Columbia Mailman School of Public Health Admissions

Columbia Mailman School, Mailman School at Columbia, Mailman Public Health

The Columbia Mailman School of Public Health issued acceptances in error this admissions cycle (photo credit: Beyond My Ken).

We write about it each and every year without fail. In fact, we can’t remember a college admissions cycle in which it didn’t happen. One domino will, almost inevitably, always fall. This year, so far, a domino fell at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. But, Ivy Coach, what ever are you referring to…what dominoes are you talking about? We’re referring to universities mistakenly sending out offers of admission to students they didn’t intend to admit. We’re referring to that oops moment that keeps up just about every dean of admissions across America as they try to fall asleep.

As reports Christopher Mele for “The New York Times” in a piece entitled “You’ve Been Accepted to Columbia. Oops. Our Error.,” “When an applicant to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health got an email on Wednesday saying it was ‘delighted to welcome’ her, she said she was overcome with euphoria. She began sobbing, and her body shook. ‘I couldn’t even control my body,’ said the applicant, a 23-year-old for whom Columbia was the No. 1 choice. ‘My teeth even started chattering. I didn’t even know that could happen.’ That jubilation lasted only about 75 minutes, however, as a second email arrived informing her — and 276 other prospective students — that the acceptance notices had been sent in error. When the applicant got the follow-up email, she said she had the same physical reaction as before — but for opposite reasons. She said that when she called the admissions office, a person who answered the phone apologized but could shed no light on why it happened.”

Shame on the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health for issuing acceptance notifications in error this year.

Every year we call on universities — undergraduate as well as graduate admissions offices — to be more circumspect with their notifications. These types of mistakes are entirely avoidable. There’s no reason for them. There’s no reason to get the hopes up of stressed out applicants and make the process all the more stressful. It’s high time that universities implement more measures to ensure these kinds of mistakes never happen again. While this year the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health has already made an egregious error, we’re confident this school won’t be alone. We’re confident another school (or schools) will notify applicants in error this Regular Decision college admissions cycle. We wish we were wrong.

And so, we’ll cut to our refrain when these schools issue acceptance notifications in error: shame, shame, shame on Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health for this error! You can, you must do better.

What A Likely Letter Means

Likely Letter, Likely Letters, Admissions Likely Letters

Congratulations to our students at Ivy Coach who’ve already received Likely Letters this Regular Decision admissions cycle (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

What does a Likely Letter mean, you ask?

Some of our students have begun receiving what is known in college admissions parlance as Likely Letters. A Likely Letter usually starts with a big congratulations. And why? Because what the college admissions office is articulating to the applicant is that, based on their review of the applicant’s impressive file, they will likely be offered admission. So to all students who’ve already received Likely Letters from highly selective colleges or who will receive Likely Letters in the coming days and weeks, congratulations indeed.

When parents and students read these Likely Letters, the most common question they ask us is: “Does this mean I’m probably going to get in?” As our students and parents know that we’re all about under-promising and over-delivering at Ivy Coach, they’re quite often surprised to hear us reply, “No. It means you’re getting in. In fact, it means you were among the strongest applicants to that school this Regular Decision cycle.” Yes indeed — what a Likely Letters means is…you’re in.

Think about it. Why would a college write you a letter expressing how it’s likely you’ll get in? Here’s your answer: Because unlike in the Early round in which you either made a binding Early Decision commitment to one school or chose one above all others to apply Early Action to, the Regular Decision round pits colleges against one another. They’re competing to land you as a student on their campus. They’re competing to increase their yield, to secure the best possible class among the students who applied to the university. They don’t want you going anywhere else. They want you!

Letting you know weeks ahead of time that you’re going to be getting in is a really nice gesture that takes the pressure off. They want you to wrap your head around going to this university. They’re counting on the primacy effect of social psychology — there is indeed a psychological advantage to letting you know first since you’ll start imagining yourself at this school well before you hear from other universities. You’ll start picturing yourself making friends there, studying in the libraries, dining in the dining halls. You get the idea.

Have a question about Likely Letters? Let us know your question by posting it below! And congratulations to all students who have started receiving Likely Letters! Know that you were among the strongest applicants to the university that conveyed to you it’s likely you’ll get in. And by likely, yes, they mean you’re in. Unless of course your grades drop significantly, you misbehave, etc. So stay out of trouble and keep those grades up!

UMichigan Admission

Michigan Admission, Admission to Michigan, Admission to the University of Michigan

It has indeed become more difficult to earn admission to UMichigan over the last several years (photo credit: AndrewHorne).

A piece in “Michigan Daily” by Brian Kuang and Tim Cohn entitled “The Numbers Game: Changing Trends in College Admissions” paints a portrait of what’s changed in admissions data at the University of Michigan over the last several years. The piece begins with an assertion that it’s been getting noticeably tougher to earn admission to the University of Michigan in recent years. And the assertion is indeed correct. Regular readers of our college admissions blog of course know that we don’t judge the difficulty of earning admission to a university based purely on admissions statistics. After all, as we’ve long asserted, schools have been getting better and better at getting students — even unqualified ones — to apply. So more applicants and invariably lower admission rates does not, in itself, make an applicant pool more competitive.

Regular readers of our blog know that when folks say how it gets harder and harder to get into highly selective colleges each year, we not-so-secretly roll our eyes. Because the data, in itself, doesn’t tell the full story. But at the University of Michigan, you bet it’s become harder and harder to get in over the last few years. For the University of Michigan, our eyes are not rolling.

But you bet it’s become harder to get into the University of Michigan over the last several years. For many years, lots of Ivy League Early Decision and Early Action applicants — as but one example — applied to Michigan as a safety. This way, they could have Michigan in their back pockets if they didn’t end up getting into their Early Decision or Early Action school. So when they entered the Regular Decision round, they could rest assured, “At least I have Michigan.” But, we imagine, Michigan was tired of being used as a student’s safety. After all, the University of Michigan is one of — if not the — greatest public universities in America.

And it hasn’t only become more difficult for out-of-staters. Michigan has become more difficult for in-state residents too. As Kuang and Cohn write, “From 2012 to 2016, the number of in-state students in the freshman class decreased by four percent, while the number of incoming out-of-state freshmen increased by 25 percent. Simply put, as the University expands its class sizes each year, out-of-student applicants are the primary beneficiaries. Over the course of the last two admissions cycles, the number of out-of-state students who matriculated has seen an upward trend, largely at the expense of Michigan residents.”

While many schools love to be loved, Michigan in particular loves to be loved. Michigan doesn’t want to be any student’s safety — nor should it be since it’s one of the finest universities in America. And so while it has indeed become more difficult over the years to get into Michigan, our students continue to have great success — in part because they successfully show them they love them. Kind of like that “HBO” show, “Tell Me You Love Me.”

John Kerry to Yale

Kerry at Yale, Yale and John Kerry, Yale and Secretary of State

There’s a piece in “The Yale Daily News” about former Secretary of State John Kerry’s return to Yale.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry has announced his next act. He’s heading back to his alma mater, Yale University. A 1966 graduate of Yale, John Kerry will be returning to Yale to teach a seminar and conduct research. That’s right — he’s going to teach. So while the University of Pennsylvania may have landed former Vice President Joe Biden as a member of the faculty, unlike Biden, Kerry is actually going to teach a class. How cool it will be for students to learn from one of the most powerful politicians in American history — irrespective of which side of the aisle students might be on.

As reports David Yaffe-Bellany for “The Yale Daily News” in a piece about the newly announced Kerry Initiative, “According to a Yale statement released Thursday afternoon, the Kerry Initiative will be designed to address global challenges like climate change and violent extremism through teaching and research. Starting in the 2017–18 academic year, Kerry will lead a seminar open to students from across the University and collaborate on research with undergraduates and graduate students as part of the new Kerry Fellows Program. ‘It will be exciting to engage with a lot of diverse students from various disciplines within the University complex, and be able to look for fresh thinking … as to how we’re to going to respond to these very tough problems in the world,’ Kerry told the News in an interview. ‘I’m really looking forward to a two-way street in terms of this relationship and my ability to learn from people, to test ideas and to recalibrate some of the judgments I’ve made over the years.'”

This is a major coup for Yale to land the most recent Secretary of State. Kudos to Yale on their recruiting job!

Early Admission Policies

Early Admission Policy, Early Decision Admission Policy, Early Action Admission Policy

There is an outstanding piece by Robert Massa up on “Inside Higher Ed.” Did we mention that it’s outstanding?

Have you read a lot of criticism directed at Early admission policies of late? If so, stick around because there’s another side to the story — a side we’ve been championing for many years.

Every now and then we come across an editorial on highly selective college admissions in which the author gets it right. We say every now and then because we come across so many editorials on highly selective college admissions in which misconceptions and falsehoods are perpetuated — further confounding parents and students navigating the process. But today we came across a piece written by Robert Massa, a former dean of enrollment at Johns Hopkins University, for “Inside Higher Ed” entitled “Colleges Should Abandon Early Admission? Really?” that is absolutely spot on. We love it when folks join the chorus. The more voices, the merrier.

As Massa writes, “Every year without fail, a well-respected educator comes out against early-admission programs, calling them ‘barriers to keep most low-income students out’…But early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition at the bulk of the nation’s nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. And in fact, they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students at the nation’s most prestigious institutions.” So very true! Massa raises the point that one of the major criticisms of Early programs is that students in low-income schools don’t know about the advantages of applying Early. But as Massa correctly asserts: “Colleges and universities can and do promote early decision and early action in all of their search communications, on their websites and in their brochures.” They sure do!

Ivy Coach salutes Robert Massa for telling it like it is and for correcting a major misconception about highly selective college admissions. As he states, “Early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition.”

But Massa isn’t done there and we can’t help but root him on. Go, Massa, Go! As he writes, “And the notion that low-income students can’t commit to enrolling through an early-decision program because they need financial aid is an equally empty hypothesis. First of all, the early Free Application for Federal Student Aid allows colleges to award actual aid upon early-decision admission. Second, as every early-decision institution will tell you, if the aid is not sufficient in the family’s mind, the student will be released from the early-decision commitment.” Amen! And of course, all students and parents have to do is Google the term “Net Price Calculator” and they can get a very good sense of what their net costs will be at a given institution.

The notion that Early Decision and Early Action policies unfairly disadvantage the underpriviledged is a false narrative. Rather than criticize schools for offering Early Decision and Early Action programs, perhaps these critics should instead raise awareness of the advantages of applying Early — especially for low-income young people. Kudos to Robert Massa for doing just that! Way to tell it like it is. We stand with you!

Have a question about Early admission policies? Post your question below and we’ll be sure to answer.

Ivy League Fee Waivers in Admissions

Ivy League Fee Waiver, Fee Waiver on Ivy Application, Ivy League Application Fee Waiver

Ivy Coach salutes a Brown University student spearheading an initiative to make it easier for low-income and first generation college students to apply to schools like Brown (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

Members of the student governments of all eight Ivy League institutions in addition to Stanford University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago have banded together in an effort to make it easier for first generation and low-income applicants to apply to these schools without having to worry about the costs of the applications. Led by a Brown University student, Viet Nguyen, they’ve called their lobbying effort the “No Apologies Initiative.” And why? Because when Viet Nguyen applied to colleges, he wrote of how he had to send emails to the various schools apologizing for requesting application fee waivers and he doesn’t feel students should have to apologize for these requests.

And we wholeheartedly agree. We’re all for encouraging first generation and low-income students to apply to any and all of the colleges of their dreams and, sometimes, application fees can indeed be prohibitive. So what a nice move it would be for these eleven institutions, including all eight Ivy League universities, to be among the trailblazers in this area. As reports Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs for “The Cornell Daily Sun” in a piece about the “No Apologies Initiative,” “Nguyen, in the three-page initiative, wrote of the ‘humiliating’ process of emailing colleges at the last minute explaining that he could not pay the application fee because of the many other fees associated with applications, including submitting test scores and Advanced Placement credit. ‘My emails were filled with apologies,’ Nguyen wrote. ‘I was apologizing for the inconvenience I was causing. I was apologizing for how embarrassed I felt. I was apologizing for being poor.’ All of the colleges ultimately waived the fees, Nguyen said, but he said the process was ‘convoluted’ and ‘unnecessary.'”

We’re all for anything colleges can do to make it easier, and less convoluted, for low-income and first generation college students to apply.

Applying to Harvard

Harvard Admissions, Applying to Harvard University, Applying to Harvard College

More and more students are applying to Harvard…but does that mean it’s getting harder and harder to get into? Photo credit: Chensiyuan.

Students applying to Harvard this coming year and in subsequent years might be frightened by a piece up on “Business Insider” by Abby Jackson entitled “Nearly 40,000 people applied to Harvard this year — experts say it’s harder than ever to get into elite schools.” But these students shouldn’t be frightened because the headline is misleading. Indeed even Abby Jackson’s piece doesn’t support the argument that it’s getting harder than ever to get into Harvard.

As we’ve been saying for years and years on the pages of our college admissions blog, in the press, and anywhere we can find a soapbox, a highly selective university receiving more applications does not necessarily make that university more selective — or more difficult to get into. Think about it this way: If hundreds of ‘C’ students applied to Harvard this year, would it make it more difficult for you to earn admission to the university? No. As Mark Twain so famously once taught the world, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.”

Assuming that a university is getting harder and harder to get into because the admission rate keeps getting lower and lower isn’t necessarily an accurate assumption.

The fact is that all highly selective colleges, including Harvard, are getting better and better over the years at getting students — both qualified and unqualified students — to apply. The more students who apply, invariably the lower the admission rate will be, and the higher the university will be ranked in “US News & World Report.” And if a college tells you that they don’t care about their “US News & World Report” ranking, smile, nod, and know in your heart of hearts that you were just told a lie. Because every single college cares about their “US News & World Report” ranking.

But Abby Jackson’s piece presents another argument — that highly selective colleges are getting better and better in particular at getting international students to apply. Students with perfect or near-perfect grades and perfect or near-perfect test scores. But while there has been an influx of international applicants these last several years, many of them are competing against one another. Sure, one could make the argument that if a school used to admit a class in which 10% of students hailed from nations outside the United States and now that same figure is 20% — that fewer American students are being offered admission. But here is an alternative argument, not to be confused with “alternative facts.” Writes Jackson, “The increase in international applicants, therefore, while it may drive down the overall acceptance rate, likely has less impact on US applicants than is sometimes believed.”

Thinking of applying to Harvard University? What are your thoughts on the piece up on “Business Insider”? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.

Calhoun College at Yale

Calhoun College, Yale Residential Colleges, Grace Hopper and Yale

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was a great American patriot and a pioneer in the field of computer science.

Calhoun College at Yale University, named after John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president in American history, will be renamed after Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, it was announced today. Calhoun was an ardent supporter of slavery and so many in the Yale community, over the years but particularly over the last several months, have voiced their outrage that the university — which prides itself on diversity — would choose to honor a man whose legacy is inextricably linked to the inhuman practice.

As reports Gabriella Paiella for “New York Magazine” in a piece about Yale’s decision, “Back in April 2016, Yale president Peter Salovey said that they would not be renaming Calhoun College, which he explained by saying that ‘erasing Calhoun’s name from a much-beloved residential college risks masking this past, downplaying the lasting effects of slavery, and substituting a false and misleading narrative, albeit one that might allow us to feel complacent or, even, self-congratulatory.’ He’s since appeared to have come around to the arguments against the name. ‘John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university,’ Salovey told reporters following news that the university would in fact be dropping Calhoun’s name.”

The late Rear Admiral Grace Hopper received her graduate degrees at Yale. And you bet the university is quite proud of this pioneer’s association with the university.

We applaud Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, for having the chutzpah to so publicly change his mind and stand in support of the members of the Yale community who viewed the school’s association with the name Calhoun to be antithetical to its mission. And we applaud the university for choosing to rename the college after Grace Hopper, a pioneering figure in the field of computer science. Rear Admiral Hopper not only invented the first compiler for a computer programming language but she made it known that machine-independent programming languages were the way of the future. She — a woman in the field of computer science and a woman in the United States armed forces — served her country when doing so wasn’t always easy and it certainly wasn’t popular. A posthumous recipient of the 2016 Medal of Freedom, Grace Hopper received her master’s degree and doctoral degree from Yale University. Interestingly, she attended Vassar College as an undergraduate — where she was initially denied admission but ultimately admitted the subsequent year. Good fix, Vassar!

Yale University should be quite proud of the legacy of the late Rear Admiral Hopper and, in our view, the school couldn’t have picked a better namesake for a college that will never again bear the name of a man who supported slavery. It will now bear the name of one of the great American patriots of the ages. And that’s pretty cool if you ask us.

Asian Americans as Face Against Affirmative Action

Asians and Affirmative Action, Affirmative Action and Discrimination Against Asians, Asian Americans and Ivy Admission

There’s a good piece up on “US News & World Report” that offers insight into why litigants are choosing Asian Americans as the new face against Affirmative Action.

We’ve written extensively over the years about a host of lawsuits that have been filed alleging that Asian Americans face discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process. And we have not been shy over the years to voice our opinion that Asian Americans do indeed face discrimination in this very process. So we read with great interest a piece by Joseph P. Williams for “US News & World Report” that paints a portrait of a man who has dedicated much of his life to ending the practice of Affirmative Action — a charge he is now leading grounded in the premise that Asian Americans face unjust discrimination in the process.

The man’s name is Edward Blum. If his name sounds familiar to our readers, it’s because we’ve surely mentioned him before on the pages of our college admissions blog as he leads the charge against the practice of Affirmative Action. Indeed he represented Abigail Fisher in her unsuccessful suit against the University of Texas at our nation’s highest court. As Williams writes in his piece, “Are Asians the New Face of Affirmative Action?“, “For more than two decades, Blum has been the architect of roughly a dozen lawsuits against affirmative action and race-based programs, part of his crusade to create a ‘color-blind’ society. Since 2009, four of them have made it to the Supreme Court, and legal analysts believe Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University could join the list, perhaps as early as this year. But Blum’s attempt to argue that Asians are unfairly harmed by college affirmative-action programs may be backfiring. Though he’s spent more than two years recruiting students to become the public face of the lawsuit, Blum got only a handful of takers; his argument has sharply divided the Asian community, and spurred a backlash.”

The article in “US News & World Report” offers insight into why Mr. Blum chose to continue his charge against Affirmative Action grounded in the allegation that highly selective universities discriminate against Asian Americans. And it’s at least in part because in his 50-page dissent to the Fisher v. University of Texas case, Mr. Blum believes that Justice Samuel Alito was essentially urging the next complainant to argue against Affirmative Action with an Asian American plaintiff. With the appointment of Neil Gorsuch — and should he be confirmed as we expect — maybe just maybe Mr. Blum might actually have a shot at striking a blow to the practice of Affirmative Action.

But our guess is that he will deliver no such blow. And why? Well, for starters, litigants alleging discrimination against Asian Americans in the highly selective college admissions process keep choosing the wrong plaintiffs. It’s wise to choose Asian Americans as the face of discrimination in this process — but choose the right Asian Americans (e.g., singularly talented students rather than well-rounded ones). But, hey, this is a refrain we’ve been singing for quite a while. Mr. Blum, are you a reader of our college admissions blog or not? Because we’re scratching our heads.

A Princeton Admissions Story

Princeton Admissions Story, Princeton Admissions, Admission to Princeton

There’s a gripping piece in “The Washington Post” about a man who slipped through the cracks of the Princeton admissions committee about thirty years ago.

File this one under juicy Ivy League admissions stories — this one coming out of Princeton University from way back in the day. An article in “The Washington Post” written by Samantha Schmidt entitled “This con man lied his way into Princeton. Decades later, he was found squatting in mountain shack.” is a fascinating profile of a a “Sneaky Pete”-type figure who, under a false identity, earned admission to Princeton University about three decades ago. At Princeton, the man — James Arthur Hogue — ran on the varsity track team, was a member of the Ivy Club, and made it on the Dean’s List. And all this was just really the beginning of James Hogue’s life of crime.

And while we certainly don’t admire this man, just like “Sneaky Pete” (it’s a terrific show on Amazon that marks the return to television as a series regular of “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston), one can’t help but acknowledge that Hogue has been quite successful at his act. Writes Schmidt in her “Washington Post” piece, “Much like we admire Jay Gatsby’s ‘fevered strivings to reach the green light at the end of the dock, to invent a new name and a new past for himself and to win the love of Daisy Buchanan,’ David Samuels wrote in The Post in the 1995 article, ‘it is also hard not to admire James Hogue,’ however deceptive his acts. ‘It is hard not to admire the man who so thoroughly fooled the Princeton admissions committee, and who remained true, after all, to his own particular vision of himself, which he realized at Princeton with style, ambition and at least a measure of success.'”

But that wasn’t even the end of Hogue’s act at Princeton. Can you believe it? The Princeton admissions office has certainly earned a Mulligan for this one (and let’s not forget that Harvard admitted the man who would later become the “Unabomber”). Writes Schmidt, “And it was not to be his last appearance in the Ivy League realm. In 1992, he turned up as a guard in one of Harvard’s museums, and was arrested after just a few months on the job, charged with grand larceny for stealing gemstones worth $50,000. Violating his probation, Hogue returned to Princeton, posing as a graduate student though, of course, he was never enrolled in classes.”

If “Sneaky Pete” didn’t already exist, the life story of con man James Arthur Hogue would certainly make for great source material for a gripping TV drama. Maybe the show could be called “The Pretender.” Oh wait, that show already happened too. It’s really tough coming up with great TV show ideas. Good thing we don’t dabble in that business. Oh wait. Catch this show coming soon to ABC — based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald novella no less. And, yes, that’s Brian of our firm!

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