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Writing about a Quote for Princeton–Who Needs a Book When You’ve Got an Essay?

In Essay Beginning With a Quote, Harvard Application Essay, Intellectual Experience Essay, Princeton Application Essays, Princeton Application for the Class of 2022, Princeton Quote Essay, Uncategorized, Writing an Essay About a Quote on July 20, 2017 at 12:44 am

Who should read this:  anybody interested in writing a Princeton Application Essay, or the Harvard Application (that book/intellectual interest prompt, still going strong) or the Stanford Interest short essay or . . . you get the picture.

The broad scope of writing an essay about a quote means some aspects of this post will work for prompts other than Princeton, inside and outside of the Ivy League.  So read on if a quote from an essay, or an essay about an essay, or an essay about ideas is a good topic for you.  

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My final word for those needing a quote essay, or an essay about a piece of writing, or even an essay about an intellectual experience is . . . read an essay. Or a bunch of essays, and grab the ones that really draw you in.  Then have a contest, in which you make the rules, to decide which one to write about and why.  See if you can find anything out about the author and/or otherwise find a framing context for how this essay altered your mind, and you are on your way. Some links provided below, to get you started.  More links and specific authors coming soon on my private site, available by subscription and for my college advising clients.  Read on or simply jump to the end of the post for more on that.

In my last post, I discussed writing about a quote from a book for Princeton.  In this post, I am writing for those who are  frustrated that their book essay looks too much like a school essay, and for those who like to write about ideas but have only had time to do the assigned reading in school and know that this will not set them apart (that’s most folks, these days).  Let’s face it, you do not want ot recycle a school essay on To Kill a Mockingbird or The Great Gatsby, or Twilight.  Kidding on that last one.

Or not, maybe–Have a look at this fun post about the Twilight series for an idea about how not to be boring and stuffy while writing about something you like, even if it is despite yourself:  Geeky Feminist Muses on Twilight.

She uses a series of quotes and has a good time.  You could too, though you won’t have space to wander as much or be as open-ended as she is–you need to make a more clear point, and to turn the attention back to yourself, and you have ca. 500-650 words, depending on what your essay is for (Stanford?  250 words), while this post is part of larger conversation that is itself part of an even larger conversation . . . .as you can see if you keep reading her blog.

And speaking of blogs, you might try looking at a few of them–there are all kinds of essays of superb quality in electronic form, with dozens of good to great sites that are online only, while some old-school literary reviews have migrated at least in part online in ways that work for today.  You will find great essays on some of these as well as discussions linked to essays and to ideas and events—with many quotes and googols of ideas:

Links to great lit and idea blogs

Paris Reviews blog and essay site, The Daily.  Caution for the sensitive:  can be rude.

Gotta follow that with a shout-out to Dave Egger’s old hang, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.    I can’t explain, you just have to click and then keep clicking and reading. Can be rude as well.  Super!

Essays on all kinds up in-the-now topics:  The New Inquiry

The book blog for the New Yorker (Never fear, plenty of essays here):  Page Turner

Science or history guys and gals, the Smithsonian is still going strong, online, and what if you did Crash into a Black Hole?  Huh?

The Los Angeles Review of Books (Great essays, great ideas, started on Tumblr):LARB

Mostly about reading books, but not yo Mama’s buddy-duddy book site: Book Riot

And I cannot leave out N+1.  Most of their stuff is protected:  you have to pay for quality work, they claim– what a crazy idea–but maybe this link will still work:  Now Less Than Ever.

Get reading, as you do, copy cool quotes, add a few lines of context, the title, author and place you got the essay, and you are on your way to some material that you might be able to make something out of.

Did  I say I will be writing about this in more depth, with links to authors, on my private blog? (Subscribers and clients only . . . like those N+1 guys, I believe my work has value . . . it ain’t all free, folks.  Contact me for more information).

How to Write the Princeton Application Essays for 2017-2018

In Princeton Application Essays, Princeton Book Essay, Princeton Engineering Essay, Princeton Quote Essay, Princeton Supplemental Essays, 2017-2018, Uncategorized on July 12, 2017 at 10:52 pm

Who should read this post:  anybody writing the Princeton supplemental essays for 2017-2018.  I discussed the short answers and listing responses in my last post–click here for that–Princeton Supplement 2017-18–then read on below for a complete,  annotated discussion of this year’s Princeton essays.

Let us begin with a quick look at the prompts for this year by looking at what changed since last year.  There are some notable changes, among them the deletion of the Woodrow Wilson topic–for years, Princeton has used Wilson’s “Princeton in the Nation’s Service” speech as the focus for an essay.  Unfortunately, Wilson, former Princeton as well as U.S. president, has, or had some baggage.  He was a kind of walking paradox whom  some have described as a Progressive Racist–see here for more: Woodrow Wilson’s segregation policy.

If you are wondering why I start my discussion of this year’s prompts with a discussion of the Woodrow Wilson prompt that Princeton just dropped, the answer is simple:  the politics of campuses impacts the policies of admissions.  And I would point out that the second and third prompts, below, represent a kind of counter to the recent imbroglio over the racial views of Woodrow Wilson, who many students at Princeton would like to see erased from campus.  

Does this mean you need to write an essay on race or race relations?  Not necessarily–it’s more advice about what I would call atmospherics–keep in mind that our supposedly post-racial country has rediscovered its problem with race as well as with economic inequality, and the disappearance of President Wilson from the prompts roster at Princeton is one sign of that.  Also keep in mind the potential pitfalls of writing about disparities and problems of race and money– looking arrogant or paternalistic or simplistic or self righteous as you insert yourself into the problems of others.  So if you choose to write about culture or disparities, try to do so without looking like some kind of imperialist in a pith helmet.

Also try not to sound like a reheated version of a ’60’s radical.  Times have changed and the problems that remain over time have evolved.

So with that preface,  let’s look at the prompts, with my annotations and links.

  • Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.–So let’s not write about Woodrow Wilson, even if some aspects of his vision were good and useful–the League of Nations, for example.  I have discussed this topic at length in several other posts–the person of influence is a tried-and-true subject–so click here for much more detail on this topic:  Writing About a Personal Influence (part 1) 
  • “One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.” Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University and co-founder of Blackplanet.com. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.  Back in the dark old days of ’07-’09 and the years following the Great Recession, inequality was all the rage.  Literally.  And phenomenon like the Occupy movement aimed right at these problems.  Here we are a decade later, and these inequalities have only grown worse (while the banks have grown bigger).  You can find interesting commentaries on many aspects of inequality in the U.S. of A, from Vance’s  Hillbilly Elegy to Coates’ Between the World and Me I can strongly recommend both, with the warning that writing about  topics like poverty and race pretty much demands a preexisting interest in things like politics, sociology and economics, and that you have done some reading outside of class–you know, current events.  And reading books like those I link can be useful, but you are writing an essay about a personal concern here, not a book report–or about personal experience.  Keep that in mind.  The best personal statements have a personal connection, to your experience, interests, and moral sense–as well as to your past involvement.  Don’t suddenly become a civil rights advocate or advocate for the poor just in time to write this essay.  For some more guidance on how to write about a topic like this, my old post on the service essay for Princeton actually (and perhaps ironically) works well– click to the right and scroll down to find the quote about not being a hand wringer, and read from there. 
  • “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy and director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, Princeton University. Culture gives everything from a world view to food to ideas about who should wear what on their head and when; it is a kind of agreement about what is real and how to act.  And like fish in water, we do not really understand our own culture until we live in another.  For many of you, this probably happens every day, as you go from one culture at home to another at school and with friends.  This essay is probably the easiest for those who have that kind of experience.  On the other hand, as our current president recently argued in Poland, there are a set of ideas that may loosely be described as Western–but I don’t think that the president’s speech actually reflected ideas like empiricism, openness to new ideas . . . free thinking . . . . which I consider hallmarks of Western Civ, at least as ideals for the last four hundred years.  Certainly the Western or European culture that arose in Rome and led to the Enlightenment created a set of important ideas, one of them being expressed in the clause, “We hold these truths to be self evident,  that all men are created equal . . . ”  Notice how that piece of paper, arising out of the foment of ideas in a culture at a specific time led to a new culture . . . that of the United States.  But back to the president’s speech:  you don’t have to argue for  a war of cultures to describe the influence and nature of your culture.   
  • Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay. So my first point is that they do not want a book report or even an essay focused on an interpretation of a book–the idea is more to extend an idea from the book into your own experience or view of the world.  On the other hand, you should at least give some sense of context to the quote.  I have written about this prompt before–it’s been a standard prompt for Princeton for at least seven years–but as the post is long and covers other information, instead of linking it, here’s the part you are interested in: First let me digress yet again, to Michel de Montaigne, the guy who developed the essay as a literary form and who also initiated many of his essays with a quote which conveyed an idea that he would develop throughout the essay.  He  quoted from classical authors frequently, both to frame his own arguments and to bolster them.  Therefore, I send you now to another link in which I mention this hero of letters, where I also provide a second link to a good article about his life and essays, though I hasten to add that he was sometimes better in theory than in practice–his disappearance to the countryside during an episode of the plague has been questioned by more than a few–but his essays are great and we should, I think, use caution in judging others.

Now to the central problem of this prompt:  starting with a quote can be hackneyed and the quote intro can also be used thoughtlessly or clumsily–for example, by jumping from the quote to a more-or-less unrelated idea in such a way that the quote is really an excuse to start an essay more than a true starting point.  And don’t force the book and your experience together.   You can write a great essay which references your life to knowledge found in a book, but it is vital that the quote–and the book–relate somehow to your experience in an honest way.  See my discussions of writing about books which may help you with the thought process, though rather than finding a way to link a book to a book, you look for a single book to relate to your life.  Be sure that the quote you used is not taken out of context, and that you deal with the essay or book as a whole.

If you searched “Essays that start with a quote,” in addition to finding a number of college application essay books, you’ll also find web pages explaining how clichéd and terrible these essays are.  If you were cynical, you might draw the conclusion that this essay is a trap.  An optimist might argue that Princeton is trying to breathe life into a venerable style of essay.  My view is, it depends on what you do with it.  Anything which is treated witlessly can become a cliché.

Alternatively, you can write a quote-based essay that is more obscure than an 8th Grade Confessional Poem Using Only Adverbs.  Be sure not to  make your reader have to figure out what the quote has to do with everything else in the essay and if you use multiple quotes, be sure that they are suitable and relate to what is around them.

The idea is that the opening quote should be integrated into or lead naturally into the opening paragraph and so flow on through the rest of the essay.  It might be best to look at a few examples of folks who know how to work a quote into an essay–you might try reading some Montaigne, or for a modern idiom, you could try this link, to Paul Theroux’s the Old Patagonian Express, and read pages 3-6, which don’t begin with a quote, but he soon uses multiple quotes.  This three-page section of the book has been excerpted as an essay and gives a good example of thought and action as Theroux looks at himself in relation to others engaged in the same activity.

I also suggest that you visit the New York Review of Books, which always has an article which discusses a series of new or recent titles and puts them in perspective. Have a look at my posts on writing about books, starting with this one, and you may find some useful passages for your purposes in this quote essay–be aware that the NYRB articles are meant largely to discuss books but many wander far afield in ways that may give you ideas on writing an essay tying your own life to what you have found in a book.

In the same vein, In the link here, you will find an NYRB discussion of Michael Lewis’ Boomerang, an especially good book and article for those of you interested in the social and economic problems that led to Occupy, and that in part also fueled our current political fire –it’s a good model for how to discuss a book both in relation to oneself and to the larger world, which is part of what they want from you in this prompt.  Of course, you should also be able to show yourself doing something beyond simply observing.  It would help, of course, if you were a participant in some sort of action, though the author shows his own ability to think and does act on his principles by reporting on the book and the world around us.

Here are two  more specific examples from Joan Didion; both are a factor of magnitude longer than the 500 word essay but they still give you the flavor and an example of how to work with quotes.  Notice that some of Didion’s essays could be cut down to a three-paragraph excerpt and, with perhaps a sentence or two of more direct exposition, work as a short essay, like the one you want.

“Goodbye To All That”

“On Self Respect”, in which Didion quotes from herself to get things going.

Oh, last but definitely not least:

Engineering Essay*

If you are interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, please write a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests.

*This essay is required for students who indicate Bachelor of Science in Engineering as a possible degree of study on their application.

This calls for research into your area(s ) of interest, looking not just at majors and classes, but at specific interesting research, at who is doing it, at whether any undergrads are involved, at where you would like to take it.  If your ambition is to create the next breakthrough in batteries, you’d want to be looking at what they are doing there at Princeton and who is doing it.  A little name dropping of professors and description of projects can be useful here.  Even if the research is obviously post-grad, hey–you want to be at the source, in that environment, learning those cutting-edge ideas.  

And here’s the deal with this Engineering Supplement to keep in mind:  there is an additional supplement for engineers because places like Princeton are getting too many folks who want to be engineers but are, hmm, great test takers, super at math, good at enough other stuff to qualify, but lacking in practical skills–many have hardly ever built anything, having been too busy prepping for college–and also lacking in people skills.  So keep that in mind–try to find a way to look engaged, hands-on (as possible), and interested in the welfare of others–which after all, is really what engineering is all about:  building bridges both virtual and real and giving the rest of use tools that make our lives better, or even save our lives.

I will be returning to this engineering essay, as well as the Yale and Cornell engineering essays as an example of the tell-us-what-you-are-going-to-do essay pretty soon, so  come on back if that fits your goals.  NB–This post will be partly behind a paywall, but I will offer some good general advice on this kind of essay in the publicly visible version.

 

Princeton leads the Pack: The Princeton Supplemental Questions for 2017-2018

In Princeton Admissions, Princeton Application Essays, Princeton Application for the Class of 2022, Princeton Supplement, Princeton Supplemental Essays, Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 at 11:16 pm

Greetings Ivy-Seekers:  Below is the post for last year’s Princeton essays (I am writing this in July, 2018).  I expect most of last year’s prompts to remain, but they can tinker, and sometimes pull a fast one by trotting out a whole new set of prompts.  The confirmed prompts usually appear in the last week of July, and I will write about them when I get an opportunity, after they appear. In the meantime, you can get an idea of their approach, and start doing some brainstorming, by looking at the material below.

Here is your content:

Wow, that title alliterates nicely.

Below you will find my annotated discussion of Princeton’s supplementals for this year, which popped up this week on Princeton’s website, complete with a pdf for those of you living with dial-up modems and whatnot.

So here goes my first post on Ivy League Essay prompts for 2017-2018; rather than a super-detailed analysis of each prompt, I am going to annotate as I go. And this post will cover the short responses for Princeton; we will look at the essay prompts in the next post, though I will list them below my advice on the Princeton short responses.

Here goes:

Princeton Supplement

My note:  Here is a link to the Princeton Supplement, with writing prompts, in pdf form— Princeton Application Class of 2022 pdf.   Please note that, if you are using the Common Application site or another portal like Naviance, you do not need to print out and fill out the pdf form to mail to anybody—it is enough to fill in all the boxes online, thank you very much.  But research also shows that handwriting ideas and scribbling is great for inspiration, so I also suggest that you print it out and use it as a scratch sheet or carry it around in a notebook so you can write down all those brilliant ideas before you forget them.

Next item, from Princeton:

In addition to the Common Application or the Universal College Application, Princeton University requires the Princeton Supplement. You submit the Supplement online through either the Common Application or Universal College Application. You will be able to view the Supplement in full on whichever application you choose, after you add Princeton University to your list.

For quick reference, below are the short answer and essay questions included in the Princeton Supplement for 2017-18. 

My note: do not go into the Common Application portal, et al, and try to fill in the blanks or upload your essays until August 1st or later—all existing accounts on the Common Application will be eliminated at some point in the last week of July, when the Common App website is largely offline as it is set up for the coming year of applications.

Activities

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words.)

Stick to the word count, though you may try compound words as a tried-and-true strategy for reducing word count.  See what I’m saying?  Note as well that just saying what you did in your activities is not enough–why did it matter?  Try to let the reason it was important enough to list  show,  and make a statement about that if possible.  You don’t need to be saving the world all the time, but it can be helpful to show that you actually like and care about what you are doing and you do try to help where you can.

Summers

Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (Response required in about 150 words.)

Being a dishwasher is not necessarily held against you–hey, that would be classist, after all–but that N.I.H. internship in D.C. would obviously look better–maybe.  If you were washing dishes to help support your family or making money for college and could not afford to find a place to stay near D.C. in order to do the N.I.H internship, then the dishwashing thing might actually look pretty good, especially if you were working on your kinetic sculptures and robotic submarine on your evenings off.  Keep in mind that, on the one hand, you are filling in the colors of a picture of yourself, and you get to pick the colors–the details–you provide.  Choose wisely.  But on the other hand,  keep in mind that the modern app officer can and will check on your social media–so with this and the last answer, be sure all the dots connect between your virtual life and the life you present to Princeton.  

A Few Details

My comment:  Think about these questions in this way:  If a Princeton admissions officer were  going to visit you, what kind of stuff would you put away and what kind of stuff would you keep out in full view on the coffee table and book shelves?  If you think about it, we often arrange the information that others can see about us in order to create the right impression.  So that is my overall comment on how to approach these short responses.

  • Your favorite book and its author–My note–Try to avoid listing “school” books–and  be aware that many books are on school reading lists as well as curriculum; I have written extensively on writing about books before, but this is a pretty good intro and can help you show how to think about this before writing, even if it is just a blurb: How to Write About Books, Part 1.
  • Your favorite website–As with the books, you want to choose in a way that does not make you look like a phony or like an incurious and shallow social climber–so just as you should not be listing War and Peace and talking about your love of Russian literature for your favorite book, if in reality you only read graphic novels that eschew words, so you should not list The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as your favorite website if your idea of philosophy is quoting Dude Lebowski as deep philosophy (Note to hipsters:  The Big Lebowski is in part a satire on what happened to the Love Generation and its social conscience.  Oh, and I am a fan of the film, and the Cohn brothers).  On the other hand, if Twitter, Snapchat or Netflix are your favorite websites . . . maybe put those in a drawer, so to speak, and come up with something else.  TinHouse?  Vox?  N+1?  Just be able to explain in a convincing and pithy way.  
  • Your favorite recording-You are getting the picture by now, and I am not going to guide your musical taste . . . though maybe this book would help with some ideas on popular music and inspire some other essays:  Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.
  • Your favorite source of inspirationNow we start looking not for repetition between all these short statements; we look for how they add up.  Go with your favorite inspiration as long as it seems okay.  That little voice that Socrates supposedly heard in his head might not have worked so well for this one.
  • Your favorite line from a movie or book and its title-Let me give you my own example, for this one; My favorite movie line comes from Casablanca, as the prefect of police, having just gambled, shuts down Ricks’ Cafe:  “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”   I love the full-throated cynicism that keeps this romantic movie’s feet on the ground.  And somehow it speaks fully to our current political moment.
  • Your favorite movie–Hmm.  Casablanca or Kurasowa’s Ran or The Big Lebowski or Blade Runner or Lawrence of Arabia  or The Searchers or True Grit (Cohn Version) or The Marriage of Eva Braun  . . . This would be tough for me.  So I will just remind you to look at what fits you and the you that you want to show.
  • Two adjectives your friends would use to describe you–Be positive but not cheesy.
  • Your favorite keepsake or memento–Please, no alt-right memorabilia and no Disney plush toys.  Well maybe the plush toy if you can make it meet cute instead of cheesy cute.
  • Your favorite wordBe positive and don’t say positive.  

Next up:  the essay prompts–I will list them below in full, but will not comment on them in this post–it’s long enough already, I think.  I will annotate them in my next post.  To see the prompts, scroll down.

Essay: Your Voice

In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application or the Universal College Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more than 650 words and no fewer than 250 words). Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application or Universal College Application.

  • Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
  • “One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.”
  • Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University and co-founder of Blackplanet.com. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.
  • “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.”
  • Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy and director of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows, Princeton University.
  • Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.

Engineering Essay*

If you are interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, please write a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests.

*This essay is required for students who indicate Bachelor of Science in Engineering as a possible degree of study on their application.

To see my comments, come back soon.  I will write about them before July 15th . . .if you are visiting on or after that date, just check the a post or two before this one or visit my homepage and start clicking if you do not see the post–you will find links there.

Strategy for your University of California Application and Data Update

In Uncategorized, University of California, University of California Admissions Data, University of California Admissions Data 2017, University of California Application, University of California Funding on July 11, 2017 at 11:33 am

Who should read this post–anybody applying to the University of California.  Contents–see below for a look at the latest data, as of July 11, 2017, with acceptance rates, a one-campus snapshot of GPA and test averages (for subscribers only) and your takeaway on relative chances of admissions based on your numbers and who you are.  The big story remains the same:  The state budget directly affects your chances of enrollment.

So the big news is that the U.C. has finally released its data, or at least some more of it, after sitting on information that is normally out in April.  The story is mixed, with some hints of sunshine for in-state students, but this is more a break in the clouds than a change in climate–expect the difficulty level of admissions to increase at all campuses, with Merced remaining the go-to backup for the U.C.  I know, I know . . . Merced.  But there are some reasons to like Merced.  More on that later.

Reasons that the difficulty will go up for California residents start with the deal to admit an additional 10,000 students over a three-year period that was agreed between the U.C. and the state government (to be more exact, Governor Brown himself was behind this).

This deal is now over, and I see no real discussion of anything new on that front, so this year several thousand spots will not be set aside for California students.  Please keep that in mind as you read on.  There is still political pressure to admit California students, but nothing concrete that will help you Cali residents, though some campuses have been clear about their intention to help a particular category of Cali applicants–more on that shortly.

Just to keep some perspective on the effect of this program ending, the UC system as a whole, for fall of 2016, admitted 105,671 freshman and 23,279 junior college transfers–so the approximately 8,488 extra California students admitted last year was about 6.5% of the total.  And many of those would be offered a backup campus, like Merced.  Still. That was  pretty good boost for California applicants who were freshman last year, and the march of data continued to go up, overall, in terms of average GPA and test scores increasing for admitted students.

Why the admissions are more difficult is a two-part problem–Part 1, the people of California, as represented by their elected officials, have not been investing in a whole lot of new campuses.  There is a very large building program at Merced, but not much else going on that actually expands the number of seats available at the UC (or Cal State, for that matter); and overall, the universities in California are still underfunded–here’s a quote from an analysis in 2016:

“State support for CSU and UC has not kept up with the significantly increased demand for higher education in California. Since 1980-81, enrollment has increased by more than 50 percent at CSU and by more than 90 percent at UC. Yet during this same period, General Fund support for each institution has declined by nearly 13 percent, after adjusting for inflation.”

For the full report, click here:  CBPC Report

Obviously a 13% budget cut in the face of such increased enrollment demand is in reality a much larger budget cut, as summarized in a different article by our friends at UCLA:

“California invests less per student in its public universities today than it did 30 years ago, according to another PPIC report. In 2013, California spent about half as much as it did in the late 1980s per student in the UC system.”

The upshot will be increasing tuitions in the near future and decreased chances of enrollment for the immediate future.  For the full article, click here: Less State Investment.

Application demand overall was also up, as I explained with detailed numbers in a previous post–click here for that: UC Application Totals.

 

Application Strategy–Buy the U.C. brand, not a specific campus; be willing to go to a community college.

But the story is not all doom and gloom, particularly if you are willing to go to a less in-demand U.C. campus and, if you are really set on the U.C.,  are willing to purse what I would call the two-step dance into a U.C.  campus–by going to a good junior college, and then transferring.

Your basic takeaway is this:  There were clear advantages to being in certain categories for admissions last year.  Those categories were led by California Junior College applicants.

But before we get into that, let’s take a look at the data we do have, the only complete data–

The full content of this post is available only on my private blog, which is available fo clients and subscribers.  For information on how to subscribe, or to become an editing or advising client,  please contact me.

University of California Application Information and Links Page

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

This page is under construction.  For a brief look at some links, please see my home page post Welcome to the Jungle and scroll down.

Ivy League Application Information and Links Page

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

This page is under construction.  For a brief look available posts, please see my home page post Welcome to the Jungle and scroll down.  You can also search by school name and use categories and tags to find specific schools.

University of California Application Information and Links Page

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 at 9:45 am

This page is under construction.  For a brief look at U Chicago information, please see my home page post Welcome to the Jungle and scroll down.

University of Chicago Information and Links Page

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2017 at 9:43 am

This page is under construction.  Some information on admissions and enrollment data is below; links to essay prompts will follow in the coming weeks.

 

Application results for the class of 2021 (Those  entering school in the fall of 2017)

Chicago did not formally release this information this spring for the first time, but I do have a snapshot.  Politics, people.  There is something that they do not want to discuss, or a problem within the admissions department that has slowed them down. However,  Dean Nondorf spoke at a gathering in the late spring, and here are the (somewhat fuzzy) details:  EA/ED acceptance was “in the teens;” regular admitted was 2%, and accepted after being deferred 0.5%. The Dean also said that statistically it is the most competitive class thus far. Overall acceptance is under 8%.

Previous confirmed data (last year) put the admissions GPA at 4.0 weighted, 3.8 range unweighted, an average ACT of 33 and SAT Reading/Math at 1492.  Yep, a tough admit.  But Berkeley sure is catching up . . .

For a quick look at other U Chicago information, particularly essay prompts, please see my home page post Welcome to the Jungle and scroll down.

They’re Baaack: The University of Chicago Application Essay Prompts for 2017-2018

In Applying to the University of Chicago, Chicago Typo Essay, Essay on Joubert, Uncategorized, University of Chicago Application Essay, University of Chicago Application Essay Example, University of Chicago Application Essay Prompt Two, University of Chicago Under-Discussed Topic Essay on June 26, 2017 at 11:43 pm

And this year, the essay prompts from U Chicago, a.k.a. “The Place Fun Goes to Die” are a little more lightweight and also more personal than in previous years.  Overall, this year’s U Chicago prompts are more about a quirky personal response than deep philosophy–though you can always find something deeper, or at least interesting to say with these prompts, with a little extra thought.  

And if you wanted to take a risk while writing an essay, this is the place:  Chicago pretty much begs you to take risks, wake up the app reader, show a little originality.   So be anything but boring.  

To show what I mean, we will now take a look at the first two of the University of Chicago Extended Essay Prompts for the 2017-2018 application season: 

Extended Essay Questions:

(Required; Choose one)

Essay Option 1.

“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert

Sometimes, people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?

-Anonymous Suggestion

 

So let’s look into the background of  this prompt before we look at an example of how to write about it:  it is based on the relatively obscure Enlightenment French author, Joseph Joubert, and it seems aimed at our present national moment of mutual incomprehension:   What, you have never heard of Joubert?  Neither has 99% of the populace.

He actually is quite the dead white guy, a man who wrote aphorisms that read like the best haiku.   But he was also a writer who never actually wrote that book he was going to write; instead he wrote many aphorisms and short descriptions that distilled the essence of this or that,  as he hung out and engaged in witty conversation in the great salons of Paris and pretty much “enjoyed the journey.”   The journey over the destination is a cliché, of course, but if you read some of his stuff, like his Pensées, you will see what I mean.  Not that you need to read Joubert much to write this prompt . . . but it could help.  For example, this–  

A hard intellect is a hammer that can do nothing
but crush. Hardness of intellect is sometimes no less
harmful and hateful than hardness of heart.

Or this:

Some persons there are who, intellectually, are
reasonable enough, but whose life is quite irrational ;
and there are, on the other hand, those whose life is
rational and whose minds are devoid of reason.

The last one sounds like a pretty good sociological take on America today, no?

For those of you acquainted with Montaigne, Joubert is  what Montaigne claimed to be–a free explorer of whatever was on his mind.  Here is what his most recent translator into English, Paul Auster had to say about Joubert, in part:  

Neither a poet nor a novelist, neither a philosopher nor an essayist, Joubert was a man of letters without portfolio whose work consists of a vast series of notebooks in which he wrote down his thoughts every day for more than forty years. All the entries are dated, but the notebooks cannot be construed as a traditional diary, since there are scarcely any personal remarks in it. Nor was Joubert a writer of maxims in the classical French manner. He was something far more oblique and challenging, a writer who spent his whole life preparing himself for a work that never came to be written, a writer of the highest rank who paradoxically never produced a book.”

So take all that together, and you have some sense of the spirit of the question posed by Anonymous here; while you can pretty much riff off of a U Chicago question in any way that you can invent, they do offer some prompts that seem to have a political or cultural slant, and this is one of them, a prompt for a polarized age of argument in which most of use are having trouble understanding the other side (Qualification: Understanding does not mean agreeing, and I believe that the conflict in the U.S.A. is over real values . . . and will have a real impact on lives).

 If you like the prompt, but nothing is coming immediately to mind, a public e-text of Joubert’s Pensées is available in jumbled form here:  Pensees.  Just scroll down past all the documentation and introductory material to get right to it.  You might find an idea by going to the source.  Note that this does not mean you have to use the quote in your essay–that can be its own cliché–the idea may work well put into your own words.

Another way to look for topics that are not discussed enough is  to look at some topics that are almost certainly discussed too much, at least in kind of blind arguments that Joubert deplored :   politics, race, climate change, Trump (Trump is as much a sociological and psychological as he is political, so I give him a separate category. So true).  

Does that mean you cannot and should not write about any of these for this prompt?  Well, no.  Surely there is some aspect of these that is overlooked, or more to the point, surely most of our conversations about these things are clichéd, and clichéd in that deepest sense of using clichés to avoid dealing with the truth?   Take Trump.  I see him as an excellent example of the outcome of Winner-Take-All . . . parenting.  And I am not talking about Trump’s kids; I am talking about Fred Trump here.  Think of Donald Trump as a boy, and you have a different kind of discussion.  Maybe even some empathy–which does not mean agreement, by the way. 

Let me sum up our lesson on the U Chicago essays so far:  If  there is a background (like Joubert), it is better to know about it; it may not be useful, but you may be missing the point of the prompt if you know nothing about the background.  Not that being clueless will necessarily hurt, as a clever non sequitur can also be a winner.  But still, I would want to be choosing to write my essay as a kind of alternate-universe response that uses the opening quote as a way to go somewhere totally unconnected; I would not want to be doing that by accident.  

And now, more briefly, a typo prompt for number 2:

Essay Option 2.

Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History… a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors.

So the obvious place to start would be with your actual interest area–take me; I would have been looking at things like Comparative Literature; hmmm . . .

Comparative Bitterature?  The knowledge and Study of all things bitter, from the best espresso sourced from a tribe of failed hipsters who now populate a long-lost South American coffee plantation, producing the deepest, darkest bitterest espresso ever known to man;  to the bitter  souls of internet trolls or the sense of defeat experienced by ex-presidential candidates. 

Notice that   in changing the majors via a typo, you are, in fact, inventing your own major, so you do not have to actually look at any subject you are interested in.  Look for the words you can change in interesting ways–and that is the obvious intention of this prompt:  to test your spirit of invention.  

I will leave it at that, other than to add that I would conclude my essay on Comparative Bitterature by explaining the purpose of my created major:  Comparative Biterature aims to reacquaint the cotton-candy culture of my own country, the U. S. of A, with the benefits of the bitter, which my tai chi master taught me  when he said, as I stayed down in a full horse-stance squat, “You must eat bitter before you appreciate sweet.  Which is why you will hold build up enough strength to hold that horse stance for 15 minutes before I teach you the next form . . .  Ouch.

Start creating some typos; I will be back in the next week or so for another post on this year’s U Chicago prompts.   

 

College Application Data for 2017-2018: The University of California and Stanford; Bonus: an Explanation of the Waitlist, the rise of Waitlist Admissions, and the Role of Politics in College Admissions

In Admissions Waitlist, Stanford Admissions, Stanford Admissions Data 2017, Uncategorized, University of California Admissions Data, University of California Admissions Data 2017, University of California Funding, Waitlist Data on June 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Who should read this post–anybody who has been looking for recent application data for the U.C. system or Stanford.  Anybody who wants to know more about waitlists and waitlist admits.  Anybody who is still innocent enough to think data is just data.  

Bonus links to fill in the data holes, and an explanation of why those holes in data today exist.

As you have probably heard, there are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies and statistics.  The fact that nobody really can say for sure who came up with that aphorism–Benjamin Disraeli?  Mark Twain?–is a lot like the information available for the most recent application season.  Outside of the Ivy League, most application information for the class of 2021 is AWOL or incomplete.  The reasons for this are budgetary and political, but the politics vary.  Let’s look at the University of California first–

University of California Admissions Data for the fall of 2017.  Or maybe 2016 . . .

The takeaway is that applications are up at all campuses, and way up at a few, particularly at UCLA, which had 123,992 applicants; for some perspective on that, in 2015, UCLA had 112,744.  Either way, you have enough to populate a medium-sized city, and that population of applicants at the gate is growing rapidly.  For freshman applications, it was 102,181 this year, and 92,681 in 2015.  The trend is obvious.

What is also obvious is the trend in GPA and test data–the average GPA and test scores for students entering UCLA in the fall of 2016 was 3.91 unweighted and 4.33 weighted, with an SAT II average of 2080 and ACT composite score of 32.  What I cannot tell you right now is what the average GPA and test composites are for those who will enroll this fall.  Why, you ask?

Several reasons.  First is the increasing use of waitlists.

Waitlist Admits

Waitlists are just that: lists of students who are qualified but who are bumped aside by students who appear to be slightly better qualified.  This also means that waitlists are places of hope, in fact are becoming increasingly so at the U.C. But the rise of waitlists has also meant the delay of data.  Here’s why:

The universities have to finish admitting students before they finish their data, and these days, with more students applying to more schools, it is becoming harder to predict yield for regular admissions.  Yield  is the total percentage of students who are admitted and then accept the offer.  After offers are accepted in early May, the schools, then go back to the drawing board, in this case, the waitlist, and make more offers.  This is still going on at some U.C. campuses as I write this in June of 2016–and that is no longer an anomaly, though it is a newly prominent feature of the U.C. application scene.  So as an example, this is what the University of California, Berkeley did with waitlist admits for students entering Berkeley in the fall of 2015, which is the last date at which UC Berkeley supplied waitlist information:

U. C. Berkeley Waitlist 2015-2016

Number of qualified applicants placed on waiting list: 3,760

Number accepting a place on the waiting list: 2,445

Number of wait-listed students admitted: 1,340.  

For some perspective on this, 13,321 students were offered admissions prior to this waitlist admissions, so about 10% of enrollees were off of the wait list.  Not only that, those who were on U.C. Berkeley’s waitlist for fall of 2015  had a 55% admit rate –very good odds, with the overall enrollment rate at only 17% for that year.

But of course, waitlist enrollments delay basic data totals until June and even July, which is of course also the last chance for admissions people to take a vacation, and with yield–the number of those admitted who actually show up to school–not confirmed until late August and not finalized until September or October, you have a number of problems getting accurate, recent data.  And you also have some disincentives.

Before we get to the disincentives, if you want an updated snapshot of the most recent GPA and test data for U.C. Berkeley, here it is for fall, 2016 enrollees:  3.9 unweighted GPA for in-state (vs. 3.94 for out-of-state!) and SAT II of ca. 1940-2300 (25th-75th percentile of admits) and an ACT score range of 30-34 (also for the 25th-75th percentile). Tough last year, likely tougher this year–expect ca. 3.91-3.92 GPA–when we finally get the data.

Increased GPA is one reason we are still waiting for the data, imho.  Because:

Politics and Data Disincentives

There are two primary drivers that bury data here:  first, the U.C. and both branches of government in California have been engaged in battle over enrollment numbers, with Governor Brown most vocal on the political side, but also numerous members of the legislature criticizing the U.C. for not admitting “sufficient” California residents.  As you likely noted above, at least for last year, out-of-state GPA was slightly higher at Berkeley that for in-state GPA, which is not what you might expect, but still, when you tell your average California parent of a high school student that the average unweighted GPA for the two biggest U.C. campuses is at or over 3.9 . . . well let’s just say some constituents are not happy.

They don’t care if having 15% of students paying out-of-state tuition allows UC Berkeley to stay more or less funded (Ah, a couple of hundred million bucks short at Berkeley a year ago, but that is another topic . . .).  California parents just want their kid in the University.

Add to that the fact that the deal Governor Brown spearheaded with the U.C. system, which had 10,000 additional California students added to the total enrolled over the last 3 years is over as of this year’s class, which means new negotiations over enrollment, tuition and funding are heating up again and, well, why would  the U.C. want to release a bunch of data now?  Particularly as the new unweighted instate GPA is very unlikely to go down and in fact is more likely to be, oh, 3.92  at UCLA and Cal?

And how far behind the curve the data is becomes pretty clear when you find that The Common Data Set for U.C. campuses like Berkeley for last year is still  a mostly empty Excel Spreadsheet; go back a year and you have a pdf with complete data.  Yes, it is all going very slowly on the data front . . . with one additional political factor:

That audit and what has been hyped as a scandal involving “overpaying” some U.C. leadership, and some P.R. funds that U.C. President Napolitano had earmarked to make herself, excuse me her office,  look good . . . so don’t expect to see  data suggesting that it is once again harder for a California kid to get into the University of California released before, Oh, Thanksgiving, when  a plurality of Americans are eating too much and distracted by football or holiday shopping. (P.S.–I don’t blame Napolitano for arming herself with some P.R. dollars for her battle with the state gov.)

Budget Factors

Adding to my last comment, I want to be fair to the U.C. –some of the same pols who attack the U.C. and its enrollment practices also fail to give it adequate funding–the budgets for the University of California and the Cal State University systems fell by about 30% between 2008 and 2013, and these cuts have only been partially restored.  Add the fact that student tuition has, on average, tripled in two decades, an increase which is almost entirely due to cuts in state funding.  So . . . any improvement in expenses would have to be met by an increase in funding.  Good luck with that, in this political climate.

It’s easier for a pol to blame and yell at the people running the universities than it is to pass the blame where it mostly belongs, which is to the voters.  Yep, I said it.  You get what you pay for, folks. And since people don’t seem to value the public commons much these days, you pay more for what are ostensibly public goods, if you want them.

In this context, why would the U.C. want to release data that would be used as a club against them by, oh, Assembly members who want to look like they are standing up for middle class families without actually paying for the needed services?    I expect that some of the folks building the common data sets that are currently AWOL have themselves been made redundant at places like Berkeley, which cut hundreds of classified/admin jobs last year, to deal with that deficit noted.  So in end, it all adds up.

And Now:  The Only Complete Data Available for University of California Applications

Having said everything I said, you can see some solid data for all of the University of California campuses for the class of 2021, which is how many people applied.  While this may not seem too useful, you can apply the numbers to previous years and extrapolate, as I did, that along with the larger pool of applicants, the average admitted GPA and test scores will also have increased–I predict something like a 3.92 GPA average at Berkeley and UCLA, for example, as stated earlier.  To see the totals, click here:

Three year totals for University of California applications, 2015-2017.

Stanford

Oh, about that little school in Palo Alto.   Stanford–they are not releasing information beyond basic application and admissions numbers.

Why?  Good question.  They were the first university to drop below the 5% acceptance rate, with GPA’s that are kind of insane once you subtract the many athletes they enroll, and they are either teasing us by letting us wait to see the new highs for grades and test scores, or they are, finally, somewhat embarrassed.

Since being embarrassed by their own greatness has never seemed to be an issue at Stanford, I assume they are playing some other kind of admissions game  to stay on the top of the elite heap.  As is U Chicago, which is not at the top of the elite heap, but sure is trying.   I will talk about them later.  In the meantime, here is the sum total of information Stanford has made available so far for the class of 2021:

Stanford University has offered admission to 2,050 students, including 721 applicants who were accepted last December through the early action program, the Office of Undergraduate Admission announced today.

Richard H. Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid, said the Class of 2021 was carefully selected from 44,073 candidates, the largest application pool in Stanford’s history. The admitted students come from all 50 states and 82 countries.

Doing the math on that, you have a 4.65% rate of admissions to Stanford–down from 4.69% last year.  Hey, at least it’s going down more slowly than it has in the last few years.

That’s my roundup of data on the biggest college brands in California, at least for now.  When I get updates, I will add them.  Come back soon for this year’s discussion of the U.C. essays.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer . . .