A Huffington Post Editorial

Did any of our readers happen to catch the article below on “The Huffington Post” entitled “How Applications are Evaluated and Decisions are Made?” It’s a fantastic article (although it’s rather outdated). This article is not available on “The Huffington Post” any longer because we at Ivy Coach asked its editorial team to remove it. “The Huffington Post” editorial team complied with expedience. After all, although Jeannie Borin of College Connections is listed on the by-line of the article, the article was actually written by Ivy Coach’s Founder, Bev Taylor, years earlier.

WayBack Machine is the enduring archives of the Internet. We pulled this article from Ivy Coach’s website on November 26, 2006. You can see that date on the images of our old Ivy Coach website below at the top right corner, courtesy of WayBack Machine. Bev also updated this piece and published it on June 1, 2015 on “Unigo” (as seen here) well before the publication of the below “Huffington Post” piece on February 16, 2016.

Here’s the piece as it was published on “The Huffington Post” on February 16, 2016 (we’ve highlighted the portions that are Bev’s writing verbatim):


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And here was Ivy Coach’s website as it appeared on November 26, 2006, courtesy of WayBack Machine:

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College Admissions on Showtime

Admission on TV, College Admissions and Television, Billions and College Admission

We highly recommend Season 1, Episode 3 of Showtime’s “Billions.” The episode features a terrific story arc on college admission — specifically to Stanford.

If you don’t watch “Billions” on Showtime, you’re missing out. It’s rare when a lead actor in a television series picks two hits in a row but that’s precisely what happened with Damian Lewis. After he was written off “Homeland,” he secured the role of billionaire Bobby Axelrod in the Showtime hit series. But why do we write about this series on our college admissions blog? Well, in one of the first few episodes of the series (hey, we were a bit behind!), the wife of an employee of Axelrod’s, a man who died on 9/11, was thinking that her son would be a sure bet at Stanford.

After all, the boy’s father went to Stanford and so too did his grandfather. And his father did perish in the World Trade Center. But as the admissions officer tells the mother by phone (because what admissions officers don’t call the parents of students who don’t get in), it was just a very competitive class this year. As a point of information, when the children of important legacies and donors don’t get in, those phone calls are usually conducted with development officers of universities or deans of admission — rarely lower ranking admissions officers. After all, the schools do hope to preserve the relationship with the family, one they know is now surely in jeopardy.

Anyhow, the plot thickens on “Billions” when the 9/11 widow confronts Axelrod’s wife, Lara, who was upset the widow was intending to publish a novel that didn’t speak very highly of Axe. But she didn’t just go to Lara empty handed. She came with a revised manuscript for the book awaiting publication, one that portrayed Axe much more favorably. Lara, already prepared for her arrival with a non-disclosure agreement, promptly informs her that a mistake was made in the admissions process, that she believed her son would soon be granted admission to Stanford.

And while this kind of story is a bit dramatic, if our readers think that, say, Melinda Gates doesn’t have a list of students she wants admitted to Duke each and every year, then they’re surely mistaken. These sorts of things do happen. These lists do certainly exist.

While you’re here, read our recent blog on major donors and college admission.

Community Service in Foreign Countries

Community Service and College, Admissions and Service Trips, Mission Trips in University Admissions

A number of folks wrote in to “The New York Times” in response to Frank Bruni’s editorial on mission trips and their role in college admissions.

Do community service in foreign countries to make the world better. But don’t do it in the hope that it’ll improve your chances of getting into a highly selective college. Because that’s rather shortsighted. Indeed a bunch of folks have written in with letters to “The New York Times” in response to Frank Bruni’s recent piece on mission trips and college admissions. But many of these folks who wrote in to offer their opinions fail to recognize that highly selective colleges aren’t specifically seeking students who have taken community service to new heights. And what many of these folks also have failed to recognize is that mission trips — going to faraway countries to fix roads, work in orphanages, save the zebras, you name it — hurts more than helps a student’s case for admission to our nation’s most elite schools.

“Think global, act local,” said Scots town planner and social activist Patrick Geddes. Take these words to heart in college admissions.

And why? Because mission trips reek of of privilege and admissions officers are human beings. They’re not naturally going to root for students from privileged backgrounds. When an admissions officer is deciding between a student who works at McDonald’s to help her family pay the bills and another student who travels to the Amazon in the hopes of saving it, all else being equal they’re going to choose the young woman who works at McDonald’s every single day of the week. That student will always win out. Duh.

So when Bernard F. Dick, a former professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes in, “If admissions personnel are looking only for students who can append a list of public service activities to their applications, they will exclude those who, for various reasons, cannot work part time or travel to Guatemala to paint houses,” know that the basic assumption of his argument — that these schools seek students with a list of public service activities — is not correct. But we absolutely stand behind the point that the former professor is trying to express…that colleges shouldn’t value community service over, say, work. And they don’t! People out there in the universe just seem to think that they do!

The same goes for Justin Jee. Justin writes, “It is heartening, though, that colleges still give applicants credit for community service. There are many factors they could consider instead, like standardized tests (favoring those with resources) or donations (which they value most from alumni).” Justin, highly selective colleges absolutely value major donations. These students are considered development cases in highly selective college admissions. And these colleges also absolutely value standardized testing like the SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, and AP tests. These colleges don’t value community service over something like testing.

What do you think about mission trips? We’re curious to hear from our readers so do post a Comment below. And if it isn’t clear already, we at Ivy Coach stand firmly and unequivocally against such trips! But we trust you gathered as much…

Major Donors and College Admission

Major Donors in College Admission, College Admissions Donors, Brown Donors

Love him or hate him, Bill O’Reilly has a no spin zone. We’ve got a no spin zone at Ivy Coach too (photo credit: Ad Meskens).

Over the years, many folks have written in to us with a question that goes something like this: “How much would I need to donate to a university so that my daughter gets in and how do I make this donation?” For starters, know that there is absolutely no amount of money that you could donate to a school to guarantee your daughter’s admission. In fact, some schools (hi Harvard!) take tremendous pride in denying folks who so obviously donate money to the university in the hope their children will be offered admission. And when you have an endowment the size of Harvard’s, you can do that. It’s Harvard after all!

Now is there a magic number that will significantly help your child’s case? Yes, there is. But we don’t reveal that magic number on our college admissions blog and we don’t reveal it in free consults either (although lots of folks have tried). We’re a business at the end of the day. If a parent can afford to make multimillion dollar donations to colleges, they can pay our business for our expertise. There, we said it. We’ll own it. Is there a specific manner in which donations should be made to a university? Yes, but that too is reserved to our clients. We disappoint you again, we know. We’re “sorry, not sorry,” as the song goes.

Regular readers of our college admissions blog may remember how the Sony hack revealed leaked emails from its CEO, Michael Lynton, as he sought to donate to highly selective colleges, likely in our opinion to improve his daughter’s case for admission to these schools. Here was what we wrote back in April of 2015, reflecting on the piece in “Gawker” that broke the news on his emails: “Well, Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Entertainment and a Harvard graduate himself, exchanged a number of emails with his sister, with a trustee of Brown University (who also happens to now report to him at Sony Pictures as his freshly appointed top lieutenant), and with Harvard and Brown development officers. Mr. Lynton’s daughter was debating between his alma mater, Harvard, and Brown University, the alma mater of Lynton’s new top lieutenant and the former 20th Century Fox boss Tom Rothmann. So Lynton made a $1 million, four-year pledge, a scholarship he wished to set up for a late friend of his, ideally for the children of this friend should ‘they be admitted to Brown.'” Does 1 + 2 = 3? We’re not sure. You do the math.

  1. Michael Lynton, the CEO of Sony Pictures, inquired about donating money to Brown University.
  2. His lieutenant at Sony Pictures was elected to Brown’s Board of Trustees in 2009.
  3. Michael Lynton’s daughter is currently enrolled at Brown.

Our readers should first keep in mind that Michael Lynton isn’t only valuable to a school like Brown in terms of the dollars he donates. He happens to be the very powerful CEO of Sony Pictures, the studio behind such hits as “Breaking Bad,” “The Blacklist,” “Seinfeld,” you name it. And his lieutenant, who reports to him, is a trustee of Brown. Let’s not forget these factoids anytime soon. Anyhow, where did Michael Lynton’s daughter end up? We know you want an update.

A quick perusal of Facebook (Sony even made the movie, “The Social Network” as a total aside) tells us that Michael Lynton’s daughter is currently a student at Brown. Are we suggesting that Michael Lynton’s pull had influence in his daughter’s admission, particularly in light of the leaked Sony emails that were unveiled? No. We’re not suggesting anything of the sort. We’re simply reporting the facts, facts previously reported by news outlets, and leaving the interpretation of those facts open to the readers of our college admissions blog in the hope of creating a more open and honest college admissions process for all.

Precocious Children at the Ivies

Little Kids at Ivy League Colleges, Little Kids at Ivies, Ivy League Children

Anone remember the movie “Little Man Tate”? We sure do. We loved it! We encourage are readers to watch this film starring a young Jodie Foster.

We know, we know. Your child is the smartest kid ever. She’s amazing, so incredibly talented at everything. She leaves the world in her dust. That’s how many parents describe their children to us here at Ivy Coach. Maybe they don’t realize that this is how they’re describing their children, but they sure are! We take a little nap during these monologues. Don’t mind us. ZZZzzz. Hey, at least we’re open about it, right? It’s just that these details rarely are pertinent to their case for admission. We know the questions to ask and we know the answers we need. A child being described as the smartest kid ever just isn’t very helpful to us because, well, this is fairly subjective coming from a parent, wouldn’t you say?

But every now and then, there is a child — and we do mean child — who is so precocious that he or she can actually attend college well before they turn eighteen. These children, Little Men and Women Tate we shall call them (does anyone get our reference or are we dating ourselves?), are the exceptions to the rule, not the rule. An article in “The Washington Post” written by Susan Svrluga describes one such precocious youngster, a boy who will be attending Cornell University this fall. He is twelve years old (although he may have turned 13 since he applied as a 12 year-old, we’re not sure). According to a Cornell historian, it is believed that this will be Cornell’s youngest student ever, based on the records available.

While there are some early teens at Ivy League and other highly selective colleges, it’s of course not necessarily in a young person’s best interest to attend college at such an early age. But, in some cases, parents are left with little choice.

According to Svrulga’s piece, “Jeremy starts classes at Cornell University next week, perhaps the youngest student ever to attend, the school’s historian Corey Earle said. Earle has found records of 14-year-old freshmen, and 18-year-old graduates, but none younger. Some of the eight Ivy League schools don’t track students by age or don’t release that information, and others did not have records of any students having attended as young as Jeremy. He’s excited and nervous to start — nervous that he’ll get lost navigating the large campus in upstate New York, excited for the classes. He loved sitting in on a physics class when he was on his college tour. ‘I think I’ll really enjoy being at Cornell,’ he said. ‘I’ve been preparing for college for a long time.'”

He’s been preparing for college for a long time. Let’s read that sentence over and over again. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, right? After all, Jeremy has only been on our planet for 12-13 years. But the young man is already off to Cornell University so he’s an accomplished youngster for sure. Do we believe it healthy for a 12-13 year-old to attend college? No. But we imagine a high school curriculum wouldn’t be particularly fulfilling to him either. So maybe it’s the right decision for him. Or maybe it’s not? A 13 year-old surrounded by drinking, partying 20 and 21 year-olds? Jeremy might need some looking after. And it sounds like he might need a map too!

Have a question about precocious children at the Ivies? We’re curious to hear from our readers so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to write back!

Best Film Schools

Best Film Programs, Film Schools, American Film Schools

Wish to be a successful Hollywood writer, director, or producer? You need not go to film school to do so!

“The Hollywood Reporter,” one of the Hollywood trades, has an article out on the best film schools of 2016 in America. Regular readers of our college admissions blog know our thoughts on film schools. We think they’re very silly, even counterproductive. After all, you don’t need to go to film school to become a successful television or feature writer, director, or producer. In fact, many folks within the biz, as they call it, look down upon young people with film school on their resumes. If they see a Master’s degree from USC’s Stark Producing Program, a Hollywood television executive might think, “Another know it all. Someone who didn’t work his or her way up the ranks. I’ll show this person! No thank you.” And, yes, we speak from experience. Brian of our firm, after all, ran Kelsey Grammer’s company for Lionsgate Television and he serves as an Executive Producer on broadcast and cable series, including this one coming soon to ABC.

We at Ivy Coach believe that attending film school can hurt one’s career trajectory in Hollywood more than it can help it. Are there exceptions? You bet. But those are the exceptions, not the rule.

But which film schools topped the rankings of “The Hollywood Reporter,” you ask? No surprise here. The University of Southern California. Placing second? The American Film Institute. Round out the top three is New York University. So a very predictable top there if you ask us! UCLA, Columbia, California Institute of the Arts, Chapman University, Loyola Marymount University, Wesleyan University, and Emerson College round out the top ten with honorable mention to University of Texas, Austin, Stanford University, Boston University, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and Columbia College Chicago.

Whenever we write about film school, folks write in with lots of comments championing the value of film school. But few of these folks have actually worked and found success in the industry. Can you hone your writing skills in film school? Yes. Have great television and feature writers emerged from film school? You bet they have. Can you learn about development and production in film school? Yes. But there’s nothing like hands on experience and the fact remains that you certainly don’t need to go to film school to be successful in Hollywood. And in fact going to film school can often make it difficult to move up in Hollywood because your resume will appear a bit privileged. So suffice it to say, we are totally, positively against going to film school.

Remember the ABC series “Body of Proof” that ran for three years, starring Dana Delany? If you’re a teenager, you probably didn’t watch it. And we get it. It wasn’t exactly “Gossip Girl.” But maybe some of you parents did happen to see it. The concept was hatched by Brian of our firm while he was working at an ABC production company and it was based on what he learned from his college major, psychological and brain sciences. Had he majored in film, there would have been no “Body of Proof.” You get our point? We hope you do, aspiring film school students! Don’t major in it. Don’t go to graduate school for it. Just write. Or direct. Or produce.

Mission Trips and College Admission

Mission Trips, College Mission Trips, High School Mission Trips

The Dean of Admissions at Trinity College has a habit of telling it like it is. And we love that about him!

Frank Bruni, the always opinionated editorialist for “The New York Times” (hey, he’s paid to be opinionated…we back it!) has a piece out entitled “To Get to Harvard, Go to Haiti?” that we figured we’d share with the readers of our college admissions blog. We’ve written extensively about Frank Bruni’s editorials pertaining to highly selective college admissions in the past and, as our regular readers know, we often disagree with what he has to say. But not this time. In this instance, Bruni paints an excellent portrait of how so many high school students are trying to game the college admissions system by going on “mission trips” to faraway places, to show to college admissions officers at highly selective schools what good people they are and how much they care about humanity.

If we at Ivy Coach composed a top ten list of the Deans of Admission we most respect, Ángel Pérez would certainly make the cut. Continuing on in the tradition of Deans of Admission like the late Fred Hargadon of Stanford, Princeton, and Swarthmore, Mr. Pérez tells it like it is.

Of course, college admissions officers at our nation’s elite schools see right through that. As our Vice President would say, “Malarkey!” That’s what we happen to think about mission trips. It is utter cliche to go on a service trip to a faraway country to build roads, bridges, or work in orphanages. Is it good for the sake of humanity? Probably yes! It’s wonderful to help people. But if these students are doing it in the hope of improving their odds of getting into a top university in America, they’re missing the mark big time. What these kinds of mission trips convey to admissions officers is that the students are trying to impress them by demonstrating what great people they are. And what they also convey is that the students are privileged. It costs money to go to a country in South America or Africa to do volunteer work — the student’s parents’ money. That doesn’t exactly inspire admissions officers to want to root for the college applicant. Think about it.

Ángel Pérez, the Trinity College Dean of Admissions, is an admissions dean who tells it like it is. And, needless to say, we’re big fans of Mr. Pérez for his candor, as we’ve articulated quite a bit on our blog over the years. As he is quoted in Bruni’s piece, “The running joke in admissions is the mission trip to Costa Rica to save the rain forest.” You bet that’s a running joke. But the always candid and outspoken dean takes it a step further and we could not agree with him more. As Bruni writes, “Pérez told me that his favorite among recent essays by Trinity applicants came from someone ‘who spent the summer working at a coffee shop. He wrote about not realizing until he did this how invisible people in the service industry are. He wrote about how people looked right through him at the counter.'” Yes, yes, yes. We love that kind of essay and we love that kind of work experience. Ángel Pérez, cheers to you!

Too Big of an Early Action Reach

Early Action Reach, Early Decision Reach, Reach School in Early Round

For many students, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford is too big of an Early Action reach.

Some students choose to apply to an Early Action (or Early Decision) school that is a big reach. And they figure, “Why not? Might as well.” Often times, these students (and their parents) don’t want to wonder for the rest of their lives if they could have earned admission to a Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford. They want to give it their very best shot and apply SCEA (Single Choice Early Action, the policy at each of these four institutions). But such a strategy is most unwise.

A student only has one Early card (if applying to an Early Decision or Single Choice Early Action school). To not use it wisely is to waste one of the very best cards a student has in his or her back pocket in the highly selective college admissions process. You want to use that Early Decision or Early Action card oh so wisely. To apply to a reach school that is but an impossible dream is to basically throw away your Early card.

Do apply to a reach school in the Early round. But don’t apply to an impossible reach. To do so would be to waste your Early card.

We have a famous crystal ball at Ivy Coach. They write about it on the pages of “The Dartmouth,” the newspaper of Dartmouth College. We can, quite accurately, predict if a student has a reasonable shot of earning admission to an Early Action / Early Decision dream school. And if we believe the school to be an impossible dream, our crystal ball will relay as much to our student. This way, a student doesn’t have to wonder for the rest of her life if she could have gotten into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or Stanford because our crystal ball could give her this answer.

And if our crystal ball says it’s an impossible dream, then that student can use her Early card more wisely by applying to a school that is indeed a reach (why apply Early to a safe bet?) but not an impossible reach. Because while our college hockey players did win gold in the 1980 Olympic Games, the impossible dream, as sportscaster Al Michaels called the Miracle on Ice, usually doesn’t come true.

While you’re here, read how only crazy students don’t apply Early Decision or Early Action. And, yes, we firmly stand behind this.

Summer School and College Admissions

Summer School, Previewing Classes, College Admissions and Summer School

Ivy Coach is featured in today’s “New York Times.”

Ivy Coach is featured today in “The New York Times.” In a piece entitled “Taking Summer School to Get Ahead, Not Catch Up” written by Kyle Spencer, Spencer writes about high school students who “preview” courses. And what does preview mean? It means taking summer courses to skip required high school coursework in order to accelerate their curriculums.

According to Spencer’s piece in “The New York Times,” “Jill Tipograph, a summer educational consultant and career coach from Manhattan, said summer academics could ‘help maximize the student’s profile’ and be part of the ‘pre-college plan.'” But we wholly disagree with what Ms. Tipograph says here. For students applying to the most highly selective colleges in America, this isn’t the best way to be spending the summer months. Not at all. Highly selective colleges want to see students pursuing their singular talent, satiating their intellectual curiosity, being proactive, contributing to their own small part of this world. Taking a summer class to skip ahead to an AP course? Take that course in conjunction with your coursework during the year. It’s not a special enough way to spend your summer from a college admissions standpoint. So there’s that.

The Director of Ivy Coach tells it like it is in an article on college admissions in today’s “New York Times.”

The article goes on to discuss AP courses. There are some folks who believe that students shouldn’t take and do well on lots of AP exams, that this won’t help them stand out in highly selective college admissions. And what do we have to say about that? Hogwash. As Spencer writes for “The New York Times,” “Brian Taylor, the director of Ivy Coach, a college advising firm on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said the belief was that college admission boards rewarded quantity when it came to A.P. exams. ‘When you have a kid who has taken 10 A.P.s and a kid who has taken three, all things equal, they’re going to take the kid with 10,’ he said.” Indeed. In this case, the more the merrier holds true. The best schools want to see great scores on lots of AP exams. So we agree with ourselves, in case there was any confusion on the subject. Shocking, we know. Hey, we’re self-aware!

Commitment of Early Decision

Early Decision Commitment, Early Decision, Binding Early Decision

Early Decision is a binding commitment, one so many students are scared to make. Use that to your advantage as an applicant (photo credit: Gavin Huang).

Afraid to make an Early Decision commitment? Lots of students choose not to apply Early Decision to schools that have Early Decision policies. And why? In our experience, it’s typically because they’re not ready or willing to make a binding commitment to a university. Maybe they need more time. Maybe they’re indecisive. Maybe they wake up loving one school one day and another school the next. It may seem like we’re describing a 20-something New Yorker navigating relationships through Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and the like but really we’re describing high school seniors! They’re often equally as noncommittal.

But this is a mistake. At the end of the day, college applicants choose one school to commit to. They only go to one school, not ten. So our argument at Ivy Coach is…why not commit to a school in the Early round, when the odds are so much more in an applicant’s favor? If they’re going to have to commit to one school anyway, why not do it a few months earlier so they can optimize their chances of getting into the best school possible. After all, the odds of getting in during the Early Decision / Early Action round are so much stronger than the Regular Decision round. If you’re not familiar with these statistics, peruse our compiled Ivy League Statistics. The difference is surely not subtle.

We also hear about a lot of folks who choose to apply Early to a school that offers Early Action as opposed to Early Decision because they’re not willing to make this commitment and Early Action isn’t binding. But that is rather silly. The odds of getting in Early to a school that has an Early Decision policy are even stronger than to schools that have Early Action policies. If you show your unwavering, singular love for a university, they’ll want to show that love back to you. So don’t be a chicken — apply Early.

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