College Applicants Who Harness the Wind

Great College Applicants, Amazing College Applicants, Amazing Ivy League Applicant

William Kamkwamba was, in our book, the greatest college applicant. Dare we say…ever.

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?

Where You Go To College Matters

Your College Matters, College Degree and Jobs, Your School Matters

Even folks who argue that where you go to college doesn’t matter, like an editorialist in “The Huffington Post,” can’t help but acknowledge that graduating from top colleges can really help one’s career, dating life, etc.

A piece up on “The Huffington Post” by Nelson Cheng discusses how in certain parts of the country, like the City of Angels, where you went to college doesn’t matter as much as some folks may think. And, while it may surprise our readers, we both agree and disagree with Cheng. Indeed Los Angeles, and Southern California in general, is less focused on the best universities in America. As Cheng writes, while “Where did you go to college,” “What do you do,” etc. are conversation starters in, say, Manhattan and Washington D.C., it’s not as much the case in Los Angeles. In LA, a conversation starter is often, “What have you been in lately?” Stereotype? Maybe. True? Absolutely.

Cheng describes in his well written editorial how his Princeton degree hasn’t helped him as much as he may have thought when he was super stressed out as a high school senior, applying to the same university his best friend was applying to (he got in, while his best friend didn’t — the friend ended up at Harvard). But Cheng really hems and haws on this point. In fact, he writes, “I used nearly nothing of what I learned at Princeton at Amazon or Google. But surely it helped me get to those places, right? I like to think of myself as a scrappy person. That all things are possible. But I can’t deny that that Princeton stamp means something. At Google, I was on two hiring committees and yes, the schools people went to mattered. It doesn’t mean nothing. But sometimes I think it should. Or at least that’s how I tried to process candidates. After all, it’s what you know, it’s not just brand association. But when you don’t know the person, it’s hard not to give undue weight to some seal of approval, which is what these universities are ultimately selling.”

We have never argued — not once — on the pages of this college admissions blog that you get a better education at Harvard than you do at, say, Amherst College. Indeed we’ve argued that you might get the finest education in America outside of the Ivy League — at schools like Williams, Amherst, Caltech, etc. But we’ve also argued that it’s not all about the in-classroom education. When you attend one of our nation’s finest schools, including the Ivy League colleges, you come away with a network of remarkable connections, of lifelong friends. You come away with that “seal of approval” that Cheng speaks of — a seal of approval that can make all the difference on those early job interviews — interviews that set the stage for the roadmap of one’s career. So does where you go to college matter? You bet it does.

While you’re here, read about the Ivy League’s Influence on Career.

Making College Applicants Interesting

College Applicants, Interesting College Applicants, Interesting Ivy Applicants

What do you think of our new logo? We’re crowdsourcing for opinions from our reader-base.

We received a very thoughtful “thank you” note recently from a student who really honed in on what we do at Ivy Coach. As this student mentioned, we help make students interesting. Indeed we helped find the interesting within this student. In fact, we’re currently in the final stages of redesigning our website and our new tagline will be: “Toward the Conquest of Admission.” But, in a line, if we had to describe what we do, we’d say: we help make our students interesting. It’s just not as catchy as our new tagline and it doesn’t convey that we also help our students get in to their dream schools. So we couldn’t go with that. But it is what we do. It is what we’ve always done. We’ve been helping make students interesting since 1992.

If every student does yearbook after school, if every student does key club, what makes one yearbook kid more interesting than the next? Not much. Doing yearbook just isn’t interesting. It might be fun to mix and match photos, to make collages, to take pictures, but helping out with a school yearbook, in the end, isn’t all that interesting because (1) so many kids also do this activity and (2) this activity isn’t all that interesting to begin with. It’s rather boring. In a world that values specialization, in a world in which it is best to be a master of one thing rather than mediocre at a lot of things, doing yearbook (even really well) doesn’t serve as great source material to convey the interesting side of an applicant.

Sometimes students come to us and they’ve already got an interesting story. They just need help in how to share that story. And sometimes students come to us and they have incredibly uninteresting stories. This is the norm. But that’s ok. Through our discussions, we will help find the interesting side of everyone. The tagline for “Freakonomics” is “The Hidden Side of Everything.” Maybe our tagline should be: “The Interesting Side of Everyone.” Thoughts? We’re only kidding about that one to be clear.

Let’s crowdsource our tagline in case our readers can come up with a better one. What ideas do you have? We’re open to your suggestions! So write a Comment below with a proposed tagline. We look forward to hearing from you.

College Applicants

Applicants to College, College Apps, College Applications, Applications for College

There may be fewer college applicants in the next few years due to changing demographics.

A piece in “The LA Times” published recently highlights demographic declines in college applicants over the next decade. According to the piece on college applicants, “High school graduates will face less competition for college admission in the next decade due to a demographic decline in their ranks, according to a report on education enrollment trends released Wednesday. At the same time, Latinos and Asian Americans will constitute larger shares of high school populations and the numbers of white and black students will drop.” In the last several years, the number of students graduating from high schools across the country has generally risen, so this marks a change in trend.

In 2013-2014, it is anticipated that 3.21 students will graduate high school. This number stood at 3.4 million in 2010-2011. According to the report cited by “The LA Times,” ups and downs are anticipated until enrollment levels return to the figure from 2010-2011. And what regions are expected to see the largest demographic declines? That would be the Northeast and Midwest. There will also be some declines out West, though states like Texas and Georgia are anticipated to see a rise in this demographic.

Do these numbers surprise you? Do you think these demographic changes will have any significant impact on highly selective college admissions? Why do you think these numbers are dropping? Let us know your thoughts on the matter by posting below. We’re eager to hear from you.

College Admissions Applicants

Applicants to College, University Applicants, College Apps

Don’t get frustrated by listening to the “most competitive class ever” hype in college admissions. It’s all spin (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Each year, we read about how this year is the most competitive cycle ever for college admissions applicants. We find it rather irritating. From a statistical standpoint, other than the national debt, it’s rather rare when something only goes up and up and up. There’s typically more fluctuation. Check out a website’s traffic as an example. A movie theatre’s website will have higher traffic on most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays as compared to Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. So, no, this year is not the most competitive admissions class ever. Wondering why not? Let us explain.

Each year, college admissions officers seek to get more high school seniors to apply to their school. They’ll send you brochures. They’ll clog your email inbox. They’ll call you and visit your high school. Does that mean they think you’re qualified to gain admission to their school? Absolutely not. They want as many people as possible to apply so their admission rate gets tougher and tougher…so their “US News & World Report” ranking improves year after year. They may admit more or less the same number of students each year but if you get more to apply, you’re suddenly a more selective university. It’s a quick fix…one that doesn’t mean this year’s admissions class is academically more competitive. And it doesn’t mean that there are fewer slots.

And that’s just the beginning of it. But we hope you get the point. If you need further convincing, check out this post on how “the most competitive class ever” is 100% spin. Colleges love to put spin on their admissions data and you should be aware of it if you’re not already! Let us know your thoughts on this spin by posting below!

College Application

College Common Application, College Applicants, College Admissions Application

The makers of The Common Application debated this year whether or not to include a question that asks students their sexual orientation. The makers of the application ultimately decided against including this question. At least for now.

The makers of The Common Application, the college application used by just about every high school student who applies to universities, debated whether or not to include a question about applicants’ sexual orientation this year. Sexual orientation is certainly a hot topic in the world of college admissions. The makers of The Common Application ultimately decided, at least for the time being, to not include a question about sexual orientation for this year’s college applicants.

If this question were to have been included on the most ubiquitous college application, it’s possible that it could have caused some college applicants distress. What if you’re gay but closeted and don’t want your high school guidance counselor (who might see your application) to know your sexual orientation? What if you’re not out to your parents and they review your application on your desk when you’re asleep? What if you’re gay but you just don’t know it yet or haven’t fully come to terms with your sexual orientation? What if you don’t think it’s a university admissions counselor’s business to know this about you? What if you just don’t know yourself?

According to “The Chronicle,” “[Rob] Killion [of The Common Application] describes the decision as difficult. Board members, he says, weighed the possible differences among applicants from different backgrounds. For instance, how might a gay or lesbian applicant in rural Oklahoma differ from a gay or lesbian student in Manhattan?” We at Ivy Coach think there are often times other ways on college applications for university admissions counselors interested in recruiting a diverse incoming class to be able to identify whether or not an applicant is a member of the LGBT community.

Check out the article here.

And check out our related post on Harvard ROTC.

The Common Application

Common App, Common Application, The Common App for College Admission

The Common Application is adding a few new questions to their application.

New questions have been added to the Common Application, announced the Common Application, Inc. The questions won’t apply to the vast majority of college applicants but rather reflect the diversity of applicants who now apply to college. Marital status, children, and an optional question on military status have all been added to the application. For the 2011-2012 application cycle, the new version also asks applicants to check specific categories of their proficiency in a particular language – whether or not they speak it, read it, and/or write it, whether its their first language, and if the language is spoken at home. Applicants are also asked about prior college-level coursework, and the marital status of their parents – whether their parents are considered “civil union” or “domestic partners”.

One other change is on the personal statement.  For the past three years it was required that applicants write a minimum of 250 words, but with this new change applicants must now write between 250 and 500 words.  Since the 2007-2008 application year, while the personal statement on the Common Application required a minimum of 250 words, there was no maximum word limit.  However, in years prior to 2007 there was in fact a 500 word limit.  The reason for the change in 2007 to no word limit was because applicants were not abiding by the word restriction, and as a result those students in some ways were able to tell more of their story.  While you would think that students who didn’t follow directions would have been outright rejected, this was not the case, and that’s why there was this change. The only way this maximum word limit can be enforced is if the personal statement is not uploaded and instead cut and pasted into a box – just like the activity essay.  Time will tell if this change back to a 500 word limit will remain.

According to Eric Hoover of “The Chronicle of Higher Education, “The continuing evolution of this virtual document also reveals the complexity of admissions in the digital age. Even as the Common Application has simplified the admissions process in various ways, it has raised questions—logistical and philosophical—for high schools and colleges alike. The organization’s members continue to debate what the application should and should not ask. In a sense, the Common Application has become the living document of the admissions profession, subject to continual additions and revisions.”

The new questions about marital status, children, and military status were added in response to the growing number of nontraditional students and veterans enrolling at member colleges, says Rob Killion, executive director of the Common Application, Inc. ‘This is just more data to help colleges understand who students are and how they got there,’ he says.

Check out our related blogs: Completing the Common Application, the Common Application’s Discipline Question, and Truncated Essays.

Completing the Common Application

Common App, Common Application, Doing the Common App

There are some new member institutions for the Common Application.

Colleges that subscribe to the Common Application are on the rise…again. So next year, expect the most competitive college admissions class ever with more college applications than ever before! Only we know that this isn’t really the case. Next year’s admissions class will not be significantly more competitive than the current one. That is pure myth.

According to a piece in “Inside Higher Ed” entitled “Common Application Continues Growth,” “The membership of the Common Application is about to grow by 46 colleges, to a total of 460. While the Common Application was founded 35 years ago, half of its membership has joined in the last decade. And while the program was once associated with small liberal arts colleges, it has expanded in recent years. This year’s additions include two flagship public universities — the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kentucky — on top of 10 other flagships added in the past few years. Public institutions now make up 12 percent of the colleges in the program — a record high. Another notable addition this year is Howard University, the fifth historically black college to participate.”

Here is the full list of universities that have just joined the Common Application:

Caldwell College (NJ)

Carroll University (WI)

Castleton State College

Centenary College

Christian Brothers University

Christopher Newport University

Cogswell Polytechnical College

DeSales University

Drury University

Eastern Connecticut State University

Flagler College

Franklin College Switzerland

Goshen College

Howard University

John Cabot University

John F. Kennedy University

Lipscomb University

Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

Lyndon State College

Ramapo College of New Jersey

Rhode Island College

Rockhurst University

Saint Leo University

Saint Martin’s University

Salisbury University

Samford University

Seton Hill University

Sierra Nevada College

St. Joseph’s College – Brooklyn Campus

St. Joseph’s College – Long Island Campus

St. Mary’s College of Maryland

SUNY College at Old Westbury

SUNY Institute of Technology

The American University of Paris

The College of Saint Rose

Towson University

University of Evansville

University of Hartford

University of Kentucky

University of Michigan – Flint

University of New Orleans

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

University of Southern California

University of St Andrews

University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

Wartburg College

Wheeling Jesuit University

Check out our related blog posts: The Common Application’s Discipline Question and Truncated Essays.

College Admissions and Facebook

Colleges obviously use Facebook as a forum to recruit students to apply to their school and to recruit students to attend once they’ve been accepted. But what colleges are doing this the most successfully? Let’s take a look at a “US News & World Report” chart by Ryan Lytle as published in “Colleges Bring Campuses to Facebook” in which they analyze the Facebook fans of the universities they ranked as the ten most prestigious universities in America.

School Name Facebook Fans (as of 4/5/11) U.S. News Ranking
Harvard University 316,644 1
Princeton University 36,057 2
Yale University 19,191 3
Columbia University 18,490 4
Stanford University 133,915 5
University of Pennsylvania 18,523 5
California Institute of Technology 5,388 7
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 27,883 7
Dartmouth College 7,996 9
Duke University 72,765 9
University of Chicago 40,266 9

Lytle, Ryan. “Colleges Bring Campuses to Facebook.” US News & World Report. 7 April 2011. Web. 12 April 2011.

And what about the universities with the most Facebook fans overall (not just the colleges that comprise “US News & World Report’s” Top 10? According to Ryan Lytle of “US News & World Report,” here they are (Harvard tops the list again):

School Name Facebook Fans (as of 4/5/11) U.S. News Ranking
Harvard University 316,644 1
University of Michigan 267,858 29
Ohio State University 265,657 56
Texas A&M University 263,027 63
University of Texas 238,387 45
University of Florida 208,237 53
Pennsylvania State University 188,880 47
University of Alabama 171,036 79
Auburn University 155,219 85
Michigan State University 134,586 85

Lytle, Ryan. “Colleges Bring Campuses to Facebook.” US News & World Report. 7 April 2011. Web. 12 April 2011.

Check out our related blogs: Social networking in college admissions, college social media recruitment, our newsletter: Using social media to your advantage in college admissions, and check out Ivy Coach’s Facebook page.

University Recruitment

College Recruitment, Ivy League Recruitment, College Recruiting

As students apply to more and more colleges, yield rates at colleges will invariably drop.

It’s that time of year when colleges and universities are attempting to sway admitted students to attend their schools. In no uncertain terms, the tables have turned. According to an “LA Times” article published today, “As students applied and were admitted to more schools, the yield — the percentage of accepted students who enroll — dipped in the last decade, from 48% to 43% for public universities and from 40% to 35% for private, not-for-profit schools, according to the National Assn. for College Admission Counseling. So to fill dorm beds and classrooms this fall, colleges are spending more to woo students in April, especially boosting social media usage, said David Hawkins, the group’s director for public policy and research.”

Have you been receiving glossy brochures, online chat invites, and invitations to visit the universities to which you were admitted? If you have, that’s because colleges are now competing against each other to get you to attend, to increase their yield and, ultimately, their “US News & World Report” ranking. Enjoy it! For it’s now your turn to have the power. But don’t forget to send in your decision card by May 1st!

Check out the “LA Times” article here.

And check out our related blog: College Social Media Recruitment.

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