2013 Admissions!

It was a great year, including students admitted to:
University of Pennsylvania,  Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Washington University in St Louis, Georgetown, Cornell, University of Michigan, Barnard, Rutgers, Loyola Maryland, Boston College, Tufts, BU, Northwestern, UConn, Georgia Tech, UGA, ( just to name a few!) CONGRATULATIONS!!!

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These are some great webisodes in which I moderate  discussions with members of business school admission committees.

I think that there is some great information in here- and its also pretty entertaining!

Hope that you find them helpful.Bschooltalk.net ( and thanks to them for producing these!)

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Its Summertime- LETS GET STARTED!

While many of high school juniors are just finishing up their exams and are dreaming of long summer days of relaxation and “chilling out”, it’s also a great time to get started on your applications! I know that the school year has been draining and you have been running around in the past few weeks trying to get it all done! So, after you have given yourself a few days to unwind, do yourself a favor, and LOOK AT THE COMMON APPLICATION.
It’s not that scary – I promise. And having the chance to print out and look at what is actually required of you will make the tasks ahead seem that much more manageable. Basically, you will be writing one main essay using one of 5 prompts, as well as a shorter essay of 150 words in which you describe an activity that has significance to you. You will also be writing any of the supplemental questions for the schools that you will be applying to.
I usually suggest diving in with the shorter essay- its only 150 words, and in all likelihood you have something that you care about or love doing and that should be easy enough to get out on paper. I tell my students NOT to worry at all about word limits- in fact, write down everything you possibly can about the activity that you choose; how did you get involved, what is your role, what do you love about it, what is hard about it for you, and what do you get out of it the most – and then you can cut back if it’s a little too lengthy. Just take a deep breath and DIVE IN. You’ll be glad you did.
Once you have this shorter essay under your belt you will find it’s much easier to get started on the other ones.
One more tip for this week: Take all of the supplemental questions from the schools you are considering and put them on ONE sheet of paper. That way, you can see what they have in common, what they are asking, and figure out how to perhaps “repurpose” some of your answers for other schools. Looking the questions all at once will allow you to see what lies ahead, and that it is possible to get it done this summer.

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May and June of Junior Year : Preparing to Brainstorm!

By now, things are starting to wrap up with the academic year in high school, and you may be thinking about what to do to move into” application mode” for the summer. I usually tell my students to take a deep breath, and if they are organized, they can really get a jump on what happens next. You may want to start by going on line and looking at the supplemental questions for each of the schools that you may be thinking of applying to. This will help calm your nerves a little, as you can begin to see just what kinds of questions are being asked of you- and how you may be able to answer more than one school essay with similar responses. (you will of course want to do this very carefully!) I would also download the COMMON APPLICATION essays from their website ( the prompts really do not change all that much from year to year) and get comfortable with what is being asked of you.

Strange as it may seem, you may get struck by a great idea while you are driving to your summer job one day, or hanging out with friends. By knowing what you may eventually write about, its a great way to get the creativity flowing. Essays, in my experience- are rarely written when you make yourself sit down in front of the computer and do so. By actively setting yourself up for success, you have a better chance of getting inspired by something you see or experience when you least expect it.

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Pre- bschool application spring/summer: TAKE A CLASS!

So you’re thinking of applying this fall to business school and it seems like a daunting prospect. This series of posts will help you get going by breaking down the process into a series of manageable steps. First of all, OPEN THE CLOSET DOOR ( by this I mean, take a good look at what you’ve got hiding in your professional and academic background) and DO SOME SPRING CLEANING! If you majored in English and have not seen anything remotely quant oriented since you were a junior in high school, you probably want to either take a class on line, or register to take a summer course or two at a local community college ( or the USDA if you live in Washington) Not only will this get things moving a little in the quant side of your brain, you are actively starting the process that will kick into high gear when you probably have less time to address this sort of thing. I know , not the IDEAL way to start the summer, but I do think that if you are at all concerned about how your quant background ( grades, courses, or GMAT scores) looks to an admissions officer, chances are, they will be a little concerned too. I always like to tell students that you want to do everything possible to set yourself up to shine on the application- and this is a great way to get things moving in that direction. Accounting or statistics are great choices- and if you have a school list in mind already, you may want to call their admissions office to see what they suggest. PS You want to get a B+ or an A, so take it seriously!!

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Writing the individual college supplements

While prospective students who are thinking about the supplements for each of their college choices, they can assume that just about every school will want to know what it is about their particular university that appeals the most to you, and how you would contribute to the campus community.

I would generally advise that students put together one document which lists all of the schools that they are applying to, with their supplemental questions listed. That way, its easy to understand just how  each institution asks its particular question, and how they may be repurposed from one application to another, as needed. A word of caution – not all liberal arts colleges, or history programs, or civic engagement opportunities are the same on each campus! While its a great idea to see how you can utilize some of the same general themes from school to school, each university spends a great deal of time and effort to make their unique opportunities apparent to prospective students.

You should take your time to understand what sets this school apart from the others you are considering. It may be that there is a particular course of study within political science that really appeals to you; or a literary journal which focuses on science, or the chance to study abroad in a part of the world that you find very interesting. Each school will want to know that you have a pretty firm grasp on what you can accomplish there; and in turn, what you will bring to its campus as well.

The websites offer a  wealth of information; you may need to spend some time digging beneath the surface of the course descriptions to find out what particular faculty members are teaching, for example. But I find that the more this essay can showcase that you know the institution- and that you are applying for very specific reasons ( please do not site location as one of your big parameters!) they will appreciate that you took the time to get to know them.

You may want to reach out to your school guidance counselor to see if there are students from your high school who have graduated recently and are enrolled at the school you may be considering. You will want to sign up for the information sessions that many schools will host ( or co-host) around the world so that you can learn more about the program first hand. Generally , local alumni are invited to these events, so its a nice way to interact with individuals who may have graduated 5 or 20 years ago and have a different perspective about opportunities the school has afforded them.

At the end of the day, you should have as full a picture as possible of the institution, and have thought of how you may want to express this within the framework of the school supplement.  It is sometimes easiest to choose one academic interest, one extra curricular interest, and one general impression about the school to talk about in this particular essay. ( insert number of words here) is not so many words; so I usually suggest that students be as  clear as possible with their reasons for applying.

It is important to be as personal as possible in  your response; you do not want to sound as if you are simply regurgitating the admissions website back to the admissions representative, who most likely had a hand in writing it!  Keep the relationship with the school as personal as you can; tie back your impressions of what excites you about the institution with your own experiences and accumen.

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Common application- short answer question

The short answer prompt encourages students to talk about an activity that has alot of importance to them, and may or may not be at the top of their activity list located elsewhere on the application. This short answer ( 150 words maximum) is designed to allow the student an opportunity to highlight what means the most to them – and can give the admissions director important additional information about the file.

My general word of advice would be to choose whatever it is that REALLY means something to you. This interest will translate into an essay with conviction, passion and purpose.  You should imagine the individual who is reading it, to really  be able to talk about you to their colleagues in the hallways of the admissions office.

This does not mean you have to learn how to play the cello with your feet in order to get noticed,or to have worked with a Nobel Laureate on ground breaking research at the age of 17. What is does mean is that you should choose the thing that really gets you out of bed in the morning ( there must be SOMETHING, even at 6:30 am , when you are racing to get out the door to catch the bus, that you are really looking forward to at the end of the day) Once again, there is no right or wrong answer- admissions representatives pride themselves on being open minded and thoughtful, so if you want to write about a political cause you believe in, or an organization that you feel very strongly about, do not shy away from these topics- if you really have a depth of passion and enthusiasm about them, that excitement will come through, and you will have achieved your goal of allowing the admissions director to have an even closer look at what makes you tick.

To sum up- many students complain that admissions to selective colleges is just a numbers game, and that the ” numbers” of extracurricular activities matter more than the depth of the engagement that a student has for it. This is absolutely not the case. In fact, admissions officers shy away from the “laundry list” of activities in favor of a student who may choose one or two that really matter to them greatly and allow them the opportunity to express their real interests.

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Common application- long answer question

The common application long answer question is designed to find out what the student cares about and thinks about, and allows the admissions director to see another side of them , away from the confines of standardized testing and high school transcripts. I generally suggest that students take the time to print out this set of question prompts,which do not vary too much from year to year, and put them over their desk. Sometimes the best ideas come when you are not even thinking about it.

I would also suggest that you keep the topic choice as close to personal as you can; writing is almost always easier when the topic is closer to what is familiar to you, and the questions are broad enough so that you almost always can tailor your response to fit the prompt. Is there an experience you have had that has been very compelling or life changing? Is there an activity that you particularly enjoy that has been something which has enabled you to grow and develop into the person you are today?

I usually advise students to avoid the very global or general questions which do not allow much room for personal reflection, and more likely than not end up  as a recitation of what you may have learned in history class or debate team. Its hard to make these kinds of questions personalized, even if its a topic about which you are very passionate.

I usually find its great to start somewhere in the middle of the essay; starting at the beginning can seem incredibly daunting, and sometimes the best ideas are in the meat of the essay, with the beginning and end paragraphs serving as the ‘frame’ of the discussion. You may want to carry a notebook with you, or write down ideas as they come to you. You never know when you will be struck by a conversation you have had, or something you have read, and its great to be prepared to capture these ideas as they happen. I also tell students not to worry too much about how clean a sentence is at the beginning- what matters is the exercise of getting the ideas down on paper; you can always go back afterwards and clean up the syntax and word choice so that they better reflect your writing style.

I think that a compelling example early on in the essay really gets the attention of whomever is reading it… so the faster you can get to the personal side of things, the better. Of course its important to temper your example with the way that you relate it; but I like to think that the essay is the opportunity of the student to share their true selves; and to imagine an admissions director sitting at a table with others, talking about your candidacy. What message about YOU do you want them to bring to that meeting? Your responsibility in the framework of the essay is to give them color commentary around everything else you have laid out for them in terms of scores, transcript and activities. The essay should speak about you- and speak for you; in a way that will allow the admissions representative to really want to “pound the table” for you in the committee discussion.

In short, the more you can imbue this essay with  a sense of passion and drive; allowing the admissions reader to see just what you would bring to their campus- the better they will be able to talk about you in that meeting as a living, breathing prospective student on their campus.

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Many high school students look at me blankly when I suggest that they compile a resume to have available for schools to which they are applying. I find that its a great way to put on paper the activities that matter the most to you in a format that can be consistently reviewed by both the admissions office and any college interviewer whom  you may encounter.

» Continue reading “Resume”

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Who should write my letter of recommendations, and how can I ensure that they will be a good representation of who I am?

Most guidance counselors will start to work on their letters of recommendation the summer before senior year. You may have a meeting with them prior to the summer, and in many cases, it can be helpful for you to bring your resume with you so that they have a base from which to begin writing. They will also solicit information or comments from your teachers- so that the guidance counselor letter will have input from other individuals who know you well within the context of your high school academic and extra-curricular achievements.

» Continue reading “Who should write my letter of recommendations, and how can I ensure that they will be a good representation of who I am?”

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