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.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Reading Your Acceptance Letter-Before it Arrives
Having trouble gauging your chances of getting into your dream school? Already sent out your college admissions applications and looking for something to do while you're waiting? How about taking a sneak-peak into your college future? Parchment.com may be just what you need. It is a website fully dedicated to making the college admissions process more transparent. Specifically, the site allows prospective students to input personalized information-- such as personal interests and SAT scores-- and crunches that data in order to give each student an idea of their chances of admission to a given school.

Powered by data from over half a million actual college applications, the website offers a real-time window into admissions trends, but allows students to dig deeper on college admissions statistics. For instance, most students can figure out that if Harvard has less than an 8% acceptance rate, the odds of admission are stacked against them. What they might want to know more specifically is which schools are accepting students with an arts background, from Oklahoma with a 3.6 GPA and an SAT Critical Reading score of 600.

In addition to providing highly tailored results, the site serves as a community forum where students can share and receive peer feedback on their college admissions essays and ask and answer questions like "What are my chances for getting into Notre Dame?" If the college admissions process is indeed a numbers game (and an emotionally taxing one at that!), it may be nice for anxious students to have a place where they can go to see just where they fit in to the bigger picture. Even if the answer isn't the one they are hoping for, it is nice to know they are not alone in their musings.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012
Changing Face of Admissions Applications
Electronic media means that the times are rapidly a-changing, and these days the college applications process is no exception. For some time now, companies like the Common Application have streamlined admissions by not only offering students a central hub for multiple applications, but making that hub available on-line. Today's college students think nothing of submitting entirely paperless applications-something almost unheard of just a decade ago. A new company, Matchbox, is attempting to nudge the admissions process into an even faster lane, providing, in its own words, "jet fuel for university admissions". Matchbox has created an iPad application that allows universities to essentially process admissions applications without a sheet of paper. A candidate's entire application is stored electronically-which creates an obvious ease of accessibility, and Matchbox's software further allows for the information to be categorized, organized and interpreted in a more streamlined manner. Matchbox claims that the admissions officers spend a majority of their time simply sifting and organizing a massive volume of information. If the app works as intended, admissions officers can instead devote their time to real analysis and review of the candidate's qualities.

From a practical standpoint, having all of the admissions data at their fingertips means that admissions officers can review applications anywhere, freeing them from the burden of being tied to physical stacks of information in a single office space. It is too early to say whether or not the new method of processing admissions data will improve the way a student's information is considered. From a perspective of convenience, it certainly makes sense.

It's still a little early to assess the efficacy of Matchbox's app, but they're pushing out of the gate with a couple of good endorsements. Just last week, MIT's Sloan School of Management and UCLA's Andersen School of Management announced that they would be utilizing the app for the bulk of their MBA program applications.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011
Word Counts in Admissions Essays: Quality over Quantity
Much ado has been made about word-limits in admissions essays over this last admissions cycle. Earlier this year, the Common Application re-instated a 500-word limit on their admission essay. A handful of universities have inspired water-cooler chats by hacking their word-limits down as small as 140 characters. The changes have raised questions about whether or not shorter word-counts have the effect of strangling the personality out of a composition designed to be the student's only real outlet for self-expression.

Here's the thing. Admissions officers have a really good idea of just how long it takes to offer a meaningful self-portrait in words. Few universities will discard an essay simply because it goes a few words over or under the prescribed limit. Yet students persist in over-analyzing just how much wiggle room they have (10% over? 5% under?). I recently came across an article in which an admissions expert noted the following: if you are wasting all of your energy trying to decide whether your essay should be 520 words or 545 words, you are missing the point. I have to agree. As an editor, I have had countless students ask me to help them trim as few as twenty words from an essay. I am a strong proponent of proofreading, and I think placing extra pairs of eyes on admissions essays is essential. What isn't helpful is funneling energy into the addition or subtraction of a handful of words. At some point, you're more worried about extricating "the's" and "because's", and you've stopped paying attention to the overall quality of your essay. It's a little like taking a pair of scissors to the hem of a dress which really needs to be taken in at the waist. So, hard as it may be, students must learn to keep the word-count in mind, without making it the central focus of their essay. Believe me, that's exactly what the reader will be doing.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011
So You Want to be a Lawyer
These days, the web is filled with advice about writing admissions essays; much of it sounds the same-just delivered in different packages. The other day, I came across yet another list-of-pitfalls-to-avoid-in-essay writing; this particular blogger reserved his ire for narratives about study abroad experiences (not helpful, by the way), and I must say, it made me giggle. Having reviewed thousands of law school admissions essays over the past decade, I realized I had some pet peeves of my own to share, all in the spirit of constructive criticism, naturally.

Please, please, please spare everyone the platitudes about wanting to change the world. A tiny sliver of law students will get to work for a human rights organization or draft revolutionary legislative policy. Many more will have the chance to work at the local legal aid clinic, but the latter isn't going to put much of a dent into that six-figure student loan debt. If you are going to follow this angle, please avoid ambling into hypothetical fantasy territory and bind your dreams together with some pragmatism.

If you have a particular specialty in mind, mention it. If not, don't waste too much time on speculation. Many firms are happy to take on bright-eyed associates and let them grow into a specialty, but most admissions officers would welcome a student with sharply honed direction. If you intend to use your J.D. for something other than practice, talk about that.

Answer the obvious question: "why do you want to go to law school?" You'd be surprised how many people skip that part. Watching lots of Law & Order, serving on a jury or successfully fighting a parking ticket is just not enough. Sure, we all like the idea of crusading for justice, but if you're invested enough to consider three grueling years of law school, you need the school to know that you're aware of what you're in for.

No one wants to admit that they are pursuing a law degree to make lots of money and/or because they are bad at math and science, but don't assume that your reader won't read between the lines figure this out anyways. Your job is to make them think more of you and of your legal aspirations. In a profession built upon the art of persuasion, consider the law school admission essay your very first test.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011
Starting Your Admission Essay In the Middle of Things
For admissions experts, coming up with ideas on how to help students improve their personal statements is relatively easy. Articulating those tips in an effective, succinct manner is much harder. In this way, the process of dispensing admission essay advice to students is in some way as difficult for the experts as writing the admission essay itself is for the student. This is one of many reasons why I regularly comb the internet for new and inventive admission essay writing tips. There is a lot of superfluous garbage on the digital heap, but careful mining always turns up a few treasures.

A few weeks ago, I harvested a quote about essay writing, where an expert advised students to write not about the "whole classroom" but about the leg of a single desk. Yesterday, I happened upon one of the best admission essay advice columns I'd seen in awhile, and amongst all of his advice, one particular tidbit stood out. With the 500-word-count limit becoming the standard in the world of admission essay, there's really no space for impotent words. (Like "really", for instance). You don't have time to start your story at the beginning. You don't have time to build up to your "point". Instead, it is your job to snatch your reader by the arm and haul them into your story in the middle of the scene.

Looking at the admission essay through the prism of these two crystals of advice allows you, the writer, to understand how to do two things-narrow your focus and understand where, in terms of a moment in time, that you are starting your essay. To see how well good advice can be bundled in a small package, check out this superb blog entry by Alan Gelb: NY times

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Race, Again, in College Admissions
In this blog and elsewhere, the subject of race in college admissions is simply unavoidable. Few topics galvanize simmering emotions like this one. Ambivalence seems to have no place in this discussion of whether or not race should be a factor in college admissions. Why are we so sensitive? Perhaps it is simply because college admissions have become so fiercely competitive. It is a sad vulnerability of human nature to covet the unattainable. It is perhaps more pitiful to consider the lengths people will go to fight for the objects of their desire (picture the 4am shopper's tents in front of Wal-Mart on Black Friday). Quips aside, of course, the squabbling over race in college admissions is simply symbolic of American culture's deep unease with its own racism.

Though most universities don't or can't officially consider race in making admissions decisions, many college applications have a "check-box for" race. Most universities want "diverse" student bodies-a vague, amorphous aim that leaves many nervous students wondering what that means, and how to attain it. A recent Huffington post article explores the reasons why some Asian students are now declining to mark the "Asian" box, out of fear that doing so will cause them to be held to higher standards. Huffington Post

Even if college admission was based on pure meritocracy, those who didn't make the cut would continue their hand-wringing over why they weren't chosen for the team. If the best colleges are really about diverse student bodies, what about using socioeconomics as a consideration in college admissions-even if that meant universities took a financial hit? Race, diversity, and the highly elusive game of college admissions are three tightly interwoven topics, unlikely to unravel any time soon. But it is an uncomfortable and complex conversation that we should all be having.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011
Should Sexual Orientation and College Admissions Mix?
In a move that is generating lively discussion in the blogosphere and beyond, Harvard University announced this week that it was considering amending its application to include a space that would allow prospective students to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual or Transgendered. Given the current socio-political climate of discussion on LGBT rights, such a move was bound to open the floodgates for vociferous responses.

The loudest opponents argue that, since sexual orientation has no bearing on college admission, a check-box is unnecessary. Others fear that, since the application review process is conducted by fallible human beings, knowledge of an applicant's sexual orientation may ultimately work for or against the applicant-an offense against impartiality that has no place in the college application process.

More than anything, the conversation is charged with the kind simmering ire that colors most discussions about affirmative action. That is, should college applicants be assessed according to anything other than wholly objective considerations? Is that even possible? Harvard's Dean of Admissions claims that the proposed addition has nothing to do with admissions criteria and everything to do with sending a message to LGBT students that they are both welcome and recognized.

If nothing else, Harvard's decision-implementation of which is still hedging around the highly sensitive discussion of phrasing-may encourage other universities to take similar measures. Such a chain reaction is sure to energize an already polarized conversation. Ironically (maybe?), such discourse is what higher education is really all about.

The Crimson

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Sunday, November 20, 2011
Chinese are Fastest Growing Foreign Students at U.S. Universities
The Institute of International Education's Open Doors Report released this week reports that the number of Chinese students enrolling in American universities jumped by 43% percent this year. Of the roughly 723,000 foreign students enrolled in U.S. colleges, 22% are Chinese. This sharp increase over a relatively short period of time has opened the floodgate of discussions about whether U.S. campuses are logistically, socially and culturally equipped to deal with such an influx of students from a single region. Such conversations are difficult to engage in since it is impossible to disentangle delicate racial and societal connotations from the dialogue.

The growth in number of Chinese students is attributed largely to China's burgeoning middle-class, as well as to its one-child policy, which means that parents tend to funnel all their energy and financial support into a single child. In China, the U.S. has a reputation for offering stellar third-level education, and the competitive global economy means that Chinese students stand to benefit from improving their mastery of English language and American culture. American universities also win in this scenario; in addition to adding greater cultural dimension to their student bodies, they also enjoy the benefit of China's rigorous secondary-education system, which churns out top-notch students. Another benefit for U.S. colleges?-fewer than 30% of Chinese students seek out any financial aid.

Other teething problems with this cultural exchange are making headlines. Most notably, problems with cheating and plagiarism for Chinese students who may have the grades to get into U.S. colleges, but not the mastery of English. There are also problems with assimilation for the Chinese students, and tolerance from their American counterparts. American recruiting within China's borders has raised ethical concerns. Professors struggle to tailor curriculum and class atmosphere to two very different cultures. Most experts see the obstacles as surmountable over time. For a wonderfully detailed discussion: The Chronicle

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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Deciphering "Early Decision" College Admissions
With all of the stress surrounding college admissions, it is hard to believe that some students would actually choose to accelerate the selection and application process, but this is precisely the aim of applying for early admission. The option-which isn't available at all universities-may be a perfect fit for some students, but should be taken only after careful consideration. The greatest advantage to applying early is the acceptance rates, which are almost universally higher for students applying early. For students who are absolutely certain about their top-choice school, early admissions makes sense. However, there are a few catches. There is a difference between Early Decision (ED) applications and Early Action (EA) applications. Early Decision is an incredibly restrictive option, since it requires a student applicant to promise that they will attend the school they've applied to once accepted. They are even required to withdraw any applications to other universities. There is no backing out. Early Action does not force students to commit to a single school. This is important for several reasons. First, students have the opportunity to shop for other campuses that might be a better fit. EA allows students to have a fall-back position if they don't make it into their top choice. One of the most significant barriers of ED is the fact that it precludes any negotiation of financial aid packages, and again, EA allows students to freely search for the best deal around.

Early admission has historically been a boon for colleges since the bulk of students applying can afford tuition and tend to have higher grades and scores. Strangely, the struggling economy hasn't put much of a strain on early admission numbers. Just this year, Princeton reinstated its early admission option, after having abandoned it just four years ago. Despite the extra pressure placed on admissions officers, the early application process is alive and well.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011
Business Schools Streamline Admissions
Anyone applying to business school is likely already well-versed in the variants of programs available at most graduate business schools, but for those new to or just dipping their toes in the waters of the process, here's a breakdown: The traditional MBA program at most U.S. business schools is a full-time, two-year course, regarded as the best all-around pedigree for graduate students looking for versatile job opportunities. The Executive MBA (EMBA) is designed for students in mid-career, looking to retool their professional skills while still working full time. Part-time MBA programs are a viable option for students who cannot afford to engage in a full time program.

Post-graduate education in the U.S. is still about prestige, and full-time business MBA programs remain the most exalted and offer the broadest professional options. EMBA programs are often subsidized by the student's current employer, meaning that the skills earned will often be tailored to aid the student's advance only within their current position or industry. Part-time MBA programs, for better or worse, still lack some of the prestige of their cousins.

One advantage to business school candidates is the recent decision by several business schools to streamline the admissions process, so that students applying to any one of the three types of MBA programs can submit a single application. For instance, if a student's GMAT scores aren't high enough for Columbia's full-time MBA program, but that same student has career clout that would add to the environment of Columbia's EMBA program, the student may be accepted into the latter without needing to apply for both. The centralized processing takes some of the mystery out of the odds/options game for business students and gives the schools a more varied pool from which to draw applicants. For the full story, see: Financial Times

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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.

Kaplan

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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