March Madness and Story Time

Can your application tell a story?Is your bracket busted yet? (Probably.)

One of the things that draws even casual sports fans to March Madness is the storylines—the last-minute excitement, the players’ personal stories, the upsets, the Cinderella runs deep into the tournament.

And during the tournament, absolutely everything becomes a story. As I write, one of the top stories on Yahoo Sports is about the chair that GA State coach Ron Hunter fell out of in excitement when his son hit a game winning shot. Yes—the chair, which is now a treasured object of superstitious reverence. Of course! But another great story (and one of the enduring images of this year’s tournament, even after GA State was eliminated in the next round).

Stories make the game more exciting by giving us a personal connection to it. That’s how we tend to relate to the world around us. And I think it’s a useful thing to remember when you’re writing application essays: stories matter.

Your personal experiences add depth and interest to your application essays, helping you stand out and illustrating the qualities and goals you’re explaining. As you prepare to write, think about the stories you want to tell. It can be helpful to do some prewriting—think through some of the experiences you want to write about and what you learned from them, as well as how they relate to what you want to do in the future. This will give you some good material to draw on in your essay(s).

And…Go Bruins! (If they’re eliminated by the time you read this—better luck next year.)

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own!


Rebecca BlusteinBy Dr. Rebecca consultant since 2008, former Student Affairs Officer at UCLA’s Scholarship Resource Center, and author of the ebook, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Dr. Blustein, who earned her Ph.D. at UCLA, assists our clients applying to MS, MA, and Ph.D. programs. She is happy to assist you with your grad school applications.

Related Resources: 

• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Application Essays
• Telling Your Story in Your Application Essay
• MBA Application Essays: All You Need is a Story

3 Ways to Make Your Own Student Loan Luck

Not sure how to fund your MBA? Listen to this podcast for pointers.

Luck can’t pay off student loans, but YOU can!

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”  – Benjamin Franklin

If you’re one of the 37 million Americans with student loans, you know it’s going to take a lot more than a few four-leaf clovers to make your debt disappear. You wouldn’t rely on winning the lottery in order to pay your loans, would you?  Unfortunately, neglecting to understand the various loan repayment options can be just as foolish, because you may be missing out on opportunities to reduce or even eliminate your debt burden. Essentially, leaving your loans to chance could mean leaving money on the table.

Rather than wait around for good fortune to find you, take a proactive approach by seeing if one of these three options apply to you:

1.  Spend money to save money
. All education loans, whether federal or private, allow for penalty-free prepayment, which means that you can pay more than the monthly minimum or make extra payments without incurring a fee. Prepaying may sound painful, but the benefits can be huge. The more you do it, the sooner you’re done with your loans – and the less interest you spend over the life of the loan.

Let’s say you have a $100,000 student loan balance at a 6.8% interest rate and 10-year term. If you increased your monthly payment by just $100, you’d save about $5,600 in total interest and pay off your loans about a year early. Or perhaps you pay down an extra $2,000 per year using your annual bonus, saving yourself about $7,400 in interest and paying off your loans about 1.5 years early. Every borrower’s situation is different, but you can do the math on your own loans with a calculator like this.

One thing to note – prepaying is most effective when the extra cash is applied directly to your principal, rather than being earmarked for future payments.  It’s best to check with your loan servicer to see what their policy is before increasing or adding extra payments.

How to get lucky: Commit to increasing your monthly student loan payment each time you get a raise and/or putting a percentage of every bonus toward your loan balance.

2.  Recalibrate your rate
. One of the fastest ways to slash your student loan burden is to lower the interest rate on your loans, which can only be accomplished through the act of refinancing. In addition to reducing the amount of interest you pay on your loan over time, refinancing can allow you to make lower monthly payments or shorten your payment term (so that you can be done with your loans sooner).

Student loan refinancing is still a relatively new option, so many borrowers who could be eligible to refinance aren’t even aware the opportunity exists. Which is unfortunate, because the savings can be significant.  For example, the average SoFi borrower saves $9,400 when they refinance with us.*  In addition, some private lenders offer additional benefits to borrowers when they refinance, such as complimentary career coaching and entrepreneurial support.

How to get lucky: When shopping around for a refinance lender, be sure to compare interest rates as well as other potential benefits.

3.  Ask for forgiveness. What borrower hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery and paying off their loans in one fell swoop?  Unfortunately, you’re more likely to get hit by an asteroid than win a seven figure jackpot. So what’s the next best thing? How about making your student loan balance magically disappear.

It sounds too good to be true, but this is the basic idea behind student loan forgiveness. Surprisingly, there are quite a few ways to get your loan slate wiped clean, but the most well-known one (and the one that applies to the most people) is the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Under the program, borrowers who work full-time for a qualifying public service organization may be eligible to have federal loans forgiven after 10 years of on-time monthly payments.

Before you skim over this section and assume that PSLF won’t apply to you, consider this: The CFPB estimates that about one in four working Americans has a job that meets the definition of “public service”, and yet they believe a “substantial sum” is left on the table by borrowers who don’t take advantage. This may be because the definition is broader than what most people would expect – for example, soldiers, doctors at non-profit hospitals and public defenders are all examples of professions that may qualify a borrower for PSLF.

How to get lucky: Find out if you qualify for PSLF or other forgiveness programs by contacting your student loan servicer.  

*SoFi average borrower savings assumes 10-year student loan refinancing with a weighted average rate of 7.67% and a loan balance of $86,000, compared to SoFi’s median 10-year rates of 5.875% (with AutoPay).

This post is by Anna Wolf and originally appeared on the SoFi Blog. SoFi connects alumni borrowers and investors to refinance private and federal student loans.

Learn how to use sample essays to create an exemplary essay of your own! Helping You Write Your Best

Related Resources:

• SoFi: Alumni Funded Student Loans
Tips for Financing Your MBA
• PayScale: How Much You Can Earn, and How to Earn It

Three Topics to Discuss in Waitlist Letters

If you are on a waitlist, Linda Abraham has something to tell you:

Get off that waitlist! Listen how Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• College Applicants: Waitlisted or Rejected?
Help! I’ve Been Waitlisted!
How to Write Waitlist Update Letters

U.S. News Law School Rankings 2016

U.S. News and World Report just released its 2016 law school rankings. The top 15 schools won’t surprise anyone and provide little change from previous years. Stanford and Harvard tied for the number 2 spot behind Yale.

Click here to download The Law School Admissions Guide: 8 tips for SuccessBelow are the top 15 schools with their previous year ranking from Above The Law:

1. Yale (no change)

2. Harvard (no change)

2. Stanford (+1; ranked #3 last year)

4. Columbia (no change)

4. Chicago (no change)

6. NYU (no change)

7. Penn (no change)

8. Duke (+2; tied at #10 last year with Michigan)

8. UC Berkeley (+1; ranked #9 last year)

8. UVA (no change)

11. Michigan (-1; tied at #10 last year with Duke)

12. Northwestern (no change)

13. Cornell (no change)

14. Georgetown (-1; tied at #13 last year with Cornell)

The biggest drops this year included Lewis & Clark, Seattle, and Louisiana State, which all dropped more than 20 spots. Who went up? Howard, Syracuse and St. Johns.

The biggest change anyone will notice about the rankings are the number of ties (there are even 6-way ties!). US News changed its methodology in calculating post-law school employment – it gave fewer points for schools that employed their own graduates, as opposed to law graduates who went on to the public and private sector.  (Note: these jobs are still factored in but count less than jobs where students stayed at least a year or more.) As you look at the rankings, it’s worth taking particular note of post-graduation employment.
Click here for a free report on 8 Tips for Law School Admissions Succcess
Accepted: The Premier Admissions Cosultancy
Related Resources:

• 5 Ways To Increase Your Chance of Getting Into Law School as a College Junior
• 5 Things Law Schools Want To See in Applicants
• Getting a High-Value Law Degree

So You Got Waitlisted…7 Tips to Get Off the Law School Waitlist

Listen to the podcast: Waitlisted! What Now?

What not to do when waitlisted: Wait!

It’s the time of year for acceptances and waitlists. What should you do if you got waitlisted at the law school of your dreams? Below are seven tips that you can follow to improve your chance of getting accepted off of a law school waitlist.

1. Keep your expectations realistic. Sometimes, getting waitlisted is harder than getting rejected – you don’t know what to expect. While I believe that everyone can maximize her chances at getting accepted to a top law school, it is by no means a sure thing.

2. Carefully consider what to include in your letter. Everything you do at this point should either specifically address a weakness in your application, highlight a recent achievement not mentioned in your app, or reiterate your interest in the law school.

3. Take stock of your weaknesses. Think about what you believe the weaknesses of your application are before you take any further steps. What have you done that mitigates them?

4. Write to express your interest in the law school. You don’t want to flood the admissions office with letters or essays, but a well-written letter (sent via email) can both address your weaknesses, shine a spotlight on accomplishments, and reiterate your interest in the school. A school will likely take a second look at people who have concrete reasons to be there.

5. Be sure to only point out new information. Don’t write to the admissions office to discuss awards or honors that you left out of your original application. When you write, be sure to mention anything new that has come up since you filed your LSAC application – a new honor, a new internship, a job, a promotion, etc. All correspondence with admissions should be a timely update.

6. Also – proofread! Don’t send correspondence that’s sloppy, rambling, or filled with errors.

7. Consider transferring or taking a year off. If you didn’t get accepted to your dream school, you may want to consider starting at another school or working for a year. Sometimes, people are successful on reapplication or as a transfer application, especially if the problem is a low LSAT score.

While being waitlisted at the school of your dreams can be frustrating, remember that it is also an opportunity!

Get off that waitlist! Listen how
JessicaPishkoJessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s PostBacc Program and teaches writing at all levels. 

Related Resources:

The Law School Admissions Guide: 8 Tips for Success
How to Write Waitlist Letters Update
Weakness, What Weakness?