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August 19, 2014

52 Weeks to College — Week 8: Revising Essays

Now that you have at least a week of drafting essays behind you, you are ready to tackle the next phase of the writing process – revising. Revising is its own art, so our tips and tricks this week focus on how to do it well.

Week 8 To-Dos 

This Week and 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 first application. As we noted in a prior post, drafting and revising are distinct tasks. At this point, we expect that you have already drafted all your answers for your first application and that you are ready to turn your attention to revising them.
  • Begin working on your second application. The essay map you created in Week 6 is your writing to-do list. Look to see which application essays are next on your list and start drafting them.
  • Continue working on supplementary materials, such as portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following Week 4's advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Check the websites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to your school, your community, or a place near your home. Note these visits on your calendar and do your best to connect with the admissions representatives then. (We’ll have more advice about how to take advantage of these opportunities in a few weeks.)
  • Revise your first scholarship application. Revising your scholarship application should be much like revising your first application, so you can apply the same tips and tricks.
  • Keep prepping for your upcoming standardized tests. In Week 6, you made a test prep schedule for yourself. It will only work if you work it! So go to it.

Tips & Tricks

Revise content first. You will save loads of time if you revise your essay for content before you move on to revising it for things like flow and voice. An easy way to check for whether you have the right amount of content in your draft is to let the word counts guide you. Most application essays have both a minimum and a maximum word count (or character count). These word counts signal how much content your essay is expected to have.

  • If your draft falls between the minimum and maximum word count, then move on to revising for flow and voice.
  • If your draft is below the minimum word count, then you have to add meaningful content, not just words. How could you develop one of your ideas more deeply? What other ideas could you introduce? Stick with it until you have a draft that is the right length.
  • If your draft is above the maximum word count, then you probably have tried to develop too many ideas in the essay. Consider which ideas are central and then eliminate the others. 

Check your essay for flow. An essay that flows well carries the admissions officer reading it effortlessly from one idea to the next. She never stumbles, gets lost or has to reread to figure out what you are trying to say. A logical order and smooth transitions are the keys to an essay that flows well. As you are revising, pay close attention to these aspects of your essay. Is there a logical order to your ideas? If not, stop and reorder. Are there smooth transitions between your ideas? If not, take the time to rework your transitions. After you’ve revised, a good way to check that your revisions have solved your flow problems is to read your essay aloud. You’ll hear missed connections or bumpy transitions long before you see them.

Make sure your voice comes through loud and clear. When an admissions officer reads your essay, he should feel as if he were talking to you and only you. In order to leave the admissions officer with that feeling, your essay must have your voice. Most applicants have plenty of voice in the first drafts of their essays, but strip it all away when they revise. Guard against doing that as you revise your own essays. For example, keep the quirky phrase that you are well known for using or hold onto your signature staccato writing rhythm of short, emphatic sentences. These are the aspects of your writing voice that make it yours and yours alone.

Once you’ve revised your first application, you’ll be ready to finalize it next week. And that means you’ll have one application done by the end of August and a second one well underway. Can you see how you are starting to build momentum and get ahead of the curve? We hope so, because you are! Keep it up.

 

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, August 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 forthcoming 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.

August 18, 2014

MBA Admission Tip: The Optional Essay

We realize that the questions of whether to answer an optional essay and, if so, what to say are ones that loom large for many b-school applicants at this time of year.  While we’ve been offering a great deal of school-specific essay advice over the past few months, we wanted to take some time to suggest a few considerations that applicants might want to take into account when making this call.

Is it relevant?
Perhaps this goes without saying, but the only information worth sharing in an optional essay is that which will make a material difference in your candidacy.  Whether you wish to comment on an exciting leadership role you’ve just taken on or explain that you were overextended extracurricularly during that one bad semester in college, make sure to think carefully about whether this information will affect and enhance the reader’s perception of your business school candidacy.

Was it requested?
Most schools do request that applicants use an optional essay to address certain issues, such as a failing grade in a degree program or the absence of a letter of recommendation from one’s current direct supervisor.  In spite of the technically optional nature of the question, it’s very important to follow directions and provide this information if a school requests it.

Also along the lines of what information is requested, it’s wise to think carefully about a school’s other essay questions before deciding to use an optional essay or provide additional information, as each of these topics affords applicants a chance to introduce the information about their background and interests that they consider to be most important.  Your objective should be to provide as complete a picture of your candidacy as possible within the framework of a school’s required essays (as these are a good indication of what a given program is most interested in hearing about) and to only introduce information in an optional essay that you could not have covered elsewhere without sacrificing something more essential.

Is it constructive?
Once you’ve decided that a detail is relevant to your candidacy and merits mentioning in an optional essay, the next step is to think carefully about the way this information might be perceived and make sure that the impact it makes on your chances of admission is a positive one.  For instance, an essay that simply alerts the adcom to a serious medical condition might help its author stand out from other applicants, but it could also leave the reader wondering whether this person could handle the demands of a rigorous academic program.  On the other hand, a few details about this applicant’s strategies for achieving success in spite of some kind of disability and commitment to supporting others with a chronic illness or impairment might make him or her seem like a very valuable addition to the business school community.

Is it concise?
It’s always a good idea to keep in mind that by answering an optional essay, you are creating extra work for the person reading your file.  While this should not dissuade you from addressing a topic that you have deemed important based on the considerations above, it’s very important that you demonstrate good judgment by limiting your comments to the most relevant information and keeping your response as direct and concise as possible.

We hope that these general guidelines have helped to clear up some confusion and shed some light on the optional essay issue.  For more tailored feedback on your personal situation, feel free to contact us for a free initial consultation.

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.

August 12, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 7 — Drafting Your Essays

Last week, you entered the “crank it out” phase of applying to college. Most applicants have no problem getting to work on the basics of the college application, but get stuck when it comes to writing the essays. Applicants who get stuck procrastinate. Procrastination is the enemy of the standout application. So this week we give you some tips and tricks to keep you from getting stuck. 

Week 7 To-Dos

This Week and 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

  • Continue working on the writing for your first application. The essay map you created in Week 6 is your writing to-do list. Hopefully you’ve already started tackling some of these questions. But if not, read on for tips and tricks to slay your writer’s block.
  • Continue working on supplementary materials, such as portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following Week 4's advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Check the web sites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to your school, your community, or a place near your home. Note these visits on your calendar and do your best to connect with the admissions representatives then. (We’ll have more advice about how to take advantage of these opportunities in a few weeks.)
  • Continue working on your first scholarship application. If you have identified scholarships for yourself that require separate applications, get to work on those now.
  • Prep for your upcoming standardized tests. In Week 6, you made a test prep schedule for yourself. It will only work if you work it! So go to it.

Tips & Tricks

Just write. Stephen King, a prolific writer, is noted for saying that when it comes to writing, “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.” Getting started on your college application essays can be quite scary, but the only way to alleviate your fear is to start writing. Don’t worry about the quality of your writing at this point. You are in the drafting phase right now, so just start writing. If you are following the 52 Weeks plan, you have time to revise and polish. But if you let the fear get the best of you, you’ll find yourself at your deadline without having written anything. That is a much scarier place to be! Start, and as Stephen King promises, it will get better.

Structure your essay as a story. Most of you have learned to structure an essay with an introduction, three main points, and a conclusion. That organization works great for an academic essay, but it makes for a deathly dull personal essay. So ditch it and structure your essay as a story instead. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It grabs the reader and keeps him interested until it releases him. Capturing and keeping the attention of your reader – the admissions officer – is the name of the game. Structuring your essay as a story is the way to do it.

Show, don’t tell. What is the one essential element that all great essays share? They show, rather than tell. When you show the admissions officer something about yourself, the admissions officer actually has a direct experience of it. Not only that, but if you show, then the admissions officer also gets evidence that what you are saying about yourself is true. Direct experiences are far more memorable, and evidence is far more convincing. That’s why showing is the best way to influence an admissions officer in your favor, and why all great essays show rather than tell.

Sit down now and try your hand at drafting an essay that is structured as a story and shows the admissions officer something important about you. If you do that, you are on your way to a standout 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, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.

 

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 forthcoming 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.

August 11, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Off-Campus Information Sessions

For all those applicants who have recently opened a calendar to plot out the next few months only to realize they can’t possibly fit in campus visits on top of full time jobs and essay writing, never fear!  It’s true that traveling to a school’s campus is the ideal way to learn about their MBA program, but visiting is often not a viable option for applicants who are located remotely or unsure of their level of interest in a given school.  The good news is that business schools might very well come to them.  Many b-schools are getting ready to hit the road and embark on worldwide tours to dispense information and recruit qualified applicants.  Such events offer a great opportunity for interested students to meet with admissions staff (and sometimes with current students and/or alumni), learn about the program and ask specific questions.

Some of the top schools are already on the road, so we recommend looking into the travel schedules for programs of interest and planning accordingly.  Keeping in mind that these schedules are updated and amended throughout the fall, here are some of the top programs’ itineraries for the months ahead:

Berkeley / Haas:
http://mba.haas.berkeley.edu/admissions/offcampus.html

Chicago Booth:
http://www.chicagobooth.edu/fulltime/admissions/events/

Columbia:
http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/events

Duke / Fuqua:
http://www.fuqua.duke.edu/events/

HBS:
http://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/events.html

Northwestern / Kellogg:
http://bit.ly/Zrg7b

Michigan / Ross:
http://www.bus.umich.edu/Admissions/Mba/forumsreceptions/RossReceptions.htm

MIT / Sloan:
http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mba/admissions/admission-events/

Stanford GSB:
http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/outreach/info_sessions.html

NYU / Stern:
http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/fallevents/schedule

Dartmouth / Tuck:
http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu/admissions/events.html

UCLA / Anderson:
http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x40997.xml

UNC / Kenan Flagler:
http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/Programs/MBA/infoSessions/index.cfm

UVA / Darden:
http://www.darden.virginia.edu/web/mba/admissions/events/home/

U Penn / Wharton:
http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba/admissions/admission-events.cfm

Yale SOM:
http://mba.yale.edu/MBA/admissions/events.shtml

IESE:
http://forms.iese.edu/aplicaciones/mba/events/map/index.asp

IMD:
http://www.imd.org/programs/mba/admissions/events.cfm

INSEAD:
http://www.insead.edu/mba/offevents/index.cfm?fuseaction=offcampus

LBS:
http://www.london.edu/programmes/infoevents/do?progSelect=MBA&locationSelect=

Kenan-Flagler:
http://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/admissions/mba/admissions-events

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.

August 5, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 6 — Ready, Set, Go! Your College Application Marathon Starts Now

Ready. You’ve made your big decisions, you’ve done your pre-work, and you have a plan. You are now ready to apply to college.

Set. College applications for the 2013-2014 application year are now available and the Common Application is live.

Go! From now until the end of December, it is all about cranking out the applications. This week you start running the college application marathon.

Week 6 To-Dos

This Week and 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

  • Begin working on the writing for your first application. For most applicants, their first application consists of the Common Application and a College Specific Writing Supplement. This means the application will have multiple writing components to it: the Common Application personal essay, along with some additional writing questions on the Supplement. Refer to the essay map you created last week to know what writing questions you will have to address on this first application.
  • Continue working on supplementary materials, such as portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following Week 4's advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Check the web sites of colleges on your list to see if and when admissions representatives will be coming to your school, your community, or a place near your home. Note these visits on your calendar and do your best to connect with the admissions representatives then. (We’ll have more advice about how to take advantage of these opportunities in a few weeks.)
  • Begin working on your first scholarship application. If you have identified scholarships for yourself that require separate applications, get to work on those now.
  • Continue researching scholarships. Presumably, you have already identified the scholarships available from the colleges on your list (see Week 2). Now focus on identifying scholarships available from businesses, civic and community organizations, religious organizations, foundations and the like.
  • Prep for your upcoming standardized tests. Last week you made a test prep schedule for yourself. It will only work if you work it! So go to it.

Tips & Tricks

Commit the time and energy necessary to produce your best essays for your college applications. One thing we know for sure about writing: it is a multi-step process that takes time and energy to do well. No one does their best writing in one draft. No one dashes off something profound in 30 minutes on the eve of a deadline. No one produces a standout essay without devoting considerable time and energy. NO ONE.

Draft, then revise, then finalize. Each of these steps in the writing process engages a different part of your brain and requires you to do distinctive tasks. Most applicants make the mistake of trying to do all three at once. That makes it much harder than it needs to be. Instead, do it step by step.

  • Draft. In this step, focus on developing and organizing your ideas.
  • Revise. When you are revising, focus on the flow of the essay and on making sure your voice comes through loud and clear. An essay that flows well carries the reader effortlessly from one idea to the next and makes reading it a pleasure for the admissions officer. An essay that has a strong voice is one that uses word choice, tone, and rhythm to make the essay distinctively yours. Admissions officers yearn for voice in the personal essays because that is how the admissions officer is getting to know the real you. 
  • Finalize. This is the step that allows you to get everything just so. Here you focus on making sure the essay has correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation and is free of typos.

Use your prior test score reports to make your test prep more efficient and effective. We assume that most of you have already taken the required standardized tests (SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subjects) at least once by now; and therefore, you have one or more test score reports. If you are like most applicants, you zeroed in on your test scores and ignored everything else contained within the reports.

Now is the time to pay attention to all that information you ignored earlier. That information shows which questions you got right, which questions you skipped, and which questions you got wrong on each section of the test. It also shows the relative level of difficulty for each question and the general topic area for the question. In other words, it lays out your personalized test prep plan for you!

Analyze the report to find out where you need to improve and then concentrate your test preparation there. Let’s say you want to improve your Critical Reading score and you discover that the Sentence Completion questions were your big downfall on your prior tests, but that you did really well on Passage Based Reading questions. How should you spend your time preparing? By focusing on Sentence Completion questions – not the Passage Based Reading questions or the Critical Reading section in general!

As of this week, you are well and truly underway with your applications. Congratulations! Keep up the good work — you are right on track for a sane and successful fall of your senior 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, August 2013), and follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege.

 

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 forthcoming 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.

August 4, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Applying to Business School as a Younger Applicant

As many of our readers know, it has become increasingly common for younger individuals to apply to MBA programs.  Whereas the average age and years of work experience at the leading business schools has traditionally hovered at around 28 and five respectively, many programs are now carefully considering the more youthful end of the applicant pool.  Of course, the fact that admissions officers are taking a closer look at younger applicants does not mean that getting accepted to a top program is easy for this group.  In fact, it may be difficult for younger applicants to present themselves as fully prepared to contribute to an MBA program because they often lack leadership experience and extended business exposure.  This is especially true as they will be compared to their fellow applicants who have more years in the working world (often translating to more leadership experience and professional accomplishments).  With this in mind, we’d like to offer a few tips that will help younger MBA candidates leverage the strengths of their candidacies and become increasingly competitive applicants at their choice schools.

Note: For the purposes of this article, we’ll define “younger applicants” as ranging from zero to two years of experience (i.e., undergraduate seniors and folks who are one to two years removed from their college graduation).

1) Have an exceptional academic profile. Ideally all MBA candidates will be able to present stellar GPA and GMAT scores, but for younger candidates this is especially crucial.  If younger candidates are likely to fall short in the “work experience” category, then their academic profiles are all the more important to show that they are prepared for the rigors of an MBA classroom.  Therefore it’s better if your scores (GMAT and GPA) are above than the published averages for schools’ incoming classes.  In addition, it will be to your benefit if you have received undergraduate scholarships and awards or graduated at the top of your class, as this indicates that you excelled relative to your peers.

2) Demonstrate your leadership experience and potential. Younger applicants may have only limited full-time professional experience.  Without much time in the working world, there is often less opportunity to move up and gain the responsibilities that lead to management and leadership experiences.  Despite this fact, one way to demonstrate your responsibility and management experience is through your participation in and leadership of extracurricular and undergraduate activities.  In short, as a younger applicant, it is important for you to use whatever experiences you have had thus far (internships, collegiate activities, part-time work, community service, etc.) to demonstrate your leadership and responsibility, displaying your experience as well as your potential for personal growth and ability to benefit your target MBA programs.

3) Have clear goals. Presenting a clear vision for the future is always a good strategy, as the majority of MBA programs are hesitant to accept students who they feel will get lost in the program’s available choices once they arrive.  For younger applicants this is even more crucial, as your relative lack of professional work experience could cause some concern about your ability to pinpoint your short- and long-term goals.  It is therefore important that you provide details about your planned career path, as well as demonstrate confidence that you will stick to this plan.  Applicants who have more years in the working world can draw on their experiences as proof that they understand their interests and work habits; as a younger applicant, you must demonstrate that you are able to do the same despite your relative inexperience.

4) Be able to explain why you are seeking an MBA now as opposed to later. It’s necessary for younger applicants to describe how the timing of their applications relates to their academic or work experiences to date as well as their future goals.  Your challenge will be to convince your target MBA programs that you are able to make a valuable contribution to their schools without further work experience.  In order to do this, you will need to demonstrate that continuing at your current job is not conducive to your future goals at this juncture.  You might also suggest that there is some degree of urgency related to the pursuit of yours goals, due to applicable circumstances such as a closing market opportunity, taking advantage of an industry trend, or making a transition in your career.    Having clear goals and a detailed career plan will help you explain why you must pursue a formal business education now in order to achieve your objectives.

5) Demonstrate your maturity. It’s important that younger applicants don’t let the adcom mistake their youth for immaturity.  One of the ways you can demonstrate your maturity is by showcasing your ability to analyze your actions, accept blame, and grow and learn from mistakes and failures, as these are trademarks of a reflective and mature individual.  An easy opportunity to do this is in essays that ask you to detail a failure, mistake, or setback.  In these essays, it is crucial that you do not appear petty, arrogant, or unable to accept or grow from criticism, as this would only further emphasize your youth.  Another way you can demonstrate your maturity is by focusing on your more recent work experiences and accomplishments.  Some of these might be from college, as you may not have had time to prove yourself in the working world, however, it’s generally best to try and use the most recent experiences possible, as these will provide a clearer picture of who you are today.  You may be tempted to use high school or grade school experiences as examples of leadership, challenges, and accomplishments, but because pre-undergraduate activities will make you appear younger than you are, they should ideally not be discussed in depth.

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.

July 31, 2014

That Crazy June LSAT Game

Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint offers live LSAT prep classes throughout the country and online LSAT courses for those who want to study on their couch.

The last two LSAT administrations have had weird Logic Games. The February LSAT was rumored to have a circular ordering game, and the June LSAT had, well, a game that made a whole lot of LSAT test takers freak out. Was it LSAT-pocalypse 2014, or a whole lot of fuss about nothing?

I’ve looked at the Logic Game in question from the June LSAT (the fourth one). It’s unusual, sure, but it’s not nearly as weird as many people made it out to be. The setup is something that hasn’t been on the LSAT in a while, but the rules are perfectly normal. In fact, similar rules come up in lots and lots of ordering games. Looking at the rules together leads you to a simple deduction that helps you answer the questions. The rules alone answered most of the questions, and there was little need to build detailed hypotheticals. 

Some LSAT test-takers nailed the Logic Game in question, while others bombed it. Here’s the biggest difference between them: The ones who did fine applied their skills flexibly. They recognized everything that was normal about the game, started there, and adapted to the weird stuff as they went along. In this particular game, as long as you understood the rules, you were going to be OK.

The ones who bombed the June LSAT Logic Game froze because they couldn’t fit the entire game into a predetermined box. Because this game looked different on the surface, they didn’t recognize how the skills they had learned from other Logic Games applied to this one.

The lesson is: as you study for the LSAT, focus on skills and techniques over rote memorization. It’s well worth it to study the types of Logic Games that have come up over time. But don’t just learn a setup for each type; think about how you build that setup and why it works. If you’re comfortable with the underlying logic, you’ll have an easier time adapting your skills to something weird.

This isn’t just true for LSAT Logic Games. Some LSAT Logical Reasoning questions in recent years have had unusual-sounding prompts. Students who were only comfortable identifying question types by rote had trouble with those questions. On the other hand, students who thoroughly understood the logic behind each question type had no trouble reading these weird prompts carefully and identifying them as the normal questions they actually were.

There’s nothing really new on the LSAT. Even the fourth game from the June 2014 LSAT has a direct antecedent; the fourth game of PrepTest C from LSAC’s SuperPrep book is very similar. When something looks weird, don’t freak out. Read carefully and look for something familiar. Figure out what it’s really asking you to do. If you’ve studied extensively for the LSAT, there’s going to be a way to apply your skills.

Here’s one more thing about this June’s LSAT: The first three Logic Games were straight-down-the-middle normal. Being really good at the normal stuff can buy you time for the weird stuff. A little extra time always helps with the weird stuff. 

Good luck to everyone studying for the September LSAT. Be on your toes!

To see what Blueprint LSAT Prep has to offer, sign up for a free account.

July 29, 2014

Anna's Law School Application Workshops

Are you a natural-born test taker? No? Then you and I are birds of a feather. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I took the LSAT, and I'm glad I don't have to take that sucker ever again. I leave LSAT prep in the capable hands of Blueprint, with whom I'm teaming up to provide law school application workshops throughout August (three in California, one in New York, and one in DC). They are each four hours of law school admissions goodness, so if you're in town, come on by. You can sign up through Blueprint, and the workshops are open to non-Blueprint students as well. See you there.

July 29, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 5 — Get Started on the Common Application

This week marks the official launch of the college application year because the Common Application (Common App) goes live on August 1. Thanks to the work you’ve done over the last four weeks, you are ready to go. Congratulations! This week, you’ll get started on the Common App, while continuing to make progress on other application related tasks.

Week 5 To-Dos

This Week and 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

  • Get your Common Application account set up. You have to register online and enter some basic information about yourself. Take your time with your data entry — it will be the data that gets pulled into all of your applications!
  • Gather the essay questions from all of your applications. You should be able to access all of the applications for the colleges on your list this week. Even if the application isn't out, the essay questions are published. 
  • Create a Master Essay Plan for yourself that identifies where you can use one essay for multiple applications. Even if you discover that there are 25 essays required among the various applications for the colleges on your list (a relatively common number), you won't have to write 25 essays. Look for questions that are the same or similar, and note those as essay questions that can be answered with one essay. 
  • Choose your topic for your Common Application personal essay. This essay will be a foundational essay for you, so it is the place to begin.
  • Begin working on supplementary materials, such as portfolios, audition materials, research abstracts, and the like. Note: very few of you should have this to-do on your list because you are following last week’s advice about exhibiting restraint when it comes to these kinds of materials.
  • Register for standardized tests. Fall test dates fill up quickly, so don’t delay registration. Get it done now for all the tests you expect to take.
  • Choose your test preparation method and add your test preparation into your calendar. People who prepare for the standardized tests do better on them. It is as simple as that. So build time into your calendar for test preparation. Check out this post about what study methods work best.

Tips & Tricks

Use College Essay Organizer’s free, online Essay Questions tool to save time in gathering all of essay questions.

College Essay Organizer's free, online Essay Questions tool will do the hard work for you. All you have to do is enter your college list and the tool will retrieve all the essay questions into one document for you. Hooray! Using it will save you all kinds of time and heartache. Their application database is updated rapidly, so it's accurate and reliable. We encourage everyone to use it.

Don’t get carried away in reusing answers.

As you are making your Master Essay Plan, you are looking for opportunities to reuse answers so you can work smarter, not harder (a core Ivey Strategy that we discuss more in our book). But don’t get carried away when it comes to reusing answers. Remember that your goal is to get into the colleges on your list, not to complete your applications with the fewest essays possible.

You should only reuse an answer as-is if the questions are nearly identical. If the questions are similar, but distinct, you should revise your answer for each question. This is especially true for the “Why College X” questions. A generic answer will add nothing to your application and might even detract if it is inaccurate or non-responsive for a particular college, which often happens. (Note: this is why we recommend College Essay Organizer’s free tool and not their premium tool, the Essay Roadmap, which will cost you about $35. The premium tool will encourage you to reuse short answers and essays when you shouldn’t. Not good.)

Use your story (from Week 3) as your guide for choosing the best topic for your Common App personal essay.

You have a choice of five topics on this year’s Common Application. But before you spend hours analyzing the pros and cons of each of these topics, we want to remind you that the real topic of all of the essay questions is YOU. No matter what the stated topic is, it is nothing more than a prompt to get you to write about the real topic, which is YOU.

Since your goal in your application is to “tell your story” (another core Ivey Strategy), your story is your guide for choosing which topic is best for you. Referring back and forth between your story and your choices for topics, choose the topic that will allow you to speak to your most essential qualities or your most formative experiences. That’s the best topic for you.

Once you’ve completed this week’s to-dos, you can consider yourself officially launched! And if you’ve been dawdling, we hope you’ll be encouraged to get caught up before you find yourself way behind.

 

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, August 2013), follow them on Twitter @IveyCollege, and join the conversation on 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 forthcoming 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.

 

July 28, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Planning for the R1 MBA Deadlines

Anyone who’s familiar with the MBA application process knows that August moves forward at an accelerated pace, and come September, entire weeks seem to disappear.  To help this year’s Round One applicants avoid the classic time crunch, today’s blog post offers some basic advice on how to approach the Round One deadlines at a reasonable pace.

Let’s start by taking a quick look some of at the published Round One deadlines for the top MBA programs:

September 9: Harvard
September 15: Oxford Stage 1, ISB
September 17: Duke/Fuqua Early Action
September 19: Cambridge/Judge 
September 23: MIT Sloan
September 24: INSEAD 
September 25: Chicago/Booth
October 1: Wharton, Cornell/Johnson, Stanford, UC Berkeley/Haas
October 5: CMU/Tepper
October 6: Ross
October 7: IESE
October 8: Columbia Early Decision & J-Term, Tuck Early Action
October 10: Georgetown/McDonough, UVA/Darden
October 14: NYU Stern, UT Austin/McCombs
October 17: UNC/Kenan-Flagler Early Action
October 22: UCLA Anderson

Though some schools have yet to announce their deadlines (such as London Business School and USC/Marshall), one can still get a general sense of the lineup of R1 deadlines.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating your personal timeline:

1) Plan to be busy in August.  Yes, it can be tempting to work on one’s tan instead of one’s essays.  However, many MBA applicants squander the month of August only to wake up in September and realize that they cannot make their target deadlines.  If not bogged down by professional obligations in August, this makes for a great opportunity to devote time to working on your MBA applications in the evenings.  The last weeks of summer can easily be split between resume drafting, essay writing, recommendation coaching, GMAT prep, school research, and more.

2) Think carefully about the timing of the R1 deadlines.  Looking at the deadlines above, it becomes clear that some deadlines may be easier to make than others.  A candidate applying to Haas and Tuck could have a leisurely October when compared to someone targeting Haas, Tuck, and NYU Stern.  Look at the deadlines, assume about three weeks of research and writing for each school’s application and count backwards to determine a start date for each.  It is entirely possible to meet back-to-back deadlines, such as Tepper and Ross, but doing so requires a well-planned schedule and consistent progress.

3) Consider taking some time off from work.  We realize that many MBA applicants work 70 hours/week and haven’t had a day off in months.  For such applicants, a day or two out of the office can really do wonders for focus and organization.  Applying to business school is a serious undertaking, and in the long term you won’t regret having given yourself enough time to prepare strong applications.  Many successful candidates take a week off in late September to make the final push.  It’s not a glamorous way to spend your vacation time, but an offer to attend a leading MBA program can make the sacrifice well worth it.

4) Get your recommenders on board early.  While many of the schools have not yet made their online applications and recommendation forms available, it’s a good idea to engage your recommenders early and inform them about the process and your timeline.  Sit down with each recommender in July or early August, perhaps over lunch or coffee.  Present them with a rough sketch of the deadlines and the process.  It’s then a wise idea to meet again once the forms are available, and by that time many applicants are in a position to share their background materials (a résumé, career goals essays, etc.) to help their recommenders understand—and support—their message.

Happy planning!  For more information on the application process and school selection, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.

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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