Category Archives: Admissions

New: How UBC Makes decisions

University of British Columbia’s system of evaluation was outed by the student newspaper recently. UBC has become increasing competitive, requiring students to have between 85 and 93% for entry in most programs. With over 25,000 applications the university looked for a more refined way to make offers of the 13, 688 students they deemed strong enough. Insiders say the essays basically count for 20% of the grade.

You can find more information on how colleges make selections on the inside pages of How Colleges Make Decisions.

Common App Essay prompts for 2017-18

The essay of your choice returns for the 2017/18 school year as the common app unveils the pompts–now 7 choices. Does this make it luckier? (University of California has 8, making them auspicious in China. 


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. [No change]

2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]

3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]

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. [No change]

5. Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

6. Describe a topic, idea or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]

The parent’s guide to college admission part 1

What role should the parent be playing in the college admission process? Willard Dix suggest parents “Become a mentor as much as a parent” in his excellent artcile “Ten Ways For Parents To Get On Top Of The College Admission Process” providing a short guide to what he means by mentoring:

This is the moment you can begin to step back from your authoritative role to become a mentor, “guiding without steering.” Instead of telling your student what to do, you start asking open-ended and non-directive questions like, “Tell me why you like that college?” or “How do you think that major will help you in the future?” Finding a good balance here can be difficult if you’re used to being more directive, but you’ll be surprised how positive transferring responsibility while offering help when needed can be.

He follows this up with 9 other excellent points from “expect complications” to “talk about hopes” and “don’t nag.”

I want to follow up more on the role a parent can play that moves applying to college from a transaction to its own journey into self and how parents can and sould be a guide for that journey. So expect a part 2. 

Early results 2016

Yep…bumper year…increase in applications. Increase in quality…lower admit rates…you know the drill…but what is the story? Colleges have been slower to release details this year. Some (I am looking at you Stanford) has decided not to tell us at all. Why? Who knows. Certainly puting uup lists of admit rates potentially contributes to the admission rat race, but for many of us it helps us in our advising and making sense of what is happening. Why did Emory’s great side door known as Oxford suddently get discovered? How did Chicago’s addition of ED I and II plans impact their EA applicants and rates? We don’t know becuase they have not told us?

Below is the list of shools that have shared some ifnormation with relvant links:

Early Decision


College/University Name

ED Acceptance Percentage

Increase in ED Applications

% of class filled


Babson College




Barnard College

Historically: 42%



Bentley University





Brandeis University
























Emory (oxford)







Fordham University



Harvey Mudd College




Johns Hopkins




Loyola Marymount University


first year with ED
















University of Rochester



Up 20%






Does not have questbridge. Will go up.










* approximation based on information provided in common data set.


Early Action

College/University Name 

EA Acceptance Percentage 

Percentage Increase in EA 



Babson College




Chapman University




Fordham University




Georgetown Univerrsity






Loyola Marymount University













Notre Dame






U Georgia








Straight from the horse mouth

WHo shares insights straight from their admission officers and students?

  1. MIT Admission Blog–students and faculty. One of the oldest and still one of the best. 
  2. Tuft’s Inside Admissions
  3. Olin’s Admission Blog
  4. Babson’s Admission Blog
  5. Women who will blog–Wellesly
  6. Amherst admission blog
  7. Speaking of Princeton
  8. UPENN’s admission Blog
  9. SWATSTRUCK-Swarthmore
  10. Penn State’s admission blog
  11. Cornell University Admission Blog
  12. Access Juliard Blog
  13. Life at UB–SUNY Buffalo
  14. Oberlin admission blog
  15. Admissions @ Lawrence
  16. Siena’s Admission’s Blog
  17. UVA’s Notes from Peabody–one of the original’s and still one of the best
  18. William and Mary’s Admission Blog
  19. Marymount’s admission Blog
  20. Vanderbilt’s admission blog
  21. Georgia Tech’s admission Blog
  22. University of Georgia
  23. Rice Owl’s Admission Blog
  24. Tulane’s admission Blog
  25. University of Denver promises Real People, Real Stories
  26. Stanford’s admission blog
  27. Cal Berkeley’s Golden Bear Blog
  28. University of Southern California’s admission Blog
  29. Cal Tech’s As it happens
  30. Harvey Mudd admission Blog
  31. Pitzer unpeeled –perhaps the best named blog
  32. Whitman college admission blog
  33. University of Illinois’ admission Blog
  34. NorthWestern’s Admission Blog
  35. U Chicago’s uncommon admission blog
  36. Loyola Chicago’s Admission Blog
  37. DEpauw Admission blog
  38. U Michigan’s Admission Blog
  39. Kalamazoo’s admission blog
  40. Carelton’s admission blog
  41. Experience Iowa‘s admission blog
  42. Luther College Admission blog
  43. Univeirsity of Nore Dame’s admission Blog

Not specific to a university:






Game changer? And other unanswered questions about the Coalition Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success has launched…almost…any day now. Like a freshman telling his history teacher that he will turn his term paper, just as soon as he finishes his bibliography, the coalition keeps hinting that a really great thing is coming.

 After following the various news stories and trying to guess both what the coalition is and why it might be important, I wonder if  I can just ignore it for a year. Tantalizing tidbits emerged. The mantra of increasing access for poor teens is clearly a noble one. So what if Amherst, Rice, Stanford, Davidson and Ponoma have already shown us they can do this with the existing application. In fact those five schools are so good at it they are vying for a million dollars.  

While all five are inaugural members, one wonders how putting another platform in front of students helps decrease the stress? The common app has already increased the number of colleges a typical student is applying to. The percentage of students submitting seven or more applications has risen from nine percent to 22 percent since 1990. The common app actually limits a student to twenty. The Coalition has no limits. While virtually all the colleges in the coalition will take an application fee waiver, they have not actually designed one for the students. But, you know, there is still time.


Don’t worry. It will be ready. Along with the application essays. Wait? There will be different essays than the common app? Anyone? Hello?



So it looks like, just maybe, there will be different essays. So we are simplifying the college process by increasing what they write? Wait a minute…not quite fair. Because you see some colleges may decide not to ask for an essay…or an extra essay (Am I really the only one that is having trouble following this?). Instead they could say send us a video from your lockers. Or a grader writing sample (like that freshman term paper that you got in 6 days late). Or you playing the bagpipes because nothing says I am college material like I play the bagpies.




They give college scholarships for this?


You see this is all in their 50 Gig locker that every kid gets for free. 50 Gigs? Seriously? That’s like 25,000 songs. Or 10 movies.  Not that we are condoning file sharing. Just what are they thinking kids will be putting in this thing? Well they said graded writing samples. This document is currently 1 MB, including the cartoons. That means I could save this like 50 thousand times. Oh I probably need space for my bagpiping video. I mean I could just put it on Youtube for free and entertain the world at the same time, but I get it. You want me to post work I am most proud? Work that shows my development as a student. Seriously, that ten grade Rolaids lab in Chemistry will help you understand me better as a a humanities candidate? My 9 grade Julius Cesar test I aced will showcase how I get the bard? Perhaps the pastel of the fox I did as a freshman art would be  a good thing? I mean both my mom liked it and the principal wanted to buy it (his nick name was the fox—mom won for some reason, crushing my professional artist dreams).

And I get to share. Unless they ask me to share in which case…And I can share it with anybody and my nosy counselor has no idea who I am sharing it with. I mean my private agent/ ghost artist needs freedom to create, right? And of course my counselor is so excited about uploading her letter of rec and my transcript to my locker so I can send it…to as many (well 90) colleges. Take that application limits. Application limits are so un-American. I mean how can a college tell they are getting better unless they can deny reject, waitlist more students. And  of course the counselor cannot see my resume in which I may have embellished my accomplishments—everyone does it right? Thank good ness they are not making the college counselors verify anything I am submitting. That may work for the British, but not us Americans.

In fairness, the Coalition is partially aimed at overworked counselors with huge caseloads. Not the 8500 schools already using Naviance (which may sort of work with Version 1.0…or not). It allows counselors to track their students, much like Naviance, well at least for the 90 schools, not the thousands. But naviance costs a lot of money and the Coalition is free, like the common app is free. But the coalition has the locker, which is also free like Goggle docs is free.

The college admission folks who are in the know are far more excited about the locker than any counselor I know. Clearly they understand that it will house tools that will transform counseling. Essay writing help? Career development tools? Financial literacy? Goal setting? Self awareness? SAT/ACT prep? Well this is version 1.0. Perhaps in version 2. Actually, it is not really version 1.0. It is not even Beta. It is conceptual…or perhaps private beta. Apparently 65 counselors are involved in advising, so we counselor should not worry too much. Even though we are worried…161 have signed a petition calling for more details and a proper beta test, carefully studied before releasing.


Some have noted that the driving forces in admission are idealistic, which is wonderful.

Clearly they are designing the application system they believe will work for them. They got burned badly by the common app’s redesign. They really should have complained to…themselves. After all, the common app is a membership organization. The fact that the board and executive director were not particularly responsive. So now they have taken their ball and gone to play a new game. One they are making the rules to as they go along, but don’t worry counselors, we will let you know, in plenty of time, like in August. You know when the kids are starting their applications. And you can play with the locker in April. Oh, wait it is April. Well not early April…or mid April…Late April.

And feel free to ask questions to someone, somewhere. We will answer them. Sometime. Maybe.

I have asked the questions and I am waiting. Will Dix asked the questions and is waiting. Hamilton Gregg asked the questions (and he was a panelist on webinar).

Want to improve access colleges? Hire more people from poor backgrounds:

Support initiatives like University of Southern California’s College Advising Corps

My questions, some of which are starting to be answered

  1. Will the coalition app talk with naviance? Please say yes. Many of us?our wedding to Naviance as it helps with our workflow. If kept separate it?adds one more element. Parchment is the same back bone of Naviance edocs. 
  2. What security measures are in place to certify schools? I worry that?someone could clone my school and submit documents fabricated to look like?my school. Unless there is a control built in, it will happen. It sounds like Parchment knows?
  3.  I am unclear of parental access and controls? Can parents see the kids?stuff? Can they add stuff?
  4. I am concerned that the search function focuses on the same narrow?lines that too many other existing services (Size, location, Major). Is a tool being developed that would actually help kids narrow down what sort of experience they want to have?
  5. Is the coalition app open to non us citizens? Sounds like yes. 
  6. Drop box is blocked in China. Will the coalition website work in countries such as China? How is this being checked? Not just China but other firewall countries like Iran, Venezuela etc. 
  7. How about test prep linkage? At least the SAT and ACT question of the?days. Many of the coalition applications require testing. Seems like if?your aim is to make it all accessible, then better take care of all parts.
  8. What about supplementary parts of the app like Slideroom for artist? Does this replace that?
  9. You showed a SAT range. Is this common data set information? While that is useful it is even more useful to have specific school information. 
  10.  will the essay prompts be the same or different that common app?
  11. is the coalition app asking about disciplinary infractions?
  12. When specifically can we see the application—especially what questions you are asking?
  13. Can a student use the locker and share with colleges but apply via common app?

College admissions is not as much broken as it is conflicted. Get more poor kids into elite higher education slots, but keep the Alumni happy. Find the best and brightest, but make sure we have a winning football and basketball team. Challenge kids to take a rigourous course load, but not that rigourous. To contribute to their communities authentically and show us you mean it so we can value it, but perhaps not as much as your SAT and ACT scores, even if those are flawed. But above all else, get them to apply

If the coalition for application stress must go forward, I offer some solutions:

  1. Have an opt in button for schools that want to take a more active roll in supporting the student in their process. I imagine this would work like the UCAS system. Kids can apply one of two ways: Through a center or through their own means. I, as a school, can become a center by filling in some details. This would also solve the problem of fake schools. Now the bosuness from the college standpoint is I can actually see what the kid sends you. We have even take it a step further and have me, as school counselor, validate the claims the student makes. This would go a long way in fixing the system. For overworked school counselors, they can opt out and the system can be used as the admission folks currently conceive it.
  2. Limit the number of applications. Force the choice up front. Loading up shotguns is not helpful. Both the UK and Korean strictly limit the number of colleges a student can apply to. While I think 10 is more than enough, some might feel a little more room is needed. Fine. 90 is too many. And under the present system, this does not stop the kid from applying to 20 more common app schools and a whole bunch of other places that use their own system. The UK even takes it a step further and only allows a students to apply to one of two elite universities (Oxford and Cambridge).
  3. Six months is what is needed minimum for proper lead time for schools to work with this. Ideally a year. Coalition you are taking the exact same plays from the common app that you so detested. Some call it arrogance.  So why not do this: Release the locker now. Release that application in a year. Scale it. Perhaps the three Coalition app exclusive users become the beta testers.
  4. Develop a more robust college search engine. I bet the search engine is the same as everything else out there. It focuses on misbegotten elements we now lump together with fit. This system needs to focus on values. Why do you want a alrge college? How will be in a city serve you?
  5. Get strategic partnerships embedded into this system. Specifically:

a.     Test preparation

b.     Self discovery tools Like the Values in Action Character assessment tool.

c.      Career development tools.

d.     Essay writing tutorials and support. What is all 90 colleges committed to finding 100 students on their campus to provide, for free, essay feedback through the system. Say 40 hours each. That’s 360,000 hours of real help.

Now that would actually improve success. As for affordaibility…that is a whole other issue. 






Acceptance rates for this year–class of 2016

Harvard RD 1119 out of 32868 (3.4%)
Stanford RD 1318 out of 36175 (3.6%)
Yale RD 1177 out of 26793 (4.4%)
Princeton RD 1109 out of 25074 (4.4%) (1237 waitlisted=4.9%)(rej=90.6%)
Columbia ED/RD 2193 out of 36292 (6.0%)
Penn RD 2326 out of 33156 (7.0%)
MIT RD 829 out of 11253 (7.4%) (437 waitlisted)
Brown RD 2250 out of 29360 (7.7%)(~133 deferred accepted=7%)(~1000 waitlisted=3.4%)
Pomona RD ~566 out of 7190 (~7.9%)
Northwestern RD 2690 out of 32077 (8.4%)
MIT EA 656 out of 7767 (8.4%) (4776 deferred=61.5%) (2175 rejected=28%)
Duke RD 2501 out of 28600 (8.7%) (49 deferred accepted=2.9%)
Vanderbilt RD 2526 out of 28700 (8.8%)
Dartmouth RD 1682 out of 18748 (9.0%)
Stanford REA 745 out of 7822 (9.5%)
Johns Hopkins RD 2539 out of 25188 (10.1%)
Bowdoin RD 687 out of 5918 (11.6%)
Tufts RD ~2168 out of 18152 (~11.9%)
Cornell RD 4939 out of 40084 (12.3%) (4572 waitlisted=11.4%)(rej=76.3%)
Swarthmore College (ED/RD) 963 out of 7,717 (12.5%)
Georgetown EA 892 out of 7027 (12.7%) (remainder deferred=87%)
UC Berkeley (OOS) 2734 out of 21213 (12.9%)
Middlebury RD 1042 out of 7866 (14.2%)
Boston University ED2 ~245 out of 1721 (~14.2%)
Harvard SCEA 918 out of 6173 (14.9%) (4673 def=75.7%) (464 rej=7.5%)
Williams College RD 960 out of 6397 (15.0%)
Barnard College ~1131 out of 7071 (~16%)
Georgetown RD 3276 out of 20002 (16.4%)
USC 8920 out of 54100 (16.5%)
Harvey Mudd ED1/ED2 ~77 out of 464 (16.6%)
Yale SCEA 795 out of 4662 (17.1%) (53% def) (29% rej)
UC Berkeley (IS) 8363 out of 45,773 (18.3%)
Princeton SCEA 785 out of 4229 (18.6%)
Middlebury College ED2 60 out of 318 (18.9%) (40 def=12.6%) (218 rej=68.6%)
Pomona ED1/ED2 ~177 out of 914 (19.4%)
Georgia Tech RD ~3206 out of 15,659 (~20.5%)
Brown ED 669 out of 3030 (22.1%) (1905 def=62.9%) (456 rej=15.0%)
Penn ED 1335 out of 5762 (23.2%)
Duke ED 813 out of 3455 (23.5%) (1663 def=19.2%)
UVA RD (OOS) 2442 out of 10,465 (23.33%) (deferred accepted=21.4%)(wl=15%)
Vanderbilt ED1/ED2 ~800 out of ~3390 (23.6%)
UVA EA (OOS) 2955 out of 12308 (24.0%) (3005 def=24.4%) (6348 rej=51.6%)
Hamilton College ED/RD 1317 out of 5434 (24.2%)
Dartmouth ED 494 out of 1927 (25.6%)
Kenyon College ED/RD 1688 out of ~6400 (~26.4%)
Vassar College ED1/ED2/RD 1943 out of 7306 (26.6%)
Cornell ED 1338 out of 4882 (27.4%) (1153 def=23.6%) (2391 rej=49.0%)
Pitzer ED1/ED2 ~118 out of 423 (27.8%)
Georgia Tech EA 4424 out of 14861 (29.8%)
Bowdoin ED2 ~77 out of 256 (~30.1%)
Notre Dame EA 1610 out of 5321 (30.3%) (818 def=15.4%) (2893 rej=54.4%)
Johns Hopkins ED 584 out of 1929 (30.3%)
Boston University ED1/ED2 ~1050 out of 3421 (~30.7%)
Boston College EA ~2700 out of 8600 (~31.4%)
Tufts ED ~663 out of 2070 (~32%)
Bowdoin College ED1 207 out of 614 (33.7%)
UVA RD (In-State) 1782 out of 5193 (34.3%) (deferred accepted=21.4%) (wl=15%)
UNC EA 6948 out of 19842 (35.0%)
Northwestern ED 1061 out of 3022 (35.1%)
Amherst College ED 180 out of 454 (39.6%)
Middlebury College ED1/ED2 398 out of 954 (41.7%)
George Washington RD 10101 out of 24168 (41.8%)
Williams College ED 246 out of 585 (42.1%)
Davidson College ED 207 out of 458 (45.2%)
Boston University ED1 ~805 out of 1700 (~47.4%)
UVA EA (In-State) 2237 out of 4460 (50.2%) (1060 def=23.8%) (1163 rej=26.1%)
University of Georgia ED 7500+ out of 14516 (51%+)
Middlebury College ED1 338 out of 636 (53.1%) (74 def=11.6%) (224 rej=35.2%)
George Washington ED 841 out of 1373 (61.3%)
University of Maine RD (OOS) 7803 out of 10,062 (77.5%)
University of Maine RD (In-state) 3600 out of 4134 (87.1%)

Why the collegeboard’s new test date hurts international students

For years, Internationla counselors have advocated for the collegeboard to add a test date to the testing cycle. They did, only the wrong date. They decided that the March test date does not serve international kids. But instead they added an August test date…and took away the January test date starting in August 2017. 

Katherine Levin, a spokeswoman for the College Board, claims that the summer SAT will, “provide students with earlier opportunities to take the SAT before submitting college applications, and more time to focus on coursework, school activities, and college applications in the fall of their senior year.”

The Atlantic rightly asks “Who Benefits From the New Summer SAT?” and suggests other than the Collegeboard, students who do summer prep really benefits and of course the test prep companies. “But will it provide a similar advantage to low-income students, or could the summertime SAT end up widening the gap between rich and poor?”

2017-18 International SAT Administration Dates (Anticipated)
SAT Date SAT Subject Test Available?
Aug. 26, 2017 Yes
Oct. 7, 2017 Yes
Nov. 4, 2017 Yes
Dec. 2, 2017 Yes
May 5, 2018 Yes
June 2, 2018 Yes

Nancy Griesemer at the examiner weighs most of the issues out and concludes that “On balance, however, the late-August test date is a welcome move on the part of the College Board.” So far, no one has commented on how it impacts international students. Firstly, many international students take the SAT in January. Now they will have to wait until May, which often overlaps with the May Day long weekend and festivities. If a student takes the May test date they will have to register for the June Test before they have even sat the May test let alone gotten their scores. This will be compounded in the fall cycle. While certainly the summer test date allows kids coming from Prep (which they do a lot of) into the exam. But then, they will have to register for the October before they know the scores ect. Many international student actually do prep in December in anticipation of the January test date. 

 And many schools are actually not open in August overseas. While this may be true in the US, it is even more problemmatic overseas. And fo Chinese students, the August test date now adds another high price flight season as the Chinese student cannot test in China. In fairness, the January test often overlapped with Chinese New Year. 

The fact is, at least at my test center, the January test date has become a dominate one, ahead of December, November and on par of Spring test dates. Many international counselors actively supported and lobbied for adding the March test date and eliminating the January test date. Why are we not being listened to?

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.

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.