Categories
College Essays Common Application Common Application Essay COVID-19

Common App Makes Changes for the 2021-2022 Essays

The Common Application released their essay prompts early this year. Usually, the prompts are an exact repeat from the previous year (as has been the case for four years) but this year they’re changing it up —just what you need this year, more change.  Thankfully, it’s not too much!

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

The following question, which they’ve had for years, is now gone:

  • “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 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.”

This is a bummer because we (and admissions officers) liked this one! For our students who are STEM researchers, this prompt was a terrific way to showcase their research experience noting what they’ve done outside of school assignments.

In its place, there is a new prompt 4 and it keeps with the pandemic’s theme of striving for kindness, being thankful for (and cognizant of) what you have, and showing you truly care about and respect others. It is:

  • “Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?”

To us, it sounds like the Common Application has been reading the Coalition Application’s prompts, as they decided to keep theirs the same for 2021-2022.  Note prompt # 2, which is: “Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus.  Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.”

FOCUS ON THE PANDEMIC ERA

These two prompts align with the times. Colleges are urging students to consider their civic leadership, community activism, and how they care for others, remaining mindful of the greater good.

Also, the Common App is keeping the optional COVID-19 essay prompt from last year. It is:

  • Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces (250 word limit)
    • Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
    • Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you. (Students may wish to discuss shifting family obligations, education disruptions, ways they have helped others, or how they have used their time at home to pursue new interests. This question will not replace the preexisting Additional Information essay, which has a 650 word limit.)

While everyone on the planet has been impacted by the global pandemic, the Common App’s COVID-19 optional essay is not something that all students should complete. It’s for unique circumstances only –and we can walk you through it, just let us know!

Common App 911

Having a difficult time with your application? Let us help.

2021-2022 MAIN ESSAY PROMPTS

All college applicants submitting a Common App WILL need to complete the main essay for the Common Application, and below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022:

  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. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  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.

Essay Guidance Program

Need assistance with your essay? Try our personalized essay solution.

ACADEMICS ARE KEY

How do you keep it scholarly and memorable, pick the prompt that best works for you, and still relay who you are and what you’ll uniquely bring to a university? Let us assist! We’ve helped students who have written their Common App main essays on topics such as:

  • A research internship studying asylum in the United States
  • 3D visualization techniques used to recreate a grandfather’s antique clock collection
  • Experiencing how Black feminism impacts high school sports
  • Why studying the water we drink should be a priority for all (hint –there’s other stuff in there, you know)
  • How a violin’s bow speed links to wave studies and physics
  • Creating a robot that can teach coding to kids
  • How gender equity threads to juvenile justice

When we work with students, a main essay discussion starts with a dialogue on what you love, what intrigues you, what excites you, why you do it, and who it’s for. Check out our Common App 911 and Essay Guidance Program, work with us in our Application Boot Camp 2021, or consider TTA’s Private Counseling Program. We’re certain we can help you narrow down these 7 prompts to one that puts you, your work, and your accomplishments in the best possible light.  The prompts are out early, so start brainstorming early – we’re at the ready to help!

Categories
high school students Middle School Top Tips writing

Get Published This Winter

Students often tell us they dream of being published, but are resigned to waiting until graduate school when they are working with distinguished faculty members. We (gently!) guide our students in understanding that technically you don’t always need a mentor or manager or faculty member to supervise your work or your writing, or comment on your photography or art or poetry -or your literature review, to get published.

IN THE KNOW

You can secure a publication solo IF you know where to look and how to prepare.

If you’re engaged in your classes and actively writing, you likely have papers and Word files collecting virtual dust on your laptop. Bring them back to life, get them read, get them out!

As the great Sylvia Plath once said, “Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.”

FIVE FRESH PUBLICATION IDEAS

Check out these 5 ideas on where to pursue publication ASAP:

  1. West Virginia Press has a call for submissions for their print anthology (a BOOK) called “Essential Voices: A Covid-19 Anthology.” They are seeking poems, stories, recipes, or works of art “that reflect upon the experience of COVID and COVID related issues in your life.” (open to all ages, due 1/15/21)
  2. The Architectural League of NY is asking some pretty insightful questions this month: “At a time in which our relationships to both private spaces and the public realm have been thrown open to question, what lessons can we learn from looking carefully at the world around us? How can we better understand the places where we live—the histories that have shaped them; the social, economic, and political mechanisms that make them function as they do today; the communities they structure; their possibilities for the future?” They are seeking submissions of photographs, videos, or drawings accompanied by short written observations “about the spaces around you, with the goal of creating a visual archive that captures the relationship between society and the built environment in this unprecedented time.” (open to all ages, due 12/31/20)
  3.  The Sunlight Press is a nonprofit literary arts journal for “new and established voices.” They are seeking nonfiction personal essays, fiction, poetry, book reviews, artist reflections of their work with photos of their art, and photograph submissions (open to all ages, submit after 1/4/21)
  4. Girls Right the World is a literary journal seeking female-identifying writers and artists (ages 14–21), to submit work for consideration in their fifth annual issue. Submissions can include poetry, prose, and visual art of any style or theme. (open to all ages, due 12/31/20)
  5. And  –for students in grades 5-12 who love astronomy and space, NASA has a ‘Scientist for a Day Essay Contest’ asking writers to focus on which moon they’d travel to and how/why (grades 5-12, due 2/12/21) 

STAYING POWER

The neat thing about securing a publication is that it stays with you for life –on your Common App, in your graduate school applications, in your resume, and on your LinkedIn profile. More eyes on your published work means more eyes on you, more networking opportunities, and more engagement with peer scholars and top researchers. Seeking more personalized ideas and assistance with preparing your submissions to publication outlets, peer reviewed journals and conferences? Let us help!

Categories
grad school Graduate Admissions Stanford Top Tips

Stanford Law School Admissions: What To Know

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

November 2020 is a busy month for LSAT test takers and there are four LSAT flex online options: November 7th, 8th, 10th, and 11th. If you’re taking the LSAT, be sure you utilize LSAC’s free LSAT prep package and read up on the complexities of the new online LSAT flex.

Many students are at the tail end of their law school admissions pathway and they’re now wrapping up their personal statement and sitting for the LSAT, and then their applications are off and running.

One of the most popular law schools to target this fall?… Stanford Law of course! Read on for key data and frequently asked questions on Stanford Law School (SLS).

STANFORD LAW SCHOOL: FAQS & KEY DATA

How can I research key data on Stanford Law? Where do I look?

It’s common for applicants to skip reviewing the current student profile before they apply and yet it’s so important! We walk our students through it, of course, but here’s Stanford’s info (not always easy to find –the direct link is here):

2019 First Year Class, 2018-2019 (most recent data they’ve posted) =

  • 3,908 completed applications and 380 offers of admission, so that’s a 9.72% acceptance rate.
  • 157 enrolled, which means 223 turned Stanford down, so that’s a 4.02% enrollment rate.
  • 23 other first year enrollees (aka deferrals), so 180 were in the class
  • LSAT Percentiles: 25th percentile 169; 50th percentile 171; 75th percentile 174
  • Undergrad GPA: 25th percentile 3.79; 50th percentile 3.91; 75th percentile 3.96 (meaning SKY HIGH!)

What programs does Stanford Law offer? Is a JD the only degree program I can consider? 

Many applicants are unaware that SLS offers several different programs, the JD is not the only SLS option. We’ve worked with many international students where SLS’ advanced degree options are appealing. They have the Master of Laws LLM program, Master of the Science of Law JSM degree (via the Stanford Program in International Legal Studies), the Master of Legal Studies degree, and the Doctor of the Science of Law (JSD) degree.

What are the components of the SLS application, and are they weighted differently?

The 10 pieces of the SLS JD app are outlined here. Note that you’ve got some hefty writing to do for items 3, 4, 5 and 6 (let us help!). It’s interesting that the last two they mention, the LSAT and transcripts to date (submitted as part of the needed Credential Assembly Service Report —via LSAC) are the last two stated in the list of ten, though those carry a great amount of weight in an admissions review. SLS is seeking unique students who have broken the mold in what they’ve pursued and accomplished before the time of their application and who therefore will continue to be changemakers on campus and post-degree. The quantitative data (LSAT, GPA) allows for a round 1 initial slice of thousands of applicants, but an applicant’s story, diverse background, relevant and rigorous work experiences, massive community impact and evidence of leadership to date push him into the pool.

What makes a Stanford Law School applicant stand out in a good way? What about in a bad way?

Hopefully, the above addresses ways to stand out in a good way. A mistake that law school applicants can make is thinking that when a program states something in the application is optional, it’s really optional. It’s not; it’s unofficially strongly urged. I often work with students who believe something like Stanford’s (and many other schools’) “optional diversity essay” is something they can or should skip. They might feel they are not diverse, that they don’t belong to a unique community, etc.  I try to gently urge applicants to think more deeply on this prompt. The prompt interprets the word ‘diversity’ very broadly, so the applicant should as well.

Everyone is DiVeRsE in some way —if you feel you’re not diverse at all and you have nothing unique to bring them, why are you applying to SLS?… When I have a student tell me he’s not diverse, I urge him to try to expand his definition of diversity and reflect on the following list –and THAT allows for this “optional” essay to be prepared/submitted and hopefully stand out:

Diversity factors for students to consider writing about include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • Ethnic minority
  • Low-income childhood
  • Low-income now
  • First generation in your family to graduate from college
  • LGBTQX community
  • Non-traditional student (i.e., older student)
  • Single parent while attending college
  • Disabilities (learning, physical, mental)
  • Underrepresented religious affiliation
  • Immigrant
  • Foster child
  • Grew up in an unusual neighborhood, town/city, or country
  • Grew up with unique circumstances that are underrepresented in the school’s student body 

How can an applicant ‘overcome’ things like poor test scores or a lack of career experience? 

The best ways to combat a low LSAT are to prep and tutor more and retake it, allow yourself more time to apply, bump out your timeline, etc. However, the LSAT is not the only factor in SLS admissions. A lack of career experience or massive resume gaps can also be red flags as the goal is to show the admissions office you are deeply committed to your work/academics, likely to succeed in the program and post degree. They already believe, as does every top law school, that they have a fantastic program with unparalleled academic offerings, internationally renowned faculty, etc. They want to know what you will bring to THEM and how that makes you stand out from the pack. Perhaps that’s added grad level coursework, conference presentations, publications, nonprofit work that links to your professional background, etc. We’ve also worked with past students who struggled a bit in college but then had stellar professional experiences post degree and now want a way to first, be certain that they want to commit to three years of law school and a law career, and secondly, offer evidence on a transcript that shows they are fully capable of getting A grades.

One thing that accomplishes both, for example, is a graduate level credit-bearing course in your preferred field of study —not necessarily with the hopes of transferring those 4 credits into law school when you matriculate (as it’s unlikely), but to ensure you want a law school pathway, and ensure you show transcript evidence that A grades are in your wheelhouse.

Here’s one to show what I mean: Harvard Extension School online course for 4 graduate level credits called International Human Rights Law. Starts 1-27-21.  I’ve also had past students tell me that an Intro to Logic course (in college or a post college grad level one like the one linked here, at the Harvard Extension School) for credit has been a boost to their law school admissions application process, since it links to the logic that is actually needed in year one of law school as well as the logic questions on the LSAT, and also the framing of the law school app overall.

How can I become a ‘standout applicant’ from the pack at Stanford Law?

We’ve had past students: publish research papers or old finals papers in journals (such as Yale’s Undergraduate Journal of Economics and Politics), dive into an artificial intelligence research internship that links to patent law, climb the career ladder at an international startup focused on international women business owners, teach virtual coding classes to middle schoolers, work in DC as a policy analyst, and obtain a full time job as law office administrative assistant.

The trick is to authentically present as a compelling applicant with a unique story and insightful evidence of success in the program –and post degree as well as ideally as an active alum.

STANDING OUT IN LAW SCHOOL ADMISSIONS

Looking for more personalized ideas on ways to you can stand out in your law school applications and essays?  We’d love to propose targeted ideas for you! Let’s chat.

Categories
Insider Tips

How to Pick and Pursue Grad School Psychology Programs

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

Psychology is one of the most popular majors on the planet and in the chaos of 2020, we suspect even more students will be headed into healthcare-oriented fields. The mind body connection is real; we are all, in some way, conditioned to help and want to learn more about the human psyche. Psychology can be a great way to study society while also learning more about yourself. We often hear from students who are looking into Clinical Psychology graduate degrees, or even just Psychology in general.

When I completed my doctoral studies a long way back, a saint of a professor agreed to sit on my dissertation committee and he headed up a PhD program in Marriage and Family Studies. I remember thinking that I didn’t even know that was a field not to mention a PhD!  Now there are tons of options for graduate degrees in the field of psychology. You have options in:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Clinical neuropsychology
  • School psychology
  • Child psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Marriage and family psychology
  • Behavioral psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • School psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Psychiatry, and more…

You could obtain a Master of Arts, a Master of Science, a Master’s in Social Work (MSW), a PhD or a PsyD. We tend to hear from students seeking a PhD (more research focused) or a PsyD (a bit more practice focused with some clinical work woven in), and we have some tips and tricks for those looking into graduate school psychology programs.

GRAD SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS: TIPS & TRICKS

  • The American Psychology Association (APA) has pushed out a fair amount of articles on the benefits and the rise of teletherapy in the midst of Covid-19. Considering applying for a graduate degree in psychology? A great way to make sure you like the field is to start in therapy. You can do it from home or even from an app on your phone with about 5 minutes advanced notice. Take advantage of the modern advances in your targeted field.
  • Speaking of APA, that’s the main professional association for Psychology –check out some of their videos in your field where top scholars and PhDs present on key topics. Note two videos here on “Reopening Schools in a Pandemic,” and “The Challenge of Telework During Covid-19.”
  • You could attend APA’s annual 2020 conference which was flipped to an on-demand setup online. (That becomes a CV entry.)
  • How about getting a transcript to submit with your applications where you could show your A grades in psychology coursework? Oregon State University’s fall term runs Sept. 23 to mid Dec, and because they’re on the quarter system they have a winter term too. Possible courses you could consider might be: General Psychology, Brain and Behavior, or Personality Psychology.
  • Not quite ready to add 3-4 credits to your fall or winter 2020? Consider these EdX noncredit online course options (We like the UC Berkeley options in particular.)
  • Stanford runs one of the top Psychology graduate programs in the country and they host their own workshops and conferences.
    • Their conference on Triangulating Intelligence: “Melding Neuroscience, Psychology and AI” is Oct. 7th, 9am-3:30pm PT –note the top scholars presenting, and it’s completely virtual (another great CV entry!)

READY TO SUBMIT

Let’s say you do ALL of the above and you’re ready to move on your PhD program applications in Psychology. Here’s what you’ll prep to submit (for most programs) this fall to submit (around late November) for December deadlines:

  • Transcripts
  • Statement of purpose where you’ll state the 2-3 faculty you’ve already reached out to and conferred with and whom you want to work under.
  • Online application, which could include added supplemental text box prompts
  • Optional diversity essay (for some programs)
  • CV
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Test scores, depending on the program: GRE, TOEFL

NAVIGATING YOUR PATH

We’d love to help you navigate your path to top graduate programs in Psychology! I’m here to help with everything from essay guidance to mock interview prep to reaching out to faculty to secure their support at the admissions read table (very needed!) and, of course, refining your final application strategy. As APA confirms, there are over 24 pages of stellar graduate level psychology programs you can pick from in their latest summary  –we can help you whittle that down to programs that match your scholarly, research and professional practice goals.

Categories
Graduate Admissions MIT

MIT Sloan Flips to Test Optional

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

We are working with our grad school applicants who are putting the final touches on their applications, as well as new applicants who are seizing the day and applying to graduate school in this unprecedented time, or as we’ve called it, the best year in history to apply to graduate school.

Some schools have made it easier to apply to graduate school as they’ve lightened up their rules on course, test, application fee, and deadline requirements. Others are not making it easier to apply, they’re just calling it quits on fall 2020 admissions in the midst of COVID-19, and these are not poor universities. For example, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education is not accepting ANY doctoral applications this fall, Master’s applicants only. UPenn did the same for their PhD admissions in the School of Arts and Sciences (except for their Chemistry PhD applicants); the rest of their departments are going to focus on serving/teaching/paying their current graduate students, not new ones.

In June, UVA Darden announced they were going test optional and here we are at two weeks from MIT Sloan’s round 1 MBA deadline and they just stated they’re GMAT/GRE optional. This decision is late in the game and it’s tough for applicants to interpret when they put this on their admissions page:

“In view of challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, we will allow candidates for the 2020-21 admission cycle to submit their application without the test and review their submitted material as is and without negative inferences . . . Additionally, applicants are welcome to submit other pieces of evidence, such as expired test scores (GMAT, GRE, EA, etc.); MITx MicroMasters, CORe, edX, MBAMath, or any other non-degree coursework completed; or certifications earned such as CPA, ACCA, CFA, etc.; all of which may assist the Admissions Committee in its evaluation process . . . If you have a valid or expired test score, please include that as part of your application.”

HUH?

Well, which is it, MIT?…

Here’s one possible translation: While we went test optional for round 3 in spring 2020, we expected to be test-required this fall, but waited all the way until September to finally announce it. And –if you have any scores whatsoever, even an expired score from over a decade ago, we’ll take it. And, we’ll also tell you the following about our Class of 2021 right on our admissions FAQ site: average GMAT 727, GMAT middle 80% range 690-760, GRE middle 80% quant range 156-168, GRE middle 80% verbal range 156-169. But, just ignore that if you have nothing; zero scores are okay by us. (Unless you want to get admitted. Then, maybe think about getting some scores.)

IT’S ABOUT WHAT ACCEPTED STUDENTS SUBMIT

So, you could see where an applicant might be perplexed on what to do and what is actually needed. Because it’s not really about what you need to just pay an application fee and apply, it’s about what you need to get IN.

Compound the above with the fact that the online GMAT registration fee just went up 25% as of September 23 (and there’s a hefty $100 cancellation fee or $150 reschedule fee if within 2 weeks –at some but not all locations), and you might not be too pumped to sit for the GMAT right now. So maybe test optional IS your friend this fall. Do a review, however, of your undergraduate transcript to make sure it can stand on its own.

Then again, you might not be too psyched about MIT Sloan’s tuition and fees this year: $77,168 in tuition and $120,846 total according to this 2020-2021 MIT Sloan MBA Tuition and Expenses summary.

The good news is that top programs are being lenient with test requirements and score deadlines, and while MIT’s round 1 MBA deadline is coming up fast on October 1st, there is still time to apply –and you could even target their round 2 deadline of Jan. 19, 2021 or round 3 deadline of April 12, 2021 (though round 3 is a bit later than we’d advise applying), in which case you have much more time.

YOU NOW HAVE MORE OPTIONS

Some programs are lowering their tuitions; and some excellent online programs are being mindful of COVID-19’s impact on your financial picture.

For example, Williams College offers a one year Master’s in Policy Economics (apps are due Dec 1) for students with an interest in future positions in treasuries, central banks and government, and they made the news this summer with tuition cuts of 15% to benefit students and their families.

Even less expensive and more forgiving with application requirements is an online graduate admissions pathway. The University of Illinois’ round 1 online MBA application deadline (for spring 2021 admissions) was Sept. 15 and round 2 is due Oct 15. You need a minimum 3.0 GPA to apply, and they’re test optional, online and $22,000 for the program. Their applications are up 35% this year; students are taking note of the key benefits of top online MBAs, especially when many top MBA programs are already online right now anyway. Boston University and Wake Forest have also debuted new, popular online MBA programs in a less-is-more, we’re prepped for virtual anyway kind of way.

Whether you’re seeking to study next to the Charles River at MIT or from your home office as part of Rice University’s online MBA program (and you can bet that Rice wants you to apply since they waived their $200 app fee until Oct. 9), we are here to help you with your resume, grad school essays, applications, and more. Let’s talk.