Do The Ridiculous

Ridiculous and College Admission, Ridiculous Feats and College Admission, College Admissions and Ridiculous

We encourage our students to go ridiculously above and beyond.

Ivy Coach is, at its core, a family business. And, at Ivy Coach, we firmly believe in doing the ridiculous. We also believe in showing rather than telling, a guiding principle we drill firmly into the heads of our students as we work on essays with them. And so we figured we’d share with you a moment in which one of ours did the ridiculous — again — just a few days ago in fact.

An Ironman is a ridiculous challenge. Ironman athletes tend to respect marathoners but, with due respect to marathoners, the 26.2 mile run is merely the closing leg of the Ironman 140.6 triathlon (after a 2.4 mile swim in frigid waters and a 112 mile bike ride all in one day). And this bike ride on the Lake Tahoe course happens to be the most grueling of any Ironman on the world circuit — it’s up, up, up at absurdly high altitude. In many ways, we encourage all of our students to do the ridiculous, whatever their version of ridiculous might be. So long as we approve of their version of ridiculous of course.

The Fledgling Coalition for Access

Coalition for Access, Brown and Coalition for Access, The Coalition for Access

Ivy Coach is featured in today’s “Brown Daily Herald,” the newspaper of Brown University.

Ivy Coach is featured today in the newspaper of Brown University, “The Brown Daily Herald.” The piece, written by Julia Choi, is entitled “Brown joins Coalition backing Common App alternative” and in yet another Ivy League newspaper, we come down against this Coalition for Access. And for good reason. While we of course support the notion of increasing access to disadvantaged students at the most highly selective American universities, the proposal for this coalition is not well thought through. Indeed it is our projection that the Coalition for Access will make it more difficult for disadvantaged students to apply — and attend — highly selective universities. We also project that colleges will begin to start dropping out of the Coalition for Access in one year’s time.

As quoted in “The Brown Daily Herald,” “Though the Coalition’s ‘chief objective is allegedly to encourage underprivileged students,’ these students often do not have access to computers or experienced guidance counselors, said Brian Taylor, director of Ivy Coach. The Coalition’s collaboration platform will create more work for guidance counselors through its editing and feedback features, Taylor said. Admission officers will also need to work harder to maintain the open line of communication with students that the Coalition calls for, he said. The Common App financially penalizes universities who accept an additional application, Taylor said. ‘Mark my words — schools will start dropping out after one year once they realize the unintended consequences. These schools don’t want to face penalization,’ he said.” They sure don’t.

If you’re not familiar with how the Common App. financially penalizes universities for not using their application on an exclusive basis, read Bev’s editorial for “The Huffington Post” in which she questions if the Common App. is restraining trade. Do you think the organization is restraining trade? We’re curious to hear from our readers on this point so feel free to post a Comment below with your thoughts.

Financial Aid

Financial Aid at Colleges, Financial Aid Help, Financing College

Ivy Coach is featured in today’s “GW Hatchet” on the topic of financial aid.

Ivy Coach is featured today in “The GW Hatchet,” the newspaper of George Washington University. The article, written by Jeanine Marie, is entitled “Federal officials streamline financial aid process” and, naturally, it focuses on changing financial aid policies. We don’t write much about financial aid on the pages of our college admissions blog. As you might imagine, we don’t do so because 1.) our clients tend not to qualify for aid by virtue of being able to afford our services and 2.) we don’t profess to be experts on the subject of financial aid. But we do work with many veterans on a pro bono basis, so we might know a little bit more than we let on (though their aid is often tied to the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Yellow-Ribbon status of universities, which is a bit different indeed).

Anyhow, the federal Perkins Loan Program recently expired. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee made it his mission to squash this program and he was not without his reasons — the program was not without its issues. For starters, it didn’t necessarily help the most disadvantaged of students. And we suspect Senator Alexander has an overhaul in mind to the federal financial aid system (one that’s already in the works), so in order to bring in the new, the old must go out. We totally destroyed that expression, we know. Deal with it.

Anyhow, there was also a change in terms of the date. As quoted in “The GW Hatchet,” “As for students coming to campus in August 2017, they will use tax information filed this April, which experts say will benefit lower-income students and help every applicant to be more informed even before they commit to one school. The FAFSA used to become available on Jan. 1, making it almost impossible for students to apply to school with financial aid in mind…Brian Taylor, the director of Ivy Coach, a private college counseling service, said the move from January to October is a significant change because it will also paint a bigger picture of families’ finances, especially those who are not salaried. ‘What if you work on commission? Let’s say you made $100,000 this year, but last year, you made $40,000,’ he said. ‘You shouldn’t rely on just one year [of taxes]. It’s more of a picture of your earnings.'” True statement.


A Famous College Applicant

Famous College Applicant, Malia Obama and Ivies, Ivies and Obama

Malia Obama is, without question, the most highly sought after college applicant of the year. Which college will land her?

We’ve written before about Malia Obama, the eldest of the Obama daughters, and how universities will be clamoring for a chance to land this high school senior on their campuses this fall. But now that college list of America’s first daughter is starting to really take shape, just as it is for many high school seniors across the nation. Indeed a piece in “The New York Times” today by Nicholas Fandos entitled “Malia Obama’s College Pick: Ivies, Liberal Arts or Public University?” points out that Malia seems to be focusing her attention on Stanford University, Columbia University, Brown University, Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University, New York University, Tufts University, Barnard College, and Wesleyan University. Tufts, NYU, Barnard, and Wesleyan must be pretty excited to be among the possible contenders. But we suspect Malia will not end up a Jumbo. And while she may end up a Cardinal, it would likely be a Stanford Cardinal — not a Wesleyan Cardinal. Sorry Tufts and Wesleyan…we usually give you lots of love.

And so how has Malia been visiting these colleges? Not with her mom and dad. As Fandos writes, “At Columbia, the president’s alma mater, Malia was shown around by Zila Reyes Acosta-Grimes, a third-year law school student serving on the university senate whose father is a prominent New York jurist. At Yale, the college’s head student tour guide, Jeremy Hutton — once a competitor in the Mr. Yale beauty pageant — showed off the Gothic campus. At Harvard, Malia toured the Yard with Taylor Nides, a fellow senior from Sidwell and the daughter of Thomas R. Nides, a former deputy secretary of state under Mrs. Clinton, and Virginia Moseley, the deputy Washington bureau chief at CNN.” So, as we’ve said all along, don’t expect to see Malia Obama on your college tour this fall.

It seems that Malia has an interest in working in film and television. She worked as a production assistant on the CBS series “Extant” as well as on the HBO series “Girls.” We’re glad that Malia isn’t only considering universities with great film programs (like USC, NYU, and UCLA). As you may know from reading our college admissions blog over the years, we believe that attending a film school can be an unwise choice indeed, even if you do want to be a director, writer, or producer.

Where do you think Malia will end up? Let us know by posting your guess as a Comment below. Which school will win the Malia Obama sweepstakes? And make no mistake —  every college in America hopes she’ll choose them. To quote a famous line from “Grey’s Anatomy” by Dartmouth alumna Shonda Rhimes, “Pick me, choose me, love me.” That’s what these colleges are thinking. And maybe, just maybe, the underdog (Wesleyan, Tufts) will have its day? Likely not. But maybe?

High School Class of 2025

HS Class of 2025, HS Class 2025, Class of 2025 from High School

The Pew Research Center has unveiled some interesting data about the graduating high school Class of 2025.

For the parents of third graders who read our college admissions blog (you know who you are), know that your children are members of what will in all likelihood be the biggest and most diverse group of students applying to colleges ever. Congratulations? Well, at least you’re getting a head start on things. Well, actually, there are parents of aspiring kindergartners in Manhattan who contact us, too, so they might be a step ahead of you but that’s ok. They’re a little nuts, if you ask us.

According to the Pew Research Center as reported in a piece by Richard Fry entitled “Class of 2025 expected to be the biggest, most diverse ever,” “That’s because in 2007 U.S. births surpassed 4.3 million – a feat not seen since 1957, when college enrollment was less common. Based on trends today, demographers can make certain assumptions about what share of those children will eventually graduate from high school and go on to college. According to the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE), the high school class of 2025 will be the largest and most ethnically diverse class we’ve ever seen. This wouldn’t be the first time that colleges and universities have experienced a ‘college admissions bubble.’ The last enrollment peak happened in 2009, when the children of Baby Boomers reached college age (and 18 years after 1991’s 4.1 million births). In addition, the Great Recession encouraged many young adults to ride out the difficult job market by continuing their education.”

So for parents of the graduating college Class of 2029, know that competition might be steep that year with more applicants than usual. And if you’d like to get a head start on the highly selective college admissions process, we invite you to call us in five to six years time. Calendar it? And, yes, this goes for the parents of Manhattan toddlers, too.

The Ill-Conceived Coalition for Access

Coalition for Access, The Coalition for Access, Poorly Conceived Coalition for Admission

Bev Taylor, Founder of Ivy Coach, is quoted today on the pages of “The Dartmouth” on the topic of the ill-conceived Coalition for Access.

Bev Taylor, Founder of Ivy Coach, is quoted today on the pages of America’s oldest college newspaper, “The Dartmouth,” the newspaper of Dartmouth College. The piece by Daniel Kim is entitled “College joins Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, will accept Common app alternative” and it focuses on the new hot-button issue in college admissions — the announcement that eighty universities have joined the Coalition for Access, whose aim it is to improve access to colleges for disadvantaged students. If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know our position on this Coalition for Access. It is our belief that this coalition’s proposal not only won’t make it easier for disadvantaged students to apply to — and attend — highly selective colleges, but instead it will make it much more difficult.

As Kim writes for “The Dartmouth,” “Bev Taylor, founder of college admissions consulting firm Ivy Coach, also said the Coalition failed to take into account the school environment of disadvantaged students. ‘Disadvantaged students will require more counseling, not less,’ she said. ‘Yet disadvantaged students often do not have access to counseling, or they attend public schools that have large student-to-counselor ratios. Also, disadvantaged kids are generally first generation students… and as such, usually apply to less selective schools that wouldn’t qualify for the Coalition because they have less than a 70 percent graduation rate.'”

Here’s what our crystal ball says (and, yes, our crystal ball has been quoted on the pages of “The Dartmouth” in the past): this Coalition will exist for one year and then we suspect colleges will drop out of the Coalition when they realize it isn’t accomplishing their objectives. And, remember, these colleges are going to be hit by significant penalty fees by the Common Application for subscribing to another application (remember Bev’s piece questioning if Common App. restrains trade?). The schools are also going to have to hire a portfolio manager (or six) and they’ll be regularly fielding complaints by already overworked public school counselors who have caseloads ranging anywhere from 250 to 700 students.

Common Application Fix

Common App Fix, Common Application, The Common App

The Common Application needs to allow students to form new paragraphs in their essays.

We’ve called on the Common Application to make changes in the past. Sometimes they listen. Sometimes they don’t. A couple of years ago, Ivy Coach was quite their outspoken critic when there were so many glitches with the platform — so much so that many universities were forced to extend their application deadlines. Right now, we’d like them to make a small, very doable change. It’s a change that shouldn’t take much work on their end as any programmer worth his or her salt can fix the issue in no time at all. But it’s a change that will make the admissions process less stressful for many.

Currently, when a student cuts and pastes the Personal Statement from Microsoft Word into the box, the Common Application doesn’t allow for new paragraphs. The Common App. doesn’t even allow for spaces at the beginning of paragraphs to connote a new stanza. So that (hopefully!) beautifully written essay doesn’t look so beautiful once it’s in the Common App.’s format. Our students have a (somewhat annoying) workaround for this, one we have to tell them. But most students cut and paste from Word, so it’s high time that the Common App. addresses this issue.

We urge Common App. to fix this problem and to fix it in time for this year’s Early Decision and Early Action candidates. That gives the Common App. a few weeks to fix a very simple issue. And, by the way, it’s an issue that also applies to many college supplemental essays, available through the Common Application. We suspect a programmer can fix this problem in twenty minutes tops. Come on, Common App. We know you can do it. Get it done. And fast. This new Coalition for Access threatens your very existence. Let’s see if you can adapt with the times. We trust you can.

What do our readers think about this issue? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below.

New Alternative to Common Application

Alliterative to Common App, Common Application Alternative, Alternate Common App

The proposed new alternative to the Common Application is half-baked. At best.

Yesterday, we wrote about the new Coalition for Access. Today, we are quoted on the pages of Yale University’s newspaper, “The Yale Daily News,” on this new coalition of universities. This Coalition for Access is a bit convoluted if you ask us. The proposal suggests there will be much more work involved in the admissions process — and beginning in ninth grade — for students, school counselors, and even admissions officers at highly selective colleges (including the eight Ivy League colleges since all eight will be part of this proposed coalition). A coalition that is supposed to promote access and equal opportunity seems, as it is presented, to be making the highly selective college admissions process even more difficult for students who are financially disadvantaged — since these students don’t have access to great college counseling and, frankly, this will create a whole lot more confusing work for the students, too.

As featured in “The Yale Daily News,” “Taylor, Director of Ivy Coach, a New York-based college consulting firm, said the platform will actually discourage students from underprivileged backgrounds from even applying. ‘It’s half-baked at best,’ Taylor said. ‘It’s not even baked. They didn’t even put it in the oven. This is only making the admissions process more complicated and more stressful, which only precludes students who are disadvantaged from applying.’…Parke Muth, an admissions consultant and former dean of admissions at the University of Virginia, echoed Taylor’s claim that the new application portal would make the admissions process more stressful. ..Taylor added that logistically, the Coalition Application would present challenges for admissions officers, since they will be taking on additional work in responding to students and advising them on their applications.”

That’s right. These colleges don’t seem to have even put this proposal in the oven. Have they at least pre-heated the oven? We find that’s important. Students can get salmonella poisoning from this proposal! Ok, maybe not. But it is half-baked at best. We suggest these schools give it a second look. It may make for a shiny new press release but, in our humble opinion, it doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense. Not one bit.

Coalition for Access

Ivy League Coalition for Access, Coalition for Access in Admission, Admissions Coalition

It seems the Coalition for Access may have spent more time designing its logo than it did on thinking out its proposal.

Eighty universities — including many of the most prestigious universities in America (and each of the eight Ivy League institutions) — announced today a new admissions plan in the hope of increasing access to those who might be less inclined to apply to selective colleges because of finances. This new group is dubbed the Coalition for Access, Affordably and Success. Quite a mouthful if you ask us. And while we think the intentions of these universities are noble, this plan is utterly half-baked. Actually, we take that back. It hasn’t even been put in the oven yet. All these schools have done is make a fancy announcement and what they have announced seems a bit preposterous if you ask us.

But, more importantly, the plan they seem to have put in place runs counter to their intentions. A piece on the proposed Coalition for Access by Scott Jaschik thoroughly sums up the proposal: ” The high school student’s portfolio: This would be offered to all high school students for free. They would be encouraged to add to it, starting in ninth grade, examples of their best work, short essays on what they most proud of, descriptions of their extracurricular activities and so forth…New forms of interaction with high school students. Students could opt to share (with any privacy levels they desire) some or all of their portfolios with people who might provide advice. Community organizers focused on education might check in on students to see how they are progressing. Colleges could, at students’ invitations, provide feedback as early as freshman year of high school.”

But that’s not all. Jaschik goes on to write, “A new application system. The coalition will introduce a new online application. Like the Common Application, there will be some factual information that students would need to enter only once (name, high school, etc.). But once an applicant hits short answers or essay or other sections, each college would prepare its own questions. The idea is to link many of the questions to material that applicants would have put in their portfolios, so applicants are not scrambling for ideas on essays but are relying on work they did in high school.”

This seems utterly complicated if you ask us. And complicated means that students will need more guidance. That doesn’t exactly translate into increasing access. Those who have trouble financing college will now need even more college counseling. And college admissions officers simply won’t have time to review and provide feedback on all of this material. They should be careful what they wish for indeed! If a good idea had an opposite, this would seem to be it. It is our deep suspicion that this entire proposal announced today will have about as much of an impact as our government’s proposal to create a federal college ranking system (remember that?). Our crystal ball predicted that wouldn’t come to fruition and our crystal ball echoes that thought for this latest, half-baked proposal. Fancy announcement or not.

Those College Brochures

College Brochures, University Brochures, College Brochure

All highly selective colleges — not just Penn — encourage unqualified students to apply. It’s par for the course.

Has your home been inundated of late with college brochures? If so, we encourage you to use them to keep the fireplace going this winter. On second thought, they may not be ideal for your fireplace as they’re often quite glossy. But our point should be clear. College brochures are meaningless. Parents often say to us, “Penn wants my son!” And then we ask what leads them to make this statement. “They have been sending him tons of brochures. They love him.” Uh huh.

While it’s essentially one of our mantras on this college admissions blog — heck, we wrote about it yesterday — highly selective colleges like Penn want students to apply, even unqualified students. It makes no difference to Penn or any other highly selective college if a student they’re denying admission has a 32 ACT score or a 24 ACT score. Your son’s application to Penn increased their total number of applications and invariably lowered their admission rate, an important factor in the “US News & World Report” college rankings.

College brochures should by no means be any indication to a parent (or student) that a college is interested in admitting them. It’s only an indication they’re interested in you applying. Which we know is quite a bit less satisfying. But it is the truth. If you can’t handle the truth, jump for joy every time a college brochure appears in the mailbox. We believe students and parents should get excited about certain things in the college admissions process — like when they get into a great school. We’re all about celebration at Ivy Coach. Receiving a college brochure just isn’t cause for celebration in our book.

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