Categories
Admissions Brown college admissions Columbia Cornell Dartmouth Dr. Michele Hernandez Georgetown Harvard Ivy Admissions Ivy League Admissions MIT Princeton Stanford Top Tips UChicago University of California UPENN Yale

The New “X” Factor for Getting into Top Colleges

post by Dr. Michele Hernandez

Twenty years ago, admissions to top colleges was much more formulaic. Applicant pools were smaller, more homogeneous, and more self-selecting. Each college had its own application that students filled out by hand. Most high schools calculated and reported class rank. “Merit” was pretty much defined as high class rank and high test scores, with some traditional school leadership positions for good measure.

BREAKING THE MOLD

As I explained in my behind-the-scenes admissions book A is for Admission in 1997, despite their protestations, colleges indeed used a numerical scale to rank students on academic and extracurricular achievements and to guide the selection process. In addition to the “secret formula” (the “Academic Index” which combined SAT scores, SAT subject test scores and class rank/grades), colleges developed their own rating system using a 1-9, 1-6 or 1-4 scale as admissions shorthand. At Dartmouth, we used a 1-9 scale with 9 as the highest academic ranking. Students who achieved this top designation were class valedictorians (typically of large high schools) with SAT scores and three achievement tests (now called subject tests) in the 750-800 range. Twenty years back, academic 9s comprised two percent of applicants and nearly all (94 percent) were admitted. Students who were rated as academic 8s (just under three percent of the pool) had a rate of admission of 92 percent. Three-quarters of the academic 7s—students in the top ten percent of their class with scores in the 720-750 range—were admitted, yet they made less than 5% of the applicant pool. Admission to a top tier college or university was clearly much more predictable.

HOW THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS WORLD HAS CHANGED

What has changed in the last 20 years? Lots. For starters, the adoption of the Common Application as the predominant application provider and its transition to an online platform led to explosive growth in applicant pools. Concurrently, the arms race amongst colleges (fueled by the likes of US News and World Report) led to increased student recruitment efforts to become more selective in order to climb up the rankings. Test preparation has become a global, multi-billion dollar business. Top private colleges and universities themselves, responding to critical national conversations about access to higher education, moved aggressively to encourage more low income and first-generation college students to apply. The metrics that once anchored the selection process are not applied as rigidly as they once were. Reams of national research showed clearly that test scores correlate with income; differences in scores by gender, race, and ethnicity are well-documented. Growing numbers of colleges and universities are test-optional; many of those that still require the SAT or ACT no longer require subject tests (though they still count them and expect them from students without financial hardships). High schools, for their part, have moved away from class ranks. “Hooked” applicants—athletic recruits, legacies, underrepresented minority students—have a leg up in the process, often admitted at much higher rates than the overall rate of admission.

No one can argue that broadening access to higher education is inherently a bad thing. As a consequence of all these factors, admissions rates at all the top 25-30 colleges have declined pretty much every year for 20 years. That’s a tough thing to wrap your head around. Applicant pools have doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled since the parents of today’s high school students applied to college. Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, and Yale boast acceptance rates of 4 to 5 percent. Last year, 18 top colleges and universities posted acceptance rates below 10 percent (Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Caltech, MIT, Pomona, Chicago, Brown, Duke, U Penn, Northwestern, Dartmouth, Claremont McKenna, Vanderbilt, Swarthmore, and Johns Hopkins), a new record.

The bottom line is that it is much much harder for top students today to get accepted to top colleges than it was 20 years ago. Students today face much steeper competition. Without a hook, what differentiates bright and high-achieving students from amongst thousands and thousands of similarly high-achieving students?

top colleges core values

CORE VALUES MATTER

Increasingly, admissions officers are looking towards indicators of character, integrity and civic involvement. In admissions, character matters. Admissions officers at top colleges are not looking for students who rarely venture beyond the high school bubble and who lack awareness of the world around them. Need an example? David Hogg, the Parkland activist, was just admitted to Harvard despite a slightly lower academic profile than the norm. Why? Because he showed America that one student could ignite an important debate on gun control after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Sure, not everyone will reach that national level of impact, but Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, and their classmates demonstrated how to make their voices heard.

What are ways students can show integrity and moral character? Through serving on honor councils and community boards, heading efforts to address local problems from water pollution to environmental disasters (one of our students worked for several years to pass a “no idling” law in his state) to working for politicians who are striving to address major policy issues, students can show that they are aware of the world beyond high school. Activism and impact take many forms—well beyond the somewhat old-fashioned menu of high school extracurricular options—and increasingly, make the difference in the selection process. Fancy internships or expensive global “service” programs don’t cut it. Instead, long-term dedication to causes and efforts you believe in, from your local humane society or homeless shelter to youth mentoring programs or community gardens, and more, the opportunities for students to make a difference are plentiful.

MEASURING THE “X” FACTOR

How do colleges measure this “X” factor? Character references from teachers, guidance counselors, and mentors help illuminate students’ impact. Students themselves need to think about how they tell their own story, from the essays they write and the activities they lay out in their application. I recently spoke to one of my sophomore students who had very little engagement in her school or community. I tried to jolt her into action by saying “from an admissions standpoint, it looks like you go right home at 3pm and do homework and nothing else.” That turned out to be true. Straight A, low-impact students are not going to have as many college options as high-impact ones, period.

Students who are solely chasing the 4.0 or 1600 and don’t show evidence of character, integrity, impact, and leadership will be passed over in favor of others. Think local or think global, but get involved and make a difference. You—and the world—will be better for it.

Categories
college admissions College Essays Dartmouth Ivy Admissions Top Tips UChicago Yale

2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts: Essay List Early Release

Some top colleges have released their 2018-2019 supplemental essay questions early and we’re happy they did! As our students can attest, the best time to write college application essays is the summer before senior year, which is why we have run our trademark Application Boot Camp® every August since 2005. Producing quality essays before the school year begins reduces students’ stress and allows them to focus on the other critical components of their applications — such as grades and test scores — during the fall semester.

Although the 2018-2019 Common App does not go live until August 1st, a number of top schools have already released their supplemental essay questions for the upcoming application season. This provides a great opportunity for rising seniors to leverage their summer breaks to begin drafting and revising essays now.

2018-2019 SUPPLEMENTAL ESSAY PROMPTS: EARLY RELEASE

college admissions essay

BROWN UNIVERSITY

First Year applicants to Brown are asked to answer three essay questions which are provided below if you would like to begin work on your essays now.

  • Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated earlier in this application? (You may share with us a skill or concept that you found challenging and rewarding to learn, or any experiences beyond course work that may have broadened your interest.) (250 word limit)
  • What do you hope to experience at Brown through the Open Curriculum, and what do you hope to contribute to the Brown community? (250 word limit)
  • Tell us about the place, or places, you call home. These can be physical places where you have lived, or a community or group that is important to you. (250 word limit)

CORNELL UNIVERSITY

In the online Common Application Writing Supplement, please respond to the essay question below (maximum of 650 words) that corresponds to the undergraduate college or school to which you are applying.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: Why are you drawn to studying the major you have selected? Please discuss how your interests and related experiences have influenced your choice. Specifically, how will an education from the College of Agriculture and Life Science (CALS) and Cornell University help you achieve your academic goals?

College of Architecture, Art, and Planning: What is your “thing”? What energizes you or engages you so deeply that you lose track of time? Everyone has different passions, obsessions, quirks, inspirations. What are yours?”

College of Arts and Sciences: Students in Arts and Sciences embrace the opportunity to delve into their academic interests, discover new realms of intellectual inquiry, and chart their own path through the College. Tell us why the depth, breadth, and flexibility of our curriculum are ideally suited to exploring the areas of study that excite you.
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management: Affiliated with both the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management is unique by design. Explain how our approach to business education is the right fit for you, and how your interests, experiences or goals will contribute to the unique composition of the entering class.

Cornell SC Johnson College of Business: School of Hotel Administration: The global hospitality industry includes hotel and foodservice management, real estate, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, technology, and law. Describe what has influenced your decision to study business through the lens of hospitality. What personal qualities make you a good fit for SHA?

College of Engineering: Cornell Engineering celebrates innovative problem solving that helps people, communities…the world. Consider your ideas and aspirations and describe how a Cornell Engineering education would allow you to leverage technological problem-solving to improve the world we live in.

College of Human Ecology: How have your experiences influenced you to consider the College of Human Ecology and how will your choice of major(s) impact your goals and plans for the future?

School of Industrial and Labor Relations: Tell us about your intellectual interests, how they sprung from your course, service, work or life experiences, and what makes them exciting to you. Describe how ILR is the right school for you to pursue these interests.

DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

Dartmouth’s writing supplement requires applicants to write brief responses to two essay prompts.

  1. Respond in 100 words or less:
  • While arguing a Dartmouth-related case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1818, Daniel Webster, Class of 1801, delivered this memorable line: “It is, Sir…a small college. And yet, there are those who love it!” As you seek admission to the Class of 2023, what aspects of the College’s program, community or campus environment attract your interest?
  1. Choose one of the following prompts and respond in 250-300 words:
  • “I have no special talent,” Albert Einstein once observed. “I am only passionately curious.” Celebrate your curiosity.
  • The Hawaiian word mo’olelois often translated as “story” but it can also refer to history, legend, genealogy, and tradition. Use one of these translations to introduce yourself.
  • “You can’t use up creativity,” Maya Angelou mused. “The more you use, the more you have.” Share a creative moment or impulse—in any form—that inspired creativity in your life.
  • In the aftermath of World War II, Dartmouth President John Sloane Dickey, Class of 1929, proclaimed, “The world’s troubles are your troubles…and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” Which of the world’s “troubles” inspires you to act? How might your course of study at Dartmouth prepare you to address it?
  • In The Bingo Palace, author Louise Erdrich, Class of 1976, writes, “…no one gets wise enough to really understand the heart of another, though it is the task of our life to try.” Discuss.
  • Emmy and Grammy winner Donald Glover is a 21stcentury Renaissance man—an actor, comedian, writer, director, producer, singer, songwriter, rapper, and DJ. And yet the versatile storyteller and performer recently told an interviewer, “The thing I imagine myself being in the future doesn’t exist yet.” Can you relate?

EMORY UNIVERSITY

In addition to your Personal Statement, please choose two (2) of the short answer prompts below. Be thoughtful in your responses, but don’t stress about what the right answer might be. We just want to get to know you a bit better. Each response should be no more than 150 words.

  • What is your favorite fiction or non-fiction work (film, book, TV show, album, poem, or play)? Why?
  • What motivates you to learn?
  • What do you want to bring from your community to the Emory University community?
  • In the age of social media, what does engaging with integrity look like for you?

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Compose two brief essays (approximately one page single-spaced each) on the topics given below.

ALL APPLICANTS:

  1. As Georgetown is a diverse community; the Admissions Committee would like to know more about you in your own words. Please submit a brief essay, either personal or creative, which you feel best describes you.
  2. Briefly discuss the significance to you of the school or summer activity in which you have been most involved.

Each school-specific prompt should not exceed 1 page, single-spaced, or approximately 500-700 words depending on font size.
APPLICANTS TO GEORGETOWN COLLEGE:
 Please relate your interest in studying at Georgetown University to your goals. How do these thoughts relate to your chosen course of study? (If you are applying to major in the FLL or in a Science, please specifically address those interests.)

APPLICANTS TO THE SCHOOL OF NURSING & HEALTH STUDIES: Describe the factors that have influenced your interest in studying health care at Georgetown University. Please specifically address your intended major (Health Care Management & Policy, Human Science, International Health, or Nursing).

APPLICANTS TO THE WALSH SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE: Briefly discuss a current global issue, indicating why you consider it important and what you suggest should be done to deal with it.

APPLICANTS TO THE MCDONOUGH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: The McDonough School of Business is a national and global leader in providing graduates with essential ethical, analytical, financial and global perspectives. Please discuss your motivations for studying business at Georgetown.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics:

  • Unusual circumstances in your life
  • Travel or living experiences in other countries
  • What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
  • An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to youHow you hope to use your college education
  • A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
  • The Harvard College Honor code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
  • The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission
  • Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
  • Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.

POMONA COLLEGE

Please write an essay on one of the following prompts:

  • For Pomona students, the College’s location in Southern California is integral in shaping their experience. Tell us about a location, real or fictional, that has shaped you in a meaningful way.
  • “Let only the eager, thoughtful and reverent enter here,” is inscribed on one side of Pomona’s College Gates. Dating from 1914, the gates remain a potent symbol today as we welcome every new class of students to enter them together. If you were to inscribe a fourth quality into the gates to describe students who enter Pomona today, which adjective would you choose? What quality would you want your Pomona peers to share, and why?
  • Oscar Wilde said that there are two tragedies in life: not getting what one wants and getting it. Tell us about an experience of not getting what you wanted or getting it and why it was a tragedy.

Please note that Pomona College does not specify a word limit for supplemental essays, although on past applications, they have recommended an essay ranging from 400-600 words.

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

  • Activities: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (Response required in about 150 words)
  • Summers: Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held. (Response required in about 150 words)
  • A Few Details:

Your favorite book and its author
Your favorite website
Your favorite recording
Your favorite source of inspiration
Your favorite line from a movie or book and its title
Your favorite movie
Two adjectives your friends would use to describe you
Your favorite keepsake or memento
Your favorite word

In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please select one of the following themes and write an essay of about 500 words in response. Using one of the themes below as a starting point, write about a person, event or experience that helped you define one of your values or in some way changed how you approach the world. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.

  • Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.
  • “One of the great challenges of our time is that the disparities we face today have more complex causes and point less straightforwardly to solutions.” Omar Wasow, assistant professor of politics, Princeton University; founder of Blackplanet.com. This quote is taken from Professor Wasow’s January 2014 speech at the Martin Luther King Day celebration at Princeton University.
  • “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” – Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, chair of the Council of the Humanities and director of the Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University
  • Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title, and author at the beginning of your essay.

    If you are interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree, please write a 300-500 word essay describing why you are interested in studying engineering, any experiences in or exposure to engineering you have had and how you think the programs in engineering offered at Princeton suit your particular interests.

UC SCHOOLS –CHECK OUT OUR RECENT BLOG POST!

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

The University of Chicago requires students to submit two supplemental essays.

Essay 1 (Required of all applicants):

  • How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.

Essay 2 (Applicants are required to address one of the prompts below):

  • In 2015, the city of Melbourne, Australia created a “tree-mail” service, in which all of the trees in the city received an email address so that residents could report any tree-related issues. As an unexpected result, people began to email their favorite trees sweet and occasionally humorous letters. Imagine this has been expanded to any object (tree or otherwise) in the world, and share with us the letter you’d send to your favorite.
    -Inspired by Hannah Lu, Class of 2020 
  • You’re on a voyage in the thirteenth century, sailing across the tempestuous seas. What if, suddenly, you fell off the edge of the Earth?
    -Inspired by Chandani Latey, AB’93 
  • The word floccinaucinihilipilification is the act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant or of having no value. It originated in the mid-18th century from the Latin words “floccus,” “naucum,” “nihilum,” and “pilus”—all words meaning “of little use.” Coin your own word using parts from any language you choose, tell us its meaning, and describe the plausible (if only to you) scenarios in which it would be most appropriately used.
    -Inspired by Ben Zhang, Class of 2022 
  • Lost your keys? Alohomora. Noisy roommate? Quietus. Feel the need to shatter windows for some reason? Finestra. Create your own spell, charm, jinx, or other means for magical mayhem. How is it enacted? Is there an incantation? Does it involve a potion or other magical object? If so, what’s in it or what is it? What does it do?
    -Inspired by Emma Sorkin, Class of 2021 
  • Imagine you’ve struck a deal with the Dean of Admissions himself, Dean Nondorf. It goes as follows: you’re guaranteed admission to the University of Chicago regardless of any circumstances that arise. This bond is grounded on the condition that you’ll obtain a blank, 8.5 x 11 piece of paper, and draw, write, sketch, shade, stencil, paint etc., anything and everything you want on it; your only limitations will be the boundaries of both sides on the single page. Now the catch… your submission, for the rest of your life, will always be the first thing anyone you meet for the first time will see. Whether it’s at a job interview, a blind date, arrival at your first Humanities class, before you even say, “hey,” they’ll already have seen your page, and formulated that first impression. Show us your page. What’s on it, and why? If your piece is largely or exclusively visual, please make sure to share a creator’s accompanying statement of at least 300 words, which we will happily allow to be on its own, separate page.PS: This is a creative thought experiment, and selecting this essay prompt does not guarantee your admission to UChicago.
    -Inspired by Amandeep Singh Ahluwalia, Class of 2022 
  • In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our past prompts. Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.(You can find some past prompts here.)

Please note that the University of Chicago’s early release prompts do not include word limits, but on past applications, they have required applicants to upload a one- or two-page response for Essay 2.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

UNC’s supplement will have four prompts of which you must choose two. Each response is limited to 200-250 words.

  • Tell us about a peer who has made a difference in your life.
  • What do you hope will change about the place where you live?
  • What is one thing that we don’t know about you that you want us to know?
  • What about your background, or what perspective, belief, or experience, will help you contribute to the education of your classmates at UNC?

UT AUSTIN/APPLYTEXAS APPLICATION ESSAYS 

Essay Topics

Topic A

What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person.

Short Answer Prompts (Answer at least three short-answer prompts)

  • Short Answer 1: Career Plans
    If you could have any career, what would it be? Why? Describe any activities you are involved in, life experiences you’ve had, or even classes you’ve taken that have helped you identify this professional path.
  • Short Answer 2: Academics
    Do you believe your academic record (transcript information and test scores) provide an accurate representation of you as a student? Why or why not?
  • Short Answer 3: Leadership
    How do you show leadership in your life? How do you see yourself being a leader at UT Austin?

Short Answer: Art and Art History Applicants

Personal interaction with objects, images and spaces can be so powerful as to change the way one thinks about particular issues or topics. For your intended area of study (art history, design, studio art, visual art studies/art education), describe an experience where instruction in that area or your personal interaction with an object, image or space effected this type of change in your thinking. What did you do to act upon your new thinking and what have you done to prepare yourself for further study in this area?

Short Answers: Nursing Applicants

Discuss the factors that have influenced your desire to pursue a career in Nursing; and how have your academic and extracurricular activities prepared you to pursue a degree in Nursing?

Short Answer: Social Work Applicants

Discuss the reasons you chose social work as your first-choice major and how a social work degree from UT Austin will prepare you for the future.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

  1. UVA is looking for passionate students to join their diverse community of scholars, researchers, and artists. Answer the question that corresponds to the school/program to which you are applying in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • College of Arts and Sciences – What work of art, music, science, mathematics, or literature has surprised, unsettled, or challenged you, and in what way?
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences– If you were given funding for a small engineering project that would make everyday life better for one friend or family member, what would you design?
  • School of Architecture – Describe an instance or place where you have been inspired by architecture or design.
  • School of Nursing – School of Nursing applicants may have experience shadowing, volunteering, or working in a health care environment. Tell us about a health care-related experience or another significant interaction that deepened your interest in studying Nursing
  • Kinesiology Program– Discuss experiences that led you to choose the kinesiology major.
  1. Answer one of the following questions in a half page or roughly 250 words.
  • What’s your favorite word and why?
  • We are a community with quirks, both in language and in traditions. Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.
  • Student self-governance, which encourages student investment and initiative, is a hallmark of the UVA culture. In her fourth year at UVA, Laura Nelson was inspired to create Flash Seminars, one-time classes which facilitate high-energy discussion about thought-provoking topics outside of traditional coursework. If you created a Flash Seminar, what idea would you explore and why?
  • UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message?
  • UVA students are charged with pushing the boundaries of knowledge to serve others and contribute to the common good. Give us an example of how you’ve used what you’ve learned to make a positive impact in another person’s life.

WAKE FOREST

Respond to each of the below:

  1. (a) List 5 books you have read that intrigued you.
    1. (b) Discuss the work of fiction you have read which has helped you most to understand the complexity of the world.
  2. What piques your curiosity?
  3. Identify a cultural norm or current political reality with which you disagree. How have you sought or might you seek to change it?
  4. Describe an instance in which you observed or exhibited “character.”
  5. Give us your top ten list.
  6. Pro Humanitate, which means “for humanity,” is Wake Forest’s motto. If you had a personal motto, what would it be?
  7. Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the rst non-classical or jazz musician to win the award. Whom do you believe will be the next person to break boundaries in artistic, scienti c or literary accomplishment?
  8. Use the following essay to give the Admissions Committee insight into your character and intellect:  Rogan Kersh, Wake Forest University Provost and Professor of Politics and International Affairs, is currently teaching a class entitled, “Millennials, Politics and the Future” which explores research-based characteristics of Gen Y or the Millennial Generation to which you belong . At Wake Forest, we strive to understand the distinctive features of your so-called “millennial” generation, as we design curricula and programs for today’s students. What, in your view, are signi cant aspects of your generation that we should be aware of? (If you live outside of the U.S., feel free to discuss generational features of young people in your country of residence.)

Yale admissions essay

YALE UNIVERSITY

Students applying with the Coalition Application are asked to upload a digital file of their creation along with a short reflection. Those applying with the Common Application are asked to respond to two short essay prompts. Those applying with the QuestBridge Application are asked to complete a short Yale QuestBridge Questionnaire.

Yale applicants submitting the Coalition Application, Common Application, or QuestBridge Application are asked to respond to the following short answer questions:

  • Students at Yale have plenty of time to explore their academic interests before committing to one or more major fields of study. Many students either modify their original academic direction or change their minds entirely. As of this moment, what academic areas seem to fit your interests or goals most comfortably? Please indicate up to three from the list provided?
  • Why do these areas appeal to you? (100 words or fewer)
  • What is it about Yale that has led you to apply? (125 words or fewer)

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application will also select from the following topics:

  • What inspires you? (35 words or fewer)
  • Yale’s residential colleges regularly host conversations with guests representing a wide range of experiences and accomplishments. What person, past or present, would you invite to speak? What question would you ask? (35 words or fewer)
  • You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (35 words or fewer)
  • Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six people. What do you hope to add to your suitemates’ experience? What do you hope they will add to yours? (35 words or fewer)

Applicants submitting the Coalition Application (choose one and respond in 300 words or fewer; also upload upload an audio file, video, image, or document you’ve created that is meaningful and relates to your essay. Above your essay, include a one-sentence description of what you’ve submitted) or Common Application (choose two and respon in 250 words or fewer) will select from the following essay topics:

  • Think about an idea or topic that has been intellectually exciting for you. Why are you drawn to it?
  • Reflect on your engagement with a community to which you belong. How do you feel you have contributed to this community?
  • Yale students, faculty, and alumni engage issues of local, national, and international importance. Discuss an issue that is significant to you and how your college experience might help you address it.

Optional Engineering Essay (For applicants submitting the Coalition Application or Common Application):

  • If you selected one of the engineering majors, please tell us more about what has led you to an interest in this field of study, what experiences (if any) you have had in engineering, and what it is about Yale’s engineering program that appeals to you. Please respond in 300 words or fewer.

CHECK BACK

We’ll be updating this essay list as additional schools make their prompts available, so be sure to check back often!

If you look at the above list and feel stuck, writer’s block is a real thing, then reach out to us for help!

Categories
college admissions UChicago

UChicago Drops the SAT/ACT: What That Really Means

This week the University of Chicago announced they will no longer require the SAT or ACT from U.S. applicants.  So, what does that mean for you?

First, read the whole story. The change in testing policy, coupled with expanded financial aid, is a strategy that the university is employing to build its applicant pool, on the theory that these two moves will prompt even more students to apply. These moves are usually motivated by a desire to broaden access for low income students – backed up by studies that show a correlation between income and test scores – but skeptics are quick to point to the self-serving nature of these kinds of decisions.

UChicago already turns away 93% of the students who apply to the university. Building the applicant pool leads to even more students being turned away. How does this increase access? All it does is allow the university to trumpet even higher application volume and lower admit rates.

Skeptics also point to an interesting phenomenon that occurs at test-optional schools. Students with higher test scores will always submit their scores – top scores do get the attention of admissions officers – but students with modest or low scores will not. With a greater percentage of higher scoring students, most likely not offset by lower scoring students, the university benefits as the average test scores for its incoming class rise. Rising test scores help to drive rankings.

SAT and ACT not required for University of Chicago admissions

UCHICAGO DECISION: WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

Back to you… A good rule of thumb is that test-optional policies are generally more beneficial for students who come from underrepresented backgrounds and communities. Students from affluent families and communities who attend well-resourced public or private schools will be held to a higher standard by admissions officers. James Nandorf, UChicago’s vice president for enrollment essentially confirmed this when he noted that this change was meant to level the playing field for underserved applications. If that’s not you, then remember that top test scores will always strengthen an application, especially when paired with top grades in a rigorous high school program, clear evidence of academic stretch and high level impact outside of class.