Three Terms I Agree We Should Stop Using In College Admissions

Brennan Barnard recently wrote about Six Terms to Stop Using in College Admissions, and I could not agree more. However, there are three I want to say a bit more about here: fit, well-rounded, and passion. All three of these are garbage as they are commonly understood and used!

Barnard writes:

“Fit” is one of the most overused terms in college admission, and while the intentions are admirable, it can be misleading. By emphasizing “fit”, educators try to move students and families away from a focus on selectivity, rankings or the notion that admission to college is a prize to be won. However, it can often be misunderstood as suggesting that there will be one school that fits perfectly like a glove, and it can be intimidating to students when this type of fit eludes them.

“Fit” is not applied in the same way across its uses in college admissions. There is no single definition or explanation fo it is is used. From my experience, one applicant might be deemed a better “fit” by admissions because of the high school they attend, or if they have “legacy,” or that they meet some other type of institutional need. Many students and families do not realize that fit goes beyond the numbers and also includes factors that you have no control over. You can look at different factors and deem yourself a perfect “fit” as far as your test scores, GPA, and even as far as how what you’ve taken part in throughout high school demonstrates your understanding of the mission and values of the school you are applying to. But you will never be able to gauge exactly how admissions are using “fit” as they evaluate your application because it varies from student-to-student.

If applicant A and applicant B are held equal across data points, but the school you are applying to needs a flute player, and A plays the flute, A might be deemed a better fit and admitted over B. If applicant A and applicant B are not held equal across data points (let’s say A is a less stellar student all around), but the school you are applying to needs a flute player, and A plays the flute, A might be deemed a better fit and admitted over B. This second scenario touches Barnard’s point: you never really know exactly what “fit” is at any given point in time, and some students miss out on possibly being a fit at certain schools because they deem themselves not a fit based on a few data points alone. “Fit” is a garbage term on many levels and is one that can be confusing.

On being well-rounded, he notes:

“Well-rounded” is another term that is misused in college admission. The perception is that colleges and universities are looking for applicants who have a bit of everything. Assumedly, students should have a balance of excellent grades and test scores with a perfect spread of activities and involvement in a wide range of areas. These “wonder children” should be able to sing, dance, play soccer while holding their fiddle and volunteer using multiple languages, right? Wrong says Heath Einstein, dean of admission at Texas Christian University. He explains that “colleges do not seek well-rounded people; we want angular individuals who create a well-rounded class.” So, let’s allow the overscheduling and pressure of resume building in the name of well-roundedness to pass with 2018.

Well-rounded has not been something a student should strive for in a long time—even in the time of “holistic” admissions (another garbage and misleading term). But let’s be more specific: well-rounded student is the term that needs to go. Colleges want students who beyond the grades and test scores they look for are more narrow, not broad. We tend to see specialists win over generalists. Like Einstein says above, colleges seek out well-rounded classes—this is true. But they do not seek out well-rounded students. Well-rounded classes are made up of individuals with areas of expertise, unique value-adds, not a bunch of people who are just “good” at the laundry list of things on their resumes.

Lastly, on one of those most overused terms out there:

“Passion” is a word that makes high school students cringe. When they hear college admission offices talk about finding or demonstrating passion, they are often paralyzed by the perception that they must know what they will do with their life, or that they need to have identified their one big thing. The pressure to know and achieve is stifling and we need to think about involvement or engagement in different terms.  Courtney Skerritt, director of college counseling at The Hockaday School agrees, saying, “I’m reading ‘Enough as She Is’ by Rachel Simmons and she does an amazing job outlining what is wrong with using the word ‘passion’ with teenagers and how, instead, we should have conversations about ‘purpose’”. Skerritt adds, “Simmons’ work struck me, as this conversation has been happening with girls at Hockaday for over 100 years and with focus through our Institute for Social Impact. Students are craving an engagement in their future, but in ways that don’t make them feel like they have to figure it all out today.”

Most high school students are not passionate about anything (or anything that a college would find appealing). What a loaded and silly word as it pertains to college. Full-disclosure: in the past, I used it because I thought that was the goal, but I have known for a while now that I was wrong. Colleges want to see students who have developed interests. That is it. They do not have to be full-blown passions or life’s work. I mean, let’s be real, most adults don’t even have passions. I also know that beyond it being an inaccurate representation of what colleges seek in applicants it can be hurtful to throw around so lightly.

Students should aim to get out into the world and explore their interests whether they turn into a passion one day or not. That is what makes an interesting applicant: a student who has the motivation and curiosity to get out into the world and learn about what they like even if that means they eventually learn they do not like it so much. Now, bonus points if by around grade 10-11 you have found something you enjoy and you can narrow your focus to explore it more deeply, but if not, just keep exploring 1 or 2 things and don’t worry about being a well-rounded applicant.

 

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Boston College Switching from Early Action to Early Decision (I and II Plans)

Boston College will introduce an Early Decision program for undergraduate admission this year, in an effort to meet the growing preference of today’s high school students and enroll more “best fit” applicants for whom Boston College is a first choice, the University announced today.

The decision will result in a shift from BC’s non-binding Early Action policy to a binding Early Decision program that will include two opportunities for students to apply early to Boston College. For high-achieving high school students who view Boston College as their top choice, Early Decision I will offer a November 1 application deadline with a decision notification by December 15. Early Decision II will feature a January 1 application deadline with a decision notification by February 15.  Students who prefer to apply Regular Decision will continue to have a January 1 deadline with a notification of April 1.

 

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Will Your 11th Grader Be Away This Summer?

Who you are doesn’t change between the second half of junior year and the time you apply to college, so why wait any longer to write your personal statement?

If your 11th grader is away at camp, traveling, or at a summer program this summer, you will want them to have this crucial component of their application completed before they go. Trust me, coming back home in August with no parts of the college application complete can make for an insane end to summer vacation and time-crunched fall. It does not have to be this way.

For the past couple of years, we have had a small group of students write their personal statement over their winter break or shortly after the new year. The result: far less stress on the college application journey because one of the most important parts of their application was already complete. Same amazing writing we always help students produce, even less stress. That is what we are all about!

This year we are formally offering weekend-long 1:1 personal statement bootcamps for motivated, summer-time-crunched, or any juniors who simply want to get ahead in addition to our standard 1:1 essay expert service and comprehensive college counseling packages, which include essay work.

Space is limited for winter 2019. Contact us today to discuss scheduling! Your student will thank us later when they are confidently ahead of the game.

 

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How to Gear Up for College Essay Writing

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Why? It’s one of the most valuable resources for writers. You write a lot when applying to college, and beyond cranking out apps, it’s a process that lends itself to learning how to write well. To me, it’s a must-read!

 

Why? Over four weeks, you will be guided through a series of video exercises with questions and prompts to self-reflect about all the foundational elements of your backstory. From it, you will better you understand how the elements of your backstory have set you on your path in life. This is a must if you are going to write an effective personal statement.The process works: YouSchool has taken thousands of people through it and knows that if you do the work, you’ll gain a clear sense of what story you’re living in. You are also provided the structure to engage in deep conversations with people you trust (parents, teachers, friends, college counselors!). BackStory is a fantastic way to gear up for personal statement writing.

 

Why? It’s one of the only “college essay” books I can stomach. More importantly, it’s a thoughtful and sometimes funny (depending on the type of humor you enjoy) guide to writing the personal statement. It is also written well and is very easy to read.

 

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2019-2020 Common App Essay Prompts

The Common Application has announced that the 2019-2020 essay prompts will remain the same as the 2018-2019 essay prompts. Based on extensive counselor feedback, the existing essay prompts provide great flexibility for applicants to tell their unique stories in their own voice. Retaining the essay prompts provides the added benefit of consistency for students, counselors, parents, and members during the admissions process.

Plus, with essay prompts remaining the same, students rolling over their existing Common App accounts have more time to plan and prepare their applications prior to the final year of high school.

2019-2020 Common Application Essay Prompts

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

During the 2018-2019 application year, the most popular topic of choice was: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.” (24.1%). The next most popular topics were: “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.” (23.7%), followed by “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?” (21.1%).

“The prompts as they exist today offer a broad range of approaches, accommodating students with a diverse set of experiences and ideas about the world to respond in a thoughtful and illuminating manner,”‘ said Ian Watson, Associate Director of College Counseling at The Rivers School (Weston, MA).

Contact us to learn more about how we help students craft a killer Common App essay!

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Presenting Yourself on the UC Undergraduate Application for Admission and Scholarships

The University of California has made available two presentations for applicants, “Presenting Yourself on the UC Undergraduate Application for Admission and Scholarships” — which are a must read if you plan to apply to UC:

Click here for the Freshman Version

Click here for the Transfer Version

 

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Top Undergraduate Business School Admit Rates

Rank School Admissions Score Acceptance Rate Average SAT Percentage of Top 10%
1 University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 100.00 6.49% 1486 97.00%
2 Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) 98.37 9.70% 1510 91.00%
3 University of California-Berkeley (Haas) 94.09 4.30% 1490 80.85%
4 Cornell University (Dyson) 92.14 2.90% 1453 83.33%
5 University of Michigan (Ross) 89.58 12.00% 1470 82.22%
6 New York University (Stern) 88.73 8.00% 1468 77.08%
7 Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper) 88.00 12.00% 1473 78.00%
8 Georgetown University (McDonough) 87.64 15.84% 1431 90.00%
9 University of Virginia (McIntire) 86.79 12.15% 1407 90.00%
10 University of Notre Dame (Mendoza) 83.74 19.00% 1429 84.60%
11 University of California-Irvine (Merage) 81.60 22.00% 1359 98.00%
12 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) 79.60 12.17% 1367 82.70%
13 Southern Methodist University (Cox) 77.50 11.12% 1494 49.00%
14 Emory University (Goizueta) 76.65 17.21% 1470 58.00%
15 Boston College (Carroll) 75.98 25.00% 1402 78.65%
16 University of Texas-Austin (McCombs) 75.71 22.80% 1384 80.00%
17 Villanova University 75.40 22.07% 1408 73.33%
18 Wake Forest University 72.52 24.80% 1378 76.00%
19 Georgia Institute of Technology (Scheller) 70.99 23.70% 1376 72.00%
20 Boston University (Questrom) 69.55 17.76% 1422 53.16%
21 Northeastern University (D’amore-McKim) 68.68 18.68% 1463 43.00%
22 Indiana University (Kelley) 68.35 40.38% 1437 67.97%
23 University of Wisconsin-Madison 65.64 35.00% 1405 64.00%
24 Tulane University (Freeman) 65.46 22.00% 1420 48.33%
25 The College of William & Mary (Mason) 63.67 22.40% 1346 61.00%
26 University of Richmond (Robins) 62.99 30.31% 1363 63.00%
27 Lehigh University 62.71 22.39% 1376.39 52.13%
28 University of Washington (Foster) 62.48 20.95% 1310 64.94%
29 University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana (Geis) 60.15 48.98% 1365 73.37%
30 University of Minnesota (Carlson) 60.00 28.44% 1371 52.80%
31 Babson College 59.21 24.00% 1353 50.91%
32 Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Foisie) 58.01 36.00% 1395 50.00%
33 Fordham University (Gabelli) 55.16 44.90% 1361 59.30%
34 University of Pittsburgh 55.05 44.00% 1345 61.76%
35 University of Miami 52.71 30.44% 1327 48.00%
36 University of Georgia (Terry) 50.90 47.44% 1300 65.52%
37 University of Houston (Bauer) 49.92 25.18% 1309 40.87%
38 Rutgers Business School (New Brunswick) 47.47 46.00% 1349 45.70%
39 Texas A&M University (Mays) 47.13 34.07% 1281.72 48.80%
40 Syracuse University (Whitman) 46.42 38.10% 1304 46.00%
41 University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Isenberg) 45.56 30.60% 1336 30.10%
42 University of Utah (Eccles) 44.75 40.80% 1270 52.24%
43 American University (Kogod) 44.43 31.60% 1256 46.15%
44 Ohio State University (Fisher) 44.41 38.60% 1340 34.00%
45 Brigham Young University (Marriott) 43.12 63.16% 1325 57.01%
46 Pennsylvania State University (Freeman) 42.55 37.00% 1319 33.00%
47 University of Denver (Daniels) 42.15 46.30% 1299.3 45.00%
48 Texas Christian University (Neeley) 40.43 46.56% 1265 48.94%
49 University of Kentucky (Gatton) 39.70 69.79% 1395 40.00%
50 Hult International Business School 39.39 50.00% 1264 50.00%
51 Purdue University (Krannert) 39.32 62.00% 1268 60.00%
52 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Lally) 38.20 42.00% 1291 34.00%
53 Michigan State University (Broad) 34.82 32.19% 1241.77 28.27%
54 The College of New Jersey 34.52 41.00% 1254 33.00%
55 University of San Diego 33.89 53.00% 1275 38.00%
56 Santa Clara University (Leavey) 32.48 43.50% 1366 6.00%
57 Miami University (Farmer) 31.38 62.60% 1323 30.60%
58 St. John’s University (Tobin) 31.09 59.00% 1208 52.00%
59 Christopher Newport University 28.58 74.60% 1270 47.06%
60 University of South Carolina (Darla Moore) 27.02 65.10% 1299 28.41%
61 University of Delaware (Lerner) 26.53 46.40% 1285 13.20%
62 Seton Hall University (Stillman) 26.45 57.60% 1257 29.50%
63 University of Texas-Dallas (Jindal) 24.66 60.00% 1242 31.00%
64 Providence College 24.65 51.00% 1247 21.60%
65 Rutgers Business School (Newark) 22.92 55.00% 1157 41.25%
66 University of Tennessee-Knoxville (Haslam) 22.86 85.00% 1212.6 56.44%
67 St. Thomas University (Opus) 21.04 83.00% 1215 50.00%
68 James Madison University 20.13 68.31% 1217 34.00%
69 Drexel University (LeBow) 19.55 74.00% 1262 28.00%
70 University of Akron 19.19 73.99% 1154 51.02%
71 Elon University (Love) 17.71 72.10% 1249 25.00%
72 University of Missouri-Columbia (Trulaske) 15.62 69.17% 1220 24.00%
73 Florida Southern College 15.57 50.00% 1203 10.00%
74 Lipscomb University 15.35 61.00% 1156 30.00%
75 University of Oklahoma (Price) 14.39 61.77% 1212 16.20%
76 Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders) 13.29 72.10% 1204 25.00%
77 University of Arizona (Eller) 13.13 79.00% 1110 51.72%
78 University of North Carolina-Wilmington 9.39 61.00% 1177 12.00%
79 University of New Hampshire (Paul) 8.02 64.10% 1171 13.10%
80 Ithaca College 7.82 80.18% 1221 16.40%
81 St. Louis University (Chaifetz) 7.28 83.03% 1241 13.40%
82 Sacred Heart University (Jack Welch) 6.39 60.80% 1156 9.70%
83 Northern Illinois University 6.01 53.84% 1110 12.60%
84 University of Michigan-Dearborn 5.13 62.00% 1147.8 9.80%
85 Duquesne University (Palumbo Donahue) 5.12 76.00% 1197 11.80%
86 Texas Tech University (Rawls) 4.53 76.40% 1093 33.78%
87 Bowling Green State University 1.09 70.00% 1128 12.46%
88 Evansville University (Schroeder) 0.00 88.60% 1171 17.64%

Juniors: Prep Now to Write Your Story for College

My January recommendation for juniors?

Sign up for YouSchool’s new Backstory course. Over four weeks, you will be guided through a series of video exercises with questions and prompts to self-reflect about all the foundational elements of your backstory. From it, you will better you understand how the elements of your backstory have set you on your path in life.

The process works: YouSchool has taken thousands of people through it and knows that if you do the work, you’ll gain a clear sense of what story you’re living in. You are also provided the structure to engage in deep conversations with people you trust (parents, teachers, friends, college counselors!). Backstory is a fantastic way to gear up for personal statement writing.

 

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January Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors:

  • If you have RD applications due in mid-January that you did not submit, finish those up ASAP. Same goes for 2/1 deadline apps; there is no reason to wait!
  • For RD schools, consider writing interest letters, and make sure your school sends midterm grade reports where required.
  • If you were deferred, work on your deferral letter this month and aim to send it mid-month.
  • Thank everyone who helped you with your college process, and take some time to enjoy what is left of high school.

Juniors:

  • Testing: Once you are in prep-mode it is best to just keep going. The sooner you are finished testing, the sooner you can begin to finalize your college list. If you have a preliminary list, February break is a great time to visits colleges. Plan some visits.
  • Confirm your summer plans. Next summer is a wonderful opportunity to do something really meaningful (and perhaps even fun!) that will help you tell your story to colleges.
  • Open a Common App account. Accounts rollover year-to-year, so there’s no better time than now to open an account and familiarize yourself with the system.
  • Start to think about your senior year schedule. Do you know what you will be taking? Your senior classes should be the most challenging of your four years.
  • Resolve to check your email daily. Why? Colleges communicate with students via email. Most schools track whether you open emails and if you click through them; more engagement is seen as more interest (schools use interest in the admissions process). Make checking and engaging with any college-related email a habit in 2019.
Sophomores & Freshmen:
  • Are you planning to take SAT subject tests in May or June? If so, come up with a prep plan now.
  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. Study hard.
  • Speaking of courses, when do you pick your courses for 11th grade? Keep in mind you want to take a more rigorous course schedule each year.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you gotten more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Have you thought about what you might want to major in? A great place to start exploring your academic interests is Khan Academy.
  • One way that your “story” is conveyed in your app is through your resume. Work on your resume now.
  • Many 2019 summer program applications will open soon. Begin thinking about your plans for summer 2019 now so you can get ahead of deadlines and work on applications if needed.
  • Replace one hour of social media, Netflix, or TV per week with time on Ted ED. Explore what intrigues you! Maybe it’s the history of cheese, particle physics, or what makes a poem a poem. Whatever you find interesting, take some time to be intentional about learning more in the new year!

 

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One Weekend = Finish Your Personal Statement

Who you are doesn’t change between the second half of junior year and the time you apply to college, so why wait any longer to write your personal statement?

For the past couple of years, we had a small group of students write their personal statements over their winter break or shortly after the new year. The result: far less stress later in the year because one of the most important parts of their application was already complete. Same amazing writing we always help students produce, even less stress. That is what we are all about!

This year we are formally offering weekend-long personal statement bootcamps for motivated, spring/summer-time-crunched, or any juniors who simply want to get ahead.

Space is limited for winter 2019. Contact us today to discuss scheduling!