UChicago: Kind, Funny and Direct with Decisions

University of Chicago released their Class of 2019 decisions March 13 with a handy guide on what to do next. I like their advice on not booking a ticket to Chicago to appeal your case IN PERSON if you landed on their wait list. We had some parents that would fly in and try to change decisions when I worked in an admission office…don’t try it! I’m also impressed that they are so open with their regional admissions officers and allowing students to contact them directly. That’s great customer service! I think the way they explain why they can’t give reasons about decisions is kind and humane.


Waitlist: We are not offering you a place in the Class of 2019 at this time, but we will let you know by early summer if we are able to offer you a spot off the waitlist. UChicago’s waitlist is not ranked. If UChicago remains your top choice, here’s some advice on what to do next.


– Accept your spot on the waitlist by logging into your UChicago Account. If you’re still interested in attending UChicago, this is the way to let us know.

– Accept a place at another school by May 1 to make sure you have a college home for next year. If we are able to offer you a spot in the class and you choose to accept it, please let that other school know that you will not be attending as soon as possible.

– Write a brief note to your regional admissions counselor explaining why UChicago remains your top choice.


– Book an overnight flight to Chicago. While we always enjoy welcoming students to campus, we do not make decisions based on whether or not a student has visited. Besides, there’s nothing we can tell you in person that we couldn’t tell you over the phone or email.

– Submit all-new application materials. The application you sent us originally is complete, and we have determined that it is a strong one. We have all the information we need from you and, as time goes on, we’ll know more about whether there is space left in the class to take students from the waitlist.

– Panic. An admissions decision is not an evaluation of you as a person. Decisions are made over a long period of time by several people, involve discussion by an admissions committee, and take into account the entire applicant pool. Therefore, please keep in mind that we cannot give reasons for decisions over the phone or via email, as it really is impossible to condense the conversations behind our decisions in a way that would be adequate or helpful to the applicant.

Deny: This is your final decision. There is no process for appealing admissions decisions.


MOOCs Replacing SATs? I’m a Kevin Carey fan!

I’m loving the buzz around Kevin Carey, the director of the education policy program at New America. I first heard him interviewed through the weekly podcast that New America published on March 5th. He challenges the traditional college model and says that U.S. higher education is ripe for disruption. It’s a must listen for folks who are thinking about the future of higher education and how it might evolve in the next decade. (I also loved that I could listen to this podcast from SoundCloud directly from a Tweet, where I initially found the podcast, very cool).

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Carey continues to challenge the idea that 16, 17 year olds learn best from the traditional brick and mortar universities, where they sit in classrooms and learn from lectures. I particularly like his argument that MOOCs and other new assessment tools will level the application playing field and challenge what is now an outdated admissions system that most highly selective institutions still rely on to craft their newly admitted classes.

He points out that the factors used in applications, from GPAs, Testing, and Essays can all be “gamed,” and that they aren’t necessary accurate predictors of how a student will perform in college. I’m not sure that I agree with that opinion, since highly selective schools are prone to graduating higher rates of students and having them go on to succeed professionally, but I agree with his argument that more factors can show whether or not a high school student is ready for college level work.

Carey’s explanation that “MOOC success is much more likely to predict success in college classes than SAT scores, because MOOC success is, in fact, success in college classes,” makes sense, but I wonder if the students who are able to succeed in these MOOCs will be the same demographics of students who already have a leg up, with educated parents, excellent high schools and internal motivation. I love MOOCs, and I’ve presented on them through my current position with the Department of State, but I also know that they have a 2% completion rate on average, and the majority of MOOC students already have a BA degree. Of course, you see the amazing article here and there about the Mongolian 15 year old genius who took MIT MOOCs and ultimately enrolled at the prestigious institute (Carey also uses him as the ultimate poster child for what can go right in a MOOC fueled world!) …but those examples seem, well exceptional. If I’m a low income student coming from an under-resourced high school, am I going to have the tools/environment it takes to complete a MOOC course? I guess it all depends on motivation, because some of those types of students also aim for the Ivy League.

Expanded educational access through technology is definitely a positive trend, and I’m excited to read further analysis by Carey on the future of admissions.

The Most Generous Schools for International Financial Aid

I remember sitting in on international committee day at our admissions office. The stakes were high, the school admitted less than 8 % of the applicants who applied (and that was four years ago…now the numbers are more like less than 5%!). The most stressful day; however, was the day of “international financial aid committee,” because so few were going to be considered for admission. These students literally had to walk on water. We all sat down with every member of the admissions office who read international files around the table, and post-it notes were prepared to indicate which countries on a world map hung on a wall would have successful students.

Since the university I worked for was not “need blind” for international students, when I read application files, I had to right off the bat divide up the students who were elite enough to pay (one pile) with the students who couldn’t (the other pile). Getting out of the international student financial aid pile was something short of a miracle…those stats were less than 2% some years.

While it is incredibly difficult to be awarded financial aid as an international school at the majority of universities in the U.S., it does happen. Today I want to showcase and applaud the schools that are the most generous to international students in terms of aid. Read the article carefully, as U.S. News and World Report explains the that some schools are need based while others are merit based. This could be good news for international students who would be considered middle class, who are excellent students, but wouldn’t qualify for full tuition at some of the “need based” financial aid institutions. These families may be able to afford some of the tuition but certainly not the hefty price tag of $50,000 USD a year.

If you are academically talented, have great test scores, and think you are competitive in a highly selective applicant pool, try applying to these schools with high endowments that invest in international diversity:


Infographic: International Students at U.S. Universities


U.S. News and World Report collected data on U.S. universities and presents them in an easily digestible infographic describing which schools have the most number of international students (New School in New York, New York). I found the bottom statistic that states that 27.5% of the 1000+ top ranked universities send admissions officers to recruit international students. International students contribute diversity and bring different perspectives to the classroom, no doubt, but increasingly many universities see them as “full pay” students who can afford the price tags at universities.

One question I always get when I am meeting with international students is to pay for the sky high tuition rates. The infographic also shows the universities that are most generous toward international students below:


It is really great to see these schools commit to international diversity and back it up with the financial aid!

Upload Your Essay to YouTube? Goucher Tries Video Essays


The New York Times reported on an experimental application evaluation method by Goucher College where students can present a video of themselves rather than submitting the traditional high school transcript. Creativity and personality vs. grades? It seems like an interesting concept, and while not a new one since other schools like Tufts have given students the option of submitting videos in the past, this method is strongly supported by their new President. Goucher College‘s admissions site says, “We understand you want to go to a college where you feel you belong and where you will be able to excel as a student and grow as a person.” It seems like the college thinks that the videos will lead to students presenting themselves more authentically.

The article presents many different views from teachers thanking Goucher for reducing the stress placed on students regarding admissions, to presidents of other institutions saying that videos are cannot be an adequate replacement for a four year transcript of school work.

I remember when I worked in the admissions office, creative students could submit an arts supplement to show special talent. It seems to me like some students could submit both a video and academic transcript, but on the other hand, that may increase the level of stress and create yet another application section to increase the pressure on high school students. I also feel like there is a lot of room for “packaging” and outside help, much like an essay now. What is to say that students can’t hire a production company to shoot an award winning video masterpiece to represent themselves?

What do you think about colleges turning to social media ready videos to evaluate students? What’s next? Present your Instagram feed for evaluation?

U.S. News Shares Admissions Essay Tips for English Language Learners

Application season is upon us once again! All around the world, students are preparing their school wish lists, taking their tests, and drafting their essays! U.S. News and World Report, the periodical famous for their university rankings, shared some tips for English Language Learners to draft their application personal statements.

These are some creative tips, from reading backwards (not word for word but sentence to sentence), not using fancy SAT words, to making sure not to copy or plagiarize. I especially agree with the last tip, because many international students are not familiar with U.S. academic standards of plagiarism. While I like these basic tips, I think the best recommendation is to ask a native speaker to look over your work and offer edits!

What are some other tips that you would recommend to international students and students whose first language is not English?

(Photo Credit: US News)

22 of The Most Creative College Essays from 2013

Happy (Belated) New Year! Hope 2014 is off to a great start for all of you! If you’re a high school senior, this is the “waiting period” where you bite your nails and hope that all of the essays and applications that you worked on are going to pay off in the admissions committees!

I have some really exciting updates for our readers over the next coming days —  but today I’ll keep it short with a fun Buzz Feed List on the 22 Most Creative College Essays from 2013! Kudos to Tufts for their many creative questions — they used to let you submit a youtube video too…I wonder if they are still doing that?

I was excited to see #5 from Stanford University — What Matters to You And Why? What a great question — Stanford didn’t use that when I was working there, but it was on their Graduate School of Business application! I think it gets to the heart of what students value most!