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Thanks for a wonderful 2012!

For this last post of 2012, I thought you might be interested in what you — our readers, visitors, clients, and friends — visited, read, and watched the most in 2012.

Top Ten Most Visited Accepted Admissions Blog Posts of 2012:

  1. Harvard Business School 2013 Essay Tips
  2. INSEAD 2013 MBA Essay Tips
  3. Tips for Completing Your Princeton Supplement to the Common Application
  4. 2013 Common Application Essay Tips
  5. Tips for Completing Your Columbia Supplement to the Common Application
  6. Tips for Completing Your Brown Supplement to the Common Application
  7. Kellogg 2013 MBA Essay Tips
  8. Duke Fuqua 2013 MBA Essay Tips
  9. Indian School of Business 2013 Essay Tips
  10. MIT Sloan 2013 MBA Essay Tips

5 Most Popular Articles

  1. Writing Your Grad School Personal Statement
  2. Go for the Goals in Your Statement of Purpose
  3. Tips for Writing Letters of Recommendation
  4. MBA Admissions: Low GMAT or GPA
  5. 4 Must-Haves in Residency Personal Statements

And what’s the absolute best at Accepted.com? What do I like the best? YOU!  The wonderful people who are our readers, followers, circlers, fans, friends, participants, and most of all, our clients.

Thanks for a wonderful 2012. Bring on 2013!



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2013 Tips for Completing Your Yale Supplement to the Common Application

Yale

Yale Admissions

This post about the Yale supplemental essay to the Common Application is part of a series of posts providing advice you can use when completing The Common Application for 2012-13.

A student wrote me an email a few weeks ago.  In it, he asked, “Do you think I should submit a version of the essay about economics that I wrote for Penn as the Yale essay?”

I’m in favor of streamlining the essays for your college applications. Often there are ways to reuse an essay or theme that you have crafted for another college with few additional edits.  This time however, I sent a single sentence reply.  “Is your interest in economics the most important thing you have to share with Yale?”

We didn’t need to discuss this further.  Of course he had plenty of other experiences to draw upon in crafting an essay.  And they are far more important to him than his budding interest in economics.

Yale’s request, to “reflect on something you would like us to know about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application or on something you would like to say more about,” is completely open-ended.  It also encourages applicants to think creatively and cohesively about their entire Yale application.  Don’t repeat themes or topics you have already written about in the Common Application. Do choose a topic that is important to you and that you would like Yale to know about.

Aspiring engineers applying to Yale will also need to write an additional essay outlining their interest and experiences related to engineering

My favorite part of the Yale application is the Short Takes section.  Five questions, each requires an answer of less than 25 words.  It’s a chance to be creative, concise, and human.  “What would you do with a free afternoon tomorrow,” and “What is the best piece of advice you have received in the past three years,” Yale wants to know.  With these, often the first answer that comes to mind is a version of the correct one, but I encourage you to be certain that you have shared your own personality in your answers.

As with all of your applications, this is the only chance you have to be understood, in your own words, by the admission committee.   Take your time, be judicious, draft carefully, and edit thoroughly.

Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.



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2013 Tips for Completing Your Cornell Supplement to the Common Application

CornellThis post about the Cornell supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2013 Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools

A friend of mine has a son who studying at Cornell.  When I look at the Cornell supplement, it isn’t hard to picture “John”, sitting at his computer, writing the supplemental statement.  It’s also easy to see why he was such a compelling applicant to their admission committee.  John is a birder, and he was well acquainted with Cornell’s ornithology program.  As a high school student, he had spent hours searching for specific species and summers tracking birds in northern Canada.  He could tell you specifically what he was going to do with his Cornell education.  Happily now, he’s in Ithaca, following through on his initial plans.

If you are searching for academic options in the Ivy League, look carefully at Cornell.  Its undergraduate enrollment is larger than its Ivy brethren, and the diversity of its offerings and majors complements its size.  Applicants select one (and sometimes an alternate) of the 7 undergraduate divisions when submitting an application.

While it might be tempting to check the box for a less competitive division (although they are all competitive) and then change after admission, Cornell’s supplemental essay questions ask students to write specifically about the roots of their interests.  The admissions committee is searching for students who have made deliberate choices about their intended areas of study. You’ve embarked upon a tough fiction-writing task to convince the committee of your desire to study architecture when you fulfilled your arts requirement exclusively with drama, avoided physics like the plague, and have devoted your extracurricular time to soccer and the soup kitchen.

While it isn’t uncommon for students to change their minds about their areas of study while in college, devoting thought to what excites you intellectually now will help you determine what type of environment suits you in college, and will give you career direction as you move forward in the next few years.

For students who are planning to apply to a number of colleges, writing about your area of academic interest is a common question.  For each of these questions, avoid general statements such as “English is my favorite class” and instead focus on the specifics about studying English that appeal to you.  Did a specific project excite you?  Do you enjoy a particular genre of writing?  What are your career goals, and how does your intended major relate to that?  If you are writing about extracurricular pursuits, which are particularly relevant to Agriculture and Hotel Administration applicants, again, be specific about your experiences and what you’ve learned from them.

Applicants to Cornell generally demonstrate very high levels of academic achievement in the classroom and on standardized tests.  Each undergraduate division at Cornell, however, has slightly different requirements for admission regarding testing and high school curriculum.  Double-check the requirements to ensure that you have completed all of the necessary components before submitting your application.

Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.



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2013 Tips for Completing Your Harvard Supplement to the Common Application

HarvardThis post about the Harvard supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2013  Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools. 

Last year, more than 34,000 students applied to Harvard College.  Of those, 2065 received offers of admission to join the class of 2016.  That’s 6%.  With 35,000 applicants, most of whom present nearly perfect academic credentials and outstanding commitments to extracurricular excellence, you face a critical question: How do you stand out?

With the entire college process, be yourself.  Be your best self, but yourself. Your Harvard application is no different.

This year, Harvard has reinstated the restrictive early action process. If Harvard is your first choice, you can consider applying early with a deadline of November 1.  The restrictive early action choice prohibits applicants from filing additional single choice early action, or early decision applications.  It does allow for submission of rolling admission or regular decision applications prior to receiving a decision from Harvard.  If you are admitted to Harvard under the early action program, you have until May 1 to decide whether or not to accept the offer of admission.

A completed Harvard application includes either the ACT with writing or the SAT exam.  Harvard also requires two SAT II subject tests.  To allow for your application to be fully reviewed, and to save the expense of rush reporting, try to complete all of your testing requirements in advance of the deadline, by the October deadline for early action and the November test date for regular decision.

The Harvard Common Application supplement does not require an additional essay, however, you may choose to submit one on the topic of your choice.  Before you feel compelled to fill blank space, be certain that you will enhance your application by adding additional information.  Has there been more to the last 18 years of your life than you have already explained?  Probably.  Will it take time and introspection to write a worthwhile supplemental essay?  Yes.  Before you begin writing, consider the information you have already provided through your common application.  Brainstorm about other experiences that might differentiate you from other candidates, and put yourself at the initial center of your essay.  You are the person the admission committee wants to understand. The key in answering this open-ended essay is to be certain that the reader knows more about the way you think about, engage in, or reflect on the world around you after reading the supplement than before.

One of the Harvard suggestions is to include a list of books that you have read in the last 12 months.  If you spend substantial time reading for pleasure or intellectual engagement, this list might provide compelling insight on your application.  If your list outside of AP English includes only a few bestsellers and a “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, consider a different approach to the question.

While it is tempting to ignore the question, or submit an essay that you have already written for another application, take the time to put your best work in front of the Harvard admission committee.  When you have finished the first draft, consider the reader of your application.  One extra page, times 35,000 applicants, means you best have something meaningful to say.

Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.



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Tips for Completing Your Princeton Supplement to the Common Application

I’ve always enjoyed working with students who are applying to Princeton.  As a group, they have interesting and engaged minds.  Extracurricularly, their accomplishments are varied and distinctive.  The Princeton application tries to elicit specifics about those facets of each applicant through its supplement.  In the age of streamlined “easy apps” and electronic application review that makes applicants seem more similar than different, Princeton is one the colleges whose application seeks to learn more about the person behind the papers.

The section entitled “A Few Details” has been a part of the Princeton application for years, and applicants can truly address the categories in just a few words.  Complete sentences and lots of explanation aren’t necessary or even encouraged. As a Princeton applicant, you are no doubt intelligent, passionate, and accomplished.  Be that same intelligent, passionate, accomplished teenager in this section.  Your answers to these details need not all be highbrow, super-intellectual, SAT word answers.  Resist the urge to be someone you are not in this section.



Recently, there has been a lot of press about how a high school student should spend his or her summers to enhance college applications.  Princeton asks you to specifically detail your recent summer activities.  Whether you travelled extensively, studied intensely, or worked a full-time job, you learned something.  Think about those life lessons as you list your summer activities.  There may also be material for your longer writing sample lurking in those 6 months of summer vacation.

As a longer writing sample, Princeton offers four choices for candidates to write one essay of about 500 words.  

1. Tell us about a person who has influenced you in a significant way.

This question overlaps with the Common Application essay, and it is obviously crucial that your answer to this question not overlap with your previous essay.  If your primary Common Application essay addresses this question, select a different topic for the supplemental essay.  With this topic, it is easy to tell the reader a lot about the person who has influenced you, yet miss the opportunity to explain how that person’s influence has impacted you.  A strong essay does both, with an emphasis on the latter.

 

2. Tell us how you would address the questions raised by the quotation below, or reflect upon an experience you have had that was relevant to these questions.

 

“How can we unlearn the practices of inequality? In other words, how do we increase our capacities not just to act without racism but to actively promote racial equality?”

 

Imani Perry, Professor, Center for African American Studies, and Faculty Associate, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Princeton University.

 

This is a great question to answer if you have actively engaged with issues of racial equality over the past four years. Perhaps, you’ve written research papers on the topic, or debated it. Maybe you have worked on political campaigns or been involved in social justice work. If you have felt the sting of racial inequality in your own life– how do you suggest fixing the problem?

3. Using the statement below as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world.

“Princeton in the Nation’s Service” was the title of a speech given by Woodrow Wilson on the 150th anniversary of the University. It became the unofficial Princeton motto and was expanded for the University’s 250th anniversary to “Princeton in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”

Woodrow Wilson, Princeton Class of 1879, served on the faculty and was Princeton’s president from 1902–1910.

4. “Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.”

Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, chair of the Council of the Humanities and director of the Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University.

5. Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation at the beginning of your essay.

The final three topics all address one point: “Tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world.”  Each of these questions is asking you, the applicant, to tell a story. Pick an experience, large or small, that impacted you, and share it with the admissions committee.  As you tell your story, ensure that you address its impact on you.  Your options in this question allow you to address this in any number of ways, from the most macro, global event, to a smaller, more personal moment.  Don’t be afraid to think, draw connections, and demonstrate maturity through your essay.







Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.

Tips for Completing Your Columbia Supplement to the Common Application

When I visited Columbia University, it was clear to me that the undergraduate college takes distinct pride in two things: the 100-year-old Core Curriculum and the University’s relationship with the city in which it resides.  The Columbia University supplement reflects those emphases.  As a prospective student, I encourage you to think about how these two components of the Columbia education fit with your educational goals.


The Columbia supplement consists of several lists and three short answer questions.   For the quick questions about your interests, which ask you to list books, concerts, media that you have enjoyed over the past year, provide straightforward responses.  As an academically engaged student, there should be plenty of media and arts that have captured your attention.  Share both the mundane and the more interesting.  If you have a strong interest in a subject area, chances are your reading interests at least peripherally relate.  The Core Curriculum at Columbia includes humanities courses that focus on music and art in addition to literature, and the question about performances or exhibits dovetails with this component of the curriculum. These courses also take advantage of the rich opportunities available to students in New York City.

The integration of a strong campus center (the vast majority of students live on campus for four years) with the accessibility of the city and its commitment to a core curriculum, make Columbia a college with its own mission.  There are many facets to Columbia that make it distinctive, and therefore, your short answers about both your interest in Columbia and your intended college studies should be specific and well connected to your interests and its strengths.  If you feel that you need more information about Columbia and its programs, check the website for more information about their fall evening programs in cities around the United States.

Columbia is a member of the Common Application, and does offer an early decision program for students who are confident that Columbia is their first choice.







Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.

Tips for Completing Your Brown Supplement to the Common Application

This post about the Brown supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2013 Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools

Today, when I visited the Brown website, the academic page banner proclaimed, “Brown gives students the freedom to direct their education.”  If that tenet wasn’t clear before, it should be now.  The independence that Brown seeks from its students is evident in the most lengthy of Ivy league supplements.  If you are seeking a Brown education, however, the included questions should be both thought provoking and interesting. Flexibility is a hallmark of the Brown experience. Unfettered by a core curriculum or even the distribution requirements of many other colleges, students at Brown pursue their own education.  The courses a student chooses are based upon his or her own ideas of education and of challenge, interest, and intellectual development.

With these tenets of the Brown education in mind, consider the writing component of the Brown Supplement to the Common Application. Whether you draw inspiration from the biblical statement of “to whom much has been given, much is expected, “ or from Spiderman (“with great power comes great responsibility,”) the application makes it clear that a Brown student should embrace the application as he would the curriculum: with purpose, creative thought, and determination.

The first writing section asks applicants to consider their academic interests within the context of the Brown curriculum, identifying potential areas of study and elaborating on the roots of their interests.  Many other colleges ask a similar version of this question, which can be challenging for the student who is truly “undecided”.  Use this short answer to share some insight into your academic curiosity and in the follow-up question, consider why the flexibility to explore and potentially combine disciplines is important to you.

The second writing section asks about your background and influential experiences.  Brown (in a question similar to one from the University of Michigan,) looks to see how you define yourself relative to others – by asking you to write about a community with which you identify.  It’s easy to identify yourself by geography, ethnicity, or politics – groups for which we already have a label.  If you choose one of these more common groups, try to avoid relying on cliché and general conclusions. As always, keep it personal.  Feeling creative?  There are a number of other ways to define yourself.  Are you the only male in a women’s studies class, the only artist in BC Calculus, or the class clown on the debate team?  Think not only about your role, but why this community is important enough to you that you wrote about it at all.

Several of the writing prompts in this section ask you to consider how you define yourself and how you react to change.  As you brainstorm, consider the following questions:

How do you think about yourself relative to others? If you are a visual thinker, a Venn diagram could be useful here.  Diagram the many circles to which you belong.  Do you define yourself by where you have lived, or by how often that has changed?  Do you remain the same in all situations or share common ground with a chameleon, adapting to your environment?  Do you seek to take risks?  What kind?  Are you afraid of failure?  How have you reacted to a difficult or unexpected situation?  It is easy to identify yourself by your hometown, or your ethnicity and more challenging to look at your identity through a variety of lenses.  When I was thinking about these questions, the correlation between risk and changed perspective was evident.  How do those two elements interrelate for you?  Many strong essays rely on a central conflict, and these elements offer a strong starting point for this construction.  Whether you choose to address these questions in the most traditional manner or a more creative way, the admission committee will learn more about you if you set a scene and tell a story.

One option for the longer essay is to discuss your reasons for attending college.  For many students who are applying to Brown, they have always known that they would go to college.  It’s just the next step in the path after high school for them.  The straight line to college was drawn in preschool, if not before.  If this is your current answer, make another choice for the optional essay.  Then spend some time thinking about your reasons for attending college.  You will be a better college student, at Brown or any other college, for understanding this about yourself.

Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.









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2013 Common Application Essay Tips

This post about the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you fill out the 2013 Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools. Our tips are in blue.

If you are a rising high school senior, there is a good chance that the Common Application website is bookmarked on your web browser, or printed, sitting on your desk.  An ominous reminder of the promise that you made to yourself:  I will write my college essays this summer. 

With more than 400 colleges and universities, including many of the nation’s most selective post-secondary institutions, accepting the Common Application, there’s also a good chance that you’ll be addressing one of its broad ranging essay questions. This year, the recommended length is 250-500 words. While the online format will not cut you off at 500 words, it is easy to lose focus on your essay. Here are a few tips for each of the essay choices.

1. Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

You don’t need to have had a life changing experience to write an outstanding essay in response to this prompt.  In fact, I wouldn’t wish most of the life changing experiences that students use as essay topics on you just so that you have good essay fodder.  Think small and reflect on what you’ve learned.

2. Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.

An effective essay often makes it clear to the reader why this issue is important to the applicant. You’ve missed an opportunity to convey your passion to the admissions committee if you simply write an essay about current newspaper headlines. Look instead to your volunteer experiences or social action clubs in which you’ve been involved and draw upon those encounters.

3. Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

Many grandparents have had a significant influence on applicants.  Not to belittle writing about a grandparent, or a parent, or a sibling who battles cancer, as there are some powerful stories to be told, but often the reviewer is left knowing much more about the person and less about the applicant.  Thoughtful reflection and word choice will help you to shed light about both parties in an effective response to this prompt.

4.Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

This one seems so easy – simply draw upon a section of your junior year English journal or tap that essay you wrote for art history.    Don’t do it.  If you are a musician, or an avid reader, or a budding scientist, you have a plethora of material from which to draw.  Think not only about the work you choose, but perhaps the learning process that you came through in discovering the work. 

5. A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an
experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

This question isn’t all that different from the first essay, only with a focus on diversity.  In writing about this prompt, think carefully about the diversity experience you had and your role in it. 

6. Topic of your choice.

Again, resist the urge to revisit an English paper.  This is your opportunity to tell the admission committee something.  Use it.  And don’t forget to include a prompt for the question – it serves as a guide for the conclusion you’d like the reader to draw from the essay.

Are you unsure where to start?  If one of the essay choices doesn’t leap off the page, don’t get bogged down. Go ahead, write a paragraph or two about an experience. After you have moved beyond the blank page on your computer screen, it will become clear which essay choice you should address.  You can fine-tune your answer with multiple drafts.

With all of these topics, it is easy to write a basic essay that doesn’t provide more information about the applicant to the admission committee.  Think carefully of the information that you would like the admission committee to carry away from reading your essay. Ensure that your essay stands out by writing in an authentic voice and allowing your story to shed light on your academic interests, extracurricular passions or defining experiences.

Whitney BruceBy Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.


 

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