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, 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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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. 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. ( 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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Sunday, May 27, 2012
The Simmering Potential of Summer Break
Though high school can be an amazing time of growth and exploration for most of us, we don't appreciate it until the time has long passed. This is a normal part of life. The problem is that high school is such a monumental turning point for most young people. If college is on the agenda, those four years are crucial.

With summer fast approaching, droves of high school students will start shaking out their beach towels and settling themselves down for a much-deserved break. Mediocre idea. Summer is the season of promise. It is the proverbial blank canvas onto which high school students have the opportunity to paint a veritable rainbow of life experiences. This is important when you are seventeen and dreaming of going to college. (Trust me, college is full of fun summers). It's only when you sit down to begin writing your college admission essay that you'll realize just how short you are on "experiences". The time invested in school and academics sometimes absorbs the more colorful parts of a student's personality. Hobbies and passions get pushed to the backburner. You will miss them most when trying to come up with a clever hook for your personal statement.

Enter summer. You don't have to log fourteen hour days at half a dozen charities. You don't have to build houses in underdeveloped nations. It's ok to think smaller, so long as you're thinking creatively. Albert Einstein once quipped that he had no special talents-he was merely "passionately curious". Build on this idea.

Relax. You do not need to be the best at everything. But you should get up off that beach towel.


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Sunday, May 20, 2012
Looking to be an Admissions Stand-Out? Find a College Rep
In the strategy of college admissions, there are really only two things that matter. Being smarter and being different. Naturally, the reality isn't that simple. But much of the sweeping competition can be distilled down into these simple categories. Students must have the grades and scores to get them over the hurdle at their desired schools. They must also possess the elusive "it" factor.

There's lots of talk about colleges looking for a "diverse" student body, and students who are the "right fit" for the university. Ok, I get that. It's kind of like searching for the right relationship. Hard to put into words. So in the absence of knowing precisely what colleges are looking for, students really have to stage a performance where merit and uniqueness have starring roles.

There isn't much students can do to glam up grades and scores. The admissions essay is the primary getting-to-know-you vehicle, and even at that, the 500-word limit on most means pretty limited stage time.

Enter College Representatives. Virtually every university in the country has a representative assigned to every high school. Other reps simply hit the pavement every year meeting with students at different schools in order to share information (and market) their respective colleges. Students should not simply grab a brochure and move onto the next table. Instead, view any conversation with a college representative as an opportunity. In today's electronic media world, the value of a face-to-face meeting has never been greater. Take their business card, have a conversation. Then bookmark it. You just made an actual human contact at the school(s) of your choice.

Obviously, this isn't a ticket in, but it does help to personalize you. This college representative may even be involved in the review of your admissions application. Every little bit of familiarity helps.


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Sunday, May 13, 2012
Adding Value to your Admission Essay
Lots of fuss has been made, in this blog and elsewhere, about the high premium placed on third-level education in this country. The increasing competition at the top institutions has created a massive market for college admission prep, and a culture of anxiety surrounding the college admissions process. Most people view college admission as the ticket to success in life, but most young students don't fully appreciate its value.

Kicking in for tuition teaches young adults key life skills and makes them appreciate what they're getting for their money.

Let's take a look at this idea in the context of the admission essay. Most students look at the essay as an obstacle, rather than a ticket in. Like standardized testing and form applications, it is just another aggravating factor in the college admissions drudgery. But let's imagine for a minute that the student composing the essay knew that, wherever they got in, they'd be paying all or some of their tuition.

First of all, it might help take some of the sheen off of the elite institutions. Want to go to Yale? Got $40K for the first year? Secondly, it reminds students that attending college is as much of a privilege as getting in. The road doesn't stop at the admissions letter. Neither do life lessons of budgeting, time management, and following through on commitments end with college graduation.

So while college is a reward for a student's efforts, treating it as gift can undermine its real value. The admissions essay is just a tiny piece of a tiny era in a student's life. It is not a long-term responsibility.

Teaching young students how to apportion worth to every component of their college education is a vital lesson that will help them through the admissions process and well into their future.


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Sunday, May 6, 2012
Be Passionate, Not Just Busy
And the College Admissions Cycle Churns On.

Like any part of life, the college admissions cycle isn't a linear story. It may seem like it to every college hopeful--especially this time of year when students find out their fate. A decade of academic preparation all teetering on the weight and breadth of an envelope. And yet, by late spring, most of this year's college freshman have either happily plucked the first- choice bud from the bouquet of acceptance letters, or dusted the sting of rejection off their knees, and moved on. As they do, the cycle marches on.

A sift through the blogs shows that the focus has shifted from "how to deal with rejection", and moved on to the proverbial lists of how to get into "the right college for you".

Debunked myths are always helpful to anxious students new to navigating the tempestuous process of college admissions. I like this one. It's full of common sense, but common sense always sounds better coming from someone with apparent admissions credentials: Forbes

He remarks that, "Schools love passionate students, not just busy ones". Having read and edited thousands of essays myself, I would certainly second this. Honestly, long lists of accolades not only bore me but also convince me of a student's complete insincerity. Almost none of us has the time or capacity to be completely committed to and passionate about, well, everything. When someone tries to convince me otherwise, I just don't believe them. Why should admissions officers be any different?

This is another good time to remember the constant circulation of the college admissions cycle. For a student, it may come down to several profound months, but for the folks on the other side of the college application, this is just another year. So once, again, keep your heads down and your chins up, and try to keep it all in perspective.


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Sunday, April 29, 2012
University of California Circumvent Affirmative Action Ban
It has been over fifteen years since California passed the controversial Proposition 209, which placed a ban on the consideration of race in college admissions. Last month, the legislation was upheld once again after the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected another legal challenge to its validity.

In the year after the enactment of the ban, the number of Black, Latino and Native American students dropped by nearly half at the UC's two most prestigious campuses in Los Angeles and Berkeley. A recent Washington Post report notes that while more than half of the K-12 students in California are Latino, only 15% of the student body at Berkeley identifies as Latino. Ever since the ban-which still faces stark opposition, but led the way for similar bans on the use of race in college admissions in several other states-the University of California has tried to devise clever ways to add racial diversity to the student bodies.

The UC has increased outreach in underprivileged communities and attempted to take a more holistic look at college applications, but the highly competitive admissions standards make it all but impossible for all but the top tier students to gain admission. Since socioeconomics and race generally track so closely together, the spots go to the more academically polished students from affluent, white communities.

The Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley has recently instituted a new recruiting program that targets undergraduate freshman at historically black colleges. A small number of spots in a summer internship program are reserved for a specific swath of students, with the hope that Haas can increase the number of African-American students in its MBA program, without violating the affirmative action ban.

So far, the UC's attempts to circumvent the ban have not met with any formal opposition, though the equalization of diversity on school campuses still has a long way to go.


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Sunday, April 22, 2012
Too Dumb for Law School?
Here are just three of the internet headlines I stumbled upon this week: "Are Smartest People Avoiding Law School? Stats Show Bigger Drop in High LSAT Applicants" (ABA Journal), "Caliber of Law School Applicants Drops" (Miami Daily Business Journal) which is more scathing than its title may indicate, and the least diplomatic-"The Wrong People Have Stopped Applying to Law School" (The Atlantic). So how do these bloggers really feel?

Last month, the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) released official numbers regarding the dramatic decline in applications to American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in the U.S. in 2011. This week, the LSAC released more specific information regarding the demographics of the decline in applications.

It turns out that the largest drop in law school applicants has been amongst those with the highest LSAT scores. The obvious explanation, according to some bloggers? The smart people are no longer applying to law school.

In the real world, standardized test scores and paramount intellect aren't always wed, but in the arena of elite-law, LSATs are the defining characteristic. Super high LSATs are the entry ticket to the most elite schools, which are, in turn, the only stages from which top firms pluck their talent.

A few bloggers rationalize that the shift may be a good thing. Students with mid to low-level LSAT scores can only expect to emerge as mid to low-level legal practitioners, who clearly have lower career expectations, which will make them more than happy to practice in small towns or public sector jobs. (Someone's got to clean the toilets, right?)

The acidic response to these findings may just be white noise, but it is proof once again that when it comes to the law school bubble-burst, emotions continue to run high.


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Sunday, April 15, 2012
Prowling for the Right College
Want to know how to pick the college that's really best suited to your needs? Tired of relying on stacks of promotional materials and rankings lists to help you make that decision? Perhaps it's time to rely on the experts. Other students.

Most college bound students begin contemplating the decision of where to go sometime during their second or third year of high school. They may tour campuses, read brochures, listen to their parent's war stories. A select few may know what they want to major in, and why. Prospective student athletes may have a good sense of where they can hope to get some actual game time. But for most students, the reasons why they might choose one school over another are pretty tenuous. After all, what are teenagers really looking for in a college, and why? College Prowler is a site designed "By students. For students." It boasts data compiled from the input of over 200,000 actual college students. The site allows prospective students to compare colleges, search scholarships and read reviews about what campus life is really like. What's best is the criteria.

The site uses letter grades to rank almost every aspect of a university from "campus dining" to "nightlife" to "drug safety". Most important? The site catalogues one consideration that is on every student's mind but in none of the college brochures--the "quality" of the co-eds (including the guy to girl ratios).

The site editors do a sparkling job of filtering the student reviews, which range from critical to complimentary, but rarely veer into the arena of the bitter and (ultimately unhelpful) tirade.

Sound silly? Maybe. On the other hand, it may be one of the few guidance websites that is truly asking the right questions, and providing the pertinent answers.


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Sunday, April 8, 2012
How to Beat Falling College Admissions Numbers
Everyone loves a statistic. No matter how little bearing it has on reality. It is hard to get numbers out of our head-especially if we're already filled with anxiety on the topic. This year, some of the Ivies posted the lowest college admissions rates, ever. Harvard accepted fewer than 6% of its applicants; Yale, 6.8%. Who cares? Why is this important?

Probably because it is human nature to want things that are just out of our reach. Colleges-like any other marketing institution-know this. Never mind that the Common Application has increased the sheer volume of applications to all universities. If more people apply for the same number of spaces, admissions numbers (as a percentage) will be down. Never mind that there are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in this country; the Ivies comprise a sum total of eight of those. Never mind that increasing competition from foreign students has changed the landscape of college admissions.

Spring is the time of year when high school seniors wrestle with rejection. Like any other Big Life Decision, college admission is an event that can help teach a student how to reevaluate want they want from their future. It is easy to get stuck on a single track ("I will die if I don't get into Georgetown"), and be stymied if that train doesn't leave the station.

Enter the growing market for Gap Year adventures. Let's face it, most high school seniors haven't had much of an opportunity for adventures. I have seen more than one student try to spin a two-week European holiday into an intense cross-cultural experience and it doesn't really work. But how about taking an entire year off to go live and experience something truly different?

For students at an impasse following college rejection, taking a year off may sound crazy, but why not? If admissions odds are down, it may just be time to change your game plan. Even preparing for something other than the fast track to college can help students place the race to college in better perspective.

After all, nothing in life can really be reduced to a statistic.


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Sunday, April 1, 2012
Outlook Getting Bleaker for Law Students
More specifically, the outlook is bleaker for law school graduates. The first of a series of class-action suits filed by law school graduates against their former alma maters was dismissed this week by the New York State Supreme Court. While the justice authoring the opinion was not unsympathetic to the plight of law school graduates in a bleak job market, he concluded that law students should be smart enough to know better. Even if schools misrepresented their post-graduate employment data, the average law student should have both the initiative and the intellect to understand that no degree can promise employment.

Lawsuits such as these are drawing attention to a dismal job market for lawyers. The economic downturn has taken a toll on almost everyone, but law students faced with six-figure student loan debt are positively panicked. While prospects for law school graduates may not yet be improving, word of the troubled market has certainly leaked.

This week, the Law School Admission Council reported that the number of LSAT takers has decreased by 25% over the past two years, and by 16% for the 2011-2012 year alone. It appears that hopeful law school students are finally recognizing that a law degree no longer carries the value and prestige of years gone past.

For the eternal optimists out there, this downturn in law school applications could mean one thing for those still choosing to apply to law school. Better odds of admission. Unlike the world of undergraduate admissions, where each year the applicant pools increase by tens of thousands, this decrease in competition could work well for some.

Perhaps the face of the legal profession is experiencing permanent changes. Perhaps hopeful law students simply need to wait awhile for the recession to recede. Whatever the future holds, these are changes of which all law student hopefuls should take heed.


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Sunday, March 25, 2012
Law School Rankings 2013
This week, US News & World Report released its 2012 Law School Rankings and the fanfare is rather ambivalent. The top five schools jockeyed for new positions (Stanford scooped up Harvard's #2 spot), but very little changed. Perhaps the most notable slip came for the University of Illinois (down 12 spots from last year's position to #35). This ignominious drop came upon the heels of the revelation that U of I falsified admissions data in an (ultimately ironic) effort to improve its rankings.

While few would argue that U of I's data-tampering is acceptable, its dramatic fall represents one of the biggest quandaries of the entire law school ranking system. Schools are ranked, in part, based upon the quality of their candidates. Candidates, in turn, chose schools based on the quality of their ranking.

Every year, US News & World Report releases information on their rankings methodology, some of which is highly subjective. For example, the report surveys law school faculty, admissions deans, judges and attorneys about the quality of the various campuses. It's hard to believe that even the most qualified respondent would have enough knowledge of the more than 195 schools to give reliable feedback. Peer review is always valuable, but rarely impartial.

Rankings are also based upon more objective data, such as LSATs and GPA, post-graduate hiring statistics, bar passage rates and faculty resources.

However, with tuition price tags starting at $40,000 annually, rankings are arguably as important to the law schools as they are to the students. And while this year's list may be no more than an ego bruise for Harvard, U of I's great topple should be a warning sign to all about the dubious power of rankings.


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Sunday, March 11, 2012
Deconstructing the Business School Admission Essay
About a month ago, I wrote about the recipe for the perfect business school essay. Of course, there is no such thing, but there does appear to be an emerging and recognizable desire from business schools for the candidate who can offer "confidence with humility". Many of the top schools around are rummaging for this ideal, which, at the very least, gives business school candidates some parameters as they sit down and being their narrative for the personal statement.

The ideal MBA candidate, it would seem, is one lathered with skills who doesn't like to gloat about them. Arguably, this is a struggle for business school candidates. What entrepreneur ever made it big without a little arrogance? Playing the financial markets?-not for the faint of heart. Yet business schools don't want to hear about what you can or might do, but simply, what you have done. With some modesty, please.

A recent interview with the managing director of admissions at Harvard Business School is illuminating in this regard. She notes that the admission essay isn't as important as business candidates might think, but in the same breath, remarks that the admission essay is, in fact, "very, very helpful for the candidate". How can students make the admission essay count? She uses the phrase "dejargonize", and encourages "verbs" (, don't tell). Candidates with business backgrounds often find it tough to strip their stories of titles and jargon ("analytic metrics", "data-driven", "pricing management and revenue director"); be careful or you might unwittingly lull your reader's mind into thoughts far away from the task at hand. And then there's the bragging.

I suppose the idea is that, if you are fantastic, that fact will be obvious to your reader from your scores and work experience. So while that admission essay is a great branding opportunity, be sure to self-market delicately.


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Sunday, March 4, 2012
A Personal Statement from your Biggest Fan
Perhaps the greatest balancing act inherent in the college admissions game is that of weighing objective criteria (ie...grades), against subjective (ie...the personal statement). It's hard to put a spin on a low test score, but easier to sell a winning personality with the written word.

What so many students struggle with most is the process of finding their voice in a personal statement, and writing with genuine insight. This is often the point at which they enlist the adults in their lives-from family to admissions coaches-to help place themselves in an appropriate context. But what if those adults could play an even larger role?

For more than 20 years, Smith College, a small, women's college in Massachusetts, has invited parents of applicants to submit supplementary essays in support of their children's bids for a spot at the university. Smith counselors note that no one knows a child better than their parents, and that input from them helps to "provide texture" to a student's application.

Smith is a small school that has the resources to sift through these additional missives. Some might argue that having parents this involved in the application process is too far-reaching. But the premise is unique, and even provocative.

So for those of you applying to places that don't ask for letters of recommendations from mom and dad, consider this: how about trying to write your personal statement from their perspective? Arguably, no one knows you better. No one is better equipped to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. No one else, perhaps, knows how badly you want in to the school of your dreams. A long shot? Maybe. But what part of this whole process isn't?


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Sunday, February 26, 2012
Think You Can't Qualify for a Scholarship? Think Again.
As if getting into the college of your choice wasn't hard enough, the process of applying seems to get more complicated at every turn. For high school juniors, just juggling the demands of standardized testing with regular homework can seem difficult enough. And while the majority of college students apply for and receive financial aid in the form of grants and loans, many still shy away from scholarships. Why?

Scholarships are surrounded by myths. Many students (and I was one of these) are certain they can't "qualify". While many of the highly coveted scholarships are reserved for the academic elite, others are not. If you've heard of some ridiculous scholarship categories bandied about, you probably heard right. Among the many ridiculous ones, there is a $5,000 prize for designing a prom dress constructed solely with duct tape.

Other students-perhaps the majority-just don't have the time or the inclination to research all that's out there. Most scholarships require a letter of intent or personal statement in order to apply-a real deterrent for students whose time is largely consumed by the personal statements already required by the ordinary college application process.

The thing is, there are tons of scholarships out there that don't require students to be shorter than 4'10" or Rhodes' Scholarship material. The personal statements don't need to be terribly different from the admissions essays submitted in the college application process. The scholarship awarding bodies want to know many of the same things as the colleges to which you are applying-who are you, what do you have to offer, and what do you hope to gain? Scholarship applications really offer all of the reward without any of the risk. If you don't try, you'll never know.


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