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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 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!


// ~ Helping You Write Your Best

2013 Tips for Completing Your Yale Supplement to the Common Application


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.

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.

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. ~ Helping You Write Your Best

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.