|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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Labels: Be Passionate, Not Just Busy
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.
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.
Labels: Too Dumb for Law School?
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.
Labels: Prowling for the Right College
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.
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.
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.
Labels: Law School Rankings 2013
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" (ie...show, 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.
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?
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.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Cracks in the College Ratings System
The last year has witnessed a massive shake-down in the law school ranking system, with allegations that some schools falsified post-graduate job prospects and test scores. At the University of Illinois, the law admissions dean falsified grade and test score data in an effort to bolster the school's appearance in the U.S News & World Report rankings, which rank schools, in part, based on median LSAT scores. Last month, a similar scandal emerged at the prestigious Claremont McKenna College, where a prominent official was proven to have falsified SAT scores since 2005.
The uncovering of such unabashed fraud at well-known institutions begs the question of whether or not we are merely scratching the surface of systemic dishonesty. At the heart of the problem seems to be a single issue-the purportedly objective rankings system.
The fabled U.S. News & World Report, which ranks institutions' prestige based on test scores, GPA, and admissions percentage is generally the standard-setter. The gist of the rankings formula is somewhat narrowly formulated around the idea that the most coveted universities are the best. (Harvard accepts just 7% of its undergraduate applications, and is currently ranked #1). The ranking system isn't totally flawed, but may serve a limited function for the other 93% of students trying to make the right decision. Moreover, it is a powerful machine that is driving some admissions deans into deeply unethical waters.
Education reformers have long been proponents of encouraging students to find the right fit with a given college, rather than universally aspiring to the unattainable. Adjusting our perspective about what makes a quality school may just be the first step in recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to making the important decision of where to go and why.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Advice for Foreign Students Tackling the Admission Essay
In this blog and elsewhere on the internet, candid informational tips about essay writing are ubiquitous. Keep it simple. Grab your reader in the opening paragraph. Organize, structure, proofread. Even with this guidance at their fingertips, the admission essay is a monumental challenge for students who are native speakers. What then, must it be like for the mushrooming group of international students who are tackling the same challenge without the advantage of fluency in English?
It's safe to say that if an international student is even entertaining the idea of applying to a U.S. college, they must have a decent command of the English language. But even for foreign students who may have years of academic English to their credit, formal writing is still a struggle. This means that for the international students who are still really grappling with English, the essay may be less of an obstacle and more of a complete roadblock. Plagiarism detection websites, and recent media coverage of alleged widespread cheating amongst the growing numbers of Chinese applicants at U.S. schools threatens to make admissions officers even more vigilant.
The solution for students struggling with English? Know your limits. There is a high concentration of international students in fields like engineering and science, so it may not be essential to have flawless prose in your admission essay. It is, however, important to make sure that your finished product reads like something you could actually write. Certain colloquialisms and tone are distinctive to native speakers, so be careful that your editor's voice doesn't sound stronger than your own.
You should be writing something engaging, but understand that the essay is only one component of your total application. Electing to study outside of one's native country takes courage and ambition. Your reader will know this and appreciate the simplicity of an imperfect essay that sounds sincere. After all, whatever your native language, this is what the personal statement aims to uncover.
Sunday, February 5, 2012
When Saving the World Is Not Enough
In piecing together all aspects of the college admissions portfolio, the job of every student is to buff it to its glossiest sheen. Some sections are hard to polish. Test scores and grades don't lend themselves well to refurbishing, though the personal statement may be the only place to explain away foibles and fallibilities. The essay is also a self-marketing tool and one of the greatest challenges for students is selling themselves with sincerity. The Achilles heel for many students-community service.
Perhaps no aspect of the essay can be more transparently hollow than a loosely cobbled together string of volunteer accomplishments. Community service is important to colleges. Want to help eradicate poverty? Go green? Save the animals? There are many sites that tell you where to go. But they also offer this advice: it isn't hard for colleges to sense it when students are padding a resume.
A recent poll conducted reveals that seventy percent of admissions officers prefer to see students involved consistently in a single issue, rather than a large variety of different causes. A whopping 95.8% of admissions officers placed a high value on students who used a gap year to engage in a service project.
Experiences, insights, hardships, aspirations and community service all have a home in the admission essay. The art of drafting a good one depends on a student's ability to thread these concepts together in a sincere, meaningful way. Just remember, if your public services are just another series of bullet points on your resume, your reader will probably know.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
We Are the 6% - Elitism and College Admissions
As January slowly fades into February, the pulses of high school juniors all over the country begin to quicken. This is it. The year that really matters. Many students will have already taken the PSAT. Maybe more than once. The SAT, ACT and maybe some AP tests loom, and all of this falls on top of regular homework and basketball practice and worrying about that great albatross-the college admission essay. Then, of course, there is the anxiety about whether any of this will actually be enough to get into the college of your dreams.
The elite colleges are never helpful in fostering confidence amongst prospective undergrads. Last year UPenn admitted 12% of its applicants, Stanford 7%, Columbia 6.9%, and Harvard just 6%--prompting a student group to start peddling t-shirts boasting "We Are the 6%". To be sure, the students comprising that tiny syndicate of academic elitism should be congratulated. The other 90-95%, however, should not feel as though their futures are swirling down the drain. In fact, many of these same top colleges have posted downturns in the number of overall applicants over the past few years. Perhaps students are taking more conservative assessments of their odds, but if they're listening to admissions experts, they know that chasing rank is not the only key to a successful future.
In current politically-charged parlance, most students aren't "the 6%", and being part of the majority doesn't mean they aren't special. Instead, it means they aren't alone. Not by a long shot. And with that in mind, the daunting college application process should be viewed with a little perspective. Scores, admissions statistics, Ivy League pedigree-these things are only stepping-stones towards the future, not permanent, defining characteristics. So go ahead and reach high, but understand that this college admissions game isn't just about winning-it's about just stepping out on the field.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Problems with Diversity in Law School and Legal Practice
For all of the discourse about affirmative action initiatives at the university and post-graduate level, what's often left out of the discussion are the de facto realities for minority professionals in the white collar world. Whatever your position upon the idea of preferential treatment in college admissions (and even the semantics are politically charged), people of color are still grossly underrepresented in high-salaried, high-powered professions. Are we living in a post-racial society? Probably not.
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP), an association dedicated to career counseling and planning for legal professionals, also tracks the presence of women and minorities within law firms across the country. In November of 2011, the NALP released a significant report noting that women still comprised fewer than 20% of national partnership positions (women account for just over 30% of associate positions). Minorities account for just 6% of partnership positions, with minority women comprising just over 2% of partnership spots. A January 2012 bulletin from the NALP reiterates the fact that, while the numbers of minority and women have been steadily growing over the past few decades, the growth is slow and statistics must be carefully parsed. For instance, many firms have no minority partners at all. Further investigation demonstrates that the growth in minority associates and partners is largely attributable to Asians, who account for nearly half of all associates in the firms polled.
Certainly, this is just one report, but both the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), recognize the need for encouraging minority enrollment in law schools. Discoverlaw.org is the LSAC's answer to an outreach program introduced at the undergraduate level in order to encourage enrollment. Clearly, there's no quick fix for racial inequity in the legal profession, but keeping an eye on the current reality and trying to shift the current tide is an important first step in the right direction.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
College Admissions Interview-the Icing or the Cake?
I've always wondered about the much hallowed college admission interview. If test scores and GPA are meant to be the objective markers for admission, then the interview-like the admission essay-is that portion of the process that should allow the student to showcase what makes them unique. What could be more subjective than an in-person interview? Yet schools have historically placed an incongruent sense of importance on the interview, if interviews are offered at all. This puzzles me.
Almost across the board, the admission interview is characterized as "supplemental". It is optional and in fact only offered in certain geographical areas. The colleges assure non-interviewing students not to fear-apparently "not having an interview will not be held against you" (this from Penn). Stanford promises that there are no adverse effects for students who don't interview and that their applications will still be considered in their entirety. Why then, does the interview process exist at all?
At most universities, 50-90% of the admissions interviews are conducted by specially trained alumni, and even current students. With many elite graduate programs only employing 6-10 full time admissions officers, this volunteer alumni corps certainly lightens the workload and the payroll, but begs many questions about objectivity. Perhaps objectivity isn't that important given that the interviews don't technically "matter" in the admissions process, but the fact that interviews are an option at all would seem to support the idea that they are not valueless in the admissions process.
At the business school level, Wharton has recently pink-slipped its alumni interviewers, citing a need for "consistency" in the interview process. Such moves further complicate assessment of the value of the interview, but seem to suggest that these in-person dialogues are much more than simple icing on the cake. For the full article: Wall Street Journal
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