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grad school Graduate Admissions

5 New & Innovative Grad School Programs

Summer is approaching and the tumultuous wave of 2021 graduate school admissions has finally unfolded. The year+ of COVID brought graduate school applicants out in droves. More students than ever before, in a wide variety of fields, decided fall 2020 was THE time to apply to graduate school, change their career pathway, seize the day when GREs were not required, and use extra time at home to perfect their personal statements.

GRAD APPS UP ACROSS THE BOARD

As Inside Higher Ed noted last month, when the economy is down, graduate school applications are up. It’s not just the Fauci effect either. Graduate school applications were up this year for medical school and psychology fields, yes–but also for law school, business, economics and even history and philosophy. For example, Inside Higher Ed noted Washington University in St. Louis’ PhD in Philosophy program received 45% more applications this year (compared to last year) and Northwestern University’s PhD in Economics program received 17% more applications.

Some top universities with massive endowments panicked, a case in point when Princeton’s PhD in Sociology shut down admissions and decided they would not accept a single applicant for 2021 admissions. Or when UNC Chapel Hill’s History PhD program made the same decision. There are no new students in those departments to start this August, not one.

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The programs that DID accept applicants were even more flooded, and in subsequent years in admissions (meaning admissions this fall 2021 for an August 2022 start) applicant numbers will climb even higher.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

As a 2021 grad school applicant, how do you turn it around? How do you gain acceptance into a top university?

Look for the innovative programs that are building up and not pausing or tearing down.

5 NEW & INNOVATIVE GRAD SCHOOL PROGRAMS

Check out these recently launched grad school programs and join one of their first cohorts of students: 

  1. Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences just launched a new PhD Program in Quantum Science and Engineering.
    1. It’s a unique cross between physics, chemistry, engineering and computer science that sounds innovative for sure.
    2. Since education is my forte, what I love most about this is that part of this initiative is this PhD program’s involvement in the Harvard University Center for Integrated Quantum Materials (CIQM) (a product of an NSF and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) partnership). They’re working to develop curricula for K-12 students to learn more about the field of quantum information science. 
  2. USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism launched a new online Master’s Program in Digital Media Management.
    1. USC is smart to launch this program now–as they note: the digital media field is set to have $414 billion in global revenue growth by 2025. Might be worth checking this one out –that’s an awful lot of growth in under 4 years.
  3. The University of Michigan’s School of Medicine launched an online Master of Science degree program in Health Infrastructures and Learning Systems.
    1. This is one to really take note of as there are part time and full time options and their application deadline (U.S. applicants only) is June 1st, meaning if you apply this month you could start in this program in 3 months and wrap it in 12 months total. Learn more about their Rackham funding options here. Talk about a swift and innovative career change!
  4. The University of California at Riverside just launched a new Master of Science program in Business Analytics.
    1. They’re unique in that it’s a STEM program offered jointly by their Graduate School of Management and Department of Statistics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences. Students can concentrate on one of three tracks –finance analytics, marketing analytics or operations analytics and it’s a nine-month program when done full time.
  5. The University of Wisconsin-Madison just launched the first ever accredited Master of Science degree program in Psychoactive Pharmaceutical Investigation within their School of Pharmacy.
    1. It can be completed in an online or hybrid setup in 1-3 years and will begin this fall 2021. The program (with a focus on science, history, ethical and legal aspects) aims to explore new treatments for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and addiction. If this isn’t a well-timed launch of a strong research-focused graduate degree program, I don’t know what is.

NEXT STEPS

Explore the links above and register to attend an online information session (#3 UMichigan has one 5/20 here) with their graduate admissions offices. You’ll benefit from hearing from their faculty, admissions officers and current students as you assess your plans for graduate school, your career aims and your next steps. Seeking more ideas on new graduate programs in your field of interest? We can help!

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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.

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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.

Categories
grad school Graduate Admissions Top Tips

Grad School Game Plan

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

I know many of you are using this summer to prep your fall graduate school applications, and I’m here to offer some tips and tricks on where to begin, AKA sort your grad school game plan and sort yourself.

Creating your grad school admissions tracking file is key. Guidance on how to create a ‘grad school admissions tracking file’ is included in our graduate school admissions consulting programs, but if you’re seeking insider tips on how you can craft, refine, sort, manage, and assess your plan, I’ve got those right here!

Having this information in one spot will save you TONS of time and heartache across the graduate school admissions process from start to acceptance.

Items to include:

  • Top 3 reasons you’re targeting the program
  • Top 3 reasons the program is a good fit for you
  • Ranking of programs in order of your preference
  • Ranking of programs in order of your acceptance odds (based on the school’s admit stats from the previous year)
  • Your campus (or virtual) visit notes including notes on program offerings, faculty, students, campus, location, research, other opportunities, career tracks of recent graduates, etc.
  • Admissions stats from previous admitted classes including testing and GPA averages
  • Transcripts requested and sent
  • Test scores requested and sent
  • Letters of recommendation –who, when asked, how, date requested, date needed, preferred “fed topics” to be discussed, etc.
  • Essay topics, word limits, content focus, layout, submission process required by the admissions website, etc.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae, often different versions depending on program and school
  • Writing samples
  • Interview notes
  • Campus contacts and alumni connections, including names, dates, and contact info
  • Communications tracker with anyone you know who has an affiliation with the school
  • Deadlines, ideal time to submit, actual dates of submission confirmations received, etc.

FINDING A PROGRAM FOR ‘YOU’

The item that many struggle with is the “reasons the program is a perfect fit for YOU.” I am often asked where to begin when it comes to researching programs (and how to best ensure it fits with your career goals), and that can be tricky.  I’ve had several calls in recent weeks from students who are toying with law school OR a Master’s degree; an MBA OR an M.S. in Entrepreneurship, etc. It used to be that you couldn’t really gain intel on a program or faculty until you were on site, but now you have the ability to take a class online with faculty from the department you aim to gain entry into, before you’re even there.

  • For example, let’s say you’re drawn to the field of genetics, not necessarily because you want to head to medical school, but because lab work is your thing and you’re looking at the University of Michigan’s M.S. program in Human Genetics.
    • As their site notes, “Human Genetics interfaces with multiple research and clinical disciplines, with new opportunities for those with advanced training in basic science, clinical diagnostics and industry.”
    • But, you’re on the fence, you’re not sure if you’ll like UMichigan; you’re not sure if you’ll like their method of teaching or the content –or the faculty. These are all things you need to know if you’re trying to create a file in which you’ll pinpoint the ‘top 3 reasons the program is a fit for you.’
    • SO —you could consider registering for the noncredit online EdX course (via UMichigan) called Anatomy: Human Neuroanatomy this summer. Then, you get a free intro to the content and to the method of teaching from their faculty.
    • It’s free to enroll in this class and $49 for the optional course certificate. Nothing to lose (other than the time taking it, of course) and everything to gain (as it’s a great resume entry too).

GRAD SCHOOL GAME PLAN

See if this kind of a grad school game plan offers you added intel into a program and the extent to which it’s a great match for you. Then, add the university to your list of targeted schools. Perhaps the added information you glean from the course puts that university even higher up in your grad school admissions tracking file.

If you’d like personalized advice for your graduate school process Top Tier Admissions is here for you.

Let me help!

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grad school Graduate Admissions Insider Tips Interviews Top Tips

Master Your Graduate School Interviews

Post by: Dr. Kristen Willmott

“What will they ask me?” “How can I leverage a Zoom interview?” “What if they offer an in-person interview?” “Do I meet with a graduate school admissions rep or a faculty member, or both?” “How big is a ‘panel?’” “Is this a true ‘admissions interview’ or more of an ‘informational interview’ offer, and what’s the difference?” These are all common questions we receive from our graduate school admissions consulting clients who are targeting some of the best Master’s, PhD, law school and MBA programs in the nation and overseas.

GRADUATE SCHOOL INTERVIEWS: RULES OF THUMB

The bottom line is that graduate school interviewing can be intimidating even for the most prepared candidates, and most top schools have so many applicants each year that they don’t even offer interviews beyond a casual sit-down alumni interview once an application has been submitted.  So, college seniors and working professionals could easily have their first ever admissions interview at the grad school level, NOT college.

I urge graduate school applicants to head into the interview process informed and in the know so remember the following:

  • First, congratulations on securing an interview! Not everyone gets that option and it shows that you’ve done something very right so far. The competition amongst top applicants is fierce, even as enrollment numbers dwindle at some programs, and it’s a win to be offered an interview.
  • Second, it’s a two-way street. They are interviewing you to assess your fit with the program and what you will bring to them. BUT, you have every right to pose questions and go into the process assessing the program’s fit for YOU at this point in your life.
  • Third, all top graduate school programs think highly of their offerings; they have to, they should. They know/believe they offer a great program, have unparalleled facilities and resources, and renowned faculty who are at the height of their fields, so they don’t need you to tell them in an interview how great they are. They already know that; it’s on the website, they put it there. They want to know why YOU are great, why this program is the only one for you, and what you’ll uniquely add to their already-impressive program and department and curricular/research/on-campus offerings.

GRADUATE SCHOOL INTERVIEWS: CORE QUESTIONS

With that in mind, the main questions that any interviewer likely wants to know are super simple. In fact, they are SO simple that across almost every graduate school program, in almost every field, I can streamline them into 4 core questions that boil down to the following:

WHY YOU?

WHY US?

WHY NOW?

WHAT NEXT?

Simple, right?… Of course, they won’t likely be phrased in this specific manner, and there are always going to be more long-winded questions that admissions reps and faculty will toss out to you in your graduate school interviews. Given that, here are some questions for you to practice if you have been offered an interview OR if you are planning for graduate school admissions and you want to know what to expect in the interview process.

10 SAMPLE QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKED DURING GRAD SCHOOL APPLICANT INTERVIEWS

  1. Tell me about yourself. (VERY open ended… this one can be tough.)
  2. What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
  3. In what ways do you think your previous experience and coursework have prepared you for succeeding in our program?
  4. What do you know about our school/program?
  5. What is your philosophy regarding this profession?
  6. Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What did you learn?
  7. Describe a group project you’ve worked on and the role you took.
  8. How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
  9. What can you offer this program that other applicants cannot?
  10. Tell me about your last X experience (internship, research, job, volunteer, etc.). What was a challenge? What was a key contribution you made?

At the end of the interview –you’ll be asked if you have questions for your interviewer. Don’t say you have none. You don’t know everything about the program, the faculty, the interviewer himself/herself, the student experience, etc. Jump on this opportunity to assess fit with the program AND give them even more information about you by what you are asking.

5 SAMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR INTERVIEWER

Practice and plan to ask 2-3!

  1. What future changes do you see in this program/profession?
  2. What professional associations have you joined that you’d recommend? (question for faculty only, not an admissions officer)
  3. What can you tell me about the student culture in the on-campus academic climate?
  4. What are the defining characteristics of the program’s character and/or mission?
  5. What advice do you have for me at this stage in the admissions process?

GRADUATE SCHOOL INTERVIEWS: NEXT STEPS

Complete needed self-prep before the day of. Practice not in front of a mirror (we have cell phones now!), but by recording yourself and your answers to the above questions on your cell-phone or computer. Then, watch it twice. Do you love what you see and how you answered?  Or, are you just wanting the video to be over? How does that candidate appear and come off as in his/her responses? Excited and knowledgeable about the program and his/her direction, or panicked, rushed, and unprepared? Then, record it again. It’s a painful but purposeful strategy to prep, I promise!

Finally, plan for logistics. What are you wearing the day of? Have you checked your Zoom settings and background? How/when are you getting there if it’s on site vs. virtual? My advice: Dress professionally but comfortably. Get there 20 minutes early but not 60 minutes early. Bear in mind that you’re likely being watched so no cell-phone calls as you sit in a chair outside the office. No obsessive texting either, that can wait; soak up your surroundings instead. Bring your resume/CV (and know your resume/CV). Get some sleep the night before and if you’re headed to campus, allow for time to walk around/tour for a bit first. Can you see yourself living there? Are you happy as a grad student-for-a-day there? Pretend you’re headed into a meeting with your advisor vs. an admissions interview.  Is that overwhelming or exciting? Is it frustrating because you wish it were on another campus or exhilarating because you’re so glad you’re there? These are all important questions to ponder as you walk one step closer to your graduate school admissions acceptance.

Headed down that path?  Let us help!  Seeking a mock interview with guidance and coachingLet’s chat!