At Ivy Coach, we pride ourselves on being a leading voice in highly selective college admissions. If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, a blog that attracts tens of thousands of readers, you know we write a whole lot about highly selective college admissions and we offer a unique perspective into the process. But every now and then, some folks like to copy our uniqueness and claim it as their own. They’re like parrots, only not nearly as fun or as colorful.
This past February, a private college counselor in California, Jeannie Borin, copied verbatim an entire article that our Founder, Bev Taylor, had written years before (that link offers detail into the extent of Ms. Borin’s plagiarism). Ms. Borin then published this piece on “The Huffington Post,” crediting herself with Bev’s original words. “The Huffington Post” of course immediately removed the piece when we alerted the publication to Ms. Borin’s obvious plagiarism. What chutzpah Ms. Borin had to publish Bev’s words and claim them as her own! Did she think she’d get away with it? Did she think we wouldn’t notice? Did she think we’d forget?
To all folks who plagiarize our copyrighted content, may this post serve as notice that we won’t stand for it. Not now. Not ever. Our words are our words and our words alone. They are our intellectual property. They are protected by Section 17 of the United States Code. And we will go to great length to protect our intellectual property. The right to intellectual property isn’t a right afforded to so many throughout our world. But it is a right, one that protects our freedoms, here in the United States. It is a right we value.
There are lots and lots of confident parents out there across America and around the world. We love confidence. Parents often lead off free consults with us by discussing their children, their accomplishments in musical theatre, their rare genius, their good looks, kindness, athletic prowess — you name it. It’s why we make a point of articulating on our website and in our email exchanges that free consults are just to ask questions about our service offerings. Because as much as we love to hear about Johnny’s swim times, we’d probably rather bake an apple pie. Sorry, Johnny. Rotate those hips on your backstroke, keep your head steady, and don’t flip too far away from the wall so you can create some speed going in and out of your turns.
When parents brag to us about their children, we sometimes just want to blurt out: “But did your son harness the wind?” You’re probably like, “Ivy Coach, what are you talking about? We know you love your tangents but this one is a bit ridiculous. Who harnesses the wind?” You see, the “Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is, in our view, the greatest college applicant ever. His name is William Kamkwamba. He is now a graduate of Dartmouth College and what a college applicant this young man was!
William Kamkwamba harnessed the wind. And then he applied to college. Spoiler Alert: He got in!
Prior to enrolling at Dartmouth, William had co-authored a book entitled “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind” that was a “New York Times” bestseller. The book told his life’s story. A native of Malawi, William built a windmill out of old bicycle parts and other discarded junk to power his village and, in so doing, change the lives of those around him. William Kamkwamba harnessed the wind to power his village in Malawi, thereby changing the world.
So as much as we love to hear stories about Johnny’s efforts in the 200 backstroke and Lily’s stories about playing just about every musical instrument, until your child has harnessed the wind, save your wind. We’ll give Johnny and Lily the best shot possible of getting into the best school possible. It’s just not necessary to listen to a half hour of brags to do so. Mic drop?
There’s a piece up on “NPR” by Kirk Carapezza entitled “What The People Who Read Your College Application Really Think” that we wanted to bring to the attention of our readers. The piece is set in the admissions office of the College of the Holly Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts but the scene Carapezza describes could very well be set at just about any selective or highly selective college in America. After all, the review process is fairly similar — with of course some variations — at most of these schools.
As Carapezza writes, “Inside a tiny conference room at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., the admissions committee is preparing to review 23 applications. The committee members will spend about two minutes on each before deciding whether to accept or deny admission or place the application on hold. To speed things along, the committee members use a lot of jargon, like ‘L-B-B’ for late blooming boy, and ‘R-J’ for rejection. If it sounds like they are cutting corners, know that before the committee meets around the table, each application gets a close look from two of the members. Then it’s condensed into a single one-page profile. The one for this student says he comes off just a bit arrogant in his essay and interview.”
Allow us to zero in on that last comment, one on arrogance. As we’ve been writing for years, coming across as arrogant in highly selective college admissions is a key reason why many applicants don’t earn admission. The admissions process is a human process. Your objective as an applicant is to inspire admissions officers to root for you, to want to go to bat for you. To do so, you want to come across as likable. So many applicants fail to do just that. In fact, in mid-December, when folks who didn’t work with us first come to us seeking help because their children — much to their astonishment — didn’t earn admission in the Regular Decision round, they tend to describe their children in the first few minutes of speaking with us. And we can usually glean a whole lot from that description because it’s likely how the student portrayed himself or herself in the application (e.g., in the essays, alumni interview, activities, etc.). It can be a leading reason why the student didn’t get in, much to the astonishment of his or her parents.
Take a look at the pice in “NPR” as it paints a very accurate behind-the-scenes portrait of not only the admissions process at the College of the Holy Cross but at the vast majority of selective and highly selective colleges.
The results are in for the Early Decision pool of the Duke Class of 2021. Congratulations to our Ivy Coach students who earned admission to the university in Durham — especially those we swayed to apply! You know who you are. We’re just glad you listened. In all, 861 students earned admission in the Early Decision round at Duke this year to be members of the Class of 2021. These 861 students hailed from an Early Decision record applicant pool of 3,516 applicants. By other peoples’ mathematics, that marks an Early Decision admission rate of 24.5%.
The admission rate for this year was a bit higher than last year, for the Class of 2020 (which had the lowest Early Decision admission rate in the university’s history), since last year’s admission rate was 23.5% in the Early round. While fewer students applied Early Decision last year to Duke (3,455), the school only offered admission to 813 students last cycle…as compared to 861 this Early Decision cycle. So that explains why this year marked only the second most selective Early Decision cycle in the university’s history.
As reports “The Duke Chronicle,” “This year, 691 students will enroll in the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, and the remaining 170 will enroll in the Pratt School of Engineering. Duke participated in the QuestBridge Scholars program, a recruitment program geared toward low-income and first-generation students, for the first time this year. There are 36 QuestBridge Scholars among the students accepted early decision.” Congratulations to these students, our students, and all students who earned admission to Coach K’s university this year as members of the Duke Class of 2021. We hope he recovers quickly from his back surgery!
The school with the most storied program in NCAA basketball history has set a new benchmark. And while UCLA’s basketball team has returned to top form this year, this particular benchmark has nothing to do with basketball. UCLA received over 100,000 applications for undergraduate admission this college admissions cycle. The figure is significant. UCLA has now become the first university in history to report six-figure applications for first-year undergraduate admission in just one cycle. In a business — yes, college admissions is a business — in which schools compete against one another to score as many applicants as possible (to invariably lower their acceptance rates), UCLA is doing something right.
As reported by Nick Anderson for “The Washington Post” in a piece entitled “UCLA is the first school to receive 100,000 freshman applications,” “UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said the university is not trying to gin up demand. ‘We have no active effort to try to increase the numbers,’ he said. Block said the totals show the multidimensional appeal of a public research university with strong academic and athletic traditions in one of the world’s most vibrant cultural centers. ‘It’s a brand,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of pieces to that brand.'” Regular readers of our college admissions blog likely have a sense of what we think when we read about college chancellors claiming to be essentially apathetic to their increases in applications. Just smile and nod. Every single university in America wants more students to apply and every single university in America, including UCLA, makes active efforts to try to get these students to submit applications. Indeed universities across America even try to recruit unqualified students to apply. After all, the more students who submit applications, invariably the lower the admission rate will be and the higher the school will rank in the all-important “US News & World Report” ranking.
While colleges across America will tell you they don’t pay much attention to their “US News & World Report” ranking, we suspect our readers already know this simply isn’t the case. They all care. They all care a whole lot. A dean of admissions at a highly selective university won’t be in the job long if the school’s “US News & World Report” ranking keeps dropping. And one very important factor influencing the “US News & World Report” ranking is the admission rate. Simple math tells us that the admission rate is directly linked to the number of applications a university receives.
Congratulations is due to the folks in Westwood on the 100,000 applications at UCLA. Go Bruins!
“The redcoats are coming! The redcoats are coming!” And by that, we mean to say, “The college rejections are coming! The college rejections are coming!” Do we sound a bit negative? Maybe, but we’re just being factual. When only a small percentage of applicants at every highly selective college in America earns admission, logic teaches us that a whole lot of students will face deferral and rejection from the Early Decision / Early Action round. And come mid-December, we are flooded with parents reaching out to us, for the first time, because — much to their surprise and utter disappointment — their children did not get into their dream schools.
It never ceases to amaze us the misplaced confidence that so many parents have in their children. It’s sweet, we guess. But we don’t believe parents and students should live in the clouds. They should live here on earth. In the real world. The vast majority of applicants to highly selective colleges don’t get in and yet, from our years of experience, the vast majority of parents believe their children should get in and, in many cases, will get in (side note: these are parents and students we don’t work with). But then reality strikes when colleges, typically at the end of the first week of December and through mid-December release their Early Decision / Early Action decisions. It can hurt. It can feel like an affront to all a parent knows to be true in the world.
These are often parents and students who didn’t think they needed help to get into a highly selective college. Or maybe they sought out the wrong kind of help since, like in any profession, the vast majority of private college counseling firms aren’t particularly good. It takes working with a lot of plumbers to find a great one, right? And on the day that these parents and students grapple with this deferral or rejection, we don’t wish to speak with them. They’re too emotional. But we will speak with them the next day, when they’ve had some time to digest the decision and think about what they can do in the next few weeks to significantly improve their odds of not getting this same kind of news in the Regular Decision round. Because, yes, lots can be changed in just those few seemingly short weeks. Lots.
But to the parents of middle schoolers, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, we hope you don’t fall into this category as it’s entirely avoidable. Start early. Students should use their Early Decision / Early Action cards wisely and submit the best possible applications to those schools. Earn admission to Harvard or Stanford because then you don’t have to apply in the Regular Decision round to Duke. Sorry, Duke. We didn’t mean to pick on Duke. But if you get into Harvard, you’re not going to Duke. After all, Duke is “The Harvard of the South.”
Is gender neutral admissions the way of the future? Not so fast…
There’s an interesting letter to the editor today in the pages of “The Brown Daily Herald,” the newspaper of Brown University. The letter, written by Jon Birger, is entitled “Brown should go gender-blind in admission” and the piece is indeed well-reasoned. Based on the title, we should also add that perhaps Brown — and all highly selective colleges because Brown is surely not alone — should go need-blind before they go gender-blind being as no school, despite claims to the contrary, is truly need-blind.
And why does Birger believe Brown should go gender-blind? As he writes, “I am ‘skeptical’ of the argument put forth by Dean of Admission Logan Powell holding that Brown’s higher acceptance rate for male applicants is a function of its need to enroll students interested in physical science — not a function of Brown putting a premium on gender balance and thus treating women and men unequally in the admission process.” But he doesn’t just make an argument. He backs it up with data.
He writes, “I would like to provide some context for my skepticism. As the Herald article points out, undergraduate admission processes at private colleges such as Brown are exempt from Title IX. Admission to state colleges and universities is regulated by Title IX, though, and this makes for some useful comparisons. Leading public universities such as the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Virginia and the University of California at Los Angeles also have large, well-regarded programs in science, math and engineering, yet these schools still have higher acceptance rates for women than men. At Berkeley, the acceptance rate is 18 percent for women and 15 percent for men, according to U.S. Department of Education data. At Virginia, it’s 31 percent for women and 29 percent for men. UCLA: 18 percent for women versus 16 percent for men. This makes sense, as research shows that high school girls generally outperform high school boys academically.”
“I should also point out that — like Brown — Berkeley, UVA and UCLA all received more applications from women than from men in 2015. UCLA actually received 6,000 more applications from women. Yet because Title IX requires UCLA to have sex-blind admission, the greater number of female applicants did not prompt UCLA’s admission office to accept female applicants at a lower rate.”
It would be mighty difficult for schools like Brown to go gender-blind though. Think about it. Teachers and school counselors would be prohibited from writing “his” or “her,” “he” or “she” in letters of recommendation. Imagine the slip-ups, clouding the process. Students would be barred from doing the same in their Personal Statement and many Brown supplemental essays. More potential for slip-ups! Their names would have to be hidden from the application. Maybe they’d be assigned pseudonyms? It worked out for Dartmouth’s Dr. Seuss, although he came up with his pseudonym years after his college days. So while Birger’s arguments seem well-founded, we just don’t get how the logistics would work.
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.
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.