once the honeymoon is over?

It's really a reminder of how artificial the process can be. It's why colleges rely on grades and test scores-not just the personal statement. And it's why students really need to research their universities of choice-not judge them by the clothes they're wearing.

More on Shabazz and the diversity-Photoshopping epidemic in my next posting.


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Monday, December 30, 2013
College Rejection: a Bit like Life
As the calendar year draws to a close, so too does the college admissions cycle. At least from the perspective of the students. At this point, most of you have already clicked the proverbial "submit" button. It's done. Your grades, your scores, your essays are etched in stone.

If you're a college bound high school, it's time to let go.

I can't will you not to stress. I can't stop you from speculating, or checking the mailbox, or drafting several different versions of your future on the inside of your mind. What I can tell you is that this limbo is going to happen to you again.

You've already navigated this queasy unknown every time you've submitted a test or an essay. It will happen again. After you sit for the dream job interview. When you submit a loan application for your first home. After you get pregnant. If you take a professional exam. (California law students wait nearly four months for their bar exam results).

From where I'm sitting, college is pretty much a win-win situation. Most kids will apply to several colleges and get admitted to some of them. In the long term, it isn't going to matter that much where you end up going. Disappointment usually just leads to a shifting trajectory.

If you're talented and ambitious, you aren't going to need Yale to make the future happen. I really believe this.

College is fun. It is the first and maybe only time in your life that you'll have most all the benefits of being an adult without many of the responsibilities. It is a holistic experience. It's more than just academics and pedigree. It's about dorms, and parties, and cafeteria breakfast, and upper-class seminars and on-campus jobs, and semesters-abroad.

If you've put in the work, you're gonna get positive results. Even if they aren't precisely those you've been expecting.

What you do during your time in that virtual waiting room is up to you.


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Monday, December 16, 2013
Jealousy-Good Starting Point for an Admission Essay
"Jealousy feels rotten, but is often a great signpost for what we want".~Kathleen Buckstaff, author.

Buckstaff suggests that exploring feelings of jealousy can help college hopefuls really get a sense of what they want. It's like a backdoor peek into your real hopes and dreams. It's what you want but might not want to ask for.

By its nature, the essay is designed to woo its reader. Students don't mind talking about who they are and what they want, so long as it's framed in a positive light. This can be a twofold problem. An essay that tries to dazzle can sound insincere. It might also be a bit yawn-worthy.

In some ways, that's because our goals-just like our self-perception, is so often tied up with a need to please. This is especially true when you're at the cusp of a new educational experience. You're going to college or grad school because, in a way, there's something missing. Some hole or weakness or void you want to fill with higher education. Third-level education isn't generally just a repository for the bored.

So, just perhaps, what you say you want from life, isn't what you really want. What's the thing you're afraid to admit you want? Power? More money? A better job than your best friend? You may decide not to put pen to paper when it comes to your basest desires, but even tapping into them might help alleviate some writer's block.

Even more importantly, it might highlight the gap (or overlap) between what you want from your education, and what the educational institution wants from you. That's the sweet spot. And if you can manage to exploit or explore it in your essay, you may have just found a way to stand out from the crowd.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Still a Tough Road for Undocumented Lawyers
First, let me say this: I'm relieved in advance that my blog doesn't have a comment section. Want to see some scathing commentary? Go ahead and Google anything having to do with issuing licenses to undocumented immigrants.

A few months ago, California signed into a law a bill permitted undocumented immigrants to practice law. Lest we get lost in the semantics of this-by undocumented immigrants, I mean people who were born in another country and relocated to the U.S., but who do not have documents legally authorizing their presence here.

The reality for many undocumented immigrants is that they can live a somewhat normal life here in the U.S., albeit without the rights of a green-card holder or U.S. citizen. They can attend public school, and attend public university. They can attend law school. They can apply for and pass the State Bar exam.

California decided that if such a student could jump through all of those hoops, there was little reason to deny them a law license.

Such a position is fraught with practical problems. First, employers can be punished for hiring employees who are not legally permitted to work in the U.S. Many states also have moral assessment components to law licensure. These types of evaluations may take umbrage with potential lawyers who aren't legally entitled to be in the U.S. Moreover, there is a constant tension between state and federal laws, which, in situations such as this, are in direct conflict with one another.

One alternative path may be opening a solo practice. Independent contractors are not subject to the same scrutiny as third-party employers. However, declaring income for tax purposes may be difficult for an undocumented immigrant, who won't have a social security number.

Ironically, this is a complex and very fluid area of the law. If one extracts the politics from the concept, it opens many doors to interesting legal discussion. Only time will tell where the future takes this.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The Mission Trip Essay
It's not often that radio shows trot out specials on college admission, but this week I found one. The interview was with an admissions officer at a big university in the Southeast. He talked about the eye-rolling essays, the eye-catching essays, and the essays that are just well, bad.

Somewhere along that spectrum is a theme. One that shows up so often, the admissions officers gave it a nickname. The Mission Trip essay.

It's that essay about the kid who takes a trip with a charity-often a church group-usually to somewhere in Central America. The take-away is invariably a truism about how they expect the trip to be about giving of themselves, but are surprised at how much they get back.

I chuckled.

I've read this essay myself. A lot. There's usually also something in there about learning to recognize privilege. Many of these kids were raised in middle class America. They've never seen a kid living in a shack. It is revelatory for them. Sadly, for readers, it's a cliche.

The problem for today's crop of high school seniors is that the admissions-process hamster wheel has been spinning in overdrive for a few decades now. The essay that got someone into college 20 years ago, has now been done and re-done a million times over. All the while, the stakes for "getting in" have gotten higher.

Today's kids need new material, but it isn't really fair of us to expect them to have any. Sure, parents these days are pushing their college-bound teenagers into more and more application-padding activities. But as that becomes the norm, so too will the Mission Trip Essay.

Colleges can't really have it both ways. Seventeen-year-olds have limited repertories. The message from the colleges is that they have to be unique, they need to have good grades, good test scores, good extracurriculars, and insightful essays. Maybe the kids are simply doing the best they can.


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Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Changing Face of Business School Applicants
Think business school is all about finance and management? Well, sort of, but that doesn't mean the latest crop of incoming students are versed in any of those areas. Not exactly, anyhow.

Traditionally, students seeking graduate degrees in business come from parallel backgrounds. That is, their undergraduate or professional work tends to be in the areas of consulting, accounting, or general business administration. An MBA is an opportunity to round out their existing skills, or give them a leg up the corporate ladder.

A recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of over 140 business schools in the U.S. and Canada revealed a shift. For the 2013-2014 admissions cycle, more than half of the accepted students come from STEM backgrounds-that is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

While it may be a notable change, it also makes sense. The tech industry is burgeoning. Graduates fluent in the languages of both business and technology have a real professional edge.

Some experts speculate the demographic shift may lead to more highly specialized graduate school programs, with finely honed professional trajectories. Certainly, the intellectual diversity will enrich the overall quality of the education. Arguably, by turning out students with a broader range of abilities, business schools can bolster their reputations as fertile professional training grounds.

Finally, opening up the channels between historically disparate fields like engineering and business may help the overall health of the schools' professional networks. Whatever the long-term effects, the trend is a reminder that business school--like the marketplace it feeds--is constantly evolving.


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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
B-School Essay is No Place for Jargon
I want to start this post by promising to tread lightly on my soap box on this one. But please, business school candidates, consider my plea.

I do not have an MBA and have never entertained the idea of business school. I don't work in the "corporate" realm. This places me in the shoes of many, many admissions officers-even those reading your business school personal statement.

What this means is that I don't know what the phrases "supply-chain-management", "complex distribution channels", or "procurement" mean. Yes, I know the definitions of those words, but the phrases themselves land gently at my feet as I read them, and I'm really too apathetic to pick them up. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. If you don't care what I think, at least consider your reader.

It isn't that it's bad to "think outside the box", or leverage assets, or implement "best practices". It's that all of these phrases are bubble wrap. Their only function is to fill up space in the box and prevent your reader from seeing what's really inside the package.

I understand that many business schools ask about your real world experience. They also ask about your goals. I think it is possible to describe both without using corporate terminology. There's a place for "core competency" and "price points" (I guess), but what does either really say about you, your skills or your ambitions?

Sometimes I think b-school types just can't suffer the glittery sparkle of creative writing. Ok. You're taciturn. You loathe talking about yourself. You prize brevity above all else. Fine. Just don't let these qualities strip your essay of all vibrancy and life.

And please, please, don't substitute substance with jargon.


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Monday, November 18, 2013
Finding a Reason Not to Go to Law School
How about a thousand of them?

The Chicago Tribune reports that a local personal injury attorney Matthew Willens is launching an "Anything But Law School Graduate Scholarship", awarding $1,000 each year to students who pursue graduate studies in a non-legal realm. Publicity stunt? Sure. A thousand dollars a year might buy a grad student some textbooks. But his point is clear.

The legal job market is not improving. Law school applications were down 18% last year. Things are not better for newly minted lawyers. At least not generally speaking.

Is Willens going to turn the tide? Of course not. He is a practicing personal injury attorney (enter venomous internet snipes), and this will raise his profile. Publicly, he's trying to ward students off from the monumental investment in a law school education, given the diminishing returns in the current job market.

He's also making an economic point. If the supply of lawyers outweighs the demand for their services, well, then you have a bunch of unemployed lawyers. The remedy? Fewer lawyers. Go to grad school to do something else.

Each time this conversation bubbles to the surface, it's eventually followed by talk about how law schools can reverse the tide. Sure, leveling out the supply/demand balance will help. But how about better equipping law students to practice law?

Fresh out of law school law students have very few practical skills. Law firms that are bleeding money no longer want to take the several years required to train new associates. Why not churn out law students who have more to offer to the market, and right away?

Seems more effective than a $1,000 scholarship to another grad school, but, touche, Mr. Willens. You got us talking.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Colleges Look to Social Media to Vet Incoming Students
Some colleges use social media to vet students in the college admission process. Sometimes. And no one really knows why or how much. In fact, while many colleges admit to rejecting students based on negative social media profiles, some pay no attention to it at all.

The NY Times published a warning article on the subject this week which has gone fairly viral: NY Times . I couldn't help but wonder why this was so newsworthy, given that this isn't new news.

As usual, emotions seem to run hottest in the comments section.

Some people seem bothered that schools would reject students based on an offensive Twitter post, without first telling them. Like it's some kind of due process violation. It seems to me colleges have been rejecting students for years without ever having to divulge their reasons. The college admissions process has never been fully fair.

Another constitutional fear seems to be the potential restriction on free speech. Um, okay. Students should be allowed to post what they want on Facebook without fear of retribution from the college that hasn't yet accepted them. That's a little like streaking through Microsoft's boardroom for your interview, not getting the job, and then grumbling that the company's cramping your freedom of expression.

To me, the take-home message here is simple. If your college of choice is reading 80,000 applications for 10,000 spots, they probably don't have time to comb through your Twitter feed.

If you're applying somewhere smaller, maybe you take your beer bong pictures off your Facebook page. Will drunken pics hurt your chances of college admission? Who knows? I certainly can't think of a scenario where they'd help.

Finally? It's okay to be young and dumb. Sometimes that has consequences, and sometimes it doesn't. Growing up is about measuring those sorts of risks.


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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
How Not to Waste Essay Time
I love unearthing good essay tips. As an editor, I'm constantly trying to reshape the feedback I give to students. How can I give a critique that is actually helpful? How can I articulate it when something just doesn't sound right?

Cruising the interwebs, I skidded over this gem from an educational consultant: many students waste too much time starting their engines. Yes. And yes. I feel strongly about this one because it is an easy trap. I trip over it each time I sit down to write a 300-word blog.

When I do it, it's because I don't really know what I want to write about. It's because I want to just get it done. It's because I haven't lassoed my "point" before I start typing. Students do this in admissions essays all the time.

Often times, students meander through several paragraphs of drivel before finally reaching their thematic destination in their second-to-last sentence. There's gooey center-it's just not in the right place.

I know, it's hard. You eat through your 500-word count limit by paragraph three. You don't want to trim any of that gold you've already written because it took forever to come up with it.

Dry as it sounds, I think the best antidote for the long warm-up is an outline. It doesn't have to be extensive. It's just your hook, your build-up, your little-anecdote, what-you-learned-from-it, and conclusion. Know what each of those components will be, before you start writing. Don't wait for divine inspiration.

But here's the thing. Each of those sections should have pretty equal weight. No one part is really more important than the next. You can't have a branch without a trunk. In a perfect world, you also write about the leaves. So before you start that admission essay, stop. Think. Sketch. Breathe. (Now, hurry up).


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