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January 12, 2015

New Book on the Admissions Process by NYT Columnist Frank Bruni

I'm pre-ordering this book, VERY excited to read it:

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania 

The title alone is a great reminder not to conflate your whole identity with where you do or don't get into college (or grad school for that matter). My immediate reaction is this, and it's something I've been mulling over for some time now:

One of the real downsides to the current "holistic" approach to elite university admissions in the United States is that the schools give the impression that they're evaluating you (judging you) *as a human being*. So when the rejection letter comes, it's easy to assume (although incorrectly) that they're rejecting you *as a human being*. Oof, I don't know a lot of grown-ups who can take that punch without internalizing some of it, and it's especially a lot to take on as a teenager.

I'll report back after I've read it... and in the meantime,  here's the amazon link.

 

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.

January 9, 2015

Finding Typos in Your Application After You Submit

Typos. In very important missives. That you've already sent to very important people. Argh.

Everyone has been there at one time or another, including lawyers (which can be especially embarrassing). And, as you might be acutely aware, it happens to future lawyers, too. When you've been staring at the same thing six hundred times while you polished it, trying to get it just so, your eyes can start missing the little things. The irony.

It's that time of year when people start freaking out over typos they find after they've hit the submit button. I feel your pain. There's no magic wand or time machine to undo that submission, so here's the best you can do:

If you find a typo after you have submitted your application, call up the admissions office, be very nice (always!) to the person who answers the phone, and ask if you can substitute that particular document. If your file hasn’t already been sent off for evaluation, they’ll probably let you send in the corrected document. Ask them how they would like to receive the correction, and do not treat their reply as an offer for you to negotiate some other method. It's their way or the highway.

Even if they let you send in a corrected document, they might not be willing to get rid of the old one. They might only add a more recent copy to the file, but it’s unlikely that admissions officers will do a line-by-line comparison anyway. So be it. That's still the best outcome in these circumstances.

If you can’t substitute that page or that document, go to your Happy Place with the knowledge that the odds are they won’t even notice your typo. If, on the other hand, you find multiple errors dispersed throughout your application, you've got bigger problems, whether you leave the mess the way it is or ask to substitute the entire thing. One typo is human; multiple typos make you look sloppy.

I'll end on a happy note. An applicant once called the admissions office at the University of Chicago Law School, where I used to work, and sheepishly confessed that he had misspelled his own name on the application, and what was his best option to fix that? The wonderful woman manning the phones (a) chuckled and (b) said, "Don't worry about it, honey, I'll just fix it in our system. All taken care of."

Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and and a former lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. You can read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

January 6, 2015

Minimum TOEFL Score for Law School

I'm an international student applying for law school. I took TOEFL and got 103, which is a decent score for most law school. The problem is that I only got 20 on writing section. Will that hurt my chance? Or would admission just care about the total score? Thank you for answering. 

Each school sets its own TOEFL requirements, so you'll need to confirm those requirements at each school that you're interested in. Schools usually post that information on their websites.

A common approach that you'll see is for schools to set a minimum for the overall score, and then some (but not all) schools also add minimum requirements for the subsections.

For example, a school might require at least a 100 overall (using the scale for the internet-based test) and at least 25 in each of the four subsections. Another school might require an overall score of at least 100, with a minimum of 26 on the reading and listening subsections, and a minimum of 22 on the writing and speaking subsections. These are just some examples taken from real schools, but they illustrate how each school handles the TOEFL minimums differently. In both of those examples, your overall score would suffice, but your writing score wouldn't, and you would need to get that writing score up.

For schools that list only a minimum overall score but don't list minimum scores for the subsections, you can go ahead and apply if you've met the overall minimum, but be aware that they will still evaluate your subscores as well, and in their discretion they might decide that your writing score is too low. So it's no guarantee that your writing score will pass muster even if a school lists only an overall minimum.

I hugely admire people who are able to master another language enough to be able to earn a degree in that language. Hats off to you, and if you can get that writing score up, so much the better. Law school exams (and grades) are typically writing-based, so any investment you make to improve your writing subscore will help not just with admissions but also with your academic success once you're in. Good luck!

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.

January 6, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 28 — Correct Mistakes

Sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, you find an error in your applications after you've submitted them.

Ouch.

We know you're human. So do admissions officers. Your human capacity for error doesn't give you a pass to submit a mistake-riddled application, and ideally, you've submitted applications with zero mistakes. But if you do find a mistake after you've already sent them off, don't panic. There are things you can do to set things right again.

Week 28 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 

  • Interview with your regular decision schools.
  • If you will be applying for financial aid, start work on your FAFSA.

Tips & Tricks

1. Evaluate whether a correction is even necessary. Not every mistake is a doozie. If the mistake is truly inconsequential (one typo in the name of your swim club), let that sleeping dog lie rather than drawing attention to the mistake with a correction. But if the mistake is anything bigger than a single typo, submit a corrected version of your application form (or the attachment only, if the mistake was in an attachment) with a brief cover letter asking that your corrected application/attachment be substituted for the previous one.  

2. Submit a corrected version through the appropriate channel. Submitting a corrected application can be logistically tricky in the era of online applications, because once your application has been submitted, you are typically prohibited from changing it or resubmitting it. If the college is a Common Application college, you should submit your corrected version and your cover letter directly to that college. You cannot submit any updates or corrections through the Common Application after you have submitted.

3. Communicate directly with the admissions office, as well as through your high school counselor. There's no harm in redundancy in this case. Make sure to keep both the affected colleges and your high school counselor in the loop. Your counselor might even be able to facilitate whatever correction you need to make.

4. Correct the mistake in any applications you have not yet submitted. On the Common Application, if your mistake appears on any component other than the essay, you can correct it without creating a new version of the Common Application. If, however, the mistake was in your essay, then you will need to create an alternate version of your essay in the Common Application system. Because this alternate version will use up one of the three alternate versions that you are allowed to use, make sure that you are comfortable using one of your alternates for this purpose. If you are not, check with the college to see if you can submit a corrected version of the essay directly to that college.

You can read more tips for correcting appliction mistakes in chapter 23 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.

December 30, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 27 — Get Ready for Submission Crunch Time

If you put together a good action plan this week, you won't be caught flat-footed the day your applications are due. Natural disasters and man-made catastrophes tend to happen exactly when you can least afford them. You can and should plan ahead, because the universe has a funny way of messing with us when we're rushing to meet important deadlines. We've been there!

Week 27 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 

  • Interview with your regular decision schools.
  • If you will be applying for financial aid, start work on your FAFSA.

Tips & Tricks

1. Expect things to go wrong. Save and back up all your work. Often! Avoid peak hours for submitting your applications — that's when servers like to crash.

2. Have a Plan B and Plan C before you need them. Especially because so many people are traveling this time of year, make sure you know ahead of time where and when you'll have internet access. Know what email addresses you need for various schools and third parties. Look up FedEx drop-off locations.

3. Get help from your help desk. Who are the people who have been helping and supporting you while you're applying? That's your help desk. Know how to reach them, and give them the heads up that this is crunch time and you may need to reach out to them. Also know how to get in touch with the Common Application help desk, and expect them to be in high demand this time of year.

You can read more tips for submission logistics 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.

December 22, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 26 — Prioritize

Happy holidays! It's a big week for lots of reasons, and no doubt you want to put your college applications out of your mind during your school break. But now is not the time to lose your momentum. This week we'll focus on three skills that matter not just for your college applications, but for other parts of your life as well.

Week 26 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 

  • If you've fallen behind with your regular decision applications, catch up this week.
  • Interview with your regular decision schools.

Tips & Tricks

1. Prioritize. Success in the college application process depends on the quality of your school list, not on quantity. At this point in the admissions cycle, focus on your safeties and match schools. Limit your reaches.

2. Manage your energy and time. The final sprint is hard. You know your work habits the best, so focus your writing time on those parts of the day when you know you'll be most productive.

3. Maintain your integrity. It's crunch time, and that's when it can be most tempting to cut corners with application ethics. Be proud of your work and your applications. Don't cheat.

You can read more tips for submission logistics 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.

December 15, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 25 — Submitting Your Regular Decision Applications

Now that your early applications are out of the way, it's time to turn to your regular decision applications (assuming you're not accepting an early offer, in which case... congratulations!).

Week 25 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 

  • Submit your regular decision applications.
  • Interview with your regular decision schools.

Tips & Tricks

1. Respect deadlines. College application deadlines 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 to submit.

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

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.

December 8, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Navigating the Waitlist

While the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain.  There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier.  To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:

1. Know—and follow—the rules.  Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison.  We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile.  At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you.  Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.

2. Communicate if you can.  For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters, it’s absolutely a good idea to send an update.  In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet.  Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the program, and is a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending.  It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up to date information so that they can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.

3. Keep in touch.  Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable).  If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to this fact.  In many cases, you’ll find that the adcom offers to have you stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case.  Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist.  In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so please use good judgment!

4. Have a contingency plan.  While it’s important to be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicating with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan.  With the Round Two deadlines for several top programs about a month away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school.  Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.

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.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!

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.

December 8, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 24 — Reviewing Your Next Round of Applications as a Whole

It's time to turn to your regular decision applications (assuming you're are submitting applications for the regular decision deadline).

Week 24 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 

  • Respond to news from your early applications.
  • Notify and thank you recommenders and interviewers (for interviews you've already done).
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Finalize your 5th scholarship application.
  • Negotiate or appeal your financial aid award, if it's insufficient.
  • Take the ACT.

Tips & Tricks

1. Review your next round of applications as a whole to make sure they convey your story. Remember your story from Week 3? Go pull it up again. Are all the elements of your story coming through when you read your application as a whole? If not, which elements are missing or getting lost? Where can you incorporate them in your application materials?

2. Make simple, easy tweaks. There's still time for you to change up your really short answers, switch out your short answers, and realign your essays.

3. Proofread. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. You should be getting pretty good at proofreading by now.

4. Be smart about negotiating financial aid. Financial aid awards can be appealed or negotiated, but you must be polite and have something to say beyond, "It's not enough." You'll need to make an argument about why their calculations or analysis wasn't appropriate in your case.

You can read more tips for reviewing your application as a whole in chapters 5 and 21 of our bookand you can learn more about financial aid in the excellent companion book Admission Matters.

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.

December 1, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 23 — How to Handle Deferrals

If you submitted early applications, you should be seeing some decisions roll in. You probably already have a good handle on what it means to be accepted or denied, but what if your application gets "deferred"? Below are our top tips for giving your deferred application the most punch.

Week 23 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 10th application.
  • Turn your full attention back to school. (Remember school? :) )
  • Interview with colleges.

Tips & Tricks

1. Treat your deferral as a second chance. If you have applied early to one or more colleges, the decision letter you receive might not actually contain a final decision. Instead of being admitted or denied, you might be notified that you have been "deferred." Although you'll probably find that news disappointing, it means you have not been denied, and that's good news, because it gives you a second chance to be admitted! Your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. Assuming you have continued on a positive course in the first part of your senior year, you have new information that can and will make the best and most compelling application — which you've already submitted — even better. 

2. Use your judgment about what additional material to send.  In order of most to least influential, here are the five kinds of updates that can help your deferred application:

  • New (and good) grades
  • New academic honors or awards
  • New (and higher) test scores
  • Anything that demonstrates your Core Four
  • Anything you have done that demonstrates interest in that college

You can, of course, also submit other kinds of updates, like additional essays, recommendations, or supplementary materials. But we're not as enthusiastic about encouraging you to submit those, because those kinds of updates get mixed reviews from admissions officers. They tend to be more of the same, and they usually serve only to make your file fatter and more time-consuming for an already harried admissions officer to get through. 

3. Submit one bundled update: Rather than sending things in dribs and drabs, assemble all your updates into one package of materials and submit them all together with a short and polite cover letter. That way, all the updates together will make a cohesive and persuasive statement about you. (Sending updates individually also makes it more likely that something will be misfiled or lost.) If that college remains your first choice, make sure to reiterate that in your cover letter.

You can read more tips about deferrals (and waitlists, too) in chapter 23 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.

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