|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.|
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Law School Applicants: Beware of Your Digital Trail
Law school these days has become a bit of a hot potato. Admissions are down. The legal job market is the worst in recent history. A smattering of big-name schools have been exposed for the filthy habit of pumping up test score data in order to make themselves look pretty. Even the American Bar Association has stepped in with a preemptive slap on the wrist to law schools-forcing them to provide real statistics on job prospects for graduates. And while all potential college and graduate students should know by now that tidying up their social media profile is somewhere around step-one in the college application process, on-line discretion is, apparently, paramount for law school applicants. It turns out they have the most to lose.
The snide public scorn reserved for lawyers may be occasionally well-deserved, but the reality is that attorneys are, by law, held to extraordinarily high ethical standards. Most states require attorneys to submit to a rigorous background check before allowing them to practice law. All lawyers are subject to penalties-including disbarment-if they are found to be in breach of statutory ethical guidelines. Perhaps this is just one consideration causing law school admissions officers to place on-line personas of their applicants under a high-powered microscope.
A recent Kaplan survey revealed that 41% of law school admissions officers admitted to Googling applicants or otherwise checking out their online presence. Even more damning was the fact that more than a third of officers who researched an applicant online uncovered information which was potentially damaging to their admissions prospects. These numbers were monumentally higher than those for undergraduate or business school applicants. The moral of the story here-the ethical scrutiny starts early for law school candidates. So be ready and beware.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Business School Admissions A Matchmaking Game
For better or for worse, we live in a culture that idealizes love and regards marriage as the end goal of the dating process. If you've already excused my first pun, you'll perhaps forgive me for using the search for love as a metaphor for the graduate admissions process. Really. Once you've decided on, say, business school, and once you've earmarked acceptance as the only true measure of your success, the process of finding a union with the right school becomes your singular ambition. You try on the idea of a handful of schools, weighing the practicality of which ones might actually accept you and which ones might be out of your league. You see where I'm going with this.
If this kind of desperate need for acceptance and validation were not part of the college and graduate admissions process, the "process" itself would not have become such big business. Each year, thousands of anxious, ready-to-please students descend upon this conglomerate of admissions whizzes the way that lovelorn hopefuls flock to match.com. There is a real sense that who you are as an individual is not enough. You need someone to match you to the school that is the right fit. Moreover, you need someone to look you squarely in the eye and talk odds. If the search for a soul mate and the hunt for an alma mater weren't so complicated, there wouldn't be an army of experts out there, promising to help us find the One we were destined to be with.
Take this recent interview with Derrick Bolton--assistant dean and director of M.B.A. admissions at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. The interviewer rummages for the answer to every hopeful student's ultimate question: "what IS it that admissions committees are looking for?". Bolton's answer is disappointing in the sense that it apparently isn't really within our control. (In an infuriating it's-not-you-its-me sort of way). As Bolton dryly reveals, it isn't about how great you are as an individual, but about what kind of spice you will add to the pot of stew he is trying to create. So basically, you better hope you aren't just one of ten thousand other carrots if he's looking for potatoes. Like life, you have to simply be the best you can, and hope that there's someone out there looking for someone just like you.
Wall Street Journal
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Changing the Essay Question
They say if you don't like what is being said, change the conversation. It works in advertising and politics, so why not in academia? It seems admissions committees agree and are doing just that by changing the question. The University of Iowa's Trippie School of Business recently caught headlines by offering a full scholarship to the business school candidate with the catchiest Twitter-length 'personal statement'. This week, Columbia Business School announced a 200-character cap on responses to the broad question "What is your post-MBA professional goal?" (By the way, 200 characters is roughly 35 words, which is about twice the length of this sentence).
It isn't just the length of responses that is changing, but also the scope of the question. Harvard Business School candidates are now being asked to "Answer a question you wished we'd asked". It's not ground-breaking stuff, but slightly less dry than "describe a setback and how you handled it".
It makes sense to me to start spicing up the questions. As an editor, one of the single most common pitfalls I see students make in their admissions essays is trying to tailor the essay to be what they think the admissions committee wants to read. This means they're churning out cookie-cutter resumes-in-prose that are neither catchy nor unique. Admissions committees are already busy. They don't need to read the same essay from a thousand different candidates. The admissions committees are now speaking. And though no candidate will ever really know exactly what they are looking for, it's clear the universities and their admissions gatekeepers are ready for a change.
Labels: changing the essay question
Sunday, October 9, 2011
How to Master the MBA Setback Essay
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. - Steve Jobs
In this excerpt from his now-famous Stanford Commencement Address, Jobs dispenses more than simple advice on life. He gives prospective MBA candidates a stellar example of how to tackle the classic 'setback' admission essay, so prevalent on business school applications. You know the one. The admission essay that asks students to evaluate a hardship or failure and discuss what they've learned from it. Students have a terrible time with this admission essay for several reasons. First, who wants to talk about failures when they're trying so desperately to prove how wonderful they are? Second, many young business school candidates simply don't have broad enough catalogue of experiences to draw from. So in a week where much of the world has paused to remember the poignant wisdom of this cultural icon, I ask you to consider this passage from Jobs for guidance on how to truly evaluate a setback, and how to write about it masterfully in your admission essay. Acknowledge the obstacle or failure. Don't dwell on it. Don't be melodramatic about it. Don't make light of it. It happened to you, and you dealt with it. Period.
What the setback admission essay measures is not your fallibility but your maturity and your level of self-reflection. A younger business school candidate may struggle to unearth something tumultuous enough to rank as a setback, but they shouldn't agonize over the rating of their obstacle. Instead, evaluate it as you would any other significant occurrence in life, and write about how it changed you. It sounds nice if--as Jobs notes-- it changes you for the better, but it needn't come with a silver lining. It must simply be what any good admission essay should be-illustrative and honest.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Searching for the Perfect College
Looking back on my own college experience nearly two decades ago, I can still clearly remember the agony of the application process-the standardized testing, the admission essay, the waiting. What isn't as clear is why and how I chose to go where I did. I liked the idea of being away from my hometown, but didn't want to go too far. My parents couldn't afford out-of-state tuition. It may sound silly, but a major swing factor for me was the size of the university-I wanted to be smack-dab in the middle of Division I sports and all the fever that came with along with it. I wanted atmosphere. Memories. A big name school. In short, I had no idea what I really needed in a college.
As it turned out, I went somewhere that fulfilled all of these needs, but in retrospect, I am not sure it was the best fit. My grades weren't great. The classes were huge. The student population was massive, and I had no teachers or guidance counselors to shepherd me through the process-something I still needed at that time. My major was interesting, but not very marketable. I share my experience now as thousands of hopeful seniors put the finishing touches on their applications and settle into several months of finger-biting and hand-wringing before making their own final decisions.
Today there is much talk of students basing their decisions on rankings and prestige. This will probably always be the case, but I see it as another potential pitfall. I stumbled upon this recent Huffington Post article that, I think, would have helped me a great deal when I was seventeen: Huffington Post . Maybe I still would have made my choice for many of the wrong reasons. However, this is something I do believe-an imperfect college experience may still be a perfect life experience. In the search for an ideal college fit, there are all sorts of different possibilities.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
More Blows for the Legal Job Market
Law school graduates still aren't getting jobs, and they've moved past frustration. According to simplyhired.com, an employment search engine, the legal industry was one of a scant few that is still seeing a decline in job opportunities (down 1.9% for August 2011). The National Association of Law Placement--an organization that collects job placement data-reports that just 51% of 2010 law school graduates had jobs, including part-time and temporary positions. With essentially every 100 law school graduates vying for a single job, it is no wonder that these hopeful lawyers with five to six-figure law school debt are feeling a little desperate.
As I've written before, there has already been a huge push by legislators and law students alike for greater transparency regarding post-graduate job prospects. In response, the American Bar Association recently imposed stricter reporting standards upon its accredited law schools. But for many graduates, these developments are too little, too late. As such, disgruntled law school grads are beginning to coalesce into growing numbers of organized groups suing their respective alma maters. The cause of action? Essentially, false advertising. They claim that their schools promised them jobs and failed to deliver.
I see the reality as more subtle. The field of law is gilded with a pointed prestige equated with power and money. While disdain for lawyers is never in short supply, attorneys and judges do occupy the tiny but exalted hall in the top 1% of society's workforce. Law school and the practice of law are not for the faint of heart, or mind. So for those with the grades and commitment to tackle law school, the idea that there is no pay-off is a real slap in the face. It may not actually be anyone's fault, but that prospect is, perhaps, an even harder pill to swallow.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
So you want to be a Doctor?
With the early decision deadlines having passed for many U.S. Medical Schools, and the remainder due within the next few months, it is scrambling time for medical school applicants. At this juncture, with test scores, academics and professional experiences already catalogued, the one component that still needs to be polished to a shine is the personal statement. Most students with the mettle to approach medical school aren't lacking in ambition or talent. What they sometimes lack is the ability to put it down eloquently on paper.
Having read admissions essays for more than a decade, I have seen personal statement cliches wear out their welcomes, and it is often nowhere truer than in the essays of aspiring medical students. Here is my advice for pitfalls to avoid:
- "I want to help people". Don't assume that your admissions board doesn't already know this. Helping is what doctors do. Skip past this sentiment to the why and how of it. Better yet, discuss how you've already started doing this.
- "I like science". Certainly helpful but a love of science alone won't likely get you through the rigors of study, residency and practice. Again, if you're seriously approaching medical school, you should have some research under your belt already. Talk about it with purpose, and avoid too much talk in the abstract about how you want to change the world.
- "I shadowed a doctor/volunteered in a hospital". With no disrespect intended to those who have started along this path-it is not enough. Your competition is miles ahead of you. If, in fact, this exposure to a small slice of real world medicine is what has inspired you-fantastic. Just make sure that you have more than that to go on. I'm not a medical practitioner, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it is more than just a job. And that's just it. The people who practice and advance medicine are vital to the health of our society. Your medical personal statement must cut through the wearied paths of bubbly promise to the heart of what it really means to become a doctor. It is in that interior world that the truly effective personal statement resides.
Labels: so you want to be a doctor
Sunday, September 11, 2011
How to Make Social Media Work for You in the College Admissions Process
Much ado has been made, both in this blog and beyond, about the role that social media plays in college admission. Whatever your feeling about the social and moral benefits of Facebook and Twitter, the fact that the vast majority of universities are now using such sites as recruitment tools gives social media a new sort of credibility. Though some admissions officers admit to using Facebook pages to take a sneak-peak at the posted peccadilloes of their applicants, the overwhelming role of social media in the admission process is to create a virtual forum for the exchange of ideas and information. So while censoring your Spring Break photos may still be pragmatic, it is but one consideration.
With that in mind, what can you, the aspiring student, do to make social media work for you? Given that young people are generally the most closely in sync with changing technology, this should be an easy opportunity to use something you know to help your odds in the admission process. (If you fall into the not-so-young or technically challenged category, try using the application process as a chance to build your learning curve).
For a start, hopeful college or grad school applicants should consider 'following' Facebook and Twitter feeds for the universities and specialized programs they have applied to. See what the universities have to say about themselves. Learn more about the places you aspire to be part of. Make the most of sites like YouTube. If you are so inclined--make a video. Be creative (and appropriate). Think about starting a blog. Taking the time to construct and flesh out a blog over a period of time shows commitment. More importantly, it can give admissions officers a more intimate glance at you as a student and a thoughtful human being.
Grades and test scores will always be the baseline for college admission, but everyone-no matter where they fall in the academic scheme, needs to set themselves apart from the competition. With social media making all of us more visible, it seems a very apt place to start.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
U.S. Graduate Schools See Influx of International Students
The global economy may have taken a hit over these past few years, but not everyone is feeling the pinch. Recent studies by several graduate school industry groups have shown an increase in both the number of graduate admissions applications from foreign students to American graduate schools and in the number of students accepted into graduate study programs in the United States. The reason, they say, is that some economies are flourishing, and as a result, able to produce students both willing and financially able to pay for a graduate school education.
Graduate business schools are showing the highest jump in admissions for international students. According to one study, business schools extended their offers of admissions to international students by 16% in 2011. Several prominent business schools are now boasting foreign student enrollment figures of 30%-40%. China and Saudi Arabia have become the two largest sources of international students in US Graduate Programs, perhaps due in large part to the fact that those economies are booming.
Larger numbers of international students make sense for American institutions looking to create the kind of culturally diverse environment that business students will find in the real world. The growth of the Chinese economy in particular means that cultural literacy is as important as ever in American business schools. For many Chinese business students, the goal is to utilize an American education back in the home market. Whatever the trajectory, the changing demographics of the student bodies in American business schools appears to be mapping the wave of the future.
For more details, see: Wall Street Journal
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The Standardized Test and College Admissions
It's no secret that the college admissions process isn't for the faint of heart, and one of the major roadblocks for students is the standardized test. From a theoretical standpoint, it makes sense. Colleges simply don't have space for everyone who applies. The standardized test helps to weed out the less desirable students. It is billed as an objective marker that helps admissions officers evaluate students from a vast array of backgrounds and educational institutions. So what if you really struggle with timed testing environments and scantron sheets?
Here is some food for thought. In case you hadn't figured it out, standardized testing preparation is big business. Feeding off the fear of hopeful college students, test-prep courses charge exorbitant fees to help students learn how to tame the multiple-choice beasts. Eduventures, a higher education research and consulting firm estimates that American students spend over $530 million a year on SAT prep alone. Students are being encouraged to take tests more often and earlier in an attempt to secure the highest scores. However, several recent studies have concluded that repeat-takers do not improve their scores by large margins, and that students taking the test too early, don't benefit from the experience. Examiner
Aspiring students may also find this recent study to be helpful. Admissions officers surveyed by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, placed a greater weight on grades and strength of high school curriculum than test scores in college admissions. USA Today Educate This is not to say that test scores don't matter, or that taking the test more than once won't be helpful to some students. Instead, this research serves as a reminder that college education need not rise and fall with the tide of standardized testing scores. Like everything else, standardized tests are but one hurdle in the very long road towards higher education and future professional success. They should be revered, but not necessarily feared.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Does "Well-Rounded" Mean "No Edge"?
In the college admissions game, much ado is made about the Summer. Those months of long, lazy afternoons that lure the average teenager into a full-time diet of languishing. The same months that are (sigh) absolutely ripe for packing in the experiences that will soon crowd the lines of the dreaded college admissions essay. Since the school year is reserved for, well, school, what better time than summer to create the kind of life experiences that every teenager needs to make themselves sound interesting come admission time?
You'll forgive this writer's wearied derision. I have noted before the importance of using the summer wisely. However, a recent New York Times article tackles the "Summer" issue anew by noting that scooping ice cream for pay can be as significant as traipsing along China's Great Wall. It isn't what you do but what you learn from it and how you're able to reflect upon those lessons in an admission essay. The article also raises the notion that college admissions officers aren't necessarily looking for the most well-rounded student anymore. One former admissions dean is quoted in the story as saying that " 'well rounded' [now] means 'no edge'". What does this mean for a high school student's summer calendar?
Seems to me that the substance of the ideal college admission essay is still a moving target. It will remain so as long as students try to tailor their experiences to the perfect essay, and not the other way around. Whether an admission officer will prefer a well-rounded student to the one who has mastered a single skill is anyone's guess. The best admission essay is one that is filled with genuine reflection upon experiences that have truly helped a young person grow as a human being. Where and how those experiences are formulated is unimportant. Maybe--just maybe--it'll happen in summertime.
Labels: does well-rounded mean no edge
Sunday, August 14, 2011
American Bar Association Makes Move towards Transparency in Job Statistics
Yielding to pressure from a broad swath of the public, ranging from law students to legislators, the American Bar Association (ABA), announced this week that they will approve changes to their annual questionnaire to include more information regarding job placement and employment prospects for law school graduates. What this essentially means is that law schools will now be forced to release information about the kinds of jobs that their graduates are taking, or--not taking. Why is this seemingly technical change important? Here is the explanation, in a nutshell:
Students are often drawn to specific law schools based upon the schools' national rankings. Rankings are based, in part, upon the job prospects for graduates from a given school. Obviously, there are many different factors that affect the 'employability' of graduates. Critics argue, however, that law students should at least be able to assess the cost-benefit analysis of a law school education before investing in several expensive years of legal education. Historically, the ABA, the body that oversees the bulk of the accredited law schools in the U.S., has not pressed law schools to release such information.
The new questionnaire supplied to schools by the ABA will require the law schools to answer questions about whether or not their law school graduates are employed, and in what sector. For potential law students, getting a clearer picture of their professional options will enable them to make an educated decision. On the other hand, what school can really promise you employment on graduation day? Whatever your take, the outlook for law school graduates is at least easier to see.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
UC Davis Business School Now Taking GRE Scores
Making itself one of a handful leading graduate business schools in California, UC Davis recently announced its intent to allow incoming applicants to submit Graduate Record Examination scores in lieu of Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) scores. Like UC Berkeley and UCLA, Davis is initially offering the option only to part-time MBA students, but will expand it to full-time applicants for the 2012 academic year.
This trend was arguably started when Stanford's Graduate School of Business instituted the idea back in 2006. The idea behind the shift was to increase the diversity of the pool of business school applicants. With the world of business now encompassing a more connected global market, ethnic, racial and national diversity is also key for business schools hoping to offer students access to a diverse learning environment.
The GRE has historically been accepted by a wide variety of graduate schools while the GMAT has been reserved specifically for business school admissions. The GRE is slightly less expensive and more generous with fee-waiver applications than the GMAT. These differences mean that accepting GRE scores hypothetically draws students from a broader educational milieu (the arts and the sciences), and different socioeconomic backgrounds across the world.
Loosening the reins on the standardized test requirements may help in that regard. Both exams test similar quantitative and analytical skills so admissions officers will continue to get a solid read on their applicants' testing abilities. Students interested in some sort of graduate education need not be pigeonholed for a single degree (as are GMAT test takers). With all of the additional entrance requirements of most business schools, the demographic shift may be slender, but the door is now ever so slightly more ajar.
Sunday, July 31, 2011
College Admission Essay in Under 200 Words?
If you were one of the students to breathe a sigh of relief when the Common Application reinstated its 500-word limit on personal statements, this will come as good news to you. University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business is offering a full-ride scholarship to the applicant with the top tweet. Yes, you read that right. While at least one standard length personal statement is still required, applicants now have the option of replacing the second essay with a 140-character tweet. It is the ultimate marriage of social media to university admission.
Naturally, the challenge doesn't sit well with everyone. Critics say it undermines the prestige and genuine value of a graduate education in business. Curmudgeons worry that Twitter and social media in general is little more than a badge of the short-attention span and self-absorption of today's youth. The University of Iowa begs to differ, citing the clear relevance of social media in the current business climate. Can anyone remember the last time they clicked on a major website that didn't ask to be "followed" on Facebook or Twitter? Perhaps the university has a point.
Even the most adroit tweeter will be hard-pressed to sell themselves in shorthand, but the real challenge isn't so much brevity as it is creativity. If you had just 140-characters to describe yourself and convince a university to give you $40,000 of free education, what would you say? It's a little early to say whether promotions such as this will really change the ways of college admissions, but it sure does keep the process interesting.
Labels: college essay in under 200 words
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Affirmative Action Ban in College Admissions Overturned
A Federal District court last week overturned Michigan's 2006 ban on affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring policies. The ban, which had become part of the state constitution via a voter initiative, prevented all public institutions from allowing preferential treatment to candidates based on race, gender and ethnicity. The court determined that the ban "impermissibly burden[ed]" racial minorities.
Like most court decisions, the change in law, however dramatic, may take some time to implement-if it is done at all. Michigan's public universities would have to review and take into consideration the effects on college admissions created by the overturning of the law.
Affirmative action is a hot-button political issue, and the decision has drawn vociferous criticism from opponents, who argue that all hiring and college admissions policies should be based entirely on merit. Proponents of preferential treatment for so-called minority groups claim that it is essential in order to maintain diversity and to ensure that those with fewer privileges are allowed de facto equal access to opportunity.
Similar bans still exist in several other states, including California. Given the relative confidentiality and subjective nature of college admissions, it is difficult to determine just how such bans (or the absence of them) affect the demographics of the student body. Whatever your political position on the issue, the developing nature of affirmative action legislation and its affect on college admissions, is something worth watching.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Amidst a Struggling Job Market, Law Schools Change Curriculum
In the wake of the economic downturn, few professional degrees have seen such a dip in employment as those in the field of law. Law school admissions aren't down, but the job market for law school graduates is. Exorbitant tuition and several years of heavy academic investment are not paying dividends for law graduates. Many frustrated law students are blaming the schools for selling promises of greener professional pastures. Some schools are, perhaps, taking head of this criticism, and putting a new spin on this despair.
For most law students, the end goal is to work as an attorney. One of the great ironies of a legal education is that law schools don't actually teach students how to practice law. First year students are assailed with the Socratic Method and promises that a legal education will teach them how to "think like lawyers". Law students not wrung out by the end of the first year can mostly expect to graduate with a well-honed ability to launch a good argument. This is oversimplified, of course, but the reality is that few law students-intelligent and accomplished though they may be-are really prepared to work as lawyers.
As a perhaps long-overdue salve, some law schools are breaking with draconian tradition, and starting to teach students (gasp) practical skills. NYU is teaching classes on skills in negotiation, counseling and fact investigation. Harvard has instituted a "problem-solving" class for 1Ls and Stanford is considering making graduation conditional on a 40-hour internship in the real world of law. Schools are recognizing the fact that only 25% of last year's graduates were hired at big firms. With those kind of corporate cutbacks, there seems to be less time and money for training in novice attorneys.
Fortunately, these kinds of changes can only improve the quality of legal practitioners and the quality of service provided to the public. A silver lining, if you will, in an otherwise tough climate for law grads.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
College Admission Possible
Drowned out in the national conversation about the competitive college admissions environment is a discussion about the students who never even make it to the drawing board. Hopeful high school juniors are veritably snowed under with the stress of standardized tests, US News & World Report Rankings, books on how to game the college admissions process, and, perhaps, pressure from well-meaning but overzealous parents. Well, maybe not all high school juniors.
Each year in the United States, there are more than 200,000 low-income high school students who want to go to college, but don't. Admission Possible is a non-profit organization that was created with the aim of helping at least some of those 200,000 create a different future for themselves-including college admission. The gap between rich and poor students in the path towards a college education creates problems of social inequity, and according to some opinions, threatens the future economic health of the country.
Since its founding in 2000, Admission Possible boasts that 98% of their students have gained college admission. The organization relies on fundraising and federal grants for its operating costs. It has received attention in recent years since its model for staffing is based upon a system of national service championed by the Obama administration (employees are paid a small fixed salary and receive a federally subsidized education credit). Staff work as teachers/mentors/counselors for low-income students, helping them to make college admission a reality.
Organizations such as these help breathe new life into a process that, while grueling, has long been the private province of the wealthier. Surely, opening up the option of college admissions to a greater pool of qualified and valuable students will help make the landscape of higher education more interesting and rewarding for everyone involved.
Labels: college admission possible
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Does the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) Discriminate Against Candidates With Disabilities?
Anyone who has dared broach the law school admissions process can attest to that fact that it is not an easy road. While law schools look at grades and consider the 'whole' applicant, the reality is that the road to law school is heavily cluttered with standardized tests. Naturally, most college graduates have already had to navigate the SAT. Law school hopefuls soon discover that the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) is far and away the biggest slice of the pie in the law school admissions process, and the pressure is on. The LSAT is a bear, even for the best, brightest, and most adept standardized test-takers. Imagine then, what it must be like to have the odds stacked even further against you.
Last week, a Wesleyan graduate, with an apparently shiny academic record was denied in her bid to be granted extra time to take the LSAT. The student, who allegedly suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and a 'speed processing disorder', sued the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the body which administers the LSAT, claiming that their failure to grant her accommodations is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Her lawsuit follows closely on the heels of a similar suit by a blind man against the American Bar Association who claimed that the LSAT discriminates against the visually impaired. The LSAC is no stranger to being sued and claims that it reviews discrimination on a case-by-case basis. According to various reports, advocates for the disabled have long criticized the council for its failure to address the needs of test-takers with disabilities. For now, interested onlookers will just have to wait for the outcomes of these two cases, and see what it means for law school candidates with disabilities.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
"Common Application" Places Limits on Personal Statements
If you are an aspiring undergraduate or college transfer student, you have likely heard of the Common Application (colloquially known as the "College App"). For those who haven't, it is a non-profit membership organization providing, amongst other things, a single college admissions application that is accepted at more than 400 participating universities across the United States. By design, it helps to streamline the application process. Students write a single personal statement and submit it, along with their grades and scores to the universities of their choice.
For more than three decades, the Common App placed a 500-word limit upon submitted personal statements. Four years ago, the Common App changed their policy to allow unlimited word counts on personal statements. For the 2011-2012 academic year, they are changing it back. Why? Admissions experts claimed that personal statements were becoming long-winded and generally less well-written. Some students simply didn't know when to stop. Bleary-eyed admissions officers scarcely had the time to take in every word.
What does this mean for students? Good news, in this blogger's opinion. Not because it will be easier to do. Writing shorter personal statements means trimming, extracting and meticulously rearranging your words-no easy feat when you want so badly to impress your reader. What it will do is to force writers to make every word count. As the famous Elements of Style manual decreed, "omit needless words". Keeping a personal statements to 500 words will enable the reader to savor each one. And, after all, isn't that every student's real goal?
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Race and College Admissions
There are few word unions that raise hackles in a conversation like 'race' and 'college admission'. Affirmative action is a touchy subject, not one this blogger intends to tackle. Instead, this post aims to look at race not as a defining characteristic but rather to suggest that, for the purposes of an admission essay something that can serve as a lens through which the college can better understand the student candidate. Recent federal legislation has required colleges to collect additional information on the ethnic demographics of their applicants. As a result, colleges have begun to offer more boxes to check in racial categories, making it easier for multiracial students to fully outline their heritage.
In the competitive college admission process, students are constantly trying to reinvent themselves into the person they believe their dream college wants them to be. By probing the nuances of their own ethnic heritage, multiracial students can bring all sorts of new diversity to the table. The New York Times recently addressed the complexities created by the expanded 'racial check boxes' on college applications, but admissions officers insisted that the change shouldn't make the application process any more difficult. NY Times.
Assuming that 'race' means more to an applicant than merely a checked box, the experiences that are the result of a specific ethnic heritage are what can set a student apart. Test scores and grades may form part of the picture, but the essay is what is left to help flesh out the canvas. Admissions officers noted that, when faced with twenty students of equal academic standing, a unique racial background can ensure that a student will bring a different perspective to the student body. And isn't that what diversity is supposed to really mean?
Labels: race and college admissions
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