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Commonapp essays remain the same

but almost half respond to the first prompt:

2016-2017 Essay Prompts 
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

 2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. 

You can create an account now to play around in it and it will roll over to next year. 

  • The student’s user name and Common App ID will all be preserved. This means they will be able to sign in to next year’s application system using the same email address they used this year.
  • All Common App data will be preserved.

How much is your major worth?

Sadly this question always is answered in terms of money, not value, as in human value. Has your college degree made you a better person? Does your degree enable you contribute meaningfully to society? Do you live a lifestyle consistent with your values? If none of those are important to you, than this graph is for you:



This according to pay scale.

Early numbers update

Over the next few days we will hear more:

Brown University admitted 22% early. AThis is roughly 1/3 of their incoming class. pplicants were down slightly (1.8%). 

Columbia is up 4.4% over last year

Dartmouth College saw an increase of 2%.

Davidson, up 7%, admitted 45.2%–roughly 40% of their class

Duke is up 11% admitting 22.5%. 

Georgetown admitted about 13%, aiming to keep early  and regular numbers about the same.

Harvard is up 4.4% from last year and admitted 14.8% early action. 

John’s Hopkins increased 3% this year, admitting 30.27% early decision

Northwestern admitted about 31%, filling half their class

Princeton, with a 9.8% increase over last year, admitted 18.6%. 

Stanford admitted 9.5% of their early pool–up 7.9% on last year. 

Yale is slightly down .6%. They admitted 17%.

The Most Influential Universities in the world are

…according to Wikipedia:

1. University of Cambridge U.K.
2. University of Oxford U.K.
3. Harvard University U.S.
4. Columbia University U.S.
5. Princeton University U.S.
6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology U.S.
7. University of Chicago U.S.
8. Stanford University U.S.
9. Yale University U.S.
10 University of California, Berkeley U.S.
11. Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany
12. Cornell University U.S.
13. University of Pennsylvania U.S.
14. University of London U.K.
15. Uppsala University Sweden
16. University of Edinburgh U.K.
17. Heidelberg University Germany
18. University of California, Los Angeles U.S.
19. New York University U.S.
20. University of Michigan U.S.

How did they come up with this? BY counting all links that point to a particualr university. To help with Bias, they looked at wikipedia entries in 24 different languages: “This database contains some four million articles in English, 1.5 million in German and around a million in each of French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. It also includes Chinese, Hebrew, Hungarian, and so on. “These 24 languages cover 59% of world population and 68% of the total number of Wikipedia articles in all 287 languages,” they say.”

Of course, this will give favor to larger universities and older universities. You can see the complete list here

Early results are coming out now

Over the next few days we will hear more:

Brown University admitted 22% early. AThis is roughly 1/3 of their incoming class. pplicants were down slightly (1.8%). 

Columbia is up 4.4% over last year

Duke is up 11% admitting 22.5%. 

Harvard is up 4.4% from last year and admitted 14.8% early action. 

John’s Hopkins increased 3% this year, admitting 30.27% early decision

Stanford admitted 9.5% of their early pool–up 7.9% on last year. 

The argument for attending an elite college

Exactly how much does attending an elite college matter? It depends on which tribe you want to belong to later:

Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at Duke, crunched some numbers on high achievers and “seems that graduates of top-30 colleges are 10 times more likely than graduates of other colleges to occupy elite positions in society.” He drills into the numbers even more and concludes about “12% of federal judges, senators, and billionaires have Harvard degrees.”

The problem with this research lay in the fact it does not examine the family background of these same people who attended elite universities. Is it possible that they themselves were already elite? Bill Gates is a self made Billionaire, except he came froma  wealthy family. Dad was a lawyer, grandpa was a banker. Bill attended a private school. Mark Zuckerberg, a fellow Harvard dropout, came from double income professionals–dad a adentist, mom a psychiatrist. He also attended private school.  I would be most curious to know how much attending an elite college helps people coming from lower income brackets. I suspect a lot. 

““People without a liberal-arts background really have no place to go with their skill sets,”

so explains the head of the CIA. Not that CIA, but rather the Culinary Institute of America. I had never really thought about the CIA as being a liberal arts institution. Afterall, its mission states


The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is a private, not-for-profit college dedicated to providing the world’s best professional culinary education.

Excellence, leadership, professionalism, ethics, and respect for diversity are the core values that guide our efforts.

We teach our students the general knowledge and specific skills necessary to live successful lives and to grow into positions of influence and leadership in their chosen profession.

No real mention of a liberal education beyond the most cursory “General knowledge” statement. They offer 4 Bachelor and 3 assoicate degrees in their upstate New York Campus. So what do they actual expect? Roughly 40% of the upper class requirements are firmly in the liberal arts:



  • Liberal Arts Requirements (24 Credits)

Anthropology of Food or Psychology of Human Behavior or Social Psychology 3 credits
Calculus I or College Algebra or Introduction to Statistics or Science Fundamentals or Survey of Mathematics 3 credits
Foreign Language 6 credits
History and Cultures of Asia or History and Cultures of Europe or History and Cultures of the Americas 6 credits
Literature and Composition 3 credits
Principles of Macroeconomics or Principles of Microeconomics 3 credits

  • Liberal Arts Elective (3 Credits)

Select from liberal arts courses listed on CIA Main Menu (the student web portal).

  • Business Management Requirements (15 Credits)

Finance or Managerial Accounting 3 credits
Financial Accounting 3 credits
Foodservice Management 3 credits
Human Resource Management 3 credits
Marketing and Promoting Food 3 credits

  • Business Management Electives (9 Credits)

Select from business management courses listed on CIA Main Menu (the student web portal).

  • Advanced Concepts Requirement (3 Credits)

Advanced Cooking or Advanced Principles of Service Management in Hospitality or Menu Development and Testing 3 credits

  • Free Electives (9 Credits)

Select from elective courses listed on CIA Main Menu (the student web portal).

  • Total Credits: 63 (Junior/Senior Years)


    Please note:
    • The foreign language requirement must be fulfilled by the end of the junior year.
    • Not all electives will be offered each semester. For the most current list of elective offerings, students should check CIA Main Menu (the student web portal).
    • The Global Cuisines and Cultures elective travel courses take place between bachelor’s semesters in late April/early May and late July/early August.
    • Course prerequisites and corequisites are listed in the course descriptions.




  • Carolina Gomez, CIA culinary arts alumni, is co-owner, Three Little Pigs Charcuterie & Salumi.

    Spotlight On:Carolina GomezBachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts Management

    Students often make valuable connections at The Culinary Institute of America, and that was especially true for Carolina Gomez. That’s where she met fellow student Jason Story ’11, who would not only become her husband, but her business partner as well.


- See more at:





























































Certainly, you can more readily see the liberal arts embedded in Westpoint’s mission:

“To educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.”

The US Military Academy, as another instituion profiled in the same article, articulates strongly for the liberal arts: “It’s important to develop in young people the ability to think broadly, to operate in the context of other societies and become agile and adaptive thinkers,” Trainor said. “What you’re trying to do is teach them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. They’re having to deal with people from other cultures. They have to think very intuitively to solve problems on the ground.”

So what does Westpoint expect?

Alll Cadets will complete 26 units in a common core:


  • CH101 General Chemistry I 
  • CH102 General Chemistry II

Alternative sequence:

  • CH151 Advanced General Chemistry I
  • CH152 Advanced General Chemistry II

Computer Science/Information Technology 

  • IT105 Introduction to Computing and Information Technology
  • IT305 Theory and Practice of Military Information Technology Systems

Alternative course:

  • IT155 Advanced Placement Introduction to Computing and Information Technology
  • IT355 Advanced Theory and Practice of Military Information Technology Systems


  • SS201 Economics: Principles and Problems

Alternative course:

  • SS251 Advanced Economics: Principles and Problems


  • EN101 Composition
  • EN302 Advanced Composition through Culture

Foreign Language

  • Two courses required; sequence determined by the Department of Foreign Languages


Choice of two sequences:

  • HI105 History of the United States
  • HI108 Regional Studies in World History


  • HI107 Western Civilization
  • HI108 Regional Studies in World History

Alternative sequences:

  • HI155 Advanced History of the United States
  • HI158 Advanced Regional Studies in World History


  • HI157 Advanced History of Western Civilization
  • HI158 Advanced Regional Studies in World History

International Relations

  • SS307 International Relations

Alternative course:

  • SS357 Advanced International Relations


  • LW403 Constitutional and Military Law


  • PL100 General Psychology
  • PL300 Military Leadership

Alternative sequence:

  • PL150 Advanced General Psychology
  • PL350 Advanced Military Leadership


  • EN102 Literature


  • MA103 Mathematical Modeling and Intro to Calculus
  • MA104 Calculus I
  • MA205 Calculus II
  • MA206 Probability and Statistics

Alternative sequence, MA104 validated:

  • MA153 Advanced Multivariable Calculus
  • MA255 Mathematical Modeling and Introduction to Differential Equations
  • MA206 Probability and Statistics
  • MA100/MA101 may be required in lieu of MA103.

Military History

  • HI301 History of the Military Art
  • HI302 History of the Military Art

Alternative sequence:

  • HI351 Advanced History of the Military Art
  • HI352 Advanced History of the Military Art


  • PY201 Philosophy

Physical Geography 

  • EV203 Physical Geography


  • PH201 Physics I
  • PH202 Physics II

Alternative sequence:

  • PH251 Advanced Physics I
  • PH252 Advanced Physics II

Political Science

  • SS202 American Politics

Alternative course:

  • SS252 Advanced American Politics

It is interesting that two schools with very specific career preparation ambitions emphsise the well-rounded thinker in their process of education. The article also mentions art schools like SCAD and engineering speciality schools like WPI giving a sense of how important this approach is. 


The US Government scored all colleges in the US. The gang at NPR crunched some numbers and did what the public demanded: Ranked them. Not once, not twice, but three times. Each time they focused on a different formula, but the same data set, provided in the College Score Card:

  • Schools That Make You Money–Anthony Carnevale’s ratings include: income 10 years after entry (50%), on-time graduation rates (25%) and net price (25%).
  • Schools That Make Financial Sense–Peter Cappelli’s rating includes: on-time graduation rate (50%), default rate (16%), share of students receiving federal loans (16%), average income six years after entry (16%).
  • Schools That Emphasize Upward Mobility–Amy Laitinen’s rating would include: share of students who receive Pell Grants (16%), net price for families making less than $48,000 (16%), share of students who are first-generation college students (16%), default rates (16%), on-time graduation rates (16%) and median income 10 years after entry (16%).

I have put the top 10 in a table and compared how the numbers compare with the big three ranking instruments. Here is what I got:



Make you Money

Upward Mobility

Financial sense

US News


Washington Monthly

Harvard University







Massachusetts Institute of Technology







Princeton University







Stanford University







Babson College





Georgia Institute of Technology







Georgetown University







University of Pennsylvania







University of the Sciences





Harvey Mudd College







Can I draw any conclusion from this? While some schools like Harvard and Stanford are excellent, regardless of the measure used, others have such bizzare ranges like Georgetown who ranges from number 4 to 109. So the conclusion: Beware of teh rankings. Look carefully at the methodology. Cross tabulate. 

Career spotlight

The internet has transformed career exploration. With lots of great assessments, job search sites and career profiles, it is easy to find information, but really too easy. One of my emerging favorites is the Career Spotlight section of LifeHacker. “Career Spotlight is an interview series on Lifehacker that focuses on regular people and the jobs you might not hear much about—from doctors to plumbers to aerospace engineers and everything in between. ” The profiles focus on a wide array of jobs from every day jobs to super specialist. 

Careers profiled so far:

  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Personal Trainer
  • Product Designer
  • Court Reporter
  • Bar Owner
  • Botanist
  • Dog Sitter and Trainer
  • NASA Engineer
  • Social Worker
  • Food Scientist
  • Anesthesiologist
  • Diplomat
  • Airport Operations
  • Genealogist
  • Aerial Photographer
  • Fraud Analyst
  • an “Ethical Hacker”
  • a Physician Assistant
  • Online Accountant
  • Game Designer
  • Pathology Lab Technician
  • Software Architect
  • Microwave Engineer
  • Officer in the U.S. Army
  • TV News Assignment Editor
  • Archaeologist
  • Front-End Web Developer
  • Research Geologist
  • Cloud Developer
  • Landscape Architect
  • LEGO Model Designer
  • Data Scientist
  • Train Engineer
  • Comic Book Artist
  • Hotel Manager
  • Airline Pilot
  • Restaurant Manager
  • Librarian
  • Car Salesman
  • Digital Product Designer
  • ER Doctor
  • Aerospace Engineer

Check out the Slate podcast: getting in

For millions of American teenagers and their parents, adolescence is increasingly defined by one all-consuming goal: Getting into the right college. “Getting In” is a real-time podcast following a diverse group of New York-area high school seniors through the exhilarating and harrowing process of applying to college. The series is hosted by Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University and author of “How to Raise an Adult.” The season will chronicle all the important steps along the way, from applications to (we hope) acceptances. The students will get advice from a stellar panel of experts, including former admissions officials from schools such as Princeton and UVA, and from experienced high school guidance counselors. The experts will also answer listeners’ questions. Nothing can remove the stress and uncertainty of the modern college application process, but “Getting In” aims to provide both teens and their parents with the kind of knowledgeable companionship that will at least make them feel they’re not alone.

Podcast: in Itunes or on the Slate website