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Example Post from 2015-2016 Essay Analysis–Yale Application Essay Topics for 2015-2016: A.K.A. Tell Us Something About Yourself That is Not on Your Application

In Applying to Yale, Yale Application Essays, Yale Supplemental Essay on July 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Keep in Mind that this post was written for the class of 2020 application–if you are graduating high school in 2017, you will be applying for the class of 2021.  While some or even most of the information below may be true when you apply, I won’t know for sure until July or August, 2016, at which time my Yale post will update.

The Yale essay is ready for you.  Are you ready for the Yale essay?

For most of you the answer will be, I am not ready.  The reason is simple:  most of you will need to have a pretty good grip on the rest of your application–and will need to have written a more-or-less decent draft of your Common Application main essay–before you will know what to write for this Yale essay.  For this year’s Common Application Essay Prompts, see   Application Prompts for 2015-2016.

For the Yale topic and more on writing for the Yale prompt this year, including a roughed-out example essay, continue below:

Yale Essay Topic
Please note that the Yale freshman application will be available on the Common Application website sometime in August. (Note from WordGuild:  The Common App goes offline July 23rd and erases all accounts on the site at that time; when it goes live again on or just before August 1st, you can open an account and upload essays.  My advice:  start essays early and upload late, to give yourself plenty of time.)

The Yale-specific questions will include one additional required essay for all applicants, and one optional essay for prospective computer science and engineering majors. The essay prompts for the 2015-2016 Yale Essay Questions are as follows:

Yale’s essay question is required for all freshman applicants:

Please reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application, or on something about which you would like to say more. You may write about anything—from personal experiences or goals to interests or intellectual pursuits. (Please answer in 500 words or fewer).

Yale Essay Prompt Analysis and Advice:

As you can see, it’s tough to say what they might not learn from the rest of your application before you have at least roughed out the rest of your application–remember that you are creating a kind of holograph of yourself composed of basic data (G.P.A., SAT/ACT scores), a list of activities and some short descriptions, accompanied by odds and ends like letters of recommendation–and your essays, which can make or break your application.  I talk about this at more length in this post–how college applications are evaluated.

To add a metaphor, you should look at each part of your application as being a chapter or entry in a book about you.  So write your Common App essay, complete your activities list/descriptions, then write this essay with an eye on filling in the blanks and/or pulling things together.  You want to humanize yourself and, if possible, reveal a passion or strong interest that may help your application.  And when you do write this essay, do NOT simply repeat your activities–but also do not assume that you cannot slide them in somewhere.  Think of this essay as  either  . . .

A Network or a Walkabout

There are two basic ways to approach this question–one is The Walkabout, in which you present a stand-alone activity that you think is interesting enough or humanizing enough to merit a solo, one-off focus.  More about that in a few moments.

The other way is to write a Network Essay–use an interesting or important activity to connect disparate parts of your resume, or to remind the reader of some aspects of you that you think are important (or persuasive as admissions factors). Let’s say you are into math and physics in school, with some connected activities including a robotics team, while outside of school, you like to go fishing and camping  (which you likely cannot do too often as you are an oversubscribed high school student trying to get into college, but let’s say for the purposes of an example essay that you go fishing one or two times a year and are into math and physics and the robotics team).

These do not seem to be connected, but this is a matter of focus–that is the key to and the purpose of a Network Essay.  For example:  Fishing involves physics in a number of ways, starting with putting a lure or a fly where you want it, and getting its parameters right (depth of bait, etc).  This is applied physics and the use of empirical knowledge (How to cast to get the lure to point x, how deep the fish are . . .).  So you might start the essay with a focus on fishing and camping, then use it as a network to connect this unknown part of you to the other parts of you that are clear in the application.  The person described above might do the following, for example, to get this Yale essay started:

Network Essay Example–The Fishing Physics Fan

Whenever I can, I like to pack up the car and disappear for a few days.  I like to cut the electronic tether, escape the ping of texts and pong of e-mail, and go to any one of several locations I cannot disclose. 

I cannot disclose these locations specifically because they are the best places to catch fish in the (pick a region).  And fisherman may tell a lot of tall tales about the one that got away, but no real fisherman ever gives away his Secret Spot to Catch Fish.  And I am a true fisherman.

This might seem an odd thing for a person who spends most of his other free time sitting at a computer coding so that an x can do y (examples not included in this example essay intro) or fiddling with a robot’s arm so it manages to do a instead of b (examples not included in this example essay intro)  but in a way it all fits together–fishing is all about physics and trial and error.  Trying to get a lure to that spot by the sunken log across the mouth of the stream is a matter of telemetry, a problem with many factors–the wind, the current, how deep the water there is . . . (You would expand somewhat here, using concrete detail.)

When I am out in nature fishing, I am really living in the moment in a way that I do not in my daily life at home, but nature  is also really a collection of things we call physics.  Take the lightning storm that was approaching Twin Lakes (sorry, can’t tell you which Twin Lakes) the last time I was there . . . . (Again, you would expand here, but notice how I am tying fishing to  your other interests, to physics . . .)

And then you might end the essay by literally and figuratively coming home (refreshed and refocused) to your more formal experiments in applied physics).

Notice how I am introducing other activities or interests beyond fishing, but they are put into this essay as context for the fishing focus, while simultaneously reminding the reader of specifics in terms of interests and knowledge from your activities sheet and from your academic life.  So the essay emphasizes one thing but shows others by connecting them.  This is what I mean by the network essay–it focuses on something new, on an activity that is either not in or only mentioned in the rest of your application but in the essay on this activity, you touch on other things that it does not hurt to remind the reader about.  All your many features are somehow included.

Here’s why this network approach can be useful:  It does not hurt to remind the reader about some other aspects of your resume or activities because, on average, the app reader will spend about 3 minutes reading each of your app essays–sometimes less–and this rapid reading will come after the app reader has scanned your activities, and is meanwhile thinking about your GPA, etc, and figuring out how to boil it all down to a single number, appended by some comments.

And the app reader is doing this at some point in a day in which he or she has read dozens of other applications and multiple dozens of essays if your application comes up late in the day.  So things will tend to get blurry as the app reader takes notes and assesses you, and the artful reminder of things you want them to remember can help your evaluator–and so help you.  Thus, the network essay which uses an interesting aspect of yourself to connect other, known aspects of your application in an interesting way can be an ideal add to your application.

Oh, and if you think something like fishing (or whatever it is that you do) is not an interesting topic, it depends on what you say about it.  And how you say it.  Contact me if you have something you like to do but think it will look boring in your essay, and I will help you develop your words and do so in a way that works with the rest of your app.

The Walkabout Essay

A walkabout was a rite of passage for a young Australian native, a time spent wandering the bush alone and surviving independently–the word has taken on other meanings, but the walkabout was originally a personal journey for the experience to be had on the journey.  It was also seen as something necessary and transformative, shaping the person who experienced it and propelling him into adulthood.

If you have an activity that is like this, a stand-alone that is also an important part of who you are, something that you do for its own sake,  then you can write a Walkabout Essay exploring this activity.

As an example, are you into math, programming and classical Indian Dance?  The closest you could come to a network essay with these would be to say they are all possible areas of creative expression.

But classical dance is embodied, is a way of knowing that is shown by doing in a way that is not true of math and programming, for your physical self is fully engaged, and it might best be explored as such, as a unique activity that humanizes and adds an interesting dimension to you–and that really offers little connection to your other, more purely mental activities.  Though you may still mention some other activities with the excuse of showing how different this activity is (and so reminding the app reader, however briefly, of those other aspects of yourself.)

The Key to the Walkabout Essay:  Become a Knowledgeable and Interesting Guide

So some level of networking/connection is always a good idea, but the Walkabout essay will really focus on the glories of the activity in the essay.  Classical Indian dance, as an example, embodies much of traditional Indian culture: its gestures are symbolic, and it is influenced by or on a continuum with other specifically Indian activities, like what we now call Hatha Yoga, as well as traditional Indian martial arts–if you become a guide, showing things like this in some detail to the app reader, and so showing your passion, you will have a good  essay–you want your app reader to have that look of surprise and interest that comes when someone learns something interesting, as you reveal the philosophy and history of the dance through some well-chosen examples, while inserting close description about the people and dances you have done and perhaps an amusing anecdote or two.    Inform without lecturing, show by examples and close description instead of simply telling.

And finally–if you are “Saying something more” about an activity or concern that is already on your application/activities, my advice here still applies.

That’s it for now. Get started on your Common App essay while thinking about this essay.  And contact me if you would like some professional editing.  N.B:  Sooner is better than later as things really pick up from August 1st on.

Welcome to the Jungle

In college admissions, college application, college essay, common application, personal statement, university application information on August 30, 2011 at 10:29 pm

The College App Jungle is a blog devoted to the increasingly Darwinian world of college applications.  

Look below to find a table of contents for this blog with links to posts on all aspects of the college applications game; recent posts focus on how to write about this year’s application essay topics.   Or click on the Archives link, which will open up a long column of posts, beginning with  this year’s application prompts and application quirks.  

Here are a few recent posts I will highlight:

Princeton University Essay Prompts for 2015-2016

2015-2016 Essay Prompts for U Chicago Analyzed (Part I)

Yale University Essay Prompts for 2015-2016–and How to Write About Them

Choosing a Major and Updates for the Cornell Application in 2015-2016

Application Data and Trends from 2014-2015 (and what it means for you)

I offer college application services,  and editing services.  You can visit my business portal at: UniversityGatesAdvising.

Or you can contact me at:

wordguild@gmail.com

I will generally respond in 24-36 hours.  Serious Inquiries Only, Please.

I will  be offering low-cost seminars in the San Francisco Bay Area this summer.  The next two seminars will be at the Lafayette Public Library in Lafayette, CA, on Friday, July 17th at 3 pm and Friday, July 24th at 3 pm.  Please contact me for details and to reserve a seat–limited space available, small group setting.  Click here for more information:  July Seminars

College App Jungle Contents and Links

I will add links and update periodically. I also recommend scrolling through the archives.

Some content is entirely free; full access to other content is for subscribers or those using my editing or college app services.

College Essay No-No’s

Common Application and Supplemental Essays

Common Application General Information (Focused on changes to the Common App topics and what to do about them)

The Stanford Supplemental Essay Prompts (These have  been unchanged since 2011)

More on the Stanford Supplement Prompts

The University of Chicago Essay Prompts for 2013-2014–these are still “live” prompts as U Chi allows applicants to choose and write an essay addressing an of their old prompts–for more on this see Prompts for 2015-2016, or just click below.

The Mantis Shrimp Prompt:  How to Write About It

The Chicago History Prompt:  There’s More To It Than Meets The Eye

Those Chuckleheads:  The Chicago Joke Prompt–How to Write About It

Writing About Books- Part 2 (2011)

How to Persuade: The Rhetorical Situation

College Application Trends, Statistics and Advice

Advice on the College Application Rat Race

Early College Admissions Data For 2013-2014 applicants:  What It Means For You

Ivy League Admissions Data for 2013-2014 applicants:  Trends and Strategies 

Researching And Selecting Colleges:  Go West, Young Person

The Secret of College Admissions:  How College Applications Are Evaluated

College Application Success:  The Seven Rules

This is not a comprehensive list of posts but gives you a representative sample.  Browse using the Archive link.  

In the twenty years that I have been helping students navigate the application and essay process, the essay itself has become much more important. The reasons are clear. Over the last decade, we have seen increasing numbers of qualified high school students face decreasing numbers of seats available in our universities.

The facts are stark–educators across the country have faced funding cuts that predate the Great Recession, and the ivied walls of academia are no longer impregnable to assault.  Pair that with the awareness that an education at a good college is increasingly a bottom line item for a decent job and quality of life, and you have a supply and demand problem:  If you present a 4.0 GPA to most competitive universities, you are essentially in the middle of the pack.  The result:  your application essays can be vital to your chance of being admitted.  But I have to add something here: it is as bad as it looks if you apply to the same 12-15 colleges that everybody else applies to, but once you widen your list a bit, it looks much better.  See below for links related to statistics and to finding more options than the Ivies, Stanford, Cal and whatever two or three regional favorites dominate the application lists in your area.

The information available on this blog is for the free use of college applicants and essay writers.  Use it to help you get started before you send your work to me.  Topics range from general discussions about the craft of writing to specific discussion of college essay topics and the changing world of college applications. I also review trends in admissions and changes occurring in the world of academia.

The contents of this blog are intended for the use of college applicants and their parents to assist them in the college application process and in developing quality application essays. Please refrain from using this blog for your own commercial purposes. If you wish to duplicate any of this information, please contact me to explain and request the right to do so.  Full access to sample content is available via a subscription.  Contact wordguild@gmail.com to subscribe.

The Usual Suspects: Admissions Resultsfor the Ivy League and West Coast Favorites

In College Application Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data on May 24, 2016 at 8:48 am

Who should read this article:  Anybody interested in applying to an Ivy League or U.C. school, oh yes, and Stanford.   I also include my opening discussion for the class of 2021 on brand, status and the Tesla test.

How many Teslas have you seen with college stickers on the back window?

Me neither, and I drive the highways  in the most Tesla-dense region in the country as I visit area clients.  I’ll get back to that after we get to some data, below.

So how bad was the application season?  Depends on where you applied.  Applications to the Ivies, Stanford, and some of their analogues and safety schools, which will be the topic of this post,  were very, very difficult.  Your leading example is Stanford, which dropped below a 5% admissions rate for the first time this year–and was the first university to do this. Applying to Stanford increasingly resembles playing the lottery for most applicants. Applications to hundreds of non-name brands and international options, not so much. Food for thought, and a topic I will discuss again soon.

Onward, to some of this year’s data:

University . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Number of Applicants / %Accepted*

Stanford University . . . . . . . .43,997/4.69

Harvard University . . . . . . . . .39,041/5.2%

Columbia University . . . . . . . .36,292/6.04%

Yale University . . . . . . . . . . . .31,455/6.27%

Princeton University . . . . . . . 29,303/6.46%

Duke University . . . . . . . . . . .28,600/8.7%

Brown University . . . . . . . . . . .32,380/9.0%

University of Pennsylvania  . . 39,918/9.4%

Dartmouth College . . . . . . . . . .20,675/10.525

Northwestern University . . . . .35,099/10.7%

Cornell University . . . . . . . . . .44,966/13.96%

U.C. Berkeley . . . . . . . . . . . . . .82,558 (frosh)/14.8%

U.C.L.A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97,064(frosh),119,326(ttl) No data on % yet.

 

Not a very friendly collection of numbers, is it?  The problem, as usual, is that classic  supply and demand equation in market theory.

 

Sure, there is a long-term structural problem in our economy, and yes, the elite universities offer superb educational opportunities, not to mention the prestige of an Ivy or Stanford sticker on the back windshield, and yes, your college friends can be part of a great network . . . . but the next Mark Zuckerberg is not going to come from a new social media platform at Harvard.   Sure, if you are admitted, go to Harvard (as long as the financials work).  But don’t go just to have the brand, especially if you know of a lesser place with a better deal for you, educationally and financially (is Harvard really the best place to go for software design/engineering?)

One of the most important things I do with college advising clients is help them  develop a wider list of options.  My mantra on target schools is this:  You should always have three tiers of schools in your application list, with the bottom tier being schools for whom your data puts you above the 75th percentile of admissions, the middle tier with schools for which your data makes you an “average” admit, and your reach schools making up the third tier–where your data is at 25% or below, though I add that if your data is below or near the bottom of a college’s admit data, it’s not likely to be worth the time to write the app essays, much less pay the app fee.  The chances of admission always have to be weighed against the strength of your dream, of course, and maybe that fusion reactor you are constructing in your garage will do the trick . . .

I have written about strategy and creating a good college list before, and will write about it again in relation to this year’s application season in the coming months, so look for that.

Much of the overcrowding in the world of college apps  is a result of what an economist would refer to as market distortion–in this case rooted in the growing fear many people have about their economic future and the chances for their children to have a life as prosperous as their own.  This sense of decline in economic prospects is well-documented, as is the reality that fuels these fears, and along with  a focus on a narrow range of well-known brands, you can see the  problem with the information in this particular “market.”

The brand advantage does have a real effect on income when you are first hired in a range of industries, but that effect fades quickly–mid-range income is an indicator of job performance, and job performance comes from an alloy of factors, including how good your education actually was, your motivation, and decision-making on the job.  Which brings me back to that Tesla.

I have not seen a college sticker on the back window of a Tesla.  Well, okay, I have seen a couple, but those were on the back windows of Tesla 3’s   Yep, we already have truckloads of those loose in my part of the world.  The thing about a Tesla, and a college sticker, is two-fold: first both are a statement of status.  Second, both affiliate you with a group of people.

But a Tesla is a status symbol that speaks for itself, environmentally friendly, elegant in design, superb in execution and performance . . . and the one person I currently know who is driving a Tesla Model S went to Humboldt State University (not the Humboldt U in Germany–the Cal State in Northern California, an area more known for certain herbal products than tech).  This person started as an art major, moved to graphic arts and from there focused more and more on Computers . . . and now runs his own medium-sized digital arts company now–a success story showing the power of education and curiosity.

The car he owns because, a, he likes it, and b, he thinks that environmentalism can only succeed if it is not just moral but enjoyable.  His mid-career income is excellent, he loves what he is doing, and he came out of a college that does not get much notice even as a regional school–ranked only 57th as a regional university (West) by U.S. News and World Report.  Something to keep in mind as you churn through rankings and discard schools that are not getting brand recognition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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