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March 10, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 37 -- I Got Denied, Now What?

Ah decision season. The highs and the lows. There really isn't any way around the roller coaster ride that comes with getting the news from the colleges on your list. That being said, knowing what to do once you get the news can make the roller coaster ride a little less scary. Since the lows are what most fear, we'll start by walking you through what you should do if you are denied. Beyond preparing yourself for the news that is soon to arrive, you don't have much to do this week except staying on top of your school work and handling items related to financial aid. 

Week 37 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary. 
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Stay on top of school work -- senioritis often sets in right about now. 
  • Check for and apply for scholarships -- this is the season for essay contests and such. Every $1000 helps!  
  • Interview for scholarships.
  • Update financial aid forms with current year tax information as soon as taxes are filed.
  • Confirm that all necessary financial aid documentation has been received by the colleges.

Tips & Tricks

1. Wallow in your misery for a short time and then move on.

Being denied by a college where you applied feels bad. So let yourself feel bad for a little bit. Allow yourself as much as 48 hours to rant, rave, cry, or just retire to your room. Do whatever you need to do to “feel your pain.”  We're not being flip here (okay maybe a little flip), but we do mean it when we say it is good to let yourself dwell in your disappointment for a defined but short period of time – it is a time honored method that supports ongoing mental and emotional health.  You just don’t want to get stuck here.  It is not productive and it is not healthy.

After your limited wallow, you’ve got to exit your feelings and move into action.  Preferably positive, constructive action.  What’s that?  Well, in our experience, for the vast majority of applicants, it is moving on to choose amongst the colleges that said yes. Let’s face it: hundreds of thousands of people are leading happy, successful lives even though they didn't get into their first choice college either! (This is of course a secret that admissions professionals try to keep you from ever knowing, but it is empirically true. No question.)  In fact, there are probably some great choices in the set of colleges that said yes. So why would you spend your energy on the college that said no rather than invest in YOUR FUTURE?  Move on, it’s time.

2. If you want a "second chance" at being admitted, there are three ways to go about it.

First, you might be able to appeal the decision.  But really, we can’t advise it. Why? Statistically it is a waste of time. In our collective years of experience as admissions officers, none of us can name a time when a decision was reversed. Thousands of decisions; most (70-90%) of them rejections; none of them reversed. The math isn't hard. Appeals are not worth the energy.

Second, you could elect to take a gap year, fortify your credentials during that year and re-apply. Odds are still against you, but we've seen applicants do some really remarkable things during a gap year and change their profiles sufficiently that they are offered admission the second time around.

Finally, you can start college somewhere else and work toward transferring. Depending upon the college, you may find that it is relatively harder or relatively easier to be admitted as a transfer than it was to be admitted as a freshman. If the odds are higher AND you have a great first two years of college, then transferring is a viable option to consider.

3. If you are denied everywhere you apply, then you'll have to regroup quickly and pursue one of the options available -- yes there are options available.

Ouch.  It is a brutal reality that you confront when you are denied everywhere you applied. You're probably feeling pretty shaken up and disoriented.  You may also be a bit mystified by how you got here.  All of that is perfectly understandable. If you find yourself in that circumstance, then you obviously have to take a moment to regroup and consider your options. But as you regroup, remember life isn’t over and you can go onto a perfectly wonderful future.  So dust yourself off and get back in the game.

Option #1:  Go to college in the fall.  It is still a possibility.  Many colleges have a “rolling decision” policy and accept applications until their classes are filled.  There are more than 200 colleges with a “rolling decision” policy that accept the Common Application.  Find them by checking out the deadlines on the application requirements chart prepared by the Common App.  You can find more colleges with later application deadlines by doing some online research or stopping by the college counseling office at your high school.  In addition, open enrollment colleges, like community colleges, often take applications up to the first day of class.

Option #2:  Take a do-over.  Want to take another stab at the whole college application process?  If so, we recommend that you do some deep analysis of what went wrong this time.  Then set about doing it differently -- take a gap year, fortify your credentials during that year and apply to a broader range of colleges next year.  

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

March 3, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Planning for the GMAT

For all you “early birds” who are planning to apply to business school this fall, we wanted to offer a few tips on managing your time as it relates to the GMAT exam.  Because this is an important element for many applicants in determining at which schools they will be competitive, it’s best to prep intensively and get this out of the way early in the process.

You should ideally be finished with the GMAT by mid-summer.  The reason for this is that you will want to reserve the months of August, September and October for essay writing, school visits, managing your recommenders and other miscellaneous application-related tasks.  The last thing you want to be doing in September is juggling the demands of GMAT prep alongside your MBA applications, your responsibilities at work, your extracurricular involvements, etc.

Of course, putting the GMAT to rest by mid-summer is much easier said than done.  Given the strength of the test-taking pool and the importance of earning a high score when targeting a top program, in order to be successful, you should ideally budget time for a GMAT prep course or 8 to 12 weeks of solid self-study.  You should then consider the fact that you may need to take the exam more than once.

Given these considerations, here is a rough schedule to follow:

April, May: Attend a GMAT prep class and spend as much as 2 hours each weekday doing problems; use the weekends to take full-length tests (under realistic, timed conditions).

June: Take the GMAT early in the month.  If you are unsatisfied with your score, work towards taking the exam again.  Ideally, you’ll take a short break of one to two weeks (to clear your mind) and then leave at least four weeks to prep for the second sitting of the exam.  Consider hiring a tutor to address your specific needs.

July: Take the GMAT again, hopefully achieving a score that is within the range of the MBA programs on your list.  If your score doesn’t improve, it may be time to reevaluate your target schools and expand your roster to ensure that your selection is realistic.

In some cases, it may make sense to mirror your work on the GMAT by simultaneously enrolling in a calculus or statistics class at your local university or community college.  While this is especially true for applicants who have a weak track record in quantitative subjects and need to build an alternative transcript, in general these classes can often help applicants get the most out of their GMAT preparation.

Good luck!  For more information about how the GMAT fits into the application process and on business schools in general, feel free to contact Clear Admit to learn about our early bird planning services or set up an initial consultation.  You can also download Clear Admit’s independent guide to the leading test preparation companies.  This FREE guide includes coupons for discounts on test prep services at 10 different firms!

 

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

March 3, 2014

Applying This Fall? Start Prepping Now for the LSAT

What's the ideal LSAT timeline? Your mileage may vary, and your LSAT instructor will be able to give you advice customized to your individual situation. But in a perfect world, here's how I like to work backwards from the end goal:

Plan to submit your applications in early November (or even sooner, but early November is plenty early). In order to maximize the time you have on your applications, and to let your brain focus on — and master — one thing at a time, that November submission date means I like to see people take the LSAT the February before that.

However, I find that many applicants aren't paying much attention to their application timelines that early (you'd have to start prepping for the February test in the previous calendar year), so what's the next best alternative if you plan on submitting this fall and you didn't take the February test? Easy: Take the June test. Do not wait until October. And that means you must start thinking about your LSAT prep timeline right now.

Why so early? A couple of reasons:

1. The LSAT is ridiculously important to admissions outcomes. 

Your combined LSAT + undergraduate record are very likely to have the biggest impact on your admissions results. Other factors matter too — and for the most competitive schools, those other "soft" factors must be excellent as well — but in the hierarchy of factors, LSAT + undergraduate record sit at the top. You might hear people suggest that you can write your way around poor numbers, or you might hear a recommender say he has so much pull with a school that he can get you in. Yes, the rest of the application does matter. Yes, having the right connections sometimes helps. But I would advise healthy skepticism.

Of course there are outliers for everything, including law school admissions, and there are people out there whose life stories are so improbable and impressive, or whose immediate network has such pull, that their numbers become secondary. Even in that case, though, they can't be bad numbers (where "bad" numbers are relative to a given school's normal pool).

In particular, many parents tell me how "unique" their children are and that therefore their sub-par numbers won't matter so much. Oof! There's a 99% chance their children will learn the hard way that their parents are simply wrong. From an admissions officer's perspective, there are a lot and lots of unique snowflakes out there.

Because the LSAT is such an important factor in admissions outcomes, don't coast on your ostensible "uniqueness." 

2. The LSAT is hard. 

For most people, the LSAT is not just a cognitively challenging test, but also a test of endurance, time management, and anxiety management. Those are all mental muscles you need to build during your training period, and that's not a process that happens overnight. It can take time to work yourself into the necessary LSAT zen state. Never walk into an LSAT unprepared. Take the test very seriously, and give yourself enough time to reach your maximum performance. For some people, that means two months of intensive, consistent training. For others, it's more. Train like an elite athlete... and like a Zen Buddhist!

3. Working with a real score is better than working with a fantasy score. 

You'll get your score back in late June, and then you can spend July, August, and September (with October for cushion) working on all the other parts of your application with the benefit of your score. That last part matters, because it's very hard to know what law schools you should be shooting for without an actual LSAT score, and your particular list of schools can affect your positioning in your applications, what kind of essays you write, if and where you apply Early Decision, etc. If I had a dollar for every time an applicant has told me, "I'm getting 175's on my practice tests, and I'm confident I'll score in the 170's, so let's plan around that," I'd be sipping pink-umbrella cocktails on my private island somewhere. You're much better served working off of an actual LSAT score rather than the one you fantasize about.

 

That's the perfect world timeline. We don't live in a perfect world, of course, so a lot of people take the LSAT for the first time in October. Best case scenario: the score turns out to be good, but they have to wait until the end of October to get their score back, and that pushes back their timeline for the other components of the application (and important application strategizing, which is impossible to do without the score).

Another possible scenario: You wait until October to take the test, you aren't happy with the score (or wig out and postpone, or wig out and cancel), retake it in December, and then have to wait until the following January for your score. January is awfully late in the game to be applying (and by then you've also missed Early Decision opportunities), and in the meantime, you're trying to pull your applications together without even knowing what schools you'll be competitive for. It's an option, but it's far from ideal. I don't recommend it.

So for those of you who will be submitting your applications early in the coming season, now's the time to get up to your elbows in LSAT prep. Dedicate the next couple of months to slaying that dragon, and then turn your full attention to all the other application components.

 

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook, or email us a new question for the blog.

March 3, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 36 -- Decisions Are Coming, It's Time to Prepare Yourself

T.S. Eliot famously claimed that April was the “cruelest month,” but we beg to differ. At least when it comes to the year when you are applying to college, March is definitely the “cruelest month.” It is nothing but waiting, waiting, waiting, which is leads to nothing but awful anxiety. Our solution? Translate all your understandable anxiety into some productive action. You can use the time for all the final things you have to do related to financial aid and to prepare yourself for the decisions YOU are going to have to make in April.  This week’s tips and tricks are all about how to turn the cruelest month into a really productive month. Isn’t that better?

Week 36 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Check for and apply for scholarships -- this is the season for essay contests and such. Every $1000 helps!  
  • Interview for scholarships.
  • Update financial aid forms with current year tax information as soon as taxes are filed.
  • Confirm that all necessary financial aid documentation has been received by the colleges.
  • Identify when you could make 2-3 post-acceptance visits to colleges in April and mark those off on your calendar.

Tips & Tricks

1) Solve your financial aid issues now so you get an award along with your acceptance.

For the colleges, the financial aid process is independent of the admissions process. For you, they are intimately related and interdependent. That asymmetry is why you have to be on the ball when it comes to the financial aid process right now. You will receive your financial aid award at or near the same time you receive your admissions decision IF AND ONLY IF you have done everything required by the financial aid process at the college. That means you need to be as vigilant and diligent when it comes to following up with your financial aid application and documentation as you have been with your admissions application.

2) Refine your criteria for your "right fit" colleges – you know more now.

Months ago, you decided where to apply to college based on some criteria that you developed about the “right fit” colleges for you. The criteria most likely included things like location, programs/majors available, and the overall college vibe. It is time to revisit these criteria and refine them based on what you have learned over the last several months – both about yourself and about the colleges on your list. Maybe you were certain that you were going to pursue Biology last summer, but your AP Psychology class has made you rethink that.  What kind of Psychology program do the colleges on your list have? Check them out. Maybe you were committed to attending college closer to home, but once you visited some of the colleges that were further away, you’ve changed your mind about how important proximity to home is.  Take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned in the last several months and refine your list of criteria accordingly. Once you’ve refined your criteria, gather information about how the colleges on your list stack up to your new criteria.

3) Re-open your mind – make a list of pros for every college on your list. 

By now, you probably have rank ordered the colleges on your list. You have a top choice college and then some runners-up and then several that you have written off. Comparing and rating the colleges on your list is a necessary step in your decision making process, but you probably did it very early and haven’t reconsidered your ranking since. That is a mistake. As noted in the first tip, you have learned, grown, and changed through the course of this process. You need to re-open your mind and consider how all that may have changed your thinking with regard to the colleges on your list. Now is the time for that rethink. Otherwise, you run the risk of making a bad decision when it comes to choosing where to enroll – you pick the college that has been your top choice since you were a sophomore, even though it really doesn’t suit you much now. Not good. While you are rethinking how the colleges on your list compare, try a little positive attitude shift. Come up with a set of pros for every college and redeem the colleges you have written off. This simple act will reduce your anxiety – after all, if you have 10 good choices, then it isn’t soooooooo essential that you get into one or the other, is it? Furthermore, it will put you in the right frame of mind for making your ultimate choice.

4) Post-acceptance visits are extremely valuable and worth making.

You probably have not visited all of the colleges where you applied. In fact, you may not have visited any of them. We are actually of the opinion that you don’t need to visit before you apply, because you can do a lot of great research and evaluation without visiting. But once it comes down to choosing where to enroll, we strongly encourage you to make post-acceptance visits to your top two or three choices. Nothing beats a visit for helping you make the right choice. Even if you have visited one or more of the colleges before, you will see a college through different eyes once you’ve been accepted there.  We guarantee it.  Many colleges host special events for admitted students, but if you can’t attend one of those, don’t hesitate to schedule an individual visit. When making a post-acceptance visit, be sure and include attending a class, checking out the residential experience, and many some students so you can get a real sense of what it would be like to spend four years there.  Your ultimate choice will be more informed and clearer after a post-acceptance visit, so look to your April calendar now and decide when you can make these visits.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 25, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 35--When and How Colleges Notify You of Their Admissions Decisions

Waiting, waiting, and still more waiting. That’s what February and March are about when it comes to college admissions. When will the waiting be over? When will the college where you have applied notify you of their decisions? How will they notify you? Fat envelope means good news, fact or fiction? These are the questions inquiring applicants have on their minds right now and they are the questions we show you how to find the answers for in this week’s tips and tricks.

Week 35 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Research notification dates and methods for the colleges on your list.

Tips & Tricks

Finding out when and how you will be notified of a college’s admissions decision is a pretty straightforward research task. Start by checking your correspondence from the college. Very often, the college includes the information in their post-submission correspondence to you. If you can’t find it there, then try this simple Google search: “notification date” admission [name of college]. The most reliable information will be on the college’s website, so scan the search results for the college’s URL first. Even if there isn’t any official information, your search will probably turn up a conversation thread on College Confidential or some other college admissions related website that will give you some information. Of course, remember to consider the source. The only information you can DEPEND on is information from the college itself.

If the college has given you a link and log in information for an applicant portal or website where you can find out the college’s admissions decision, TEST IT before the big day. Your meltdown when you encounter technical difficulties on decision day will be EPIC. Guaranteed. So, test your log in now and avoid the epic meltdown.

The “Fat Envelope” is still most often a signal that “good news” lies within, but in the 21st century, you rarely have to wait for the envelope to arrive in order to know whether you have been admitted or not. The majority of colleges will either notify you by email or post your admissions decision on your applicant website on the day that the “envelopes” go in the snail mail. There are, however, a few colleges that still notify ONLY by snail mail and for those the “Fat Envelope” is what you want to see!

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 24, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Late Round Considerations

After a relatively sleepy February, March will soon be upon us with its extensive list of application deadlines and decision notification dates.  Let’s take a look at part of the long list of Round 3 (or 4 or 5) deadlines spread over the next two months:

March 3rd: Ross R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 5th: INSEAD R3 (11:59pm CET)

March 7th: Judge R3 (5:00pm UTC)

March 12th: Haas R3 (11:59pm PST)

March 14th: UNC R4 (5:00pm EST)

March 14th: Oxford R4 (11:59pm GMT)

March 15th: Tepper R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 15th: Stern R4 (11:59pm EST)

March 20th: Fuqua R3 (11:59pm EST)

March 27th: Darden R3 (5:00pm EST)

March 27th: Wharton R3 (5:00pm EST)

March 27th: McCombs R3 (11:59pm CST)

April 1st: Georgetown R3 (11:59pm EST)

April 2nd: Stanford R3 (5:00pm PST)

April 2nd: Tuck R4 (5:00pm EST)

April 2nd: Kellogg R3 (11:59pm CST)

April 4th: Booth R3 (5:00pm CST)

April 7th: HBS R3 (11:59pm PST)

April 9th: CBS Regular Decision (11:59pm EST)

April 15th: Anderson R3 (11:59pm PST)

April 24th: Yale SOM R3 (5:00pm EST)

April 25th: Judge R4 (5:00pm UTC)

April 25th: Oxford R5 (11:59pm GMT)

May 30th: Oxford R6 (11:59pm GMT)

While it’s always best to apply as early as possible, the difference between applying in Round 1 and applying in Round 2 is, for most applicants, a marginal one.  However, the later rounds are a very different game.  Because most of the seats in the incoming class will have been given away by the time Round 2 decisions are released, the acceptance rate in the third round is dramatically lower than that for the first two deadlines of the season.

To maximize your chances of a later round acceptance, demonstrating your interest in the school and submitting thoughtful and error-free written materials will be crucial.  Applying in Round 1 is generally taken as a sign of interest in a given program, and by the same token, applicants submitting their materials in a later round need to work extra hard to convince the adcom that they are genuinely interested in the school and are not simply applying as an afterthought because interview invitations didn’t come through in Round 2. Demonstrating that you would make a valuable contribution to the community and providing evidence that you have taken steps to engage current students and alumni will work to your advantage.

As always, we’d like to recommend the in-depth Clear Admit School Guides to those applicants who are targeting the later deadlines and just beginning to investigate certain programs, and we encourage those who’ve visited the campus and interviewed to share their experiences in Clear Admit Interview Reports.  Potential R3 or R4 applicants are also welcome to contact Clear Admit directly to discuss the strength of their later round candidacies and learn more about our one-on-one counseling services.

 

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

February 17, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Thinking About Financing

Though many business school applicants know exactly what they want to do—and how much they hope to make—after they graduate from an MBA program, a surprising number apply to school without thinking about how they’ll pay for this expensive degree.  While some students do foot the entire bill themselves or receive scholarship support from the school or an outside institution, the vast majority of MBA students borrow funds to cover their tuition and living expenses.  With this in mind, we wanted to cover some very basic information on loans for the benefit of both recent admits entering school this fall and early birds just beginning to think about their applications for Fall 2014.

The primary source of funding for U.S.-based applicants will be federal loans or alternative education loans.  The main federal loans, available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are the Direct Unsubsidized Loans, the Direct PLUS Loan and the Federal Perkins Loan.  Full-time students, usually those enrolled in two or more courses per semester, can borrow as much as $20,500/year through the Direct Unsubsidized Loan program.  The Direct PLUS Loan can be used to pay for the total cost of attendance less any aid you’ve already been awarded.  Meanwhile, the Federal Perkins Loan program is school-based program for students with exceptional financial needs.  Perkins Loans are low-interest, a rate of 5 percent, with a maximum annual loan amount of $8,000/year for graduate students or $60,000 in total. Those interested in applying for federal student aid should check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  When federal loans are not enough, private loans can help bridge the gap in education costs.  Students might contact their local bank or look into lender programs, such as SallieMae or Access Group, for details on borrowing eligibility.

 International students are not eligible for federal loans but may consider private loans as a financing option.  InternationalStudentLoan.com, for instance, offers a credit-based loan to international students who are looking to finance their education in the U.S.  However, as with most private loans, this loan requires a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to co-sign.  International students can also visit International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) to search for funds, as can U.S. citizens planning on studying overseas.  Finally, most of the leading MBA programs offer private loans to their students in partnership with a particular financial institution—some of which do not require a co-signer—so this might become an option after one is admitted.

Typical timelines of loan repayment can extend up to 25 years, depending on the lender’s conditions of deferral and the amount of funds borrowed.  After graduation, students usually have a six-month grace period before monthly repayment begins.  While schools’ admittance packages usually include detailed information about financing the MBA, incoming students and applicants should not hesitate contact the school’s financial aid office for further information on available need- or credit-based loans.

 

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

February 17, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 34 -- Last Chance to Complete or Update Your Application is Now!

Mid-February is the peak of “Reading Season” in college admissions. During reading season, admissions officers read, evaluate and DECIDE the fates of applicants. Hopefully, you’ve been following the 52 Weeks plan and you’ve done everything possible to make your best case for admission. You’ve submitted a standout application, you’ve submitted any required or helpful updates, and you’ve confirmed that your application is complete. If so, all you have to pay attention to this week is staying up with the financial aid application process. If not, this week is really your last chance to submit application updates and/or complete your application. If you don’t act now, then the colleges will make their decisions anyway. This week’s tips and tricks are focused on helping you take the necessary final steps across the finish line.

Week 34 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Confirm that your applications are really truly COMPLETE at each and every college on your list.
  • Send any application updates that are required (e.g. Midyear Reports) or that would be helpful.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Provide the documentation necessary to support your financial aid application if required by the college or if you are selected for verification.

Tips & Tricks

1) Take action.

Procrastination is always a bad strategy, but it is deadly at this stage in the process. Colleges are making hundreds – that’s right hundreds – of decisions each and every day right now because they must notify applicants of their decisions within weeks. So you’ve got to act now if your application is incomplete or if there is anything you want to add to your application before a decision is made.

For International Students only: If the college requires you to submit financial documentation regarding your ability to pay (ultimately necessary for the visa process) before the admissions decision, then you need to confirm that you have sent what is required and that the college has received and processed it. Otherwise, your application will be considered incomplete and either no decision will be made or you will be automatically denied.

2) Don't panic if you are chosen for financial aid verification.

About 30% of FAFSA applicants are chosen every year and most of these applicants are chosen randomly. If you are selected then you will be asked to submit a verification worksheet, tax returns, and perhaps other supporting documents.

You can read more about what to do during this phase of the process in Chapters 22 and 23 of our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 12, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Waitlist Correspondence

In addition to actively evaluating the applications of Round Two applicants at this time of year, many top programs revisit their Round One waitlists and consider the strength of those individuals with respect to the new information about the pool.  While schools vary in their receptivity to correspondence from applicants, those programs that do welcome additional materials offer a great chance for waitlisted candidates to reaffirm their interest in the school and keep themselves fresh in the mind of the adcom.

With the second-round notification dates for a number schools coming up in a matter of weeks, we wanted to offer some tips to students who have been waitlisted at such programs while there’s still some time to tip the balance in their favor.

It’s clear that you should take advantage of this chance to add to your file, so the first real step is determining what you want—and need—to communicate in your waitlist correspondence.  We suggest that you begin by revisiting your application with a critical eye.  Being waitlisted is ultimately a positive sign of the strength of your candidacy, so it’s likely you’ve put together a very solid set of materials; you do, however, want to consider what you might have done to make your application even better.  For instance, if your comments in your essays focused primarily on your work experience, you might want to convey some information about your outside interests and activities in your waitlist letter.

Another important aim is to cover new developments and recent improvements in your candidacy.  For instance, have you made any progress toward your stated career goals?  Visited the school?  Taken on additional responsibility at work or in an extracurricular?  Sharing impressive information about your work will help to underscore the idea that you are on an upward trajectory, while writing about additional steps you’ve taken to familiarize yourself with the program will emphasize your interest in attending.

In addition to considering content, presentation is also important.  Rather than jotting off a few quick sentences to the adcom or the waitlist manager, you should treat any written contact as a formal element of your application, much like your essays, résumé and data forms.  This affords you a great chance to underscore your communication skills and ability to market yourself.

For more information on navigating waitlists, see this tip from the Clear Admit archives.  Waitlisted applicants can also contact Clear Admit directly to learn more about our feedback reports and waitlist strategy sessions.

In addition, for valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

February 10, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 33 -- Does the Letter You Just Got REALLY Mean Anything about Your Likely Admission?

Waiting for an admissions decision to arrive is torture. No doubt about it. So it is perfectly understandable that you will scrutinize everything you get from a college in the hopes that it will give you a preview of good news to come. And some colleges do send some applicants messages that are truly positive signals that good news is on the way. But, most of the messages you are getting from colleges right now are nothing more than good marketing. So how do you separate the truly positive signal from the marketing? It’s not easy. This week we’ll give you a few tips and tricks for interpreting what messages you’re getting from colleges.

Week 33 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

Tips & Tricks 

An invitation is good marketing, not a truly positive signal. You just got an email from the college where you have an application pending INVITING you to apply for one of their merit scholarships. Surely that means that you are going to be admitted to the college, right? Wrong. Admissions and scholarship selection processes are operating simultaneously, not sequentially. So an invitation to apply for a scholarship is simply the college marketing their scholarships well. Every applicant who meets the basic eligibility criteria for the scholarship got the same invitation without regard to the likelihood of his/her admission.

An encouraging shout out from someone outside the admissions office is good marketing, not a truly positive signal. You just got an email from the faculty chair of the department of engineering saying that she would be excited to have you as part of the incoming class and raving about all the cool engineering projects you’ll get to do in your first year. You ignored the email you got from the student president of the Robotics Club, but an email from a FACULTY member has to be different, right? Wrong. Colleges know that a little word of encouragement in this period goes a long way when it comes to making you think better of the college and will positively influence your ultimate choice should you be admitted. So this college is running a really great marketing effort by sending you all this encouraging email now, but it is just good marketing, not a truly positive signal.

A “likely letter” is a truly positive signal. A “likely letter” will have the following attributes: it will be a written communication from the admissions office (usually from the highest ranking person in that office) that includes the magic phrase “likely to be admitted” or something very similar. Likely letters are most often sent to the following types of applicants:

  • recruited athletes applying to Ivy League colleges;
  • visual and performing artists who are applicants to by-audition-only or by-portfolio-review only programs; and, 
  • the applicants who are at the tippy, tippy top of very competitive applicant pools. 

What do these applicants have in common? They are usually going to have multiple offers of admission and the college sending the likely letter wants to beat the other colleges to punch when it comes to good news.

Are you an applicant who is likely (excuse the pun) to get a likely letter? If you aren’t, then chances are the letter you have received is a marketing letter, not a likely letter. If you are someone who might get a likely letter, don’t panic if one isn’t in your box, because here’s the catch. Not every college sends likely letters; and, even if the college does send likely letters, they may not have processed your application in time for you to get a likely letter. One more thing about a likely letter – it is a truly positive signal, but it is NOT an offer of admission. Wait until you get the actual offer of admission to celebrate and withdraw all your other applications. And be sure to stay the course when it comes to doing the things that resulted in your getting the likely letter in the first place!  

For more information on likely letters and how colleges use them as part of their admissions strategy, see this great article in the Yale Daily News

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

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