New SAT Policy: Score Choice

The New York Times reports that the controversial new SAT policy, called Score Choice, will enable high school juniors to decide which scores they want sent to colleges and which scores they want to “hide.” Set to take effect in March 2009, the College Board hopes that the new policy will reduce student stress. However, many critics claim that Score Choice is simply a marketing ploy to encourage students to retake the test repeatedly. Others say that the policy will actually increase stress and the testing frenzy.

Brad MacGowan, a college counselor at Newton North High School in Boston, says “In practice, it will add more anxiety, more confusion, more testing for those who can afford it and more coaching.” Yet the College Board disagrees. “It simply allows students to put their best foot forward…and feel very comfortable going into the test center,” says Laurence Bunin, a senior vice president at the College Board.

Some colleges, including USC, Claremont McKenna, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania have already declared that they want all student scores, regardless of Score Choice. “Our plan is to first tell students to relax,” said Bruce Poch, vice president and dean of admissions at Pomona College. “The habit here is like many colleges, which is to see it all, but consider for admission purposes the highest individual score.” Many are concerned with exactly how such colleges will handle Score Choice. What will happen when a student who chooses Score Choice applies to a college that requires all scores? Whatever the pros and cons may be, students, admissions officials, and college guidance counselors are not looking forward to the new admissions complication.

Jerome A Lucido, vice provost for enrollment policy and management at USC, sums it up, “Students will like it because it they’ll have a sense of control, but my sense is that it’s not worth the trade-off in terms of complexity and more gamesmanship.”

Hastings Law School Cuts Raises and Hiring

NY Lawyer reports that Hastings College of Law in California is limiting raises, curtailing hiring and asking department heads to reduce their operating budgets by 5%. Last year the school received $10 million from the state, which represents over 25% of its operating budget. However, Hastings Dean, Nell Newton, explains that the school expects significant cuts this fiscal year and must prepare accordingly.

Despite the cuts, academic dean Shauna Marshall, says that the students will receive the same educational experience. “The changes I’m making are really not noticeable…I’ll probably not take one trip that I would’ve taken.” However, professor Joel Paul, head of Hastings’ international programs, expressed concern regarding the 5% cut, which means less money for international student scholarships and summer stipends.

Hastings is not the only school of higher education to announce cuts for the upcoming year. Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced that it will keep current salaries flat and it will postpone recruiting. UC Berkeley School of Law is considering a hiring freeze, as well.

Great Application Essay

I just read a great application essay/personal statement, and it’s not even written by an Accepted client. In fact, it’s not even written by an applicant.

My daughter sent me a link to “Pay It Backwards: An Act Of Coffee Kindness” by Arthur Rosenfeld, a novelist, tai chi master, and philosopher.  However, this article is a model personal statement. Note how it:

  • Draws you in with an anecdotal opening.
  • Discusses his values and reveals a lot about his character.
  • Shows impact.
  • Presents what he learned from the experience.

Although the essay is not ostensibly about leadership — the uber-value of admissions — he certainly influenced a lot of people’s behavior. And that’s one form of leadership. The article is not ostensibly about compassion, although it is about compassion’s close cousin, kindness. He certainly shows both.

Don’t even think about copying this story. Do think about times when you influenced others through example. Remember those occasions when your actions had influence beyond what you anticipated.  Then see if you can’t use the structure Rosenfeld uses in his Starbucks story to respond to your application questions about leadership,  “challenging interactions” (MIT Sloan), challenges to your values (Yale MBA) or leadership.

MBA Admissions: Multiple Acceptances and Waitlisted

A few MBA applicant bloggers are dealing with questions now that they have received first round decisions. First Hakuna Matata!!! is thrilled to be accepted to Yale SOM and Cornell Johnson. Congratulations!

He asks several questions in “3 down…1 to go!” and I am going to respond to those that aren’t visa-related. (I know nothing about immigration law.)

  1. Assuming you resolve the visa issue, quit early enough so that you can have at least a short vacation and time to establish yourself in your new town — be it New Haven, Ithaca, or Ann Arbor. In chat after chat, current MBA students advise applicants to allow time for setting up an apartment, opening up a bank account, and  figuring out where the dry cleaner, gym, barber, etc are. In addition, make sure you have at least a short but real break between quitting your job and starting the hectic life of an MBA student. Some may accomplish all the above in two weeks, others take two months or more.
  2. Start with the schools that have accepted you. They will have resources on applying for loans and maybe even obtaining grants. For more information, please see “Follow the $$$: Financial Aid in Business School.”
  3. In terms of choosing between Yale and Johnson, you have two wonderful choices. I suggest you look first at the fields, industries, and companies that graduates of each school go into. Which one has more of what you are interested in? Then look at the curriculum and educational program. As you note, they are ranked closely and their general management orientation is similar. But, they are not identical. Do you have a preference in terms of the education? Finally, layer in personal preference. How did you feel about the rural environment in Ithaca or about being in New Haven, which is a fairly easy train ride from NYC? Are you concerned about Yale’s current change of leadership. For more info on choosing schools, please see: 

MissionMBA has had a very different experience. He was rejected at one school and waitlisted at Tuck. He appropriately takes Tuck’s waitlist decision as good news. Wisely, MBAMission realizes that “recent changes at my workplace” may give him something significant and appealing to write about.

That point is key for waitlisted applicants. The schools that accept updates are keenly interested in information that will help them assess the quality of your candidacy and your fit with their program. The last sentence implies substantive updates — not generated junk. Quality over quantity. At the same time, staying in touch (without being a pest or showing poor judgment) demonstrates interest and shows character. Conversely if you do nothing, schools that welcome updates will assume either a lack of interest or a stagnant applicant. And finally, those waitlisted applicants who incessantly call and/or email about nothing will be revealing a lack of consideration and the poor judgment that could actually cause a ding.

A few resources for MBAMission and other waitlisted applicants:

New Law School Offers Free Tuition

Associated Press reports that the first new law school to open in California in 40 years intends to offer full scholarships for three years to its first class. Subsequent classes will pay tuition on a traditional basis. The school’s goal in offering no-tuition education to its entire inaugural class: attract Ivy League-caliber students.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the new law school at UC-Irvine, believes that the scholarship combined with the law school’s emphasis on public interest law will quickly fill the sixty available spots for the first class. In addition, Chemerinsky says that “Our goal is to be a top 20 school from the first time we are ranked.”

Although Chemerinsky is optimistic, others say that his goals may be difficult to attain. Richard Morgan, founding dean of Boyd Law School at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says “It’s like trying to fly a plane while you’re still building it.” He also cautioned that the competition for top students is fierce. Yet, Chemerinsky responds that UC Irvine’s new law school will stand out from the start. “There isn’t a need for another law school like all the rest…This is our chance to create the ideal law school for the 21st Century.”