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!
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.
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.
There’s a piece on “CNBC” by Jessica Dickler entitled “Top colleges for financial aid” that we figured we’d share on the pages of our college admissions blog. Because why not? The piece focuses on a ranking conducted by “The Princeton Review” on the colleges, both public and private, that measures universities by how much financial aid is awarded to students as well as students’ satisfaction with their financial aid packages. And, yes, we do believe these two inputs make a whole lot of sense in a ranking of the top universities for financial aid.
As reported in the “CNBC” piece, “Surprisingly, the schools that fared the best were all private schools, many of which have sky-high prices, but their very generous aid packages bring the total cost way down. ‘Don’t base your decision on sticker price alone,’ said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and author of “Colleges That Pay You Back.” When it comes to offering financial aid, private schools typically have more money to spend, he said. ‘A private school might end up being more affordable than a typical public college in your state.'” The data agrees. We agree.
So which schools are among the top universities for financial aid, according to this survey? Coming in fifth is Haverford College. Taking fourth? That would be Colgate University. Princeton University made the top three. Vassar College came in as the runner-up. And the top university for financial aid, based on this survey of “The Princeton Review”? Well, that would be…drum roll please…Pomona College. Congratulations to Pomona!
While you’re here, check out a piece we wrote recently concerning misconceptions surrounding financial aid and applying Early Decision or Early Action.
We came across an editorial on a very conservative-leaning website, “Accuracy in Media,” that we figured we’d share on the pages of our college admissions blog. After all, we like to present two sides to issues and we believe that every highly selective college should seek to present both perspectives in their classrooms — and, yes, they could no doubt do a better job of presenting the conservative perspective. The piece, by Cliff Kincaid, is entitled “How About ‘America First’ for College Admissions?” and we’ve got a thing or two to say about it.
As Kincaid writes, “American high school students are losing slots to foreigners.” It’s not untrue. International students make up an increasing percentage of incoming classes at highly selective American universities. He also writes, “The foreign students are paying the full cost.” That’s also, in most cases, generally the case. International students tend (not in every case, but in most cases) to pay the full cost of tuition. And that is, in large part, because these schools need to offset the cost of the American students who need financial aid to be able to attend college. So an argument noticeably missing from Kincaid’s piece is that international students are making it possible for many American students to attend our nation’s most selective universities — likely because such a point wouldn’t serve his argument.
Oh, and we left out a number of ridiculous statements Kincaid made in his editorial — mostly because they were ridiculous. For instance, he writes, “The foreign students are paying the full cost, since money is no problem for the regimes that sponsor them.” The regimes that sponsor international students? What on earth is he talking about? By regimes, does he mean their parents? The man makes multiple references to regimes in the course of his piece, only undercutting the few valid points he raises. He also writes, “Their financial contributions do not reduce tuition for the American students lucky enough to get in.” But we beg to differ. If these American institutions didn’t have full-pay international students on their campuses, they’d — quite logically — have more American students, including more who need financial aid. So, by this very clear logic, without international students, colleges would have to raise tuition costs. International students thus do reduce potential tuition costs.
We believe that highly selective American universities can do a better job of fostering environments that support students and faculty members on both sides of the political spectrum (a.k.a., they can do a better job of welcoming conservative viewpoints). But we also believe that conservative arguments against the influx of international students to American universities should be grounded in fact rather than fiction and a love for people of all backgrounds and not xenophobia.
Have a question on international students and tuition? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.
Ivy Coach is featured today in the French newspaper “Le Monde.” Our French is a little rusty so please forgive our errors in translation. Within an extensive exposé on highly selective college admissions, there’s a piece on college admissions in America entitled “Aux Etats-Unis, profil parfait exigé” (by the way, the title “In the United States, perfect profile is required” is mislead — you absolutely don’t need perfect grades and perfect test scores to earn admission to highly selective American universities).
As Jessica Gourdon writes, “Bref, sortir du lot, dès l’âge de 16 ou 17 ans. Les bonnes notes, c’est la base, mais cela ne suffit pas. Chaque candidat doit avoir une bonne histoire à raconter, un élément dont l’université pourra s’enorgueillir, prévient Brian Taylor, coach en admissions pour l’Ivy Coach, un institut privé new-yorkais qui prépare les étudiants à intégrer les meilleures universités. Les universités veulent pouvoir mettre dans leur communiqué de presse que, cette année, elles ont parmi leurs admis deux inventeurs lauréats du concours Google, un jeune qui a lancé une exploitation de myrtilles et un autre qui a publié un livre. C’est ce que leurs généreux mécènes attendent. Ainsi, pour le candidat, l’enjeu n’est pas d’être bon partout mais plutôt de trouver sa marque, et d’être passionné. Les universités raisonnent en termes de promotions: elles veulent recruter un groupe avec des profils d’excellence divers et complémentaires. Des étudiants qui pourront apprendre les uns des autres, poursuit Brian Taylor. Elles veulent aussi, et c’est important, des gens sympathiques et humbles.”
Oh wait! That was all in French. Our bad. Nous sommes désolés. Allow us to summarize. As Brian is quoted in the piece, getting great grades just isn’t enough to earn admission to a highly selective American institution. Students need to stand out — to tell their unique and compelling stories. They need to find their brand and own it. It’s not about being good at everything but rather great at one thing. Colleges also seek humble students who are likable. Indeed. And, yes, it’s very different from the university admissions process in France. No question about it.
A piece in “The New York Times” by Brook Larmer entitled “The Parachute Generation” offers insight into the growing trend of Chinese students studying abroad in the United States not only for college — but for high school as well. Indeed in an effort to improve their children’s case for admission to America’s most selective universities, Chinese parents have been sending their offspring here years earlier so that they can be immersed in the American educational system from a younger age. And not just to private boarding schools…but to public high schools as well.
As Larmer writes, “Even as U.S.-China relations have slipped toward mutual antagonism, the flood of Chinese students coming to the United States has continued to rise. Roughly 370,000 students from the mainland are enrolled in American high schools and universities, six times more than a decade ago. Their financial impact — $11.4 billion was contributed to the American economy in 2015, according to the Department of Commerce — has turned education into one of America’s top “exports” to China.”
The piece highlights the experience of a young man, Yang “Korbin” Jinkai, who enrolled at a public high school in Michigan — Oxford. His father wanted him to enroll at Oxford because he thought the name had a certain cache to it, though the Michigan public school has no association with University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Korbin is now enrolled at Penn State University and he’s a bit homesick — not for China but for his small Michigan town where he lived with a host family.
What do our readers think of American high schools enrolling Chinese citizens? Are they doing it because they believe the world is their classroom or because it’s a boon to their bottom lines? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.
Do caucasian American students have an advantage over Asian American students in college admissions? There’s an opinion piece today on the pages of “The New York Times” by Andrew Lam, a Chinese-American Yale alumnus, with a headline that we imagine is great click bait. His piece is entitled “White Students’ Unfair Advantage in Admissions” and of course we have to discuss his central arguments with our readers. Mr. Lam believes that Asian American applicants face discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process. Well, duh! We, of course, have long argued the same (see the Founder of Ivy Coach’s editorial on “The Huffington Post” entitled “Asian Americans Deserve Better in Ivy League Admissions“) as but one example. It’s a tune we’ve been singing for many years.
Mr. Lam discusses in his piece how when an African American Yale classmates of his was admitted to a medical school with what he argues “less academic achievement,” he initially felt disillusioned. But Mr. Lam also makes clear that he is a supporter of Affirmative Action. The issue he seems to have is that white applicants — not underrepresented minorities — have a distinct advantage over Asian American applicants. As he writes, “The number that is most revealing is the 140-point advantage for whites over Asians. To explain that disparity some might cite the myth that while Asian students have high test scores, they lack the well-rounded extracurricular interests and activities that colleges prize. But the study isolated race as a factor by controlling for variables like academic performance, legacy status, social class, type of high school (public or private) and participation in athletics. So that 140-point gap is between a white student and an Asian student who differ by little more than race.”
And while there is certainly merit to parts of Mr. Lam’s argument, we must correct falsehoods perpetuated by Mr. Lam and folks all around the world — one of which is that highly selective colleges seek “well-rounded extracurricular interests.” They don’t. They didn’t in 2015. They didn’t in 2005. They didn’t even in 1995. Highly selective colleges, like Yale, seek singularly talented students, not well-rounded ones. And herein lies a big problem for the Asian-American Coalition for Education. This is an organization that, in an effort to right the system, is trying to argue that Asian Americans face discrimination in highly selective college admissions.
And they do face this discrimination. But for the Asian-American Coalition for Education to make their argument based on falsehoods — like the argument that highly selective colleges seek well-rounded students — gives us a killer headache. Because when this organization files claims with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights against various highly selective colleges, claims in which the plaintiffs (including the son of a leader of this organization — no biases there!) are well-rounded, it’s so easy to shoot down their correct argument that Asian-Americans face discrimination in the admissions process with the argument that the student wasn’t rejected because he happened to be Asian American. He was rejected because he happened to be well-rounded. He was good at lots of things and great at nothing. He was rejected because he was, in a word, boring.
If Mr. Lam and, separately, the Asian-American Coalition for Education, seeks to right this system to help usher in an end to discrimination against Asian American students (and we are rooting for them!), we suggest they first learn the system. Because they just don’t seem to get it.
You know how for a long time you couldn’t walk into a coffee shop in America without hearing Adele’s “Hello” playing — constantly? It’s a good song certainly, maybe a little sad if you ask us, but to hear it ad nauseam could be a bit overwhelming. Hello, are you there? Anyhow, back to college admissions because you’re not here to read about Adele. You’re here to read about highly selective college admissions. One phrase we were ad nauseam from prospective clients is: “But an admissions officer said so.”
But an admissions officer said so. “But an admissions officer said their school really is need-blind.” “But an admissions officer wrote in a blog that one of the supplemental essays was optional and it wouldn’t adversely hurt students not to answer it.” “But an admissions officer said they don’t discriminate against Asian American applicants.” “But an admissions officer said my high school’s competitiveness won’t be a factor in my admission.” But an admissions officer said…nonsense.
You get the idea. If you’re still there. Hello, are you there? It’s us, Ivy Coach. We do hope we make you smile from time to time. It can be quite dry to write about college admissions every day and variety is the spice of life, they say. But the point is…don’t listen to quite a bit of what admissions officers at any highly selective colleges happen to say. Because they quite often don’t tell it as it is. That’s right. Admissions officers do, sometimes, lie. There, we said it. Gasp. Mic drop. Hello?
There’s an opinion piece in “The Washington Post” by Jeffrey J. Selingo entitled “Let’s end the craziness of college admissions” that we wished to discuss on the pages of our blog. The piece focuses on how applications continue to rise each and every year at highly selective colleges, how students and parents are all stressed out and beside themselves, and how getting into a highly selective college isn’t a prerequisite to living a successful life in America. It’s an opinion piece we feel like we’ve read five hundred and eighteen times previously to round down but there was one point in the piece that we wanted to share.
As Selingo writes, “The ambition to get into the best colleges is driven in part by parents’ concern over job prospects after graduation. But in interviewing employers of all sizes in recent years, I found them increasingly less interested in where someone went to college, and more concerned about the hands-on learning experiences applicants get, including internships, undergraduate research, and other outside-the-classroom endeavors. And as more employers use their own data on the performance of their best employees to find out why they are thriving in the job, some are discovering that a worker’s alma mater or degree has little do with success on the job. Of course, there are exceptions. Some employers, mostly the big Wall Street banks, consulting firms, and law firms still tend to favor applicants from elite colleges and universities. But for the most part, it’s not the education that is better at these selective colleges; it’s the network of students that undergraduates connect to, through the parents of classmates, alumni, and eventually when students themselves become alumni. While that network might be smaller, it exists in some way at any decent college.”
While the Ivy League colleges offer outstanding educations, we have made a point over the years to stress that many selective and highly selective colleges offer great educations too. We’ve been helping students earn admission to colleges for over a quarter of a century so we’ve got an opinion or two on which colleges offer the best educations. Amherst and Williams, two highly selective colleges, offer two of the best educations in the world. Better than Harvard? We’d argue — yes! But does that mean that students should choose to attend a Williams or an Amherst over a Harvard? That would be ridiculous. Students generally don’t choose Williams (sorry Williams) over Harvard. And Selingo seems to get this in his piece.
A college education isn’t all about the in-classroom education. It’s about the students with whom they share the experience. It’s about the lifelong friendships forged during those four immensely important years. It’s about the late night talks about politics and world events with classmates. And the future movers and shakers of our world — the future captains of industry — they tend not to go to Penn State University (sorry Penn State). They tend, with exception of course, to go to schools like Harvard (and Harvard’s peers). And so, when you think about it like this, it’s not crazy in the least to try to get into the best school possible since the very best educations — in the true sense of the term — are at the most selective schools in America.
Have a thought on the craziness of college admissions? Post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.