U.S. News 2015 Best Colleges

Applying to College? Check out our College Admissions 101 Pages!Last week U.S. News released the 30th edition of its college rankings. New information found on school profile pages (but not taken into consideration for rankings) include data on campus crime and security and a summary of three-year federal loan default rates. Interesting categories for ranking include Economic Diversity, Campus Ethnic Diversity, and Best Colleges for Veterans.

Here are some highlights:

Top 10 Best U.S. Universities

1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Yale University (CT)
4. Columbia University (NY)
4. Stanford University (CA)
4. University of Chicago (IL)
7. Massachusetts Institute of technology (MA)
8. Duke University (NC)
8. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
10. California Institute of Technology (CA)

Top 5 Best Value Universities

1. Harvard University (MA)
2. Princeton University (NJ)
3. Yale University (CT)
4. Stanford University (CA)
5. MIT (MA)

Top 5 Best Value Liberal Arts Colleges

1. Amherst College (MA)
2. Williams College (MA)
3. Pomona College (CA)
4. Wellesley College (MA)
5. Soka University of America (CA)

Top 10 Best Undergraduate Business Programs

1. University of Pennsylvania (PA)
2. MIT (MA)
2. University of California – Berkeley (CA)
4. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (MI)
5. New York University (NY)
6. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
6. University of Virginia (VA)
8. Carnegie Mellon University (PA)
8. Indiana University – Bloomington (IN)
8. University of Texas – Austin

John Byrne from Poets & Quants provides an analysis of these rankings (the undergraduate business ones) and shares additional highlights from the top 50, including the following:

• Within the top 10 and certainly within the top 5, there was little change from last year – just a little switching around here and there, including Cornell and Notre Dame which both fell from the top 10, from 10th place last year to 11th this year.

• Big jumpers in the top 25 include the University of Georgia and Michigan State which both climbed six spots to 21st place (they share this position with six other programs, including University of Maryland, which fell three places this year). In the top 50, University of Pittsburgh took the largest leap, from 49th place last year to 39th this year. Babson jumped five places from 34th to 29th.

• Ohio State University fell four places, finishing in 20th this year; Southern Methodist University dropped seven spots from 38th last year to 45th this year.

• Wharton received the highest score (4.8 out of 5) on the index scale (1 being “marginal” and 5 being “distinguished”).

See the U.S. News Ranking Methodology and the P&Q article for details on how these schools were ranked.

For a critique of the U.S. News rankings (and how the rankings actually hurt students and applicants), see this Vox article.

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Tips for Answering Columbia University Supplemental Essay Prompts

New York CityThis post about the Columbia supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.  

In addition to the basic Common Application essay, the Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses. These extra essays help these elite schools gain a deeper understanding of the applicant. They are your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vise versa. These schools want to know what is important to you and how they fit into your future goals!

Note that you can apply via the Common Application or the Columbia First-Year Application. The school has no preference; however, applicants can only submit ONE of the applications.

When addressing each prompt, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Visit the school website, read about their educational mission, and think about how the school supports your interests. Columbia takes pride in the synergy created between its diverse residential student population and its location in the heart of bustling New York City. It also embraces a rich educational tradition in its interdepartmental Core Curriculum that encourages creative critical thinking by encompassing writing, science, philosophy, literature, art, music, and history.

What single activity listed in the activity section of your Common Application are you most proud of and why? (150 words or less)

This is an opportunity to highlight one of the activities you listed on your Common Application. Select an activity that reveals something important to you. This may be something you have been involved with for years or an experience that exposed you to something novel. Whichever activity you select, make sure to convey your enthusiasm and what it reflects about you. If appropriate, tie your interests to opportunities available at Columbia and in NYC.

Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)

This is a very important question. You need to convince the admissions committee that Columbia is the best school to help you meet your goals. You also have to show them how you can enrich the dynamic educational environment at Columbia. Discuss what excites you most about the Columbia experience. They want to know what kind of student you might be at Columbia.

Columbia University requires additional essay responses for students applying to Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science:

If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words or less)

If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. (300 words or less)

Both of these prompts ask you to consider your interests and experiences that helped you determine your specific career path. If you are truly undecided, in the Columbia College response, focus on the areas you are currently interested in, what excites you about those topics, and your hopes for the future. These prompts ask you to think broadly about your life experience as well as provide specific examples of how these experiences affected your interests and propelled you toward a particular area of study. Your discussion should reveal your passion for the subject. Remember to include why the program at Columbia is the best match to help you achieve your goals.

In addition to essay responses, Columbia requests the following lists. As you select required readings, books, and other forms of media, think about the breadth and depth of your interests. Consider how your selections represent your identity, reflect your intellect and curiosity, relate to Columbia’s Core Curriculum requirements, and make you a good match for the overall educational experience at Columbia.

List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

This is an opportunity to showcase a particular area of interest to you. Consider classes, which you discovered something new and exciting, allowed you to explore a previous area of interest in more depth, or covered a topic that helped you see the world in a different way.

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

The admissions committee wants to know the sorts of topics that you find interesting. What better way than to share your recent favorite books? They are trying to gain a deeper sense of who you are and how you might fit in at Columbia. This list sheds some light on how you spend your spare time.

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150-words or less)

The sources of information and media you engage with routinely provide insights into how you perceive the world. This list to some degree demonstrates what topics are important to you. It also indicates the modes of information exchange you find most comfortable.

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)

This list is allows you to tell the admissions committee the sorts of activities you do for fun! Your responses suggest the kinds of activities that may appeal to you at Columbia and provide insight about how you engage the world around you.

The admissions website clearly states Columbia’s commitment to a holistic approach to the admission process: “every single application is given a thorough review, and there is positively no minimum grade point average, class rank, or SAT/ACT score one must obtain in order to secure admission to Columbia.” That said Columbia has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 32,964 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 2,291 or 7% were offered admission and over 90% of students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 2245 and an average ACT score of 33. Your essays make you more than a number.

In this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. Keep in mind, while adhering to the designated word limits and deadlines, your goal is to distinguish yourself from your peers by sharing your personal examples, anecdotes, and perspectives. In short, by providing sincere insight into what makes you, you! And why you are a good match for Columbia! Be sure to allow yourself appropriate time to reflect on your educational goals and to convey your best self to the admissions committee through your essay responses.

Download 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid to learn how to eliminate the most common flaws in your application essays.

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

•  Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
•  Tips for Answering Brown University Supplemental Essay Prompts
•  7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay

How to Deal with Deadlines

Dealing with Deadlines

You don’t want to feel rushed and you don’t want to miss your deadline.

You don’t want to feel rushed (stress can lead to mistakes) and you don’t want to miss your deadline. So what can you do to stay on top of your game and submit your applications before the buzzer?

1. Set yourself a schedule and work backwards from your deadlines. Allow time for holidays, sleep, exercise, and of course work.

2. Focus first on the applications with the earliest deadlines. It wouldn’t make sense to work on the application with the further deadline first when you have a looming deadline for another application right around the corner!

3. Work on applications one at a time. Adapt essays from your first application, when possible, to later applications. However never merely paste in an essay because the question is similar. Customize it for this application and this program. Trying to write more than one application at once will only lead to confusion, not to mention unintentional overlapping of material – forgetting to change just one Harvard to Stanford shows a level of sloppiness that Stanford just won’t stand for!

4. If you fall behind, consider dropping/postponing an application to maintain quality overall. Pushing off an application to a subsequent round or the following year is better than submitting a subpar application.

Good luck!

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Click here to download our free report!

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined BS/MD Programs

Click here to download your copy of Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program?

Admissions to many BS/MD programs is more competitive than even the most selective colleges.

“Advantages and Disadvantages of Combined BS/MD Programs” is excerpted from the Accepted.com special report, Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program? To download the entire free special report, click here

If you are fully committed to the idea of pursuing a medical career, a combined program may seem like the best of both worlds. In one application process, you can assure yourself of your future medical career, eliminate uncertainty and stress during your undergraduate years, and, without completing a full medical school application process, potentially save yourself thousands of dollars in application costs.

With so many benefits, it is easy to see why the several dozen combined programs are so highly sought after. Admission to many of them is more competitive than even the most selective colleges, easily in the low single digits with extremely talented applicant pools. These programs also do not obligate you to attend medical school, but with such competitive applicant pools, it is easy to understand why universities do not want to waste resources on students who are not committed to a career in medicine.

If you have top notch high school credentials, including GPA, test scores, challenging curriculum, and a demonstrated interest (through volunteer service, research, and clinical shadowing), some of these programs might be a good fit for you.

However, for many other applicants, following the traditional route of pursuing a bachelor’s degree and completing your pre-medical requirements before applying to medical school makes more sense than attending a combined BS/MD program. Consider the following:

The additional few years of undergraduate education and life perspective can truly help you to determine which educational environment is best for you. Is there an area of the country that you prefer? Are you interested in serving a specific population? Some medical schools emphasize family practice while others focus more on scientific research and academic career preparation.

If you choose to pursue a combined program, be certain that you are doing so in an environment that suits you for its undergraduate experience. There is a chance you will find that medicine is not your calling. In some cases, the undergraduate requirements to maintain your medical school space are extremely tough. You are most likely to thrive in an environment that makes you happy.

Am I Cut Out for a Combined BS/MD Program?

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Tips for Answering Brown University Supplemental Essay Prompts

Get tips for answering the Common Application prompts. This post about the Brown supplement to the Common Application is the first in a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.  

In addition to the basic Common Application essay, the Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses. These extra essays help these elite schools gain a deeper understanding of you, the applicant. They are your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vice versa. These schools want to know what is important to you and how they fit into your future goals!

When addressing each prompt, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Visit the school website, read about their educational mission, and think about how the school supports your interests. Brown University is committed to undergraduate freedom and the process of free inquiry. For students this means that while you are guided by specific departmental concentration requirements, you must take responsibility as an “architect of your courses of study.” Take a close look at the distinctive Brown Curriculum on the school’s website.

Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated in our Member Section, earlier in this application? If you are “undecided” or not sure which Brown concentrations match your interests, consider describing more generally the academic topics or modes of thought that engage you currently. (150-word limit)

Begin by discussing the subject areas you are interested in studying. Then discuss what specifically attracts your interest. You can include examples from previous coursework, volunteer experience, personal research, or any other factors that influence your interests. How you respond to this question demonstrates your potential to succeed in Brown’s independent academic framework. Don’t panic if you are truly undecided. This is a great opportunity to reflect on how you approach learning and discuss which subjects engage you. You are providing insight into how you navigate the academic world.

Tell us where you have lived – and for how long – since you were born; whether you’ve always lived in the same place, or perhaps in a variety of places. (100-word limit)

Your response to this question provides context regarding your life experience. You can also include your impressions about where you lived. Were there specific cultural ties? Was it a diverse or homogeneous community? Did you feel comfortable there? Did your family move for job opportunities?

We all exist within communities or groups of various sizes, origins, and purposes; pick one and tell us why it is important to you, and how it has shaped you. (150-word limit)

Briefly describe your selected community/group and your place within it. Then focus your discussion on how the group affects you. This is about how you view yourself in relation to others. This prompt touches on the impact of groups on individual thinking and vise versa. What does your membership within this community reveal about you? Discuss how you are similar or different from the larger group.

Why Brown? (200-word limit)

This is a direct and powerful question. This is your opportunity to communicate how the college fits with you now and potentially in the future. It also allows you to discuss how you can contribute to the intellectual and social environment at the school. What specifically draws you to Brown that you cannot find anywhere else? What does Brown offer that you are passionate about? What are your thoughts about its educational approach? You might want to consider how the Brown Curriculum meshes with your learning style. Think about why you are attending college and how Brown supports your goals.

Note: If you are interested in Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Geology, Mathematics or Physics, you must complete additional Science/Engineering statements. Likewise, if you are applying to the 8-year Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) or the 5-year Brown/RISD Dual Degree Program (BRDD), you must also complete additional special programs statements.

Brown has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 28,919 undergraduate applications for the class of 2017. Only 2,654 or 9.2% were offered admission and 94% of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class. Your essays make you more than a number.

In this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. Keep in mind, while adhering to the designated word limits, your goal is to distinguish yourself from your peers by sharing your personal examples, anecdotes, and perspectives. In short, by providing sincere insight into what makes you, you! And why you are a good match for Brown! Be sure to allow yourself appropriate time to reflect on your educational goals and to convey your best self to the admissions committee through your essay responses.

The 5 Fatal Flaws of College Application Essays

Marie Todd By , Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.

Related Resources:

• Tips for Answering Common Application Essay Prompts
• Beyond Tests Scores and GPA: How to Wow College Application Readers
7 Signs an Experience Belongs in Your Application Essay