New Questions at Yale

Yale’s new application questions come at the tail end of a heated, year-long debate on campuses across the country about class and race. The fact that one of the questions focuses on applicants’ sense of “community” reflects the Ivy League school’s renewed interest in boosting diversity and inclusion.

The new questions also reveal more about Yale’s admissions priorities than ever before....

Read the full article: Yale’s new application questions give away the key things elite colleges want to see from students

News for University of California Applicants ...

After receiving a record-high 206,000 freshman and transfer applications this year, UC felt the prior two-question system “wasn’t providing the kind of insights we want,” said Stephen Handel, UC’s associate vice president for undergraduate admissions. “We just didn’t have enough information to make some very difficult decisions.”

In addition, he said, too many essays had become “fairly formulaic and generalized” and canned responses were available to copy from older friends or from online postings and websites....

“Essays are important,” he said. “We wouldn’t have gone through this much work without feeling that this is information we really need and really want. As important as GPA and test scores are, we want to know about the students and their lives, their challenges and their accomplishments.”

Read the whole story here.

The 2015-16 Common App Essay Prompts

The Common Application prompts for the 2015-16 college-application season have been released (but remember what the main question is):

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 failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3.  Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

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 or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

 

Applicants: Be Interested — and Interesting!

From The Atlantic

“We could fill our class twice over with valedictorians,” Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust told an audience at the Aspen Ideas Festival, sponsored by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, on Monday. That means admissions officers rely on intangibles like interesting essays or particularly unusual recommendations to decide who comprises the 5.9 percent of applicants who get in. 

Faust's top tip for raising a Harvard man or woman: “Make your children interesting!”

For parents and students alike, that’s both good news and bad news. The bad news is that of course it’s much easier to say that than to actually make it happen, though Faust recommended encouraging children to follow their passions as a way to develop an interesting personality. It’s much easier to complete a checklist, however daunting, than to actually be interesting.

But the good news is that when colleges use this set of criteria, kids can focus on shaping their teenage years in a way that isn’t just about trying to build up resume line after resume line, and instead focus on a more holistic sense of self. That seems like a far more sensible way to move through high school than spreading oneself too thin trying to get a slew of positions one can’t really ever concentrate on. That encourages a dilettantish approach to learning and society that is just the opposite of what the liberal arts have traditionally tried to encourage.

The Comedian and the College Applicant | Part One

I didn't expect to see so many parallels between the way a comedian works on a joke and the process I've developed to coach high school students in the writing of effective and memorable college-application essays.

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