We recently offered our thoughts on a blog up on “US News & World Report’s” site by Brian Witte. The piece by Witte offered advice to students who are denied admission by their Early Decision / Early Action school(s). The piece was alarmingly inaccurate — so much so that it prompted us to write in to “US News & World Report” to alert them of some of the inaccuracies presented. Unsurprisingly, a correction has since been run. The highly selective college admissions process is stressful enough. High school students and their parents don’t need to be reading completely erroneous information — like the notion that students who are rejected by their Early school should reapply in the Regular Decision round to the same school(s). If you’re denied — and not deferred admission — you can’t reapply in Regular Decision. So the whole premise of Witte’s piece was grossly misleading.
We came across a blog up on “US News & World Report’s” site in which the writer recommends that deferred Early applicants should call admissions officers to find out what they can do to improve their odds of admission in the Regular Decision round. Don’t do that!
Today, he has a new piece up on “US News & World Report’s” site entitled “Regroup After an Early Admission College Rejection” that we have some opinions on as well. In the piece, Witte writes, “If you were deferred, you will be automatically entered into the regular-admission pool without having to resubmit your application. Note you should still submit applications to other schools. Be sure to contact the admissions office to reaffirm your interest in the institution. You can communicate via email, but a letter or telephone call may better demonstrate your sincerity. When you speak to the admissions office, ask if the school will accept supplements to your existing application packet. If they will, it’s essential to demonstrate your continuing progress, such as improved test scores or strong first-semester grades.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Students should not be calling admissions offices after being deferred. In fact, students are often explicitly told not to do so by the very colleges that defer their admission. Do you think admissions officers want to hop on the phone and listen to dejected students express their concerns and voice their questions? No. They don’t. They have better ways to spend their time. If a school counselor wishes to call — which is totally different than a deferred applicant calling and can certainly be beneficial — that’s one thing. But a student calling? No. And students should not be asking if additional supplements can be added to the existing application. Rather, students should submit a powerful and compelling Letter of Enthusiasm that conveys what they hope to contribute to the university and why they wish to attend.
A shuttle run. Pull-ups or an arm hang. Sit-ups. Push-ups. A basketball throw. A 1-mile run. With limited rest in between each task. If that doesn’t sound like part of the college admissions process to you, then you’re not familiar with the admissions process to one of America’s most elite, and enduring, institutions — West Point. The United States Military Academy is one of the most selective institutions in America. It’s the alma mater of some of America’s most notable figures — from U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and Grant to the astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin (we hope Buzz is feeling better from his visit to the South Pole) to famed college basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. It is one of our nation’s most storied institutions.
As an article in “Business Insider” by Abby Jackson entitled “Here’s the grueling application process for one of the best colleges in the US” correctly points out,” “It’s also incredibly difficult to gain access into. Its 10% admissions rate rivals some Ivy League colleges — and acceptance is based on both academic and physical requirements. For instance, applicants cannot be be married, pregnant, or have any children that they have legal responsibility for. They cannot be older that 22 when they apply, and must be at least 17. The admissions process also starts much sooner than at traditional schools. Beginning in candidates junior year, they must fill out a questionnaire and begin applying for official nominations. These nominations come from members of Congress, US senators, the vice president, as well as other military personnel. Next, applicants undergo a medical assessment that examines both their physical and mental health, as evaluated by The Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board. Then it’s on to the Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA), a six event exam aimed at judging the applicants’ physical fitness level.”
West Point, we should also add, has one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world. And while we don’t help students applying with their push-ups and shuttle runs (some things, you just can’t do remotely), we do help with the rest of their applications, with helping them stand out in the competitive admissions process to one of the most prestigious institutions in our nation.
For students with 504 accommodations (and their parents), we’ve got some terrific news for you. The College Board has announced that it has overhauled — and greatly simplified — how the organization accommodates students with special needs. In short, it’s going to become a whole lot easier for students with special needs to be able to receive testing accommodations on the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT, and AP exams beginning on January 1, 2017. So in just a few short weeks!
Ivy Coach salutes College Board for overhauling their request process for students with special needs. It’s now going to be a whole lot easier for students with 504 accomodations to receive test accomodations on the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PSAT, and AP tests.
According to a College Board press release entitled “College Board Simplifies Request Process For Test Accommodations,” “Beginning January 1, 2017, the vast majority of students who are approved for and using testing accommodations at their school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved for taking the SAT®, PSAT™10, PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT Subject Tests™, and AP® Exams. Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams. This streamlined process builds on the College Board’s August 2016 expansion of testing accommodations that can be approved directly by schools without the need for additional documentation.” Amen to that!
The release also spells out just how newly streamlined the process with College Board will be: “Under this new policy, school testing accommodation coordinators need to answer only two questions when submitting most requests for students: ‘Is the requested accommodation(s) in the student’s plan?’ and ‘Has the student used the accommodation(s) for school testing?’ If the answer is yes to both questions, eligible students can be approved to receive most accommodations on College Board exams. This new process is expected to reduce the approval time for an overwhelming majority of accommodation requests.”
This is major, and welcome, news for students — and especially their parents — who have long had to challenge their schools and College Board to accommodate their requests. As the press release states, parents, students, teachers, and administrators spoke and College Board listened. See, change really can happen if you lift your voice and your cause is just. Congratulations to all students and parents who will soon be able to benefit from these notable changes!
In a political climate in which many undocumented young people are worried about their families, about their futures, a number of highly selective universities have taken steps in recent weeks to let it be known that undocumented American students are welcome with open arms on their campuses. It’s news we are delighted to hear. We’ve been rather vocal on the pages of our college admissions blog about our support for the right of undocumented young people to earn spots at America’s most elite institutions. And if you’re curious if we’ve faced any opposition for our stance, just read the Comments section of some of our posts on undocumented college applicants. One lady, a daughter of the American Revolution as she so claimed, asserted that undocumented Americans like Larissa Martinez have no place at Ivy League institutions. We were mighty proud to throw this lady off her Mayflower.
At the University of Chicago, the president, Robert J. Zimmer, signed a petition supporting the policy known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects children and young adults who’ve come to the U.S. illegally from being deported. As reported by “The Chicago Maroon,” the petition reads, “‘To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued, and expanded. We are prepared to meet with you to present our case,’ the letter reads. ‘Since the advent of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012, we have seen the critical benefits of this program for our students, and the highly positive impacts on our institutions and communities.'”
At Columbia University, as “The Columbia Spectator” reports, “The University has announced a plan to provide sanctuary and financial support for undocumented students, according to an email sent to the Columbia community by Provost John Coatsworth on Monday afternoon.” At Harvard University, its president, Drew Faust, also stands with undocumented American young people. As “The Harvard Crimson” reports, “University President Drew G. Faust pledged to take steps to protect undocumented students in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, writing an email to Harvard affiliates Monday to ‘reaffirm our clear and unequivocal support for these individuals.’ In the email, Faust wrote the University will expand the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program at the Law School and bring immigration experts to campus to provide legal resources for undocumented students. Faust’s chief of staff Lars Madsen will also coordinate efforts across the University to advise undocumented students.”
At Dartmouth College, as “The Dartmouth” reports, a petition is being circulated calling on college administrators to “not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in identifying and detaining students.” “The petition, signed by the Dartmouth Coalition for Immigration Reform, Equality, and DREAMers, along with other concerned members of the Dartmouth community, affirms the College’s past commitment to protecting undocumented students. It states, however, that it is Dartmouth’s ‘moral and ethical responsibility to protect the students directly affected by President Elect Donald J. Trump’s shameful rhetoric and proposed policies.'”
At Cornell University, as “The Cornell Daily Sun” reports, “Over 15 Cornell departments, programs and assemblies have released statements supporting undocumented students in response to concerns that Cornellians may face deportation after Donald Trump alters immigration policies. These statements follow a petition published Nov. 18 and signed by over 2,000 Cornellians, requesting that the University to continue its financial support of undocumented students and become a ‘sanctuary campus’ protecting students from deportation.”
The list of colleges standing with undocumented American young people goes on and on. And we’re surely mighty happy to see this is the case. We at Ivy Coach salute these colleges supporting undocumented students.
It’s important to know your life goals in college admissions. You’re probably like…what does that mean? Be patient. We’ll get there. We will. There’s a piece up today on “Teen Vogue” by Joshua Eaton entitled “5 Things to Know Before Applying to an Ivy League College” that we figured we’d discuss…because who doesn’t want to discuss “Teen Vogue” articles today? It’s like the movie “Big” for us. We’re perpetually stuck as teenagers, as the Alphaville song kind of goes. And that’s ok, we’re happy to be stuck in our teenage years, so long as we don’t have to deal with acne. Phew.
Anyhow, the piece is essentially an interview with Dartmouth College’s Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid Paul Sunde. In the piece, Sunde is quoted as saying, “Reflect on what you care most about and have invested most of your time and energy in; think about what you hope to do in college and maybe beyond. Knowing these things about yourself, you’ll be able to help us to see how you might fit within our community.” Amen to that. When students are applying to highly selective colleges, like a Dartmouth, they should know what they want to do because if they don’t know what they want to do, then admissions officers are going to be left wondering, “Well, how is this person going to change the world?” And if admissions officers don’t know how a student is going to change the world, then the student certainly didn’t dare the admissions officers not to admit her. And at Ivy Coach, each and every one of our students makes this dare. Or double dare. Since we’re opining about a “Teen Vogue” article and all.
Do most young people change their minds all the time about what they want to do in life…or what they want for dinner? Yes indeed. Some students change their minds every Tuesday about what they want to do in life. Conan O’Brien once joked at a Dartmouth commencement ceremony that some students changed their sexual orientation while in college every Tuesday, some even during the course of the commencement ceremony. He was joking. Obviously. Because nobody can change their sexual orientation since you’re born that way as the Lady Gaga song goes (which should absolutely be playing on perpetual repeat in Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s iPod!). But just because students may not know exactly what they want to do this Tuesday, for dinner, or in life, they need to present as young people who know precisely what they wish to do and how they intend to change the world. And although we suspect Paul Sunde isn’t suggesting this (because admissions officers couldn’t do that!), we sure are — it’s one of the reasons our students at Ivy Coach so often get into these institutions.
While you’re here, Ivy Coach has been featured in “Teen Vogue.” Because we’re hip like that. Obvi.
It’s not even December yet but Early Decision / Early Action notification dates are just around the corner. And so we figured we’d write a piece on what to do in the event a student’s admission is deferred. We were about to write this piece when we came across a blog up on “US News & World Report” by Brian Witte that discusses what to do if you’re rejected. The piece, entitled “Revise Your College Admissions Essay for Reapplication Success,” presents a whole lot of absolutely incorrect information. It kind of stopped us in our tracks when we were about to write about what students should do if deferred as we first felt the need to address Mr. Witte’s thoughts. One of the key purposes of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the highly selective college admissions process — including misconceptions put out there in the press.
In his piece, Mr. Witte begins, “Did your dream college reject your carefully crafted early action or early decision application? This is the bad news – but the good news is that, although rejection hurts, you have a second chance to reapply and restate your case with the regular application pool.” Umm, no. If the school to which a student applies Early Decision or Early Action denies — and does not defer — the student’s admission, that’s it. Can the student reapply a year later as a transfer or after having taken a gap year? Yes. But this is clearly not what Mr. Witte intended in his opening. After all, he subsequently writes: “Even if only several weeks have passed since your early action or early decision rejection – and your reapplication under regular admissions – you can speak to your determination to attend your first-choice school.” No, you cannot. Because you cannot reapply! Oy vey is right! Talk about incorrect advice from someone purporting to be an expert.
But his bad advice doesn’t end there. He writes, “If you are hoping to pursue a STEM field, emphasize your art projects, backpacking trips or work at an animal shelter, for example – all items that will make the student body more diverse if you are accepted.” This must be an April Fool’s prank but, wait, it’s November — not April. So he must be serious. Mr. Witte, highly selective colleges haven’t sought well-rounded students, the very students you’re describing, since “The Cosby Show” was airing. And we’re not talking about the reruns. Highly selective colleges seek singularly talented students (students who are great at one thing, not ok or good at lots of things). If you’re a STEM student, why would you submit an art portfolio? Working at an animal shelter? Cliche. Backpacking? It shows privilege. Yikes!
Over the years we’ve been writing our college admissions blog, we’ve come across a number of inaccurate statements about college admissions. But this article by Mr. Witte is among the most misleading we’ve ever come across. We wonder…is this an example of fake news? It might as well be.
There’s a piece up on “Business Insider” by Abby Jackson entitled “Ivy League acceptance rates have always been low — but the decline over the past 10 years has made them almost impossible to get into” that we of course had to share with the readers of our college admissions blog. Abby writes many great pieces on highly selective college admissions. We just feel the need to share that just because admission rates get lower just about every year, that doesn’t mean that these colleges are getting more and more difficult to get into. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Ivy League colleges in particular are almost impossible to get into. That could demotivated interested, high-achieving students from applying.
Think about it like this. Each and every year, colleges get better and better at getting students to apply. They perfect their algorithms, their marketing, their targeted applicants. But just because more and more students are applying to schools like the Ivy League colleges does not mean they’re getting more competitive. Additional ‘B’ students in the applicant pool do not make a school more selective. It just means the college appealed — and succeeded in appealing — to more students. Yes, that’s right, highly selective colleges, each and every one of them, encourage unqualified students from applying. And why? Because “US News & World Report,” the esteemed ranker of colleges, makes no distinction in their rankings if a school rejected tons of ‘C’ students as compared to tons of ‘A’ students. The more students who apply, invariably the lower the admission rate will be, which positively impacts a school’s all-important “US News & World Report” ranking.
You will find no more comprehensive compilation and analysis of Ivy League admissions statistics anywhere in the world than on the pages of our website. But always think about data before accepting it blindly. Just because a school has a single-digit acceptance rate doesn’t mean it’s near impossible to get into. In fact, if you submit an outstanding application, have great grades and scores, demonstrate how you’re going to contribute to the university in an area of interest to them, and more, you’ll have a great shot of getting in. In spite of the gloomy, often misleading statistics.
There’s a terrific piece up on “Forbes” by Carter Coudriet entitled “Should U.S. Public Colleges Accept More International Students, Or Not?” As Mr. Coudriet points out, “In the 2014-2015 school year, America hosted 974,926 international students in its various colleges and universities, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. This number has climbed every year since 2006 and comprises 4.8% of students in America, up from 3.3% a decade ago.” So is international students coming to America to receive undergraduate and graduate educations a trend? You bet it is.
State universities benefit in many ways, including financially, from having international students on their campuses.
In his piece, Mr. Coudriet very astutely points out a major benefit of having international students on American public university campuses. While public universities (e.g., University of Michigan, University of Virginia, University of California, University of North Carolina, etc.) admit international students, these students — in most cases — pay the full cost of tuition. Public universities, as Thomas Jefferson intended, were designed to educate folks in their respective states — in Jefferson’s case, Virginia. But in order to help subsidize the lower cost of tuition for in-staters — and to be able to admit as many in-staters as possible — public universities often turn to full-paying international applicants. It makes financial sense. This is not to mention the not unimportant fact that international students also greatly contribute to a university’s diversity and the perspectives students can share within, and outside of, classrooms.
As Mr. Coudriet writes, “With the pressure to serve more students (and to raise their ranking in various lists), public colleges have needed to rely on tuition as a greater source of revenue. According to the College Board, in-state tuition for two-year and four-year public colleges is the highest it has ever been, both in real dollars and in 2015-adjusted dollars. Raising in-state tuition at the current rate, however, is not nearly enough, and the political ramifications for hiking public school students’ tuition is unattractive.” He’s right. Raising tuition is an unattractive alternative — especially if such can be avoided by simply offering spots to some international students. A simple, logical solution indeed!
The drawback of course is that fewer in-state students end up getting in when international students are taking up slots, although certain public universities have tried to address this conundrum in recent years after facing intense criticism (hi, University of California). But we firmly believe that public universities are better off — both financially and otherwise — for having international students on their campuses. These, after all, are global institutions and they should be educating the world’s citizens — not just the state’s.
We’re rarely surprised when a student tells us that his English teacher, track coach, Applebee’s server (who minored in English), and SAT tutor all had a hand in helping him craft what he believes to be perfect college admissions essays. And we’re rarely surprised when we then read those essays and find them to be, well, dreadful to put it mildly. So many students seek out advice from so many folks, deeming so much of this advice to be worthwhile and helpful. But more is not better. The thoughts of the peanut gallery, as we’ll call these folks weighing in on admissions essays, are often absolutely incorrect. In almost every case, the contributions of the peanut gallery lead to terrible, horrible, no good, very bad college admissions essays.
It never ceases to amaze us that so many folks fancy themselves to be writers. And we understand why. There is no certification to be a great writer. You don’t have to get a degree. You don’t have to spend years apprenticing under a master craftsman (although it sure can help!). You don’t have to even work as a writer to consider yourself to be a writer. Maybe you wrote a short story in 1972. You’ve worked as a mechanic ever since. But you’re a writer. You get what we’re saying. But great writing doesn’t come out of nowhere. Great writing is developed. You become a great writer by writing, by reading great writing, by working with great writers, by seeing what works…and what doesn’t.
A bunch of folks who’ve worked in various professions, like law enforcement, then go to LA in the hope of working as television writers. After all, there are many police procedurals on television and, sure, there are former police officers, FBI agents, etc. on many of these staffs as consultants, sometimes even as writers. But just because you worked as a police officer doesn’t mean that pilot script you wrote — even if it takes place in a New York police precinct — is any good. In fact, it likely isn’t very good at all. It took years to become a great police officer, to learn how best to interact with people in, say, domestic violence situations. Likewise, it takes years to master the craft of writing and just because you say you’re a writer doesn’t make you a great writer.
About fifteen years ago, there was a Northwestern University admissions essay that read something like this: When the Pope sent a messenger to Giotto to demonstrate his skill at drawing, he quickly drew a perfect circle freehand. The messenger wasn’t so pleased with this example, suggesting it took him such a short time to create. We’ll say it took him two minutes (we forget how long it really took him — it was, well, a long time ago!). Giotto responded something along the lines of, “But it took me 20 years to learn how to draw a perfect circle in two minutes.” Northwestern then asked applicants something along the lines of, “What skill would you demonstrate in two minutes?” Do you see how this story relates to writing? We hope you do.
We’ve got a big college essay mistake to point out to our readers. There’s a piece up on “The Washington Post” by Emmet Rosenfeld entitled “How to conquer the dreaded college application essay” that we figured we’d write about on the pages of our admissions blog. The piece focuses on the Personal Statement — one of the many college admissions essays most highly selective colleges require — of a student who sought Mr. Rosenfeld’s candid advice. But what a mistake this student made in seeking out Mr. Rosenfeld’s help because Mr. Rosenfeld then dissected her Personal Statement in “The Washington Post’s” magazine! Yikes is right. Yikes, yikes, yikes.
We imagine this young woman gave Mr. Rosenfeld permission to dissect her Personal Statement on the pages of one of the preeminent publications in America. But doing so was a major error in judgment. After all, as Mr. Rosenfeld so states in his piece, the student hasn’t even yet applied to colleges like Notre Dame and George Mason. Now a Notre Dame admissions officer can read the revisions of her Personal Statement. And they can read that the student had help from a number of parties in crafting her Personal Statement (at Ivy Coach, we work exclusively behind the scenes so that nobody knows our students had help!). As Mr. Rosenfeld states, the student had help from her high school English teacher (who as a group, in our humble opinion, unsurprisingly often offer the absolute worst advice!), from “a writing consultant” (whatever that means), and from him. Side note: After all of this assistance, her revised essay is still quite bad, in spite of Mr. Rosenfeld’s argument to the contrary.
So let this be a lesson to high school students around the world. Don’t get advice on your college admissions essays from the peanut gallery — from the butcher, the mailman, the English teacher, the neighbor. Seek out an expert who can actually — actually — make your writing better and more powerful. Seek out an expert who knows what highly selective colleges are looking for in admissions essays. And, above all, don’t let anyone publish your essays online before you even apply to college because it won’t help — but can indeed hurt — one’s case for admission.