Tag Archives: early action

Alma Mater: Not Penn State

14 Nov

Ok, the title of this post is a cheap shot.  I admit it.  When I attended the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980’s, there was a popular T-shirt on campus that read: “Not Penn State.”  Apparently people often got my alma mater confused with Penn State, much to our annoyance.  Back then many Penn students like myself had an inferiority complex, having been shut out of the Ivy League Big Three (Harvard, Princeton, Yale).  So for people to think that we attended Penn State felt like they were pouring salt on wound.

Those days are long gone.  In fact, I probably can’t get admitted today.  As for that “Not Penn State” T-shirt, I didn’t see any on my recent visit to campus.  Judging from the early decision statistics, many students now make Penn their first choice and half the entering class is filled through early decision.  It’s no wonder our high school guidance department advises students to apply early if they want to go to Penn.  In 2011, the overall admission rate was 12% but 26% of early applicants were admitted.  (It will be interesting to see whether Harvard and Princeton’s re-institution of early action will siphon off candidates from Penn’s early decision pool).

Penn also likes to admit children and grandchildren of alumni.  Whether you believe legacy preference is fair or not, Penn wants to attract legacy students.  It created the Alumni Council on Admissions to help alumni families determine whether Penn is the right college, and to advise legacy applicants how best to present themselves.  In early decision, 38% to 42% of legacy applicants are admitted.  But the legacy advantage only seems to matter in early decision and is less of a factor in regular decision.  Penn is a popular choice at our high school and each year over two-dozen seniors apply.  Penn usually accepts about half a dozen students, almost all through early decision.

When we visited the campus, it was on a beautiful early spring day.  The lovely weather brought the students outside in full force and they thronged Locust Walk, the main pedestrian thoroughfare through Penn’s campus.  Tables were set up along the Walk and students were loudly hawking tickets to dances, shows, and other campus happenings.  The atmosphere felt festive.  Maybe it was the bright sunshine but the buildings seemed spiffier than I remembered.  The Wharton undergraduate business school is housed in a new building, Huntsman Hall, named after its benefactor, Jon M. Huntsman, father of the Republican presidential candidate and former ambassador to China, Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.  The building inside is gorgeous, with polished wood interiors and state-of-the-art teaching equipment.  Thanks to its many successful alumni, the Wharton School has always received out-sized alumni donations.

Penn has four undergraduate colleges – liberal arts, business, engineering and nursing – and is the second largest Ivy League university.  Total enrollment numbers around 9,700 undergraduates.  An interdisciplinary approach to academics is highly encouraged, reflecting founder Benjamin Franklin’s belief in an education that is strong in the professions and the liberal arts.  So regardless of which college students are enrolled in, they may take classes in any of the four schools.  There are more opportunities than in my day to pursue dual degrees such as international studies and business, management and technology, nursing and health care management, life sciences and management, computers and cognitive science.  Some unusual majors that I remember from thirty years ago, like history and sociology of science or biological basis of behavior, are still being offered.

As a heavily pre-professional university, many of my classmates went on to pursue graduate degrees in business, law, and medicine.  I suspect that this has not changed.  It is a university that has only gotten better with time.

Advertisements

Ten Tips on Preparing College Applications

10 Nov

As my daughter works on her college applications this fall, we have already learned some important lessons.  Here’s hoping that some of these tips below will help other college applicants with their applications.

  1. Do not wait until the last minute to submit applications because as this October snowstorm has taught us, something may go wrong.  Give yourself some extra time.
  2. Start working on essays the summer before senior year, as soon as the Common Application becomes available, usually August 1.  Do not wait until the last minute (see #1 above).
  3. Make a list of each college with all the essays and supplements for each.  Sometimes the essays may overlap and you can revise one essay and use it for another college.  Be sure you are sending the right essays to the right schools (see #7 and #8 below).
  4. Create a file folder for each college that you will be applying to.  Each folder can have a cover sheet with all the information for that college, including deadlines, emails, phone numbers, codes, contacts, scores sent, transcript sent etc.  Brochures, copies of correspondences and filed applications should be put into the pertinent folder.
  5. When working on the computer, be sure to back up your work into a flash drive in case something happens to the computer.
  6. Print out and read your essays out loud to hear how it sounds.  Often times you can hear if a sentence or phrase is awkwardly worded.
  7. Print out a copy of the entire application and have someone proofread everything.
  8. Have another person proofread everything.
  9. If you submit an early decision or early action application, keep working on your regular decision applications so if in the unfortunate event that you are denied admission, the other applications are ready to go.  Do not wait until the last minute (see #1 above).
  10. Have faith that you will end up at the right college for you.

October Storm

7 Nov

The sound of buzzing chainsaws could be heard throughout our neighborhood this weekend.  The clean up after the freaky pre-Halloween storm has begun.  We lost power early Saturday afternoon as large, wet flakes descended from the skies and landed on trees that had yet to shed their leaves.  Unable to bear the additional weight, tree limbs and branches cracked, snapped and thudded to the ground.  This was repeated throughout the storm, a strangely jarring sound – snap, crack, thud.  I involuntarily winced each time I heard it.  Our backyard was littered with fallen limbs and leaves, some branches as thick as a grown man’s arm or thigh.

With the electricity out, there was no heat and the temperature in the house dipped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 degrees Celsius.  Based on what we saw with Hurricane Irene, I knew that it could be days before power would be restored.  Schools were closed Monday so my daughter and I packed up the laptop and college application materials and headed for the nearest open public library.  After navigating through road closures and detours, we got to the library and it was already swarming with folks seeking warmth and a place to charge cell phones.  We managed to find two empty seats next to each other and she began working on her college essays right away.

As if high school seniors needed more stress, this snowstorm occurred a few days before many early action and early decision applications were due.  The power outage set back my daughter’s plans to work on her essays that weekend, causing her much stress and anxiety.  With more than three million people affected by the storm, I wondered whether colleges were going to move the deadline.  Sure enough, when my daughter logged onto the Common Application website, there was this note:

“The Common Application Board of Directors has asked all member colleges with imminent deadlines to be sensitive to the adverse conditions affecting schools and students in the northeast.”

It was up to individual colleges to decide whether to extend deadlines.  Some colleges moved their deadlines by one day (Yale University) and some as long as two weeks (Loyola University Maryland and Drew University).

Although there is no competitive advantage to submitting an application well ahead of a deadline, there is something to be said about not waiting until the very last moment to submit.  All kinds of weird things can happen, like this bizarre snowstorm or technical difficulties.  Nobody needs that extra stress and agitation, certainly not parents (speaking for myself).

The next day, a kind friend offered to have our family stay at her place until our power was restored.  We took her up on her gracious offer and this gave my daughter the ability and fast Internet connection to continue working on her application.  There are few things more blessed in life than to have such good friends.  And electricity and heat.

A Visit to Georgetown University

13 Apr

When we visited Georgetown University in February, a gentle sprinkling of snow dusted the grounds and buildings of this prestigious Catholic university, rendering an entrancing effect to its traditional campus of collegiate Gothic and Georgian redbrick.  Located in the tony Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. overlooking the Potomac River, this university has become one of the most selective schools in the country.  It seems to combine all the desirable elements of top-notch academics, a nationally ranked basketball team, and a location in the nation’s capitol.

That morning, my daughter ventured into her first college class in elementary Chinese.  Georgetown offers prospective students opportunities to sit in on classes, a list of which can be found on its website.  As we waited for her to get out of class, I eavesdropped on two students sitting next to us.  They were discussing the on-going turmoil in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and American policy.  The earnestness of their conversation sparked a memory of listening to similar discussions thirty years ago at college: the on-going turmoil in the Middle East (Iran-Iraq war), Afghanistan (the Soviet invasion), and American policy.  Plus ça change…

Unfortunately, my daughter could not get a good feel for the Chinese class because it was too easy.  The professor conducted the class in Chinese and according to my daughter, she was funny and made jokes.  But since my daughter was the only one who understood the professor, she was the only one who laughed at the jokes.  Later, the professor said that she should have sat in on a third year class instead.  The professor also questioned whether my daughter should pursue a Chinese major because she already knew a lot of Chinese.  This confused and discouraged my daughter and I wished I had been present to ask follow up questions.  But we were trying to let her approach professors on her own.

Afterwards we met up with a friend’s daughter who attends Georgetown.  She brought us to a popular Georgetown hangout, The Tombs, for lunch.  Bright and articulate, Amy is a senior majoring in Russian with a minor in Chinese.  Over hamburgers and pasta, Amy shared the highs and lows of her Georgetown experiences with us.  She told my daughter not to worry about what the Chinese professor said because when she came to Georgetown, she had had a few years of Russian language instruction already.  She was able to take graduate level courses in Russian as well as advanced language courses in Chinese.  Overall she praised Georgetown’s language programs where class sizes are capped and everyone quickly gets to know one another.  Because of its location, she has taken advantage of internships in the Washington D.C. area and has received a job offer.  Georgetown was the right choice for her.

She warns though that the medium sized university of 6,400 undergraduates can be bureaucratic and because of the expensive tuition – about $39,768 for the 2010-2011 academic year – it attracts students mostly from upper middle-income families.  Room and board costs average $13,000 or more.  Because the University’s endowment is smaller than similarly ranked universities, it is less able to offer generous financial aid than its peers.

The university is better known for its international relations, language, business, and government and political science programs than its science and math programs.  A new science building is scheduled to open in 2012.  There are four undergraduate schools: arts and sciences, foreign service, business, and nursing and public health.  Each school has core curriculum requirements and in arts and sciences this amounts to taking English, theology, and philosophy courses.  In addition, the university offers early admission into its law and medical schools for qualified Georgetown undergraduates, an attractive option for pre-med and pre-law students.

As one of the highly selective colleges in the country, Georgetown admitted less than 18% of applicants this year.  It has a non-binding early action program but according to an admissions officer, the admission rate for early action is the same as regular decision.  The University requires either the SAT I reasoning test or the ACT test (writing portion optional) and three SAT II subject tests.

Check back for photos.

Guest Blogger: Jessica Iannetta

31 Jan

Every so often I will invite someone to post a guest blog for a different perspective.  Today I ask Ms. Jessica Iannetta, a graduating senior from a local public high school, to share some of her thoughts about college admissions, a process that she has just undergone.  I think you will enjoy what she has to say.

 

I’m the oldest kid in my family, which means that I’m the guinea pig.  I do everything first, figure out where all the pitfalls are, and then watch as my younger brother benefits from my mistakes.  The college process was no different.  After months of research and countless sleepless nights, I made the decision to apply Early Decision to Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and was accepted in December.  I learned many things during this process that don’t show up in college guidebooks, so I’d like to help out all my fellow guinea pigs by passing on some things I’ve learned through my experience.

1. There is more than one best-fit college for everyone.

There’s a lot of talk about finding the best-fit college, but it implies that there is only one best-fit college for each person.  When I started looking at colleges, I knew I wanted to major in journalism.  In the end, I had two top choices.  Other than the fact that they both had excellent journalism programs, they couldn’t be more different.  Elon University is a 5,000-student school located in sunny Elon, North Carolina.  Syracuse University is a 14,000-student school located in snowy Syracuse, New York.  Although I ultimately chose Syracuse because it was closer to home and had a more rigorous program, I firmly believe I would have been happy at either school.  There is more than one perfect college for everyone.

2. Apply early action for your own peace of mind.

Although the November deadlines associated with Early Action can be stressful, it’s worth it in the end.  If you apply early action, it’s non-binding and you find out much earlier than regular decision.  This is a good thing because the college application process has a way of turning calm, rational people into raving lunatics.  As others around you get into college, the pressure will magnify and suddenly you’ll begin wondering whether you’re going to get into college at all.  Even if the school is not necessarily your top choice, applying early action will give you peace of mind that you’ll be going somewhere next year and makes senior year much less stressful.

3. “You become a college applicant the day you enter high school.”*

This applies especially to freshmen and sophomores.  Everything you do in high school will go on your future college application so don’t wait until junior year to start thinking about it.  The classes you choose and the grades you get your first two years in high school will play a big role in determining which colleges you can get into it.  Don’t take off your first two years only to regret it when it comes time to apply to your first choice college.

*In the interest of full disclosure, the above quotation comes from Peter Van Buskirk, the mastermind behind the college admissions website The Admission Game.  The website is helpful but I especially recommend going to hear one of his talks in person.

4. Don’t jump off a bridge.

The old saying “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” certainly applies to the college admissions process.  Just because all your friends applied to Ivy Leagues or to one certain school or have submitted 15 applications doesn’t mean you have to as well.  The application process can get very competitive and it’s important to remember that what’s right for your best friend or your sibling may not be right for you.  Resist the temptation to jump off the bridge with everyone else.

 

Early Admissions

1 Dec

Just when I thought I had gotten a handle on the college search and admissions process, early admissions has reared up to puncture my heretofore Zen-like well-being.

December is the time of year when high school seniors who have applied for early admission to their first choice colleges anxiously wait to hear about their application.  In two weeks, there will either be much rejoicing or gnashing of teeth in these homes.

A quick primer on early admissions: students can apply early, usually by November, and colleges will decide by mid-December whether to admit or deny.  Many early admissions programs are “binding early decision” which requires the student to commit to attending the institution if accepted.  Some schools have “non-binding early action” programs that allow students to apply to other schools.

Just to confuse things further, there are variations, like single choice early action (non-binding but a student may only apply to one school) and rolling admissions (applications are reviewed as they come in until the class fills up).  Most schools have one round of early admissions but some schools like Tufts University, Hamilton College and Connecticut College offer two rounds of early decision.  If your head is not spinning yet, don’t worry, it will by the end of this post.

There are advantages to applying early, especially if a student is convinced that a particular school is the top choice.  If admitted by mid-December, that student is done with the college application process; no more applications to fill out, no more waiting until spring to hear.

Another advantage is that the chances of being admitted are higher.  The National Association for College Admission Counseling confirmed this recently in a report: nearly three out of four early admissions applicants last year were admitted as compared with just over half who applied to the same colleges in the regular decision process.  According to the colleges this is because candidates in the early admissions pool are stronger.

Colleges like early admissions, particularly binding early decision, because it gives them a higher enrollment yield and a lock on the most competitive candidates.  At an information session we attended, the University of Pennsylvania admissions officer said that the University admits half its freshman class through early decision.

Binding early decision programs have come under fire from critics who assert that it favors students from wealthier backgrounds who do not need to compare financial aid offers.  At a financial aid workshop I attended, they advised against applying early for exactly that reason.  But the popularity of these programs continues to grow as the number of students applying early has exploded. Moreover, universities that did away with early admissions are reconsidering their decisions, like Harvard University, or have re-introduced them, like the University of Virginia.

If all this weren’t complicated enough, at our high school, many seniors apply early. Anecdotally, it seems that every senior that my daughter knows is applying early, and every parent of a senior that I know tells me their child is applying early.  So I wonder about this trend towards early admission, whether this creates peer pressure and of course, how this will affect my daughter and her decision-making.  I imagine it would be tough to have to wait until the spring to find out where you’ll be going to college if many of your friends will already know by mid-December.

There’s no way to know until next year and I’m just taking it one day at a time.  But I’m finding that when it comes to college admissions, there’s always something new to think about.

Trip report: Yale University

23 Sep

Yale University is one of the most selective universities in America, routinely rejecting 93% of candidates.  Last year over 25,000 high school seniors vied for a chance to attend this prestigious institution, whose name is often invoked in the same breath with its two peers as “HarvardPrincetonYale,” an incantation that represents the ultimate in higher education’s brand name exclusivity.

For those fortunate enough to win admission, Yale offers its 5,275 undergraduates a choice of 2,000 courses each year in either the liberal arts or engineering.  In case students have a hard time deciding what to take, a two-week “shopping period” at the beginning of each semester allows them to test-drive several classes before committing to a schedule.  The purpose of this is to encourage students to take risks and explore new intellectual areas.

Students live in residential colleges, a system modeled after universities Oxford and Cambridge and popularized by Hogwarts.  Freshmen are assigned to one of twelve residential colleges where they will live for the duration of their time at Yale.  Like Hogwarts, students become fiercely loyal to their residential college.  As our tour guides introduced themselves, they yelled out the name of their residential college and each claimed that it was the best.  Not being familiar with the colleges, the information was meaningless but illustrated the concept at work.

The tour led us through Yale’s campus, where its stately collegiate gothic-style buildings, grassy quads and courtyards grace New Haven’s streets.  The interior of one library is cathedral-like, easily inspiring awe and involuntary genuflection.  Normally, college tour groups ask few questions of their guide but the surroundings seemed to loosen everyone’s tongue and our group peppered the guide with questions until the tour ran late.  Our guide, a genial junior studying international relations, patiently answered everyone.  Because of time constraints, we reluctantly broke away from the last part of the tour that covered the old campus.  If our daughter decided to apply here and was lucky enough to get in, we could always come back and ask questions then.

Yale has an early action program where prospective students apply by November 1 and receive a response by mid-December.  Unlike early decision programs where acceptances are binding on the applicant, Yale does not require a decision until May 1 so students are free to apply elsewhere under regular decision.

Tuition, room and board costs $49,800 for the 2010-2011 academic year.  Financial aid is need-based and Yale has a generous financial aid budget of $100 million.  Its goal is to graduate students without loans so even though it is an expensive school, depending on family income, a Yale education may represent a better value than some public universities.  But first you have to get in.

Throughout its storied history, Yale has produced many renowned alumni, including Nobel laureates Sinclair Lewis and Paul Krugman, Pulitzer Prize winners Garry Trudeau and Thornton Wilder, former presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman, actors Jodie Foster, Angela Bassett, Edward Norton and Sam Waterston.  As the admissions numbers attest, even after three hundred years, Yale remains a highly desirable place to attend college.

%d bloggers like this: