Reading to Write Better Essays

The more you read, the better you will write. I am sure this can be backed by research or something more legitimate than that fact that I said it – but really…think about it. The best writers (professional or not) you know also happen to be the ones who read a considerable amount (blogs, mags, newspaper, books, etc.) – because who doesn’t check out their competition – right? But, as someone who is applying to college, you may not be able to check out other applicants application essays – though there are a ton floating around online from past applications from almost every school imaginable. Warning – don’t use these, in fact, don’t even waste your time looking at them because in most cases they aren’t essays from actual applicants. This is on top of the fact that this is a) plagiarism if you use it b) dishonest and c) stupid because admissions officers know these essays when they come across them. Instead, check out the books listed here from the folks at College Admission: From Application to Acceptance, Step by Step.

Legacy Applicants – Updated

Have you ever wondered what the deal is with legacy applicants? Have you asked questions like, do they really have an admission advantage, are these preferences fair, and or why do legacy’s even exist?

If so, check out this article from Room for Debate (which I follow closely). Not only may it answer some of your questions regarding legacy admissions, but I guarantee you will learn a thing or two more about the history of a part of the admission process that won’t be going away anytime soon.

More to add to the legacy debate. Great article from Daniel Luzer at HuffPost, which I believe really puts the process in perspective. And having taken a look at the numbers (and knowing where they come from and what they mean) he is in fact, unfortunately, not out of line in stating that “Legacy preferences don’t make America dumber or poorer, or more even more unequal.” Check the article out here.

College Application Tips from the First Lady

No….not from me directly…the OTHER first lady.

Nonetheless, I really have to agree with her on just about all of her tips/things to take into consideration on ones postsecondary journey. Every student should take note of these during the search and application process, as well as  once matriculated – as #’s 5 and 6 apply once your actually in college.

1) Make sure that you apply. Her No. 1 piece of advice for students applying to college was this: “Do it. College is good.” “There are thousands of excellent schools across this country, that’s something that’s important to remember,” she said, standing in Georgetown’s historic Riggs Library. “You can get an education right in your own backyard, but you can also see the country and the world. And somewhere out, there is a college or a university that is right for you.”

2) Think about how many student loans you can realistically handle. “You should know everything about this investment before you make the commitment,” she said. “Is it the right school for you? Is it the right curriculum? Is it the right size?”

3) Take ownership of your college search. She noted: “The application process and the process of getting to college is your gateway to maturity,” she said. “My parents didn’t know a ton about college… It was up to me to talk to my guidance counselors, to bring that information home, to make sure that I knew the application deadlines, that I knew when my parents needed to sign certain things.”

4) Push yourself and venture away from home. “It is a special, rare time in your life. You’re young. You’ve got your futures ahead of you. There’s still room for some mistakes,” she said. “Nothing is life or death, truly, in terms of when it comes to the choices you make about college… So, you know, try something new.”

5) “Don’t let fear guide you.” Too often, high school students let fear direct their decisions — even who to hang out with or “Make decisions based on the power of your own vision about yourself,” she said. “Not who your mother is, not what your cousins are doing, not what’s going on in your neighborhood.”

6) All along the way, “work your butts off.” She told the students that when she enrolled at Princeton, it was a “culture shock.” But, she noted “I found out that I could do just as well, if not better.”

Washington Post article here.

Questions Answered Regarding College App’s & Learning Disabilities

I have been following a two-part series from the NYT Choice Blog on applying to college with a learning disability and so far have found it to be a solid resource.  Some of the questions surround how to determine the availability and extent of campus resources, waiving certain admission requirements (foreign language), assistive technology and use of aides, and whether or not to even disclose if you have learning disability (how will it be viewed by admissions officers?). The person answering the questions in the Q&A piece is Marybeth Kravets, an educational consultant and past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Kravets is also the co-author of “The K & W Guide to Colleges for Students With Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” You can check out Part I here and Part II here.  Part III here, Part IV here, and (final) Part V here.

Gap Year Option Gets More Press

I have commented on and reposted a few articles that speak to the benefit of a gap year for certain students. I came across another one a few days ago that I found interesting, as it’s title it alludes to the notion that the gap year option may be geared toward the more “stressed out” variety of student. I can’t say that I agree with this wholeheartedly; as we all well know, what senior isn’t rightfully stressed out by the end of their high school career? Yes, as the article points out the gap year can be “a break from academics, for personal growth, travel, or to participate in community service or internships” but it should not be viewed as the opportunity to simply take a “break” because you had a stressful year. The truth of the matter is, college is no walk in that park – nor should it be. The rigors of both high school and college, are in part to help prepare you for the rigors of the real world – which, I think most will agree, is also not at time so easy either. I am a huge fan of the gap year for a number of reason – though not a single one has anything to do with getting a break because of stress. Travel, cultural, community service and internship experience all make it on my list, in addition to what I think can be most gained from all of these, which is personal growth in the form of maturity, responsibility, vision, and purpose. If anything, I am happy to see more press on the topic. It is a viable option that more and more students are beginning to take advantage of, and one that I believe an even greater number would look in to and participate in if they knew about it. I applaud Forbes for more than once including a post by a contributor on the topic – but advise readers to take the title of this last one with a grain of salt.

Admissions Factors: What Matters, What Doesn’t

In conducting the survey, NACAC asked schools to rate what admission factors were of “considerable importance.” Here is the percentage of schools that placed the highest value on these factors:

  1. Grades in college prep courses 83.4%
  2. Strength of curriculum 65.7%
  3. SAT or ACT scores 59.3%
  4. Grades in all courses 46.2%
  5. Essay or writing sample 26.6%
  6. Student’s demonstrated interest in the college 23.0%
  7. Class rank 21.8%
  8. Counselor recommendation 19.4%
  9. Teacher recommendation 19.0%
  10. Subject test score (AP, IB) 9.6%
  11. Interview 9.2%
  12. Extracurricular activities 7.4%
  13. Student portfolio 5.9%
  14. SAT II subject test scores 5.3%
  15. State graduation exam scores 4.2%
  16. Work 1.9%

Equally helpful is what percentage of schools said the following admission factors were of “no importance.”

  1. SAT II subject test scores 58.0%
  2. State graduation exam scores 53.4%
  3. Portfolio 48.2%
  4. Interview 35.2%
  5. Work 30.6%
  6. Subject test scores (AP, IB) 25.3%
  7. Student’s demonstrated interest in school 19.5%
  8. Essay or writing sample 17.6%
  9. Extracurricular activities 15.2%
  10. Class rank 15.0%
  11. Counselor recommendation 12.4%
  12. Teacher recommendation 12.3%
  13. SAT and ACT scores 4.3%
  14. Strength of curriculum 3.9%
  15. Grades in all courses 1.6%
  16. Grades in college prep classes 1.6%

Source.