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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reading the Admissions Tealeaves

Now that the admissions decisions for this fall's freshman class have gone out--and many decisions off the wait list have been made--it's a good time to stand back and see what trends are emerging in college admissions.

Newsweek ran a fascinating piece on this a few months ago -- full text here -- but a couple of particularly interesting trends have emerged: Home schoolers are hitting college application age for the first time en masse, and are doing well (generally). Public universities are accepting more out-of-state students, generally making them more difficult to get into.

And potentially most interesting, as the top-tier schools become almost impossible to crack into (<10% admission rates for many), graduate school is the new goal. The argument: Since getting into Harvard as an undergrad is almost impossible (6% accept rate overall, which is actually higher than it is for the general population, if you consider the number of alumni kids and other "special cases" applying each year), focus instead on being a rockstar at a state school and go to the Harvard graduate program of your choice.

Which raises the interesting (or frightening) question: Is graduate school admissions the new undergraduate school admissions? Do you now have to kill yourself for four years in high school to get into a top college--so you can then kill yourself for four years to go to Harvard Law (where, yes, you have to kill yourself for three years to get onto law review and get the best job... where you kill yourself for eight years--you get the idea).

It's enough to make you want to step off the hamster wheel and do something fun and enriching, isn't it? --CJ

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another Way to Blow $10k... Part II

Already done the uber-expensive study abroad and still have cash to burn? Well... it is summer... which means one thing: Time for an over-the-top summer camp!

First, let's state the obvious: Of course I'm just jealous. I mean, two weeks of sailing the Caribbean (#6)? Who wouldn't be.

But just as obvious: All earlier comments on over-the-top study-abroad programs still is applicable. There is no magic bullet--and spending lavishly on a recreational camp experience is more likely to backfire than help (who wants to admit the spoiled rich kid?)

So instead -- go find something local that you're passionate about and engage on that. And most importantly,  enjoy your summer -- they'll disappear all too quickly! ---CJ

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Way to Blow $10k...

Yes, I realize it's a lost cause, but can someone please stop the college application padding insanity?

The latest: Uber-expensive abroad programs for high school students

I guess if you're desperate to get into the college of your dreams, spending a month working with kids in Ghana sounds like a lot more fun than studying harder to do better in Calc. I'll grant that it's a cool life experience (if mommy and daddy can afford it), but keep the admissions impact in perspective:

“People shouldn’t feel they have to do something exotic to impress admissions committees,” William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid, told The Daily Beast. “There is no magic bullet.”
Not only is there no magic bullet, but note that Fitzsimmons adds that over-the-top paid experiences can backfire ("There is some cynicism about these programs,” said Fitzsimmons.)

Perhaps the best advice comes from Richard Shaw at Stanford: “It’s not a good idea to engage in something because the student or family believes it will augment their ability to get in.”

In other words, stop living your life to full out some mythologized resume goal. Instead, go do what you're into--it'll make you a far more interesting person (not to mention applicant) in the long run. --CJ