wordguild

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

College Application Essay Seminars Beginning June 9th, 2017, continuing into July and August.  Space is limited.  See below for details.

The College App Jungle is my blog devoted to the  world of college applications.  The pursuit of college admissions can seem increasingly Darwinian, but my hope is that this blog will provide you with the context and means to have a fulfilling and successful transition into college.  In that spirit, you can scroll through my archives to find over 100 posts covering all aspects of the college search–a clickable table of contents for a selection of popular topics can be found below.

This is an old-school informational service, short on gauzy pictures and long on detailed and dense analysis and information.  In addition to maintaining this blog as a public service, I offer a full slate of  college advising and application services, ranging from self-assessment and college selection to the best essay development and editing service in the field.

Upcoming Events and News

College Application Essay Seminars 

Small group application essay seminars, limited to five clients per session, begin on June 9th, 2017, continuing through August.  The first session will be at the Lafayette Public Library.   Early sessions will focus on the Common Application and U.C. application essay prompts.   July sessions look at Ivy League and other prompts and writing situations.  We will unpack the prompts and look at the various aspects of the writing situation, including your audience and goals, and you will start your college essays with my help.  Seminars run two hours.  I offer a free sample edit when your first draft of your first application essay is complete, which includes general review comments and an example of how I line edit, using a section of your essay.  

To inquire about my college application and editing services,  you can reach me directly via e-mail here:  Contact Me.

You can also visit my business portal at: UniversityGatesAdvising to quickly review some basic information on the college application scene (like the sometimes odd terminology used in admissions) and to see client testimonials.

College App Jungle Contents and Links

The Secret of College Admissions:  How College Applications Are Evaluated

Common Application and Common Application Essays

Common Application Update 

College Application Trends, Statistics and Advice

Ivy League Admissions Data for 2016-2017–See the most recent data available on admissions

Advice on the College Application Rat Race

Researching And Selecting Colleges:  Go West, Young Person–an old post, but still so true, for those looking to get great bang for their tuition buck.

College Application Success:  The Seven Rules–timeless advice on how the system works

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

More on the Stanford Supplement Prompts

University of Chicago

I have a soft spot for The University of Chicago Essay Prompts, because they are often so brazenly weird and even when they seem a little too-cute pretentious, they are interesting.  Because  U Chi allows applicants to choose and write an essay addressing any of their old prompts, I keep all of my old posts on them up–for example, have a look at:   Prompts for 2015-2016. Or just click below for old prompts that you may still write about.

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

The above is not a comprehensive list of posts but gives you a representative sample.  You may browse further 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 New Common Application Essay Prompts for 2017-2018 and other Changes to the Common Application

In common application, Common Application 2017-2018, Common Application Essay Prompts, personal statement, Uncategorized on May 8, 2017 at 9:37 am


Who should read this post:  Anybody applying to a college in the Common Application portal next year.  Here is a searchable list of members:  Common App 2017-2018.    I note with interest that the new members this year include some good international options, some regional big names and some universities that should be better known–like the alma mater of James Joyce, University College, Dublin. It seems the Common App is rebounding from their disastrous rollout of Common App 2.0, back in 2015-2016 as they add members and extend their reach.  But they do have competition–more on that in a later post.

Read on for some advice on getting started on your Common App essays, and for the new prompts for 2017-18, which are included, below.

Yes, there is some news, but nothing too radical–the Common App is tinkering with a few of the questions used last year, and . . . fireworks and applause . . . reintroducing the open essay question that disappeared some years back.  Apparently old application prompts don’t fade away, they just go on hiatus.

However, this is not true of Common Application accounts.  You will want to wait until the Common App reboots for this year before you actually set up an account and start filling in your personal information, which usually occurs in the last day or so of July or beginning of August.   At that time all accounts currently existing on the portal are deleted.  So feel free to peruse the site, but don’t bother setting up an account just yet.  What you can do, though, is start writing your Common Application essay, or better yet, start thinking about it–and getting some ideas written down.

And I have a very old-fashioned recommendation for how to go about that:  Carry a small notebook, and in that keep a copy of the prompts.  Read the prompts every once in a while and just start scribbling ideas down as they come.  If you do this for a month or two, sitting down at least a few times a week, you will have a large deposit of ideas to mine. Too many students use a process that involves sitting down, picking a prompt and writing about the first thing that seems like  a good idea.  I have found that it is much better to start doing a little bit, every day, if possible, then sitting down after a month or two of idea-generation to start your essay.

Most of you will be writing at least three essays anyhow, and the more raw material and ideas you start with, the easier the process will be.  I like the small version of the Picadilly notebook, btw–and no, they do not advertise on my site (nobody does–I do not accept ads as I want to avoid conflicts of interest), nor do I own stock in the company.  I just like the notebooks, and they are cheaper than the better-known Moleskin books.  I  suppose you could also type material into your phone, but I always find my thinking is more open-ended when I am using pen and paper, and that is what you want as you start–open-ended and creative thinking.

So start the process early, even if you will write the essays later.

With that as a prelude, here are the Common Application essay prompts for 2017-2018.

2017-2018 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]***

 

***But also old . . . this open prompt was a feature of Common App 1.0.  I am happy to see it back, but its very openendedness can be a challenge.  More on that in a future post.

College Application Data for 2016-2017

In College Application Essays, College Application Statistics, Harvard Application Data 2016-2017, Ivy League Application Statistics 2016-2017, Yale Application Statistics, 2016-2017 on May 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Who should read this post: anybody applying to college in the fall of 2017; anybody using U.S. News and its proxies for data; anybody who likes to watch trend lines.

So here we go, College Class of 2022: the e-mails and envelopes went out in March and April, and most who are going on to a college campus in the fall of 2017 (a.k.a. the Class of 2021) have now accepted an offer–and with that the first comprehensive data has been released.  The big takeaway on the data so far this year is . . . well, it’s two-part:  1) After a couple of  years of plateauing at most schools, applications are up overall at elite and super-elite schools, in some cases way up, and 2) Early applicants are admitted at a far higher rate than regular applicants.

Of course, it will be some time before I can get good data to compare early decision/early action applicants to regular applicants, but in the past GPA and test data have been very similar.  This reinforces how putting a big, early bet on your dream college can pay off–though this comes with some caveats.  The first caveat is that this trend has been clear for years, and some schools will enroll roughly half of their incoming class from early  decision, single-choice early decision and other early applications.   This is partly due to the high rate of early app admissions which I have just  noted (for some numbers look below), and partly due to the high yield on those who are accepted–there is a sense of genuine commitment from both sides in the early app as a category.

Let me add a final caveat about early apps:   you might double or even triple your chances of admissions via an early app, but we are still talking something like 14.5 % for early vs. about 5% for regular apps at, for example,  Harvard–so the early app at a super-selective college is still admitted well below the 30% or so average for good but not big-name universities.  It’s still a game of margins in a highly competive contest for a seat at a super elite.

Before I get to the data, let me just add that if any of the jargon above is obscure to you (Early Decisions, etc) then you might want to click this link to visit my other website for a quick tutorial:  on college app jargon.

Oh, and one more thing:  the big services, like U.S. News, are always a year or more behind the trend curve because they do not revise their data until  the Common Data Sets are reported by the universities to the government, which will not be until after Yield is known, next October or so.  You will see that most sites will use data that is one to two years old and most books use data that is two to three years old, as of this spring; I prefer to use the bleeding edge when it comes to college application data, and to fill in the blanks as I go.  (See below for more on what Yield is).

New Data on College Admissions

And now here is some of the latest data (as of early May, 2017) on college admissions at elite names and a few local favorites:

Admissions Data 2016-2017

Format:  School/Application Total/Admits total/%Admits accepted                              

Harvard:    39,506/2,056/5.2% 

Princeton:    31,056/1,890/6.1%

Yale:    32,900/2,272/6.9%

Brown:     32,724/2,722/8.1%

Cornell:   47,038/5,889/12.5%

Dartmouth:   20,034/2,092/10.4%

U Penn:    40,413/3,699/9.15%

Columbia**  37,389/2,185/5.8%

**Columbia numbers attained informally from a Columbia rep, not as an official press release.

 

Compare these numbers to a sampling of early applications:

Early Applications Data

School–Early App Total/Accepted/%Admitted

Harvard:    6,473/938/14.5%                                                                                           

Princeton:    5,003/770/15.3%                                                                                          

Yale:    5,086/871/17.1%                                                                                                

Cornell:    5,384/1,379/25.6%                                                                                                            

Dartmouth:  1,999/555/27.8%

 

To understand the impact of these numbers, compare the admits in early apps to the regular apps, and consider this one additional number: The 555 admitted early to Dartmouth are expected to compose about 47% of the entire incoming class for next year–the “about” is due to the uncertainty about how many total students will accept the offer (known as Yield, just to add another piece of jargon).

So there you go for my first report on data for the super-elite Ivies.  When you do your math, this should include a good subset of colleges with easier admits.  Don’t reach for the stars unless you have a good safety net, please.

I will be following up with early data on the University of California–U.C.L.A. was over 100,000 apps this year–and other local and national favorites.

And my college application essay seminars in the greater Bay Area start in Lafayette on June 9th, 2017.  Contact me for details.