|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, October 15, 2012
Bringing the Admissions Decision Closer to Home
Applying to college is a process rife with unknowns. You don't really know much about your competition. You don't know who will be reviewing your application. You don't know what they'll be like. And while you may know generally what colleges are looking for in an ideal candidate, you're not really sure what it will be that will set you apart.
Wouldn't it be great to know the person deciding your fate?
A small, liberal arts college in New England is trying that idea on for size. At Southern Vermont College (SVC), a 550-student institution with a commitment to helping "at-risk" students, admissions officers are enlisting high school counselors to help them make admissions decisions. The hope is that the counselors--who are closer and more invested in the students-- are better situated to recognize talented students whose admissions metrics don't immediately jump off the page.
The college application is an instrument designed to introduce a student to a stranger. An admissions officer is required to make an objective decision based what is often highly subjective information. The transaction is stripped of the personal contact that informs and enriches most of our social relationships.
SVC recognizes that high school guidance counselors are often in a unique position to evaluate and recommend students. Exceptional candidates might rank highly in other aspects visible only to someone who has had the opportunity to really observe or interact with them.
Even at SVC, the final decision rests with their admissions officers. Arguably, the project would be unwieldy at a large university in a bustling metropolis. The idea, however, is novel and thought-provoking. What if, just what if, a person involved in one of your greatest life decisions actually knew a little bit about you?
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Why Business School? Why Now?
This may be my favorite quote of the week (courtesy, MBA Admissions Expert, Stacy Blackman): "When it comes to your essays, I can't tell you how many first drafts I've read that cite the 'unmatched student body, world-class faculty, and committed alumni network' as the reasons the applicant has chosen a certain MBA program. This person has said nothing".
For college admissions counselors who edit admissions essays for their client, there is a great need for balancing diplomacy and constructive criticism. Often times, when reviewing an essay, I find myself at a loss for both. A student may write a perfectly well-structured, acceptable essay. The problem? It says nothing. It's worse than boring. It's just pointless.
For undergrads, platitudes and regurgitations of university mission statements become crutches, of sorts. The well of life experience is rather unfilled for teenage students. At this point, you're going to college because a) you don't know what else to do at this juncture or b) you know you need that B.A./B.S. even if you don't yet know why. For business students, the expectation is higher.
By the time you're applying to B-School, you've finished college. You may have worked for a few years. You're going to business school for a reason. It's probably pretty specific. If so, your essay should write itself.
Maybe you see an MBA as a tool for increasing your professional worth. If that's the case, be prepared to talk about the "how" and the "why".
Just remember, business schools don't need you to rewrite their brochure or loot it for inspiration. If the school asks you to get specific, then by all means, do.
For Blackman's full article: US News
Labels: Why Business School? Why Now?
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Essay Food for Thought
If there are a million different ways to write an admission essay, there must be at least as many ways to give advice about how to write one. This time of year, counselors, blogs, websites and college fairs are ripe with ideas.
As a writer, I often find that relentless focus is often anathema to the creative writing process. Everyone's heard of writer's block. I'm convinced it gets worse, the harder we try to, well, write. It is usually the simplest thing that triggers an idea. Something I saw on tv. Something someone posted on Facebook. Something totally unrelated to the thing I was trying to write about in the first place.
Almost any student sitting down in front of a blank screen knows what it feels like to be totally stumped. Especially when writing an admissions essay.
This is why I really appreciate the universities that come up with whacky essay prompts. The University of Pennsylvania, authors of the tantalizing "write page 217 of your 300-page autobiography" essay prompt, are introducing a new one this year. Based on a quote from Benjamin Franklin, the admissions committee asks the following:
"All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move. Which are you?"
Hmm. Even if it makes you scratch your head, it isn't a conversation-stopper. Consider this, from the Common Application:
"Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you".
Every time I see a creative prompt like Penn's, I see an opportunity for students to move outside the standard essay fair. If nothing else, sharing these prompts is a good way to provoke discussion. And like I said, the strangest flecks of inspiration can be found in even the most mundane of conversations.
Labels: Essay Food for Thought
Monday, September 24, 2012
Social Media and College Admissions
It's that time of year again. Application season is gearing up, and the hand-wringing has begun for high school juniors and seniors all over the country. What better time to check in on the general state of affairs in social media?
As Facebook and Twitter's influence on the social landscape begins to take deeper root, the college admissions machine continues to take note. After all, the client base in higher education is youth. Young people are comfortable with technology. It isn't simply about knowing how to re-boot and text-it's about relying on technology as a new medium of communication. The flip-phone has already gone the way of the rotary phone and made way for the smart phone--a computer that keeps us a flick-of-a-switch away from just about everyone and everything we know. For colleges and potential students alike, reaching out through the World Wide Web is no longer cutting edge. It's just the way it is. In 2010, 80% of college admissions received Facebook friend requests from potential students. Recent surveys indicate that 85% of colleges use Facebook as a recruitment tool; a full 66% use Youtube.
Whether or not social media has adept match-making skills for students and colleges, it is clearly a communication channel that cannot be ignored. So the usual admonitions apply. If you've got a dream school in mind, take down the drunken pictures, and maybe the radical political posts. Utilize the discussion forums on colleges Facebook and Twitter pages. Get your name out there; make your own "page" appealing. Check out your competition.
While you're at it, check out the latest stat-graphics on the subject. Youtube is clearly no longer just a safe space for Jackass wannabes and giggling babies.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
The Psychology of Writing the Admission Essay
In a recent New York times blog, the Dean of Admissions at a small, liberal arts college in California declared that the admission essay is "the one component of your application where you have full control over the outcome". Hmm. Seems to me that really, intelligence and hard work can also earn us a perfect SAT score or at least a 4.0 GPA, but his point is well taken. By the time you've reached the admission essay portion of the application process, it is too late to change your grades and scores. Whatever leverage you have left lies with the admission essay. For most students, that prospect is overwhelming. From this Dean's perspective, however, the admission essay is a student's most powerful ammunition.
Electing to look at the admission essay as an effective tool rather than a crushing burden may not be easy, but could be a highly effective psychological shift. As a general rule, stress is caused by our very human fear of losing control over life situations. Inherent in the college admissions process is an almost total lack of control (and a lot of waiting). We can prepare for years, but for most of us, there is always that one failing grade-- that one botched test-- that we cannot erase from our record. We thus arrive at the door of university admission forced to hand over a slightly less perfect version of ourselves than we'd hoped.
And then there's this shot at an admission essay. Here we are, in the eleventh hour, offered a small but potent little chance to realign our fates. Maybe. Why not take control here? We cannot guarantee that our reader will love what we write about, love what we do, or care about our passions. What we can do is write something memorable, and do it well. I think this is true whether the author is 17 or 34. It isn't about having scaled Mount Everest, it's about exploring the way we feel about something-anything. And if we approach it feeling like we have control over its outcome, we might have just that.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Technology and the College Application
I'll admit, it's been a long time since I applied to college. Back in those days, we still did everything on paper. We even wrote things by hand. I had to send a check in with each application in order to cover the required fee. The biggest panic-besides the deadline-was making sure the inkjet printer didn't need a new cartridge. I did type my admission essay.
Today, technology and the Common Application have completely transformed the college application process. Students can apply to a greater number of colleges with considerable ease. The Common Application has even dispensed with the old-fashioned idea of tailoring essays and applications to each individual college. The one-size-fits-all approach means that students are improving their odds by casting a wider net.
Like any progress, this comes with obvious pitfalls. Just like the olden days, it is the simplest foreseeable mistakes that usually catch us in their webs. (For example, the printer running out of ink in the hour before the application was due in the mailbox). Computers can be finicky, and so can on-line applications. If your computer is on the blink, make sure there is a back-up machine where you can save your work. Oh, and save your work. You don't have to fill out the application all at once, but you also don't want to have to start from scratch when you go back to it. Expect the worst and hope for the best. Don't rule out power outages, internet problems or wireless failures.
When it comes to college applications, the march of time doesn't change the rule of thumb: don't leave everything until the last minute. Technology is faster until it isn't. Stay one step ahead of it.
Monday, September 3, 2012
The Art of Bragging
If you're a student currently embroiled in the admission-essay writing process, then you'll appreciate this missive from Paula Marantz Cohen-an English professor at Drexel University: "Why I Hate the College Application Essay: Should Bragging be a Prerequisite for College?". Students feeling disgruntled will find some vindication in her theory that the college admission essay is a complete waste of time.
And yet--for college hopefuls-avoiding the admission essay or protesting is not an option. Yes, like filing income taxes and waiting in line at the DMV, students must roll up their sleeves and attack the essay like the chore it is.
Cohen is right on about the tediousness of the standard essay. When colleges ask students to describe themselves, they can hardly expect a writer to lay bare their fallibilities. Honesty may be what colleges are asking for, but it isn't what they are going to get. Who's ever fully sincere at a job interview?
Most seventeen-year-olds haven't experienced much. It's just the nature of life. So they are forced to exaggerate mundane experiences or milk the life out of unfortunate ones. Every editor has read an essay that is either too arrogant or too maudlin. At seventeen, these things are hard to calibrate. But what do the admissions committees expect? As a general rule, most middle class American kids don't have a lot of compelling stories. So the two-week volunteer post in Nicaragua is central to their college resume.
Colleges could turn the tide in one sweeping gesture by changing the question. The more bizarre the better (If you could be any kind of tree, what kind would you be and why?). Force students to circumvent what has become an incredibly formulaic genre. Avoid making self-puffery an art form and allow them, as Cohen suggests, to evaluate the world around them.
After all, it is when we look outside of ourselves that we gain real perspective on the world. This is precisely what colleges are truly looking for.
Labels: The Art of Bragging
Monday, August 27, 2012
The Real Effects of Diversity
How do we measure the benefits of diversity in the classroom? Affirmative action in higher education is a hot-button political topic. From a philosophical standpoint, each side has valid arguments. But what about the real effects of affirmative action policies? How do we evaluate them?
Generally, the abolition of affirmative action policies at the university level is followed by a quantifiable drop in student admission among certain racial groups, most notably African-American and Latino students. The reasons behind the declining numbers are always up for divisive political discussion, but the statistics themselves are clear.
For proponents of affirmative action, trends such as these are cause for concern. What are the unintended downsides to a lack of racial diversity in the educational environment? Do all non-white students need to be evaluated according to their race, as well as their scholastic aptitude? Why are students of color disproportionately affected by the absence of affirmative action policies?
If these statistics are food for thought, they certainly only paint half the picture. Sure, affirmative action appears to give a leg up to many non-white students. But how does the prohibition of affirmative negatively impact all students. A recent study may shed some light.
Over the past decade, several university professors have been collecting empirical data from over 6,500 students at 50 different law schools. The survey attacks two primary questions: 1) do students differ by race upon entering law school and 2) do any differences "contribute educational benefits to students, institutions, or society?" The answer, according to this study, is a resounding "yes".
The surveyed students reported that diversity in the classroom contributed to an overall broader world-view. The presence of students from a wide spectrum of social and cultural experiences forced all students to better evaluate people, situations and problems from different perspectives.
Even empirical studies are subject to criticism, but evaluations such as these may prove critical in enhancing a very divisive discussion on race and higher education. For an abbreviated article in the National Law Journal and link to the original study, click here: The National Law Journal .
Labels: The Real Effects of Diversity
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Obama Administration Shows Support for Affirmative Action
As I've written many times before, few topics are more controversial than affirmative action in college admissions. Political middle ground on this issue is almost impossible to find. And while the consideration of race in college admissions is still prohibited in many states, the issue continues to simmer.
This autumn, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case filed in 2008 by a white student who was denied admission. Abigail Fisher claims that the university's failure to offer her a spot at the university was a result of discrimination. The University of Texas does consider race as one component in the overall evaluation of student applications.
This week, the Obama Administration weighed in, making perhaps its opinion on affirmative action fairly clear. Historically, the president has suggested that any preferential treatment in college admissions should be skewed along socioeconomic-not racial lines. In a friends of court brief, several departments within the administration stated that racial preference in college admissions is something colleges should consider in an effort to create opportunity for students of color, and diversity to the student body.
Texas is unique in some respects. Its universities automatically offer college admission to the top 10% of high school students statewide. This policy has had the net effect of increasing enrollment for non-white students. Still, Texas universities do consider race in a nod to the value of diversity in the educational environment.
With the presidential election less than 90 days away, this symbolic statement could stir political tensions. However, the Supreme Court's ruling is unlikely to have much effect upon many of the country's largest states. California-which has its own laws on the books preventing consideration of race in college admissions, would be unaffected by the decision.
However, if the US Supreme Court made a grand statement in simply agreeing to hear the case, the Obama Administration followed suit by publicly taking a side. Oral arguments begin in October.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
The Art of Writing the Admission Essay
Revision is when you do what you should have done the first time, but didn't.
So says Colson Whitehead in his recent engaging treaty "How to Write" NY Times . While Whitehead's article is addressed to aspiring writers, and not just desperate college hopefuls, his tips are relevant and easy to digest.
Proofreading is just one of his eleven bullet points. He also tells us that writer's block can be a tool and-one of my regular personal favorites "never use three words when one will do". Still, he delivers his counsel with bite. Admission essay how-to guides tend to be scrubbed clean of charisma. There is certainly a formula for a solid admission essay. But for students searching for a bit more inspiration probably need more than ordinary bullet points.
Whitehead advises would-be scribes to get out and live life. After all, the best writing is the fruit of rich life experience. Young students with limited life adventures may have to rely instead on fertile imaginations. I'm not suggesting that students fabricate experiences in their admissions essays. I am suggesting that students exploit their creative sides in order to harvest interesting sprigs of ordinary life.
After all, admissions officers are simply looking for something that humanizes an applicant. They do not need extraordinary. Whitehead doesn't say it in so many words, but revision isn't simply about correcting mistakes. It is about uncovering weaknesses that weren't even visible during the first, second, or fifteenth read. You'd be surprised at what you might find buried within your own words.
And if this is all just literary for you, well-maybe you should sit down and try reading it again.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
No Downside in Starting Admissions Essays Early
Just because something is good for us, doesn't mean we are inclined to do it. Going for a run. Putting down that cupcake. Starting to put money in a retirement account. All good ideas. In theory.
Which makes it difficult for me to suggest-again-that students begin to think of starting their college admissions essays now. During the late, hot summer. There is simply no downside to starting early. For most students, admissions deadlines are somewhere between November and January. Starting work in August means students can bank several months of time during which they can revise, proofread, and reconsider what they have written.
Starting early helps to take the pressure off. Students can easily become suffocated by time constraints come autumn. Suddenly they are juggling senior year activities with the pressure of applications, essays, letters of recommendation, and more.
If you are looking for essay feedback, it makes sense to give your editor plenty of time. Cramming it in their in-box a day before it is due does no one any good. Starting earlier means that you have more time to put your admission essay in front of many eyes. Teachers, parents, guidance counselors, or college coaches.
Finally, for students considering applying Early Action or Early Decision, starting the admission essay may be essential. The upside of early entry programs is the increased odds of admissions. One downside is that some essays are due around the start of November.
This isn't the first time I've suggested making good use of summer and starting those admissions essays. With several weeks left, it may not be the last.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Brevity in your Admission Essay
Any editor will tell you that one of the more difficult parts of their job is omitting without offending. That is, most of us have a tendency to 'overwrite'. This is nowhere truer in a setting like the admission essay. Why?
Overdoing it in your admissions essay is a little like blubbering in an interview. We are nervous. In the process of putting our best foot forward, our thoughts get jumbled and sail out the door-right along with our ability to filter them. Fortunately, admissions essays are on paper. Unlike a live interview, a writer has an infinite number of opportunities to revise and perfect.
The best of authors know this. On brevity, William Faulkner famously said, "In writing, you must kill all of your darlings". Sometimes, that is exactly what it feels like. Take, for instance, writing about a great accomplishment. Quite often students will feel proud, passionate, excited, energized and committed about a certain achievement. They will use each one of these adjectives. Admit it, you already stopped paying attention to that sentence; it had too many commas.
Each of those sentiments is a little different. I appreciate that. But you can still convey your point without expressing every single emotion you feel about something.
When you are writing to impress, it is tempting to overreach when you are trying to make your point. For most students, the admission essay feels like the one chance for a big sell. Just remember the adage "less is more". It works in all kinds of advertising.
And with that, I'll hope that I've made my point.
Labels: Brevity in your Admission Essay
Monday, July 23, 2012
Using Imagination to Pick the Right College
Last month I wrote about the ways in which rankings influence students' decisions about what college to attend. I do buy into the idea that the best fit for a particular student isn't necessarily a big name school. Certainly, for students with very specific professional aspirations, school name may matter more. But this isn't the main reason students gravitate towards big name schools.
I say, the number one reason students pick the wrong schools is lack of imagination. Selecting a college is really just a labor-intense shopping trip. The currency may be test scores and admissions essays, but the process is a lot like any consumer experience. Let's take your iPhone, for example. Is it the best possible smart phone on the market, or is it just the most popular?
Obscure liberal arts colleges in upstate New York just lack the glamorous sizzle of NYU. USC and UCLA look good on sweatshirts. They're also near Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Cool.
At seventeen, it is difficult to know what you want from the future. We're all drawn to the familiar. And if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, it makes sense to turn to the brand that everyone else is buying.
The problem is that there is always a downside to picking a college for the wrong reasons. Big, famous campuses have larger class sizes. It is easy to get lost in the crowd. Applying to the Ivies (with a 6-9% acceptance rate) might prove to be a side-swipe to a young student's confidence.
So sit down and really think about it. Listen to other students on sites like collegeprowler.com. Ask yourself the tough questions. Why is this your dream school? You might find the answer to be surprising.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Breaking the Ice in Your Admission Essay
Want to teach me something new? Don't explain it to me-show me an example. All of us learn in different ways. Some of us are visual. Some cerebral. Some of us need to talk it through. When it comes to advice on drafting admissions essays, I find that most of the information out there is in the nature of explaining. Want an example?
Tip lists. Admissions consultants love their bullet points.
Don't compose a resume in prose.
Don't get too emotional.
Write from the heart.
These are all useful and arguably accurate admonitions about admission essay writing. But if I was an anxious student with writer's block, these platitudes would probably just frustrate me.
There are plenty of sample essays out there on the web, many of them helpful. However, for students who need a little push out of the gate, the first hurdle is that opening sentence.
This article from last year boasts the top 10 opening lines from Stanford University admissions essays. I'm not sure if that is 100% true, but these are some good opening lines.
"I have old hands". "When I was in eighth grade, I couldn't read". Simple. Provocative. Interesting. Most importantly-these statements make your reader want to, well, continue reading. This may be the single most important aspect of your essay. It doesn't have to be Pulitzer-Prize winning literature. It just has to inspire your reader to care.
Perhaps surprisingly, this might just be easier than you think.
Monday, July 9, 2012
The Failure of Law Schools to Deliver
If you're in the mood for a little gloom and doom, try doing a Google search for "law school admission". You'll find that the law job market is bad, admissions are down, and law schools are even reducing enrollment. Then you'll find the opinion pieces. And when it comes to a discussion of the merits of a legal education, bloggers pack no punches. "The First Thing We Should Do Is Kill All the Law Schools" (Huffington Post). Or, "Why Attending Law School is the Worst Decision You Will Ever Make" (Forbes).
If the bloggers seem bitter, the graduates are simply scathing. Though many are unemployed with six-figure debt, it's often hard to know exactly what drives their frustration. A read through any comments section reveals less talk about financial uncertainty, and more talk about feeling let down by the law school structure. Kids from top tier schools are simply supposed to be wooed with fat employment contracts. Now they are working at Starbucks.
The American Bar Association Journal recently tackled what it sees as the issue of pedigree in law schools, deciding that the preoccupation with ranking is "choking the profession". (Want to see some acrimony? Check out the comments section for that article). ABA Journal Many students from lower-tier law schools (and believe me, tiers matter a lot to law students), claim to have educations and careers that are perfectly satisfying. Top tier students simply can't believe that. Recruiters at top firms won't even look at graduates outside the top ten elite law schools.
This level of expectation from law school may be part of what has made the fall from grace so painful. In a system so deeply rooted in status, a dreary job market means more than money worries. It is a failure of a fundamental promise of success.
If there is a silver lining here, it is that the profession-despite obvious setbacks-will go on. Perhaps it is time for law students, graduates, professionals and the people who recruit them to start reframing their perspective on the profession. It may not seem quite as bleak.
Monday, July 2, 2012
Too Many College Applications Diluting the Pool?
It's hard to tell whether or not it is becoming harder to get into college these days. Each year the top schools seem to post lower admission rates, but there is more to the story.
There are more students applying to college, and there are numerous reasons for that. There is a large increase in foreign student applications to American schools. Tools such as the Common Application make applying easier. As the competition increases, so does rejection. Students, in turn, send out more applications, hoping to increase their chances of being accepted somewhere.
Back in the days of paper applications with a per-application fee, the sheer logistics of applying to multiple schools was enough to deter all but the most zealous students from sending out high volumes of applications. These days, students can apply to all ten University of California campuses with the check of a box. The Common Application, with its access to over 450 universities across the country, provides the same function.
The problem is that admissions committees aren't equipped to deal with the increase in number of applications. If a hundred applicants have essentially the same SAT score, the admission committee can focus its time on really assessing the other qualities each of those 100 students offers. If that 100 is now 1000, the review process becomes unmanageable.
Ironically, students themselves are fueling the problem by applying to so many different schools. By increasing the applicant pool, they are forcing admissions committees to spend less time assessing each applicant.
A recent NY Times blog suggests a simple solution. Know what you really want from a college. That way you can avoid sending out applications to universities that really won't suit you (or accept you). This streamlines the process for the individual student and in turn, for the admissions offices.
For students, putting a little more research in at the front end of the application process may make all the difference in the world. And with the odds getting slimmer each year, it is time for a change.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Summer as the Last Hurrah
About a month ago, I reminded high school juniors to use this summer wisely. With two full years left before college, they still have ample opportunity to pack their summers with the kind of activities that will flesh out the college portfolio. For high school seniors, time is a little shorter. But this summer still has plenty of it.
On the longest day of the year, with the sun high in the sky, the last thing most budding seniors want to think about are college applications. Hear me out. This summer is NOT your last hurrah. As social experiences go, college (at least for most people), is a blast. So think of this summer as a chance to ease the anxieties that will start to gnaw at you come fall.
Many of you will have jobs or travel scheduled this summer. For student athletes, the commitments of Fall semester may start early, and become an ever bigger drain on your time as the college application deadlines approach in October and November. From an emotional perspective, senior year is a very important life chapter. Adding the stresses of college application to the mental transition can be difficult.
For any of you using the Common Application and thinking about getting a head start on your college admission essay, keep in mind that the Common App simply shuts down for several weeks next month.
So as we sit on the very cusp of the summer season, think about getting a head start. Maybe it's as simple as whittling down your university choices and pulling all the requisite applications. Perhaps you are way ahead of the game and start drafts of your college admission essay. Maybe you take the time to visit a few campuses.
Checking off even a few tasks from your college to-do list can help lift an enormous psychological burden come fall semester. And do it now. So you can enjoy the rest of your summer.
Labels: Summer as the Last Hurrah
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Law Schools Respond to Bleak Market
It has been a bad year for law schools and a worse year for many law school graduates. This week the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its annual report. Just 85% of new law school grads can expect to find work-the lowest this figure has been since 1994. A full three-quarters of that 85% were working in non-legal and/or part-time positions.
As a talking point, the rupture of the legal profession makes for good discussion. (For some particularly lively vitriol, visit the Facebook page "Don't Go to Law School"). Although the national unemployment rate has been alarming for the past several years, people seem especially affronted at the prospect that a law degree has lost its traditional value. For new grads, the panic and anger is simpler than that-many are saddled with six-figure debt.
Some law schools are finally responding. Roughly ten of the country's 200 ABA accredited schools have plans to marginally decrease enrollment over the next several years. Some schools are cutting their class sizes by as few as 20, but with tuition at law schools averaging between $20K and $40K a year, these cuts are not insignificant reductions to law school revenue.
At a theoretical level, the cuts make sense. A bleak job market, oversaturated with law grads will gradually improve as fewer people emerge with law degrees. Simple supply and demand. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remarked recently that the country might be better off sending some of its brightest minds into other fields--like science and engineering--where they are needed most.
This decision does not fix the problem for current law school graduates, but may start to set a new tone in a field that is rapidly losing the gloss of high expectation that has historically made it so appealing.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Yes, College Rankings Do Matter. Maybe.
Advice regarding college admissions tends to cycle through differing philosophies. Historically, rankings have been crucial. Students (and parents, and maybe employers) wait with bated breath each year as the US News & World Report churns out its annual number crunching about college rankings.
Lately, college consultants have been fighting back. Part of the reason? High profile schools have been caught in flat-out lies about their own stats . The other reason is cuddlier. Consultants and experts claim that the goal for students in finding the"right" college should be the right fit, not the highest ranking.
I like the sound of this, but, there is always a "but". The "right fit" assumes that a student is attending college to learn. If that is true, I agree that the student should place a greater emphasis on things like class size, campus location and faculty. If a student is going to college in order to get a job, I think ignoring the pedigree of a brand name school could be a liability.
Frankly, in a depressed job market, the best way to get ahead is to get a graduate degree. I'd like to believe that graduate institutions care more about undergraduate performance than where a student went to college. I wouldn't trust recruiters in the professional realm to be as reasonable.
It comes down to what a student wants. If it is a clerkship with the US Supreme Court, that undergraduate better pay very close attention to their college brand. If it is the rite-of-passage that is the "college experience", I think it makes more sense to look for a school that will make you happy.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
STEM or Liberal Arts-That is the Question
Actually, for most students, there isn't much up for discussion. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are scary subjects for many students. The prospect of a Liberal Arts education may sound more realistic and less confining. The abundance of small, liberal arts colleges across the country may be appealing for students looking for a more academically intimate, congenial setting in which to get their college education.
With so many college graduates facing flattened job prospects, the question of what to major in is suddenly more relevant. Ten or twenty years ago, a college degree from a decent school may have been enough. That is no longer the professional climate in which we live.
Payscale.com recently released a report of the top ten majors leading to the highest salaries. Two were science, one math; the other seven were in the field of engineering. For women, engineering offers potentially even better prospects. The dearth of women in the profession means that universities actively court qualified female engineering students; some experts claim that the demand for female students means that universities will quietly reserve spaces for women with lower grades and test scores than their male counterparts.
For law school graduates, who are facing one of the worst job markets in recent history, STEM backgrounds may be the necessary edge. Traditionally, law was seen as a haven for ambitious students with a fear of math and science. Today, the growth of the technology sector has created a need for experts with knowledge of both STEM subjects and the law. (Payscale.com places patent attorneys at a starting salary of $115,000. The American Intellectual Property Law Association places that figure closer to $180K).
All students have their own interests. Few students can will themselves to do well in Organic Chemistry if science isn't a strength. For now, however, it appears that your college major really does matter.
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