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November 17, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 21 — Final Push for November 30

This is your final push! You're so close!

Week 21 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 

  • Revise your 9th application.
  • Draft your 10th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Confirm that the early applications you submitted are complete (see Week 20).
  • Finalize your 4th scholarship application.
  • Verify your CSS/Profile data report and update colleges directly if there are any changes or you spot any errors.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.

Tips & Tricks

1. Commit to your final push. Make a pact with yourself to have all of your applications done and ready to submit by November 30.

2. Review your financial aid documents carefully. Fix any errors as quickly as possible, because they can snowball. That would be bad (and potentially expensive) for you.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 of our book

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.

November 12, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 20 — Following Up On Your Submitted Applications

Hitting the "submit" button doesn't mean you're done just yet. This week is all about learning how to follow up on your applications after you've submitted them — a very important step!

Week 20 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 

  • Draft your 9th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Revise your 4th scholarship application.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.

Tips & Tricks

1. Confirm that your early applications are complete. The only way to know that your application is complete is for you to have confirmation from the college. Just because the Common Application says "downloaded by the college," or your counselor has confirmed to you that something was sent, does NOT mean that the college has received that item and put it in your application file. Until you have confirmation from the college, you don't have confirmation, period. If you have not received confirmation within two weeks of (1) having submitted the application or (2) the deadline (whichever comes first), contact the admissions office to check the status of your application.

2. Resolve problems promptly. If your follow-up reveals that something is missing from your application file, then it is up to you to fix the problem. Clarify exactly what is missing. Identify the fastest way to get the missing item to the college and into your application file. Then take action and get it done. Be as proactive as necessary. (For example, volunteer to mail the recommendation yourself rather than wait for the recommender to find the stamp and mail it.) Let the college know that you are aware of the problem and working to resolve it. 

3. Call rather than email. You can often get the whole problem resolved in one phone call, whereas email often requires a long chain of back-and-forth correspondence.

4. Always be polite and respectful. No matter how frustrating these snafus are, being angry with others will probably make it harder to solve your problem, not easier. Any rudeness towards the admissions staff will also be noted and could be held against you.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 of our book

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.

November 11, 2014

New York Times Op-Ed on Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day! As some of you already know, I also help run a non-profit called Service to School, which provides free application help to veterans. Our goal is to help veterans get into the very best colleges and graduate schools as they transition into civilian life and navigate the sometimes strange world of higher ed. 

Today, one of my S2S colleagues and I have an op-ed in the New York Times on the subject of veterans' education, the G.I. Bill, and for-profit schools. You can read it here: "Fix the New G.I. Bill."

For any veterans out there who are reading this, thank you so much for your service.

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college, law school, and MBA applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and navigate the application process. She is the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application, and also serves on the leadership team of the non-profit Service to School.

November 11, 2014

How to Approach the Last 4 Weeks Before the December LSAT

Today’s advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint students can enroll in live LSAT prep classes throughout the country, online LSAT courses from the comfort of their own home, or self-study with Blueprint’s new Logic Games book 

Halloween may be well behind us, but for those taking the December LSAT, the truly scary time of year is just beginning. With just about a month left until the Big Day, you might be stressing about being behind on your prep. The good news is that almost everyone feels that way – this is around the time when people start realizing that although they’ve come a long way in terms of LSAT prep, they still have a long way to go. The other good news is that even if you do feel that way, you might actually be right on track.

If you haven’t started your prep at all yet, the prognosis is not good. The general recommendation is to prep for 2-3 months at minimum. Sure, there are people who have prepped for a month or so and done very well, but those people are extreme outliers.

So if you haven’t even cracked a book yet, you should probably wait for a later test date, even if that means delaying your applications by a year. If you have your heart set on taking the December LSAT, be aware that you’ll need to make the LSAT your life for the next month, and you won’t have time to prepare to your full potential.

Okay, so the bad news is out of the way. Let’s talk about where you should be if you are in the thick of your prep!

If you have already started studying (and we mean really studying, not just idly flipping through an LSAT book from time to time), then you’re probably in a better spot than you think. For instance, if your practice test scores have been lower than you’d like, there’s no need to be concerned just yet – there’s still ample time to improve your score, and it’s pretty common to see a big score increase in the last few weeks of prep.

This is the period of studying when you will hopefully see things start to come together. You should’ve been spending most of your time at the beginning of your prep learning the techniques and making sure you understood everything. Now, it’s time to start trying to speed up. 

If you’re still struggling with getting through questions quickly and efficiently, you’ll want to start incorporating more timed practice. You should start at a pace that is a little quicker than normal, but not so fast that you’re getting everything wrong. Once that pace feels comfortable, lower your time goal again.

You can start with smaller chunks of questions and work your way up to full sections. This timed practice should be interspersed with taking full practice tests; after each practice test, make sure you thoroughly review the test and spend some time working on anything you struggled with before you take the next test.

Around this time, LSAT preppers sometimes start to feel overwhelmed by how much work they still have to do. It can seem intimidating, but try not to stress too much just yet – there’s still a lot of time for things to click, and you’ll have ample opportunity to stress once the test date gets a little closer! For now, keep plugging away – all of that hard work will pay off over the next month.

For more study tips from Blueprint visit their LSAT blog, Most Strongly Supported

November 3, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: The Long Essay

Essay content you’ve polished for one school often serves as a great starting point for the next application, but as we’ve often said, customizing this text for the school in question is key.  One particular challenge we see applicants struggle with each year is effectively expanding a short essay they’ve written for one program in responding to a question on the same topic but with a longer limit.  With this in mind, we’d like to offer some pointers on converting condensed comments to more extensive remarks.

1) Expand in proportion.  When taking an existing response as a starting point for crafting a longer document, one good rule of thumb is to build upon each subject to more or less the same extent.  While elaborating on your work to date might involve less time and work than the more research-intensive “why School X” discussion, it’s generally prudent to maintain balance among subjects and provide all of the major pieces of information a school requests in equal measure.

2) Maintain focus.  One frequent issue with long essays is that they sometimes lack a clear sense of direction.  To ensure that the reader is able to understand the relevance of your remarks and follow the connections among the various ideas, it’s a good idea to include transition sentences at the beginning of each paragraph that tie the subsequent remarks and examples to the topic of the essay and clearly state how certain statements relate to the question.  This exercise also serves as a check for the applicant in making sure that all of the details in the essay are related to the subject.

3) Finish when you’re finished.  While it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity that each essay presents to share information about your candidacy, you shouldn’t feel obligated to reach the upper end of a suggested word limit/range if you feel that you’ve already addressed the question and presented a full picture of your interests and background.

Good luck to everyone composing essays with an eye to R2 submission!  For more tailored guidance on essays in particular or the application process in general, feel free to contact us.

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.

November 3, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 19 — Scholarships

If you submitted your early applications last week, CONGRATULATIONS! That's huge. This week, we'll focus mainly on money, because wherever you get in, you'll want to find a way to pay for it!

Week 19 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 

  • Finalize your 8th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Investigate local scholarship opportunities.

Tips & Tricks

1. Celebrate. Submitting your first application is a big milestone, and worth celebrating. Do something special, and make sure to thank the people who helped you along the way (parents, teachers, counselors, etc).

2. Sustain your momentum. Now is not the time to conk out! Take advantage of your momentum and keep working away at your other applications. They will be harder to come back to if you lose that momentum and try to gain it back later.

3. Nag your parents about taxes. This may be pushing a boulder up a hill, but see if you can persuade your parents to finish their tax returns early for this year. If they get that done sooner rather than later, it will be MUCH easier to finish the FAFSA (financial aid application form), and you'll be more likely to end up with an appropriate financial aid award. Getting those tax returns done early really can pay for itself.

4. Think local. As you explore more scholarship opportunities, don't forget to check sources other than the internet. There might be some in your backyard. Ask at your school counselor's office, your church or synagogue or mosque, and your local civic organizations like the Rotary Club.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 of our book. Next week, we'll show you how to follow up on your submitted applications.

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.

October 29, 2014

How Does a Diversionary Program Affect My Law School Application Disclosures?

Every law school application I know of asks about some mix-and-match of criminal disclosures.

And every school asks differently, so there is no "universal" disclosure for all schools. They could make one if they wanted, but they choose not to. So for now, you're stuck reading each question carefully and making sure you answer it accurately. It's very possible that you end up having to check "yes" for some schools and and "no" for others depending on what they're asking for in their disclosure questions.

You would be forgiven for thinking that the law school application forms assume you've gone to law school before you've actually gone to law school. These terms are quite technical, and you might not now whether what you did or what was done to you constitutes an "arrest," a "charge," or a "conviction," for example.

This post is all about helping you figure out what the key words in the disclosure questions are, and how to figure out what a particular school is asking you to disclose. (They are law schools, after all, so the precise language they use does matter.)

Some schools ask about convictions only, but others also ask about charges, and still others also ask about arrests. If you were the subject of a diversionary program, you might think you get a pass and don't have to disclose any of that stuff, because you might assume your diversionary program made any arrests/charges/convictions magically go away. You can't make that assumption.

When you're looking at the disclosure questions and doing the analysis, do not confuse the answers to any particular trigger word (arrest, charge, conviction, etc.) with a program like diversion, which is a particular form of punishment or an alternative to conventional punishment. Arrests/charges/convictions are separate things from diversion, and most application forms don't even mention diversion.

Instead, take the analysis one step at a time in the following way, using the trigger words of the application question: 

1. Arrest - did a law enforcement agency take you into custody and process you for a specified crime? Unless this happened, there was no arrest. 

2. Charge - did a court issue a document alleging that you committed a crime? Unless there was some formal allegation of wrongdoing (a "charge"), and you were arraigned (notified in court in a formal hearing) of those allegations, then there was not a "charge." 

3. Conviction - did you go through a formal, in-court process where you waived your rights and accepted responsibility by pleading guilty? This would be a "guilty plea." Alternatively, did you have a trial (by a judge or a jury) that resulted in a finding that you were guilty of one or more charges? This would also qualify as a conviction. Note that in most cases, a "diversion program" is designed to prevent a person from having to either plead guilty or go through a trial that could result in a conviction. The theory of these programs is that in exchange for agreeing to do community service or some other alternative punishment, the person is "diverted" from the traditional legal process that might result in a conviction. 

A diversionary program could be:

  • Offered before an arrest - instead of arresting you, they only "cite" you for a crime and tell you to attend a diversionary program. This usually only happens in driving cases.
  • Offered before a charge is issued so that you don't have charges in your record - so you might have been arrested, but then rather than being formally charged, you are given the diversionary program alternative.
  • Offered after a charge is issued and you are arraigned to avoid a conviction  - you might be arrested and charged in court but then may avoid conviction by doing a diversionary program. 
  • Offered after a conviction to avoid some more severe penalty (e.g. "attend this program instead of going to jail"). 

Bottom line: You still have to figure out whether you were arrested, charged, or convicted (or whatever else the application is asking about) and disclose those as required, whether or not you participated in a diversionary program. If you check the "yes" box for any of those disclosure triggers, you can and should mention the diversionary program in the required explanation that you'll have to attach to the application.

Important caveat: If you're not sure about the specifics of your case, you need to consult the jurisdiction where you think you were arrested, charged, or convicted, and get as much in writing as possible for your records. You might also need to hire a lawyer to get further clarification if you're not sure how to interpret your records. We are helping you decode the application form questions, not giving legal advice. And if in doubt, err in favor of disclosure. Hope that helps!

Related topics form the archives:

 

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college, law school, and MBA applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and navigate the application process. She is the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application, and also serves on the leadership team of the non-profit Service to School.

October 29, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 18 — Submitting Your Application

AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Ready to hit the submit button? Excellent. Below are three things to remember on this happy day.

Week 18 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 

  • Finalize your 7th application.
  • Revise your 8th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Check the websites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to a place near you. 
  • Meet with college representatives.
  • Finalize your CSS/PROFILE forms and college financial aid applications. Keep copies of all your financial aid documentation.
  • Prep for your upcoming standardized tests.
  • Take the SAT.

Tips & Tricks

1. Respect deadlines. College application deadlines are not targets. They are not suggestions. They are not wiggly. They are firm. No exceptions! Make sure to meet them, and don't wait until the absolute last possible minute to submit. If you can beat the deadline, so much the better. That gives you some cushion in case you encounter technical difficulties. Don't wait until the day the application is due.

2. Save a copy. Using the Print Preview feature of the online application, save a PDF copy of the application you're submitting to your hard drive (or in the cloud), and also print a hard copy.

3. Confirm submission before logging out. Print a copy of the online page that confirms you've submitted. You'll need it in case there are technical glitches with the online application system. That way, if your submission date ever becomes an issue, you can give the college proof that you did in fact submit on time.

You can read more tips for submission logistics in chapter 22 of our book. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll focus on the various things you need to do after you submit.

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.

October 28, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: The Comparison Trap

We wanted to take some time today to discuss a frequently made mistake in the application process.  In their desire to make their case to their target MBA programs, many applicants devote sentences and even paragraphs to explaining why the school in question is their “first choice” and arguing its superiority over other schools.

Though certainly understandable, this is actually not a very productive exercise.  Let’s consider a few reasons why from the schools’ point of view:

Tell me something I don’t know.  A popular strategy – and not always bad one – for applicants seeking to demonstrate their fit with one school above any other is to study its website to understand the program’s self-determined selling points, and then profess an interest in those.  The thing that essay writers don’t always consider is that while a school’s distinguishing characteristics might be the factors that set it apart from others, this is not necessarily what the admissions committee wants to read about in an applicant’s essays.  The very admissions officer reading your file spends months every year pushing this marketing message out to prospective students.  Members of Harvard’s and Darden’s admissions staff know all about the merits of the case method, Kellogg and Duke’s admissions committees are already up to their ears in team orientation, and Stanford and Yale could not be more aware of the benefits of a small class size.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t touch briefly on these key points (the schools highlight these for a reason), only to suggest that to put together a really compelling application, it’s important to push beyond high-level differentiators and immediate association and demonstrate that you’ve learned about the program on a deeper level.  In making room for this level of detail within a restrictive word limit, cutting other schools out of the picture is a great starting point.

Enough about us, let’s talk about you.  It’s not uncommon for applicants to become so engrossed in explaining how their target program differs from other business schools that they neglect to really articulate how their own interests, personality and preferences fit into the picture.  Very nearly every school requires that prospective students compose an essay explaining how the MBA program will help them accomplish their goals, but there’s not a single one that adds “better than any other MBA program.”  Though several schools do explicitly inquire about other target programs if an applicant advances to an interview, at this early point the adcom is much more interested in hearing about the candidate and his or her fit with the school.  It’s a bit premature to assure a school that it’s your number one pick when the adcom hasn’t even decided whether they’re interested.  It’s better to use all the space at your disposal in the essays to cover your experiences and accomplishments, share your aspirations and showcase your research on the MBA program.

I bet you say that to all the girls.  Seriously, though, if an applicant goes out of his way to profess that Chicago Booth is the best school for him, is his first choice, etc., Booth really has no assurance that this applicant hasn’t written an equally passionate love letter to regional rival Kellogg.  If a strategy seems likely to work in one place, might as well use it everyplace, right? Yes, it’s generally true that schools prefer to admit students who are excited about their program and seem likely to attend, but actions speak louder than words.  The details of campus visits and conversations with students and alumni are far better topics to cover in your essays.  To invoke a classic essay-writing maxim, “show, don’t tell” the adcom that you care.  Further, the best way to convince the adcom that you “only have eyes for their school” is to not mention any other school at all.

We hope that this offers a number of helpful “do”s to offset this big essay “don’t.”  It is very important to get an in-depth understanding of your target MBA programs and engage members of the community.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities – whether through a visit to campus, conversations with members of the community or reading the Clear Admit School Guides – will pay dividends here.  Happy writing and researching!

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.

October 20, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Interviewing the Interviewer

We’ve been offering a good deal of advice lately on how to conduct oneself and prepare responses to MBA interview questions.  Today we’d like to highlight the importance of thinking about what you might ask. Virtually all business school interviewers conclude their discussion by offering the applicant a chance to ask some questions about the program.  While it might be tempting to claim that you’ve already learned all you need to know about the school, this is actually a great opportunity to gain additional insight, show your enthusiasm about a specific element of the curriculum or community, and demonstrate that you appreciate the opportunity to learn from your interviewer’s experiences.

Here are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind while thinking about what you might ask:

1. Focus on the positive.  Now is not the time to conduct due diligence or express skepticism about a school’s academic program or career resources.  You’re still marketing yourself to the adcom at this stage of the process, so you’ll want to project enthusiasm and demonstrate a desire to become more familiar with a program’s merits and your potential fit.

2. Avoid the obvious and the obscure.  Because this is an opportunity to tap the interviewer’s unique knowledge and point of view (and he or she will assume that you did your basic research before applying), it’s best to avoid asking questions that could be answered by perusing the school’s website or speaking with anyone you might happen to encounter on campus.  On the other hand, you don’t want to ask something so obscure or specific that your interviewer might not have an answer.  Seeking the interviewer’s opinion on or impression of some element of the program often makes for a discussion that both parties will find interesting and enjoyable.

3. Mind your audience.  Remember that students, alumni and admissions staff will all have a different perspective on and level of familiarity with the program, and that it’s wise to pose inquiries tailored to his or her experience with the school.  For instance, alumni interviewers generally feel strongly about their schools but might not have the most current information on the academic programs and campus culture, so a good question might focus on the classes they have found most useful in their post-graduation career.

We hope that these guidelines are helpful in thinking about how you might approach the end of your discussion and wish everyone interviewing at business schools in the coming weeks the best of luck!  For personalized interview coaching, mock interviews and school-specific advice, feel free to contact Clear Admit or investigate the downloadable Clear Admit Interview Guides in our online shop.

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.

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