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Which Prompt to Answer: Does It Matter?

30 Jan

common app logo





The Common Application will be keeping the same questions for this fall’s college applicants as it used in 2015-2016. The company says it will review prompts every two years, because that is how long it takes to process all the feedback.  So the announcement was not terribly newsworthy, but it did include some curious statistics on the the proportion of applicants who answered each of the five prompts last year:

Among the more than 800,000 unique applicants who have submitted a Common App so far during the 2015-2016 application cycle, 47 percent have chosen to write about their background, identity, interest, or talent – making it the most frequently selected prompt; 22 percent have chosen to write about an accomplishment, 17 percent about a lesson or failure, 10 percent about a problem solved, and four percent about an idea challenged.

I am not sure why it should matter to any individual writer how many other applicants might be responding to the same question he or she has chosen.

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Squeeze Into the Admissions Funnel!

15 Dec

Click the Funnel.

Julianne Swartz, “How Deep Is Your” (2012), on exhibit in 2012 at the de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA.

What of the Poets and Painters?

3 Dec
Harvard Magazine Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 10.08.48 AM

Helen Vendler asks the right questions in the alumni magazine.

In the world of college admissions, and of course college-admissions essay writing, we know that everybody seems to value leadership and service and academic achievement and that old chestnut character.  Basically, it’s the same qualifications that earn students an invitation to  membership in the National Honor Society.  (Now, I have run across precious few chapters of that organization that manage to share  these qualities very much with anyone who doesn’t already belong, but that’s a subject to which I will lead you at another time.) Continue reading

Do You Fit Into a College’s Plans?

8 Nov

Derek Flynn

At nearly every campus I visit, I hear a desire to grow enrollment while also shaping the incoming class. Shaping once meant attracting stronger academic students and was usually synonymous with increasing academic profile. …  more and more it refers to characteristics defined by institutional mission, geography, talent, ethnicity, and many others. Knowing this, campuses are becoming (or should become) much more proactive in the way they build, develop, and cultivate their admissions funnels.

— Derek Flynn, Executive Consultant, Noel-Levitz

It’s not a career field that many of us have ever thought of entering, or even knew existed, but it makes sense: There are folks out there who specialize in developing strategies for colleges that want to grow their enrollment and keep themselves solvent over the long run. Continue reading