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Posts Tagged ‘Applying to the Ivy League’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onward, to some of this year’s data:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

University of Pennsylvania  . . 39,918/9.4%

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Application Frenzy Leads to the Rise of the Fraudsters

In Admissions Fraud, Applying to an American University, Chinese Students Applying to American Universities, Foreign Students Applying to American Universities on July 21, 2015 at 11:58 am

Application Frenzy Leads to Cheating

If you are applying to an American university from China, beware:

As reported recently on CNN, some folks have set up shop essentially to ghost write applications–from essays to recommendations.  This is specifically focused on China, but I know for a fact that similar services are available in the U.S. and anywhere else with internet access.   CNN’s narrow focus on China, a place which seems to be a bogeyman for U.S. media and politicians–at least when Russia is not on the front page–is a bit lazy. Having said that, this is a problem for many Chinese applicants, who do not understand the process and ethos of applying to a college in the United States, and who are sold a (false) bill of goods by companies promising college admissions to clients who do not understand the process.  American universities view this as cheating, at best.

Cutting to the chase, my advice on cheating on college applications is simple:  For those of you tempted to do this, please don’t.  Do not listen to a business that promises they can fill out your application and write your essays–this is considered fraud by all universities that are legitimate, both in the United States and outside of it.  And chances are these businesses are reusing materials to patch together applications in a kind of paper assembly line.  Even if a manufactured application did evade detection, it will be a generic approximation of you, which means that it will not be as persuasive as materials you yourself have developed–in other words, even if you are not caught right away, the application is not likely to work at a competitive college.  Because it is essentially hollow, it just won’t be good enough.

Plagiarism has long been a problem on classwork, and cheating on assignments often results in expulsion, but universities are now turning more attention to plagiarism on college applications–see the video here for more: plagiarized college applications.  The most commonly used method for screening essays and other written work for plagiarism is the Turnitin service.

Instead of cheating, create a more diverse list of schools to ease the pressure, ignore the frenzy around the same 10-15 colleges everybody wants to apply to, and get some help editing your essays.  Be aware that any plagiarism or fraud in a college application can lead not just to the student being rejected immediately (usually with no explanation–and you simply wasted your money and time on the application).   No, a “successful” fraudulent application can have repercussions later–you will be expelled after you have already enrolled and studied, even for years, if part of your application is later found to be forged. 

And please keep in mind that, while Turnitin has been in use for years in screening graduate applications, Turnitin itself was not the first essay screening program–a number of universities wrote and used their own software years before Turnitin became the go-to site for plagiarism screening–and at this point, this is a widely accepted way to deal with cheating.

The largest application portal, The Common Application, has explored using Turnitin in recent years, and though I have not yet heard of adoption for the coming application cycle, this does not mean that Common App schools cannot themselves use Turnitin on your essays–more and more do.  See Turnitin’s description of their service, here:  Turnitin for Admissions.

Leaving aside the practical matter of getting caught and denied–or getting caught down the road and expelled from your university–cheating is bad news on many levels, personally and more broadly.

Who wants engineers, doctors and others who have cheated their way into a profession? And who wants to secretly think of him or herself as a phony?

There is a huge gulf between using an editing service like mine to help you craft better essays and copying an essay–or having someone write on for you.  Both of the latter can lead to you being expelled due to plagiarism/fraud in your application.  So get some help, as needed, but use a process like mine, that is interactive and that helps you grow as a writer.

Okay, sermon over.  Good luck with your apps and contact me for detailed and economical professional editing.

Trends in College Applications for 2015-2016: Increased Competition, and Data for Foreign Students Applying to American Universities

In Chinese Students Applying to American Universities, College Admissions Data for 2015-2016, College Admissions Fraud, Safety Schools on July 20, 2015 at 11:50 am

Increasing Pressure in College Applications Overall

The trend is for increasing competition for spots at the super-selective elite schools–Stanford and the Ivy League, the big Midwestern brands (U  Chicago, Northwestern, U Michigan) and others.  This trend is spreading, as applications increasingly flow out to what were previously considered “safety” schools, which then report lower rates of acceptance and higher average GPA and test scores for admits.  Rates of admission have been trending down across the board for over a decade at selective schools.

For some specific data on current application trends, have a look at my summary of trends from last year’s applications to the Ivies, the University of California system and some others here:  Application results from 2014-2015.  (Further data on GPA and test score averages from the 2014 application cycle are added to this post on my subscription-only website, which is $15 for the full application season through May, 2016.  Contact me for a subscription.)

Back to the overall application trends:  Keep in mind that more  applicants are applying to more schools, which inflates the number of rejections, but there is a reality behind the increased competition that has nothing to do with inflated application rates.

Higher education is probably our most successful domestic industry in the United States–in contrast to higher education, American tech companies, which are  regularly cited as the greatest source of American innovation, outsource most of their work internationally, with Apple as a poster child of this.   Very little education labor is outsourced, and U.S. colleges are major draw, with 886,000 foreign students enrolled in American universities for the 2014-2015 school year.  Contrast this to the 819,000 foreign students in 2012-103, and the trend is clear.  A recent Brookings institute study showed that many of these same students end up working for American companies–

“Forty-five (45) percent of foreign student graduates extend their visas to work in the same metropolitan area as their college or university. Metro areas that retain high shares of their foreign graduates under the temporary Optional Practical Training (OPT) program tend to be either large diversified economies (e.g., New York, Los Angeles), or specialized labor markets that align closely with foreign graduates’ training (e.g., Honolulu, Seattle, Las Vegas).

These findings suggest that foreign students can provide important economic benefits to their U.S. metropolitan destinations—serving as bridges back to their growing home cities and offering valuable skills to local employers. More metropolitan leaders should emulate leading practices that capitalize on the knowledge and relationships of foreign students to strengthen local economies while also maximizing students’ educational and professional experiences in the United States.”

The same Brookings report also shows that 2/3 of foreign students in the U.S. apply to STEM or business majors, compared to less than half of American applicants (48%).  This, of course, also represents a problem for those of you applying from outside the United States in terms of differentiating yourself in your application, particularly as you deal with the emphasis on extracurricular activities and supplemental materials, like essays.  See my post explaining the two kinds of college applications here–The Secret to College Admissions: How Applications are Evaluated.

Industries like domestic auto manufacturing should envy the brand appeal of American higher education, but despite its appeal, the United States as a whole has not been making much of an investment in any public goods and services, including universities–in one extreme example, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has been  massively cutting funding for universities, taking a cue from his hero, Ronald Reagan, who argued from 1968 on that higher education was  privilege that should be financed by those “using” it.   Which is too bad, because U Wisconsin has been a top pick in a number of disciplines, but when universities face budget problems, I factor that in to my evaluations of them as target schools.

In places like California, campus growth has not kept up with population growth.  This trend is not likely to change anytime soon, either.   Even with predictions that the number of high school graduates will begin to decline in the next decade, the application trend is still going to be up–and I don’t hear a lot about building more campuses, except with some satellite campuses for some schools in places like Abu Dhabi.

Add to that the fact that college and postgraduate education does attract more applicants to the U.S. from around the world every year, and you will continue to see increase competition between domestic and foreign applicants for seats. This has led to a rise in what I call College Application Factories, which promise everything from “original” college application essays to entire applications, manufactured to your specifications.  Among the many problems this raises is the fact that most of the applications are essentially formatted responses, including essays that are little better than fill-in-the blank pages, and the fact that this is outright fraud, which will cause the applicant to be rejected if it is caught on submission, or expelled when the application is found to be fraudulent after the fact.  Not good.  I will write about this more in my next post.

In the meantime, scan my website for this year’s application prompts and start your application essays soon.  Cheers.

What’s New in College Applications for 2015-2016: Cornell, and How to Explore Colleges, Schools and Majors

In Applying to an American University, Applying to Cornell, Choosing a Major, Cornell Supplement on July 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

Who should read this post:  Anybody needing to figure out how to explore a major and what it means to pick a college within a university; anybody who does not know what I mean by what I just wrote;  anybody applying to Cornell.

This is the first in a series of posts on details, trends and changes in college applications for 2015-2016. 

There are few seismic changes in college applications for this year, but a lot of small changes and quite a bit of news.  This post will look at changes to Cornell’s application for this year–and will show why you want to visit and read each college’s application webpages closely.

For an update on college applications data showing admissions trends for Cornell, the Ivy League and others, you will want to see my recent post on trends from last year’s app cycle.

Tinkering with the Details:  Cornell University

The message for this section is simple:  visit each school’s website and look closely at all of the rules and requirements.  Don’t just rely on a cursory look, or on the college applications book you bought, or on what your friend who applied last year did–schools change details of their applications all the time.

New Wrinkle 1: Spring Admissions

Cornell introduced a spring admissions option for last year’s applicants–instead of starting in the fall of 2015, a small number of students will begin school in spring of 2016.  This total of 125 spring admits was added to the planned enrollment for the class of 2019.  All universities have a certain amount of attrition each year, particularly when enrolled freshman students choose not to return.  In the Ivy League schools, the number of students who  feel alienated or overwhelmed or for some other reasons choose to go somewhere else for their sophomore year is generally very small.  In Cornell’s case, the most recent data shows that they lost 3% of their enrolled freshman–about 431 total for the last available year of data.   This certainly played a role in Cornell’s move to create what is in essence a half-year gap enrollment option, filling in some of the slots that open when students leave, but it also seems a genuine effort to offer some additional opportunity–and it is worth a look particularly if you have plans for a gap year.  June to January may be enough of a year off . . . For more on this and for a profile of the enrolled class from last year, read this:  Cornell Class of 2019.

New Wrinkle 2: The End of Alternate College at Cornell, and What is a College within a University Anyhow?

Cornell is deleting the alternate college option in their application.  In the past, applicants selected a primary college to which they were applying and then had the option of designating an alternate college–the idea being that you could increase your chances of admission by selecting two areas of interest.  Of course this meant that specific foci in essays would not work so well for the alternate, and Cornell concluded that there was no real benefit to students (or for Cornell app readers) in the extra paperwork– Cornell is liberal in allowing students to change their educational paths, i.e, move to a new major and college/area of study.  So the alternate college option gone, but we can still talk about:

Majors and Colleges

If this confuses you, here’s the deal:  all universities are divided into smaller units that house  specific areas of study.  These subdivisions within the university as a whole are called colleges or schools. Something like a college of engineering is pretty much self-explanatory, but most universities also have very diverse colleges/schools, like Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences, which includes everything from a Comparative Literature major to an Astronomy or Chemistry or Anthropology major.   Majors are still more specific areas of study pursued by individual students and defined by a selection of required classes that lie within the college or school that houses the major.

Here is how Cornell breaks itself down:
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
College of Arts and Sciences
College of Engineering
School of Hotel Administration
College of Human Ecology
School of Industrial and Labor Relations

You would want to use the information for the college that houses your areas of interest to identify a major or  majors to pursue.  If you are not very clear about what you want to do, just go to the various colleges that look interesting and click, click, click to explore what is on offer, going right on down to specific classes and instructors.   The College of Arts and Sciences does  a good job helping you explore majors and minors, so for an example click here:  Cornell Arts and Sciences–and read on to explore the majors and classes they offer.  You can, of course, also explore minors and look at double majors using the same procedure.

I add only that  recent changes in technology are confusing some traditional distinctions–bioengineering, for example, pulls together some of the toughest classes from multiple colleges–at Cornell, Biological Engineering lies within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  In contrast, while Chem will be a major subject for a Bioengineering student, a straight Chemistry major will be in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Other schools put Bioengineering in their College of Engineering–again reinforcing my message to visit and read closely the information your target schools offer.

As for  supplemental essays and information, Cornell is likely to release the supplement only at the end of this month (I write this on July 16, 2015–plan on July 30-31st for this year’s release, based on recent year openings).  If I pick up an early release of the essays and prompts, I will post it and my analysis.  In the meantime, you should be working on your Common Application essays–click here for the prompts:  Common App Prompts for 2015-2016. 

Scroll past the intro to find the full Common App prompts, followed by the U.C. prompts and others.

Good luck and come back soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yale Essay Prompt Analysis and Advice:

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

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

A Network or a Walkabout

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

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

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

Network Essay Example–The Fishing Physics Fan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Walkabout Essay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scoop! Princeton’s Application Essays for 2015-2016

In Essay on Intellectual Development, Princeton Application Essay, Princeton Book Essay, Princeton Moral Obligation Essay, Princeton Supplement on July 10, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Otherwise known as application essays for the class of 2020.

I cannot resist scooping my peers and competitors by getting the Princeton prompts up first, so here they are.

While Princeton has not officially released its prompts, they have updated their pdf’s for those filing paper applications, and here’s the deal:  Nothing has changed.  The PDF is for the class of 2020, but the prompts are unchanged from those for the class of 2019 (That’s last year’s applicants, for you).

To save you the search, here are the prompts, followed by a link to my analysis of how to write about them:

Princeton Essay: Your Voice
In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please write an essay of about 500 words (no more
than 650 words and no less 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.

1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

2. “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; 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

3. Princeton in the Nation’s Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150thanniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University’s 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”

Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902-1910.

4, 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, chair of the Council of the Humanities and director of the Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University.

5. 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.

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

In applying to college, college admissions, College Application Essay, College Application Statistics, Harvard Admissions, Ivy League Admissions, Princeton Admissions, Stanford Admissions, Yale Admissions on May 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm

College admissions results this year show that competition for spots at selective and super selective universities is, once again,  increasing.   With yet again a lower ratio of admits to applications at most of the selective schools,  it’s a good time to broaden your list of college application options.

To be more specific, I have traditionally advised that qualified students apply to 8-10 carefully selected schools, using a list that includes a calculated mix, from “reach” schools to  sure thing schools.  If you are applying in 2013-2014,   I think you are going to need  a longer list, something more like 12-15 schools, including some out-of-state and at least a couple of international schools–particularly if your short list includes the highly selective schools.  Even if looking outside the U.S.  sounds unappealing now, you may change your mind–and if you don’t prepare, you won’t apply (and if you don’t apply, that door won’t be there to open if you do change your mind later).

Before I get to specific results on some of the most competitive schools, here’s the gist:  the top 10-15% of the high school class across the country are applying to the most selective colleges.  Some students below this cohort do apply and get in, but usually because they are in some sense an exception, whether through athletic or other talents.  When we shift to the super selective colleges (top-tier Ivy League, Stanford, et al), the top 10% of students are applying, and of that top 10%, less than 10% are accepted.  In other words, getting a seat at the most competitive schools has become a bloodbath primarily between the top 1% of all students in the country.  Hyperbolic?  Well, no real blood is shed, but even accounting for the gamesmanship among universities as they try to increase the appearance of selectivity, the trends are sobering.  Here’s some specifics:

Columbia’s overall admit rate for 2013 was 7.42%; Princeton came in at a 7.29% overall admit rate; Yale reported 6.72%; Harvard 5.79% and Stanford, 5.69%.  Looking at another good, public option, in the University of California system, Berkeley accepted 20.83% and UCLA 20.10%,  still pretty selective numbers, but compared to the top Ivies and Stanford, almost comforting.  Almost.

Ouch.  But in addition to checking out this year’s results, you also should be looking at the trends.  Here is a three-year sample of results, at a wider selection of the selective schools:

Overall Admissions Rates by Year

Columbia– 2011: 6.93%; 2012: 7.42%; 2013:  6.89%

Harvard– 2011: 6.17%; 2012: 5.92%; 2013: 5.79%

Northwestern– 2011: 18.03%;  2012: 15.27%; 2013: 13.90%

Princeton–2011: 8.39%; 2012:  7.86%; 2013: 7.29%

Stanford–2011:  7.10%; 2012: 6.61%; 2013: 5.69%

University of Chicago–2011: 16.29%; 2012: 13.24%; 2013: 8.81%

U. C. Berkeley–2011:  25.54%; 201221.13%; 2013: 20.83%

U. C. L. A.–2011:  25.28%; 2012: 21.27%; 2013: 21.10

Yale–2011: 7.35%; 2012: 6.81%; 2013: 6.72%

Yep, Stanford is looking like a good bet to drop below the 5% admit rate first, and will do so next year or the year after, given the trend, with Harvard right behind them.  (All those tech start-up wannabes, perhaps.)

What to do in response to these daunting stats?

My preliminary response is:  By all means, apply to your dream school(s),  even if some of them seem improbable; just be sure, as I suggested earlier, that you widen your net and look outside your early list, in particular adding some of those  international options, like the University of British Columbia, McGill,  et al.  There are hundreds of thousands of students around the world having a great experience and getting their money’s worth at non-brand name universities.

Of course you should always compare your own stats to those of the schools you are looking at to get an idea of what’s a reach and what seems a sure bet as you make a balanced list of schools.  But just as important as stats in making a good list of schools is a clear understanding of your own needs and motivations, your goals and what you will need to reach them.  Reassess yourself, particularly why you want to attend any of the more selective schools.  Then reassess the schools themselves, particularly by looking at the programs you are interested in–note that the specific programs or majors should be the main reason you want to attend school x or  school y.

I will, in future posts, be unpacking all of these aspects of the college search in more detail, for they are each becoming more  complex every year.  In just one example of what I mean, I find it harder and harder to offer specific advice about the job market of the future to my clients.   Things are changing fast as everything from outsourcing to automated and robotic systems  impact the traditional white collar professions.  You might want to think about these things as you consider possible majors.

Algorithms aren’t just driving experimental automobiles–they are sorting and analyzing more and more information in areas that once required  highly intelligent–and college-trained–humans.  It won’t just be taxi drivers and truck drivers who will wonder what happened to their professions in ten or twenty years.  From the grunt work of legal searches to patient assessment to you name it, the jobs of middle class and upper middle class professionals are also entering a period of enormous change, and not just from automation.  Plenty of highly skilled, English-speaking people overseas can process and analyze the files and data that are the jobs of many people here today.

These and other trends are clear, and choosing a specific profession these days is starting to seem like picking stocks, with fewer and fewer sure-bet blue chips available.  So I encourage you to think more in terms of developing a knowledge base and some skill sets as you consider programs and schools.

In terms of selecting  specific schools, one thing I can say with certainty is that too many of the college applicants that I have been dealing with in recent years are buying too much into  marketing and imagery.   Many feel that only by  going to school x or y  will  they get the special training and connections they need to succeed.   Sure, Harvard, Yale, Stanford have great programs, and there are networking advantages that arise in some programs in these schools, but for every Zuckerberg, there are 10,000 others struggling to pay down student loans while also holding down a couple of jobs–they would have had a lot less to pay off if they had gone to a cheaper school with less marquee appeal. (I’ll be discussing expenses in a later post.  Other discussions, such as the overblown college is a waste of time for young genius entrepreneurs  meme can wait for much later).

There are, of course, a variety of strategies you can consider once you’ve done that thorough self assessment.

But first, here’s a few other stats to consider–let’s start with the University of British Columbia, generally considered the #2 university in Canada and ranked #30 in the world by the Times World University Rankings.  UBC has an average GPA of about 3.6 on recent admits and about half of domestic applicants were admitted;  McGill, the top university in Canada, had an average GPA in the same range– I hasten to add that these Canadian schools do use a sliding scale based on the specific programs you apply to; some programs will be more difficult to get into than others, and they look for different kinds of preparation.  For an example of what I mean, go to this link for McGill, where a table will lay out basic application requirements:  McGill Admissions.   You’ll pay about as much at these universities as you would in state at some of our public schools, and they match or are cheaper than out of state tuition for most American schools.  I’ll offer more analysis on costs in future posts.

If you are open to an international setting, also consider  Great Britain–universities like St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh have been accepting increasing numbers of Americans.  Edinburgh, as an example, looks for a GPA over 3.0 and solid SAT scores–at 1800 or above. Compare this to, oh, Princeton, with an average GPA of 3.9 and a lower range SAT score around 2100–your chances of getting in with 2011 and a 3.9 are very iffy–or look at Stanford, where 50% of the students have a 4.0 or better, with the SAT  scores similar to Princeton.    Not to mention the price tag for tuition.

A 3.7 with a 2000 SAT, on the other hand,  is a shoo-in at many excellent international schools. In fact, I had several 3.5 range clients very happily accept admissions to Canadian and English universities this year.   And these are bargain in many other ways as well.  More on all of this soon . . . And on getting your essays started.

Check back in with me periodically over the coming months; I will be adding posts,  once a week, on average, well into the summer.   In addition, you may e-mail me with specific questions–I do develop blog topics as a result of client and public requests.  Do keep in mind, however, that as I begin to offer more specific advice, particularly on essay development for some of the more challenging, university-specific prompts (Chicago, anyone?), that some posts will be fully available only for a (small) fee, on my private blog, though you will be able to read an excerpt here.  You can also contact me to subscribe to my private blog, with full access to all posts for this year and in the archives.  Cheers.