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Archive for the ‘2019-2020 College Application Essays’ Category

Tips on Writing the Boston College Application Essays for 2019-2020

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays, College Application Essay on July 3, 2019 at 2:25 pm

Who Should Read This Post: Anybody applying to Boston College or another Jesuit or Catholic college, like Georgetown; anyone who needs to write about art or a book as inspiration; anyone who needs to write about a social justice or problem essay for College Applications. And if you do need support in writing your essays, Contact Me for world-class essay development and editing.

Boston College is on the Common Application, so you will write one of the Common App essays (650 word limit) and choose one of the prompts below to write about, for a maximum of 400 words on this B.C. supplemental essay.

Also note that the Common App site does not go live until on or around August 1st, so you should not set up an account there until the site reopens for this year’s application cycle, but you can choose and write both the Common App essay and the Boston College essay now–the prompts are live for 2020. I do link sources of inspiration and information on multiple topics associated with the Boston College prompts below, but remember that you should seek inspiration rather than copying inspiration directly. So to speak. Many colleges do use Turnitin.com or their own, proprietary software to look for plagiarism on application essays.

Let’s start with a look at all of the Boston College prompts, then break them down one at a time:

Boston College 

The writing supplement topics for the 2019-2020 application cycle (400 word limit); prompts first, then a discussion of each prompt to follow that:

1. Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

2. When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

3. Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

4. Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?


Now let’s take a closer look at prompt #1, Great art evokes a sense of wonder. It nourishes the mind and spirit. Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?

So first of all, they do not want an essay explaining meaning in the same mode you do for an English class, so close that essay doc that you wrote for Catch-22 or Beloved or whatever other required reading and essay you did for your English class last year. For the moment. The prompt did not ask you to write about the meaning of poem x or novel y per se–though obviously the meaning matters–instead, they want first to understand its impact on you, how you relate to it, and what this shows about you. Of course the meaning will come up in discussing that, but not in the way you would argue for or prove a meaning in an Essay for an American Lit class, though at some point you might reopen that doc from your English class to help–just be wary of directly inserting high school English essay-style content into this college application essay.

A second reason to (maybe) not write about a novel written for a class is the nature of required reading. Novels from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Great Gatsby to Lord of the Flies are required reading or commonly read novels for high school students across the country, and the typical titles are widely known among college admissions readers, both for the public schools and for those elite private schools that still take their students on the voyage through things like Moby Dick (which was a standby at one time but has largely vanished from public high school curricula, though it is still a part of some private school curricula). If a required novel had a big impact on you, okay–your passion should override the fact that you had to read the book for school. And you have the advantage of having read the book with the help of a teacher, and likely have written about it already, after class discussion.

But if you have read a novel not for a class that had a big impact on you, then maybe start there–this automatically shows that you do more than the required reading; you could and probably should also suggest your own widespread and independent reading habits, driven by your natural curiosity, by explaining how you discovered obscure but great Novel X, the subject of your essay. Perhaps you still haunt that most archaic of businesses, the bookstore and found it, or you have a habit of reading book blogs. The disadvantage of writing about this more obscure novel that was read independently is the fact that you are on your own when it comes to interpreting the book, but if it is an important book, you might find help by searching for it and/or its author in the New York Review of Books–which is s serious book and culture site, but that does not mean that they will not tackle serious YA Lit, like Hunger Games or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series (Amber Spyglass, et al), or search for the book title on your favorite search engine with the term criticism, and you might find a stand-alone article or an article like this one, that looks at a set of YA Dystopian novels. I have written about how to write an essay on a novel multiple times before, so take a look at that as well–how to write about books.

Of course, there are many other kinds of art you could write about, and the most important thing to start with is art that impacted you, then to decide if it’s worth writing about. Even pop art is legit if you can take the write approach. Take a look at this on Lady Gaga.

And look at the work of critics for inspiration, like the pop music critic for NPR, Ken Tucker, who covers everything from country to hip hop, as seen here: Old Town Road.

And finally, consider a wide range of art to write about–from opera and bluegrass to sculpture and painting. And seek critics in these fields for examples of how to write. But write about a work of art that inspired you.

For an example of how to write about art that inspires, see this critic discuss his favorite paintings in New York: Jerry Salz takes a Grand Tour.

Now let’s turn to the second prompt,

When you choose a college, you will join a new community of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, and stories. What is it about your background, your experiences, or your story, that will enrich Boston College’s community?

The first thing I want to point out is that this prompt is nearly identical to the Common Application Prompt #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.

So of course, if you have already written about prompt one for the Common Application, that nixes using Boston’s prompt two as a supplemental essay. But if your family/personal experience is unique, and you have not delved into it in depth on your Common App essay, this prompt is for you. And of course, in particular, this prompt tends to be selected by those who have some sort of personal of financial struggles in their background. This prompt is obviously a slow pitch through the strike zone for those who have emigrated to the United States under duress, or whose family has unique cultural inheritance and practices or who has just had an unusual upbringing.

However, beware of the Woe is Me essay. Long ago, students started writing essays on their suffering because they heard that their target school was trying to select students with compelling personal stories, particularly if those stories suggested some kind of poverty/minority application/personal struggle to overcome incredible obstacles angle. If this is true of you, your suffering may now provide you with something to talk about. But be wary.

If you are writing about a family member’s illness, for example, keep in mind that you are presenting this experience as a reason to admit you to college. And if the suffering or struggles are your own, beware of trying to get into a contest of suffering by suggesting that your tribulations are unique and make you a person they should admit above others (subtext: because you alone have suffered so much). If this background has involved you stepping up to work to help support your family, or to care for siblings or family members, that is always an aspect I ask to see emphasized–to show more about doing, about taking action, rather than focusing on affliction and misery as conditions. How did you respond? That is key.

You don’t need to write up a tidy story which reaches “closure” but there needs to be more than trials and woe. If you have suffered deeply, so be it, but be sure that it in some way shows who you are or explains your academic record or has shaped your view of the world.

Some examples, to make my point: I have been doing this for a long time and have edited essays for applicants who have dealt with a cancer diagnosis and multi-year treatment during high school, while staying enrolled and pulling down good grades; or an applicant who fled Vietnam on leaky boats and watched some of her family members die on that boat before moving from internment camp to interment camp, then to three different American states, in high school working two jobs at a time while pulling a nearly perfect GPA (a tale from a Valedictorian in the mid 1990’s–like I said, been doing this for a long time); or, more recently, the kid whose introduction to America was to hang on a border fence near Tijuana for several hours in the middle of the night after his sweatshirt snagged at the top and his party went on without him . . only to be rescued hours later by somebody else coming through . . . then moved from house to house with relatives while putting together an education, to finish as salutatorian of his high school class . .

If you have faced significant obstacles that have shaped who you are, by all means write about them. Just be sure to have some perspective. Writing an essay about how unfair a coach, or coaches have been, and how you overcame that to become an all-league athlete or to make some uber-competitive travel squad . . . Okay, but don’t overdo the suffering there, and let’s face it, the coaches had a perspective on things too. As a rule, avoid dissing adults, particularly teachers and coaches. You are applying to a kind of school, after all, when you write a college essay. There is always someone who has suffered more. Be sure that you did something that is remarkable rather than just suffering passively, or watched someone else suffer. ‘Nuff said.

For Boston College Prompt 3, Boston College strives to provide an undergraduate learning experience emphasizing the liberal arts, quality teaching, personal formation, and engagement of critical issues. If you had the opportunity to create your own college course, what enduring question or contemporary problem would you address and why?

I would go either philosophical or World/Society Problem. Or . . . slightly tongue-in-cheek. Notice, however, how the prompt focuses on liberal arts (suggesting an emphasis on the humanities) and critical issues (suggesting social justice, environmental issues, etc) against a background of personal formation (suggesting that old-fashioned idea that you should go to college to find out who you are and develop yourself as a human being) and it ends by looking at an “enduring question” or “problem.”

So I would look at social justice, environment, energy and the ideas bandied in ancient Greek philosophical dialogues or in Christian ethics. For example, how about this class title: “The Other and Us: Ethics and Other People, which would look at everything from migrants to those among us who have less to ethical business practices. Or: “Trash: The Ethics of Consumption” which could look at a range of issues, from consumerism and materialism to all that plastic out in the ocean.

Or maybe slightly tongue-in-cheek: Survival in the Age of Facebook ant TikTok . . . how to live in a world of constant sharing and personal revelation without sharing away your soul.

Notice how I combined the ethical and philosophical with the practical problems we face in our environment today in these “classes.” A perfect combination of the intellectual and the pragmatic, which in particular suits a Jesuit school.

Speaking of which, our last prompt for Boston College:

Prompt 4–Jesuit education considers the liberal arts a pathway to intellectual growth and character formation. What beliefs and values inform your decisions and actions today, and how will Boston College assist you in becoming a person who thinks and acts for the common good?

You should be noticing the overlap betwen this prompt and the more specific question on a class that preceded it. Boston College is among the great Jesuit colleges in the world, teaching in a humanistic, Catholic tradition, with a concern both for the whole person and for the person as part of a larger community. Unbridled capitalism and personal success at all costs are not part of their ethos. I think the easiest way to introduce this communal and ethically-driven way of thinking is to hook you up with a famous modern practitioner of this way of thinking and acting: Charles Taylor. Read that entire linked page and see the video and you will have considerable insight into Jesuit humanism.

And then you should start doing some research on the things you can study at BC while thinking about how your career could be about improving society or the environment rather than just being about making money. Start by looking at the BC Humanities Core, but be sure to check out specific classes that might tie in to your curiosity or sense of mission, and mention them, as word count and context permitsHumanities Core. Keep clicking and reading until you have more information than you need. Then start writing.

Ladies and Gentleman: Start Your Essays. The Prompts for 2019-2020 are Rolling Out.

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays on June 24, 2019 at 9:56 pm

Below is a list of Prompts Available as of mid-July, 2019, with Links to the Full Prompts and Tips On Writing the Essays. This includes the Common Application prompts, The Coalition Application Prompts, Stanford’s Supplemental Essays, which I have confirmed for this year, and a range of other schools that are ready to write, right now, from U Texas to Chicago to Georgia Tech and Urbanan Champaign to . . . read on and see. And for World Class Essay Development and Editing Support: Contact Me.

First, a warning: The prompts I confirm below are ready, but most of the prompts currently posted on college admissions pages are from last year, including the Ivy League prompts posted as of the last week of June. So aside from the important prompts I link in this post, you cannot count on unverified prompts remaining the same. Furthermore, any information you put up on the Common Application will be deleted when they take the site offline at the end of July before bringing it back up on or about August 1st. But fear not–if you are ready to starting writing, you will find plenty to do in the prompts that I link here.

With that, Here They Are–

2019-2020 College Application Essay Prompts: Ready to Write, Right Now:

Stanford University–Same prompts as last year. It’s been a decade since Stanford did any serious tinkering with their supplemental essays. The short answers they do tinker with year-to-year. Here are your Stanford Supplementals for 2019-2020

And Here is A Discussion of The Stanford Roommate Essay

Also see my next post, Welcome to the Jungle, for more on the Stanford essays.

The University of Texas, Austin–definitely some changes from last year, the new prompts confirmed by a posting for counselors. UT uses its own Texas portal. Prompts for 2019-2020 U Texas linked Here.

Boston College Essay Prompts–and How to Write Them–Linked Here: BC 2020. This includes an extended discussion on writing about a book or work of art, as well as themes for Catholic and specifically Jesuit universities like B.C. and Georgetown.

The University of Virginia–up on their website as “they turn their attention” from those who have accepted to “current juniors,” known at this point as rising seniors. Congratulations, by the way, Rising Seniors. Uses the Common Application Portal. Click to check it out: UV prompts for 2019-2020 linked Here.

The University of Chicago--continues to offer a menu of wild and whacky essay prompts for your second essay; the first essay is a pretty standard-issue why you want to go to school x essay. Uses the Common Application Portal. I analyze their two supplemental essays in separate links:

Click here for: University of Chicago Prompt 1, 2019-2020

Click here for: University of Chicago Prompt 2, 2019-2020

The University of California–confirmed in their admissions packet for counselors for 2019-2020. Uses its own UC portal, accessing all 8 UC campuses with one application. UC Prompts linked Here.

Harvey Mudd College–HMC’s counselors went on their annual retreat in the second week of June and came back confirming that the prompts currently posted will remain unchanged. Uses the Common Application portal as well as the Coalition Application. HMC Prompts Linked Here.

Georgia Tech--confirmed by my contact counselor at GT, with the caveat that they may tinker in a minor way with wording. Uses the Common Application portal. I start my analysis of GT’s prompts featuring an interview with G.T.’s excellent Dean of Admissions, Rick Scott. GT Prompts and Rick Scott interview linked Here.

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign–confirmed by two counseling contacts at U-C. University of Illinois campuses uses its own application portal. Urbana-Champaign Prompts linked Here.

The Common Application Essay Prompts are unchanged for 2019-2020. Again, see my Welcome to the Jungle Post for links to the Common App and its Prompts

2019-2020 Coalition Application Essay Prompts–If you are not familiar with the Coalition Application, it is a competitor to the Common Application. Universities tend to offer both when they do use the Coalition Application portal, so it is worth looking at the Coalition essay prompts to see if they allow you to better leverage your topic ideas (usually looking for less overlap between essays). The Coalition Essay Prompts are linked Here, along with a comparison of the two sites.

Go to the next post for more links-Welcome to the Jungle.

And Contact Me for World-Class Application Essay Development and Editing and Focused, Results-Oriented College Application Advising: Contact Me.

The Coalition Application versus the Common Application–Which One to Use? It Starts with a Look at the Essay Prompts

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays, Coalition Application, common application on June 21, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Who should read this: anybody applying to college in 2019-2020. Post Subjects: The Common Application versus the Coalition Application, A Comparison of Common Application and Coalition Application Essays and for financially challenged families, The Questbridge Application.

The Coalition and the Common Application are the most important college application portals. The Common Application is the Big Kahuna, with over one million students submitting over five million applications, and this year, it handles applications for more than 800 colleges. The only state that has no colleges accepting the Common Application is North Dakota (Why: Most of North Dakota’s colleges are public and use the state’s application portal. If this seems backward, both the University of California and the Cal State Universities use their own portals as well.)

In contrast, the Coalition Application lists 107 colleges for 2019-2020; however, this is a pretty elite list, which includes Stanford, the majority of Ivy League colleges, Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern . . .

In previous years all of the Ivy League schools were listed as using the Coalition Application, but this year Cornell and Brown are not listed. Could be an error, of course. To which I add, the Coalition Application specifically identifies itself as being designed for students with fewer resources. Here is the full list for you to consult: Coalition Application Colleges

The obvious advantage of the Common Application lies in the number of colleges that use it, roughly 8 times the number of the Coalition Application, but it is also worth comparing the essay questions as you decide which to use, or perhaps if you want to selectively use both portals–so first here are The Coalition Application Essay Prompts for 2019-2020:

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

My initial observation is that the Coalition prompts are fewer in number (five, versus seven for the Common App) but also seem to define broader topics. I would agree that in these prompts you can see how the Coalition does, in fact, aim at “lower resourced” students in that way–several of the Common Application Prompts seem slightly better for a well-resourced suburban youth, but there is also a possible overlap in the sense that substance in one can be topic in another. For example, these prompts also do overlap with the Common Application–

Common App Prompt 1 asks about “background, identity or interest or talent” that is “so meaningful” that you need to write about it; there is no direct corollary with the Coalition prompts, but on the other hand the Coalition Application’s first prompt, “a story from your life . . . [that] demonstrates your character” could overlap if it involves an interest, talent or your background and shows something important about you through describing or narrating that. But you can see an interesting difference–the second Coalition App prompt , on making a “meaningful contribution to others,” has no direct corollary in the Common Application (Hmm, is the Common App “All about You?”), unless you could have contributed to others by questioning or challenging “a belief or idea” (Common App Prompt 3), which if you are working with a group like Black Lives Matter, would clearly apply. It’s really about what your examples and content are; keep in mind that you are not “answering a question” in the way you might if an English teacher asks you to write an essay on the theme of a novel or your history teacher asks you to explain the causes of a war. College essay prompts are really aimed at defining areas you write about, and you choose the content that fits the area of the prompt.

Here is a link to the Common Application Prompts if you would like to quickly compare them with the Coalition App: Common Application Essays for 2019-2020.

Another factor to consider is word count. The Common App allows up to 650 words; the Coalition App “strongly advises” no more than 550 words. I find that 100 words is huge if an essay of 650 words is well-written.

My overall take is to tilt toward the Common Application, due to its longer college list and more generous word count. Like the Coalition Application, it does allow you to submit an essay on a topic of your choice. But if you like prompts on the Coalition Application, and you want to emphasize that you are not well-resourced,* you can use both–setting up an account on both is free–and then you could always write a Coalition App essay, and if it is excellent, submit it for the open essay prompt on the Common App. Problem solved. With a bit of extra work to set up two accounts.

*One more thing–if you are not well resourced and are concerned about paying for school, the elite, private schools, like Harvard, do supply excellent financial aid, and you should also look at things like Questbridge to see if you qualify–see here for more: Who Qualifies for Questbridge. If you qualify, you should absolutely pursue a Questbridge application.

The 2019-2020 Essay Prompts for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign on June 21, 2019 at 9:22 am

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign-Freshman Essay Questions

Explain your interest in the major you selected and describe how you have recently explored or developed this interest inside and/or outside the classroom. You may also explain how this major relates to your future career goals. If you’re applying to the Division of General Studies, explain your academic interests and strengths or your future career goals. You may include any majors or areas of study you’re currently considering. Limit your response to 300 to 400 words.

Essay 2

If you select a second-choice major other than the Division of General Studies on your application, write a second essay explaining your interest in this major, too. Again, limit your response to 300 to 400 words.

Urbana’s (rather generic) tips for writing the essays:

Be memorable.

The essay part of the application is important because it gives us more insight into who you are and who you want to be. Make us remember you!

Be prepared.

Take time to think about and brainstorm your message. Create an outline, write a good first draft, and edit multiple times.

Be yourself.

We want to know more about you, so be honest and let us into your world. Instead of making broad statements about what you want to do, give specific examples from high school or extracurricular activities. And don’t be afraid to add your personal style and voice to your writing!

Be focused.

You only have a couple of paragraphs to tell us about your experiences and goals. It’s not necessary for you to repeat information that’s already elsewhere in your application. Concentrate on explaining how those credentials and qualifications will lead to a successful future here.

Be current.

Keep your essay focused on recent experiences. What you’ve done in the last few years is more relevant than experiences you had in elementary or middle school.

Be professional.

Submitting a sloppy-looking essay with spelling errors and glaring mistakes sends us the message that you’re not serious about Illinois. Proofread your essays and ask your counselor, your English teacher, or a parent to take a second look.

How to Apply to College in 2019-2020–Part 1

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays, College Application Data, Ivy League Admissions Data, 2018-2019, University of California Admissions Data on June 20, 2019 at 2:37 pm

Who should read this post: anybody applying to college in the United States of America in 2019-2020. The first part of this post will be pretty California-centric, but I also look at some information on the Ivy League and more application data on Harvard specifically. We still await a full data set on applications for this year’s applicants, who will enter college in this coming fall of 2019. This tends to come after those accepted actually show up to enroll in the fall, at which point universities can confirm their application yield, so it will be another 4-6 months before we have a complete picture of this year’s application data.

Overall, the tendency is for GPA and SAT/ACT score numbers to edge up incrementally (for GPA at about a tenth of a percent or less per year over the last 10 years for the U.C. and over the last 15 years at most Ivies). Keep that in mind with data from the fall of 2018. That said, let’s get to the process of creating a list of target schools.

How to Start an Application Target List

When you sit down to make a list of target colleges, it’s all about the D words: Dreams and Data. The data you start with includes GPA and test scores. Other data like total applications, admit rate, etc., matters, as does the information on your school that is available via Naviance, if your school has it, but it’s best not to start by trying to plug in all the data. It can be overwhelming.

Instead, always start that list on an aspirational note, with your dream schools. Once you have done that, you can list schools you have heard of that seem appealing. We assume that your dream opportunities are reaches, and you can decide later if it’s really worth the application fee and perhaps writing some essays. As you move on to schools that are not perhaps as dreamy but that still are appealing, you want to use data and research to create a target list with two more tiers. And at that point, you need to look at the data.

As a rule, in creating three tiers, the top tier of reach schools are those for which your data is below the average for admits, or for which any applicant, including those with a perfect GPA. is iffy (e.g. Stanford, Princeton, Harvard); the next tier, the “fit” schools should have targets for which you fit the average data profile. In all cases, this includes both GPA and standardized test scores (SAT/ACT). The last tier is safety schools, those for whom 75% or more of the people with your data were admitted.

There are more variables and nuances to creating a good list, but if you follow that approach, and split your applications relatively evenly into each category, you will end up with multiple acceptances. Note that when it comes to sorting the variables, you also want to separate holistic from objective schools–if the school is objective, the GPA and SAT/ACT averages are slightly better predictors. For an explanation of holistic vs. objective applications, and for an overview of how your college application will be evaluated, please see my post The Secret of College Admissions.

Data has to dominate the discussion once you have a rough list of schools. I most often find that when I sit down with clients–let’s assume a typical suburban, Northern California student for this example–they vaguely understand that it’s become a lot more difficult to get into name-brand colleges, and they may understand that a school like U.C. Berkeley has a high GPA average, but they are usually surprised when I tell them that the average GPA for Berkeley has been over 3.9 for several years now. That is over 3.9 unweighted.

This is obviously also true of UCLA, which had over 100,000 freshman applications last year, but then I have to explain that the same is true of U.C. Davis–in fact, Davis had a higher average GPA than Berkeley a few years ago, at 3.92 unweighted, while Berkeley downgraded their final GPA to 3.9 when they updated their numbers for yield in October of 2017. The details of these adjustments can be hard to dig up, but Berkeley made that adjustment after they determined yield in the fall–that is, were able to see who actually showed up to school after being offered admissions and then accepted it and moved into the dorm (there are those who accept and go elsewhere . . . ). My inferences is that they used the GPA not just for those admitted, but for those who actually showed up–their yield.

But still–these numbers represent a high wall to climb over. More specifically, these numbers mean that a typical California student who gets, say, 3 “B’s” in the a-g U.C. college prep classes in 10th and 11th grades, (and so likely has a 3.8 unweighted GPA), sees their chance of admissions to the top three UC’s at about 1 in 4. So if your dream schools include Berkeley, UCLA and you see Davis as a safety, and you have less than a 3.9 GPA, Davis is not a safety school. In fact, that would suggest that Santa Cruz is more a “fit” and that U.C. Riverside is a safety–or an “easy” fit.

As another number here, Riverside had a 3.66-4.09 weighted GPA for the 25th to 75th percentile of admitted students in fall of 2018.

When you are compiling data, know that the UC has a centralized set of data, but how that data has been presented has varied over time. Currently, the central UC data set is showing averages based on the 25th-75th percentile, but a couple of years ago, most UC’s presented as simple average. In addition, the current data set uses a weighted average. This is for the class that entered UC campuses in fall of 2018.

For other schools, your best bet to find firm data is to seek their Common Data Set–I will plug Harvard’s CDS below, just to give you a snapshot of the elite on the East Coast. You can continue to look these up for yourself for any other school you wish. The down side of this . . . . many hours of your life gone, sorting through 10-15 pages of data and checked boxes. That sums up one of my functions as a college advisor–saving you time, as well as making sense of what is to be found in the data. I have already done the leg work on this stuff.

Here is Harvard’s most recent, confirmed data set: Harvard Common Data Set.

If you search Harvard’s CDS using the term “GPA, “you will discover that Harvard’s average weighted GPA for fall of 2018 was 4.18. And don’t forget that this includes cohorts with below-average GPA’s–some prodigies who are great at one thing but not so great at others; some athletes; some whose parents endowed the university with a bunch of money to get their kid on the “Z List” or the “Dean’s List.” You know, like Jared Kushner, whose father kicked a large chunk of money Harvard’s way, ahead of Jared’s admit. (Seems pretty unfair, I know, but when the money is not a bribe per se, and in effect puts up new buildings, funds scholarships and programs . . . the good of helping many outweighs the evil of a single mediocre student being admitted. Most of the time. Unlike, say, those families who bribed officials through Mr. Singer-a very different thing.

For those interested in more Ivy for this year, here is a link to early application data from the most recent application cycle–I will discuss creating an early app list in more detail later, but the date here is suggestive when considering who would be an early app from your dream tier of your target list: Early Ivy League Application Data for 2018-2019.

Returning to our California student, this all looks pretty discouraging, I know, but I would point out that what matters in the long term is a degree, and when it comes to your degree, the words “University of California” have more meaning than “Berkeley” or “Santa Cruz”–particularly to employers.

And continuing with our list, let us also assume this 3.8 range California student is interested in medicine. In addition to expanding this list from reach schools that include Berkeley, UCLA and Davis, I would add Santa Cruz and Riverside, and throw in Santa Barbara. With decent essays, I would expect at least two admits there. But I would also expand, if the budget allows it, out of state. Plan to add 15 thousand to your total costs, at a minimum, when you look out of state. That is per year. Most of that will be additional tuition costs.

So before looking out of state for my pre-med California applicant, I would add two-three Cal State campuses, then, if the ca. 45-60 thousand-dollar cost of going out of state is acceptable, look at the University of Washington, Arizona State (which would offer a tuition deal to most California students that would make tuition much cheaper), focusing on its Barrett Honors College and Polytechnic campus, and possibly add Oregon State and U Colorado. One or two smaller, private liberal arts campuses, inside California or outside, might round out the list–though we’d be bumping up to a ceiling at 14-15 applications.

At this point, you start looking at the application work load, including how many application essays are needed and how many of these can be reused in whole or part.

And then you should start writing essays. Now is better than August or September. Summer will be over in 8 weeks for many of you (It is June 20th as I write this), and high school coursework, athletics and activities together with doing applications can be truly overwhelming. Get some essays done sooner rather than later. I will be posting a set of the important prompts that are available now in a day or so.

Until then, be well and do good research.

How to Write the University of Virginia Application Essays in 2019-2020 (That’s You, high school class of 2020). Part 1 of 2 Parts

In 2019-2020 College Application Essays on June 19, 2019 at 2:27 pm

2019-2020 First-Year Application Essay Questions– 

1. We are looking for passionate students to join our diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.

  • College of Arts and Sciences – What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences – If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • School of Architecture – Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design. 
  • School of Nursing – School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing
  • Kinesiology Program – Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major. 

2. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.

  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message
  • UVA students are charged with living honorably and upholding a Community of Trust. Give us an example of a community that is important to you and how you worked to strengthen that community.

This post originally appeared on Notes from Peabody, the UVA admission blog at http://uvaapplication.blogspot.com/ .

I will be back in the next week with more detailed commentary on these essay topics individually. But to start with question one, they are offering a slant on the Why You Want to Go Here/What You Plan to Study and Why essay questions, which are featured in many college apps, from Cornell on the East Side to Harvey Mudd out Westbut note that here UV is looking for what you know about their programs and what inspires you rather than for a simple restatement of your activities. This means that you need to start clicking around and doing some research on UV and its specific programs. I have multiple posts on researching colleges for similar questions, under Cornell and Chicago, which can serve as examples for you to check out. Go to the website, click, read, then click some more, before writing about why you want to go to any university. There will be some overlap with activities, but this is your chance to reach out and touch someone with a heartfelt but not cheesy statement about what inspires you as well as showing what you know about them. And what you know about them can include specific classes, professors, research programs and results . . . .Anything you know after researching the essay is useful . . ..

Question two is aimed a range of possibilities in which you can express your ingenuity or integrity. More on those later.