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February 25, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 35--When and How Colleges Notify You of Their Admissions Decisions

Waiting, waiting, and still more waiting. That’s what February and March are about when it comes to college admissions. When will the waiting be over? When will the college where you have applied notify you of their decisions? How will they notify you? Fat envelope means good news, fact or fiction? These are the questions inquiring applicants have on their minds right now and they are the questions we show you how to find the answers for in this week’s tips and tricks.

Week 35 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Research notification dates and methods for the colleges on your list.

Tips & Tricks

Finding out when and how you will be notified of a college’s admissions decision is a pretty straightforward research task. Start by checking your correspondence from the college. Very often, the college includes the information in their post-submission correspondence to you. If you can’t find it there, then try this simple Google search: “notification date” admission [name of college]. The most reliable information will be on the college’s website, so scan the search results for the college’s URL first. Even if there isn’t any official information, your search will probably turn up a conversation thread on College Confidential or some other college admissions related website that will give you some information. Of course, remember to consider the source. The only information you can DEPEND on is information from the college itself.

If the college has given you a link and log in information for an applicant portal or website where you can find out the college’s admissions decision, TEST IT before the big day. Your meltdown when you encounter technical difficulties on decision day will be EPIC. Guaranteed. So, test your log in now and avoid the epic meltdown.

The “Fat Envelope” is still most often a signal that “good news” lies within, but in the 21st century, you rarely have to wait for the envelope to arrive in order to know whether you have been admitted or not. The majority of colleges will either notify you by email or post your admissions decision on your applicant website on the day that the “envelopes” go in the snail mail. There are, however, a few colleges that still notify ONLY by snail mail and for those the “Fat Envelope” is what you want to see!

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 17, 2015

LSAT Score Jumps and Averaging

How do the top schools evaluate multiple LSAT scores? I know a few of the t14 schools claim they average the scores and a few others claim they take a holistic approach. However, I have also read that since the ABA changed their reporting policy, law schools have every incentive to evaluate the highest score. 

Also, what if there is a huge disparity in the scores...something like 155 to 174? Can one expect to receive admission into an elite school with such a significant difference? I'm talking Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc.

Check out these two posts:

The short answer is that you have a score jump that big, pop the champagne. That's great news, even for the top schools.

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college and graduate school applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and submit their best applications possible. Read more law school tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.

 

February 17, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 34 -- Last Chance to Complete or Update Your Application is Now!

Mid-February is the peak of “Reading Season” in college admissions. During reading season, admissions officers read, evaluate and DECIDE the fates of applicants. Hopefully, you’ve been following the 52 Weeks plan and you’ve done everything possible to make your best case for admission. You’ve submitted a standout application, you’ve submitted any required or helpful updates, and you’ve confirmed that your application is complete. If so, all you have to pay attention to this week is staying up with the financial aid application process. If not, this week is really your last chance to submit application updates and/or complete your application. If you don’t act now, then the colleges will make their decisions anyway. This week’s tips and tricks are focused on helping you take the necessary final steps across the finish line.

Week 34 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Confirm that your applications are really truly COMPLETE at each and every college on your list.
  • Send any application updates that are required (e.g. Midyear Reports) or that would be helpful.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Provide the documentation necessary to support your financial aid application if required by the college or if you are selected for verification.

Tips & Tricks

1) Take action.

Procrastination is always a bad strategy, but it is deadly at this stage in the process. Colleges are making hundreds – that’s right hundreds – of decisions each and every day right now because they must notify applicants of their decisions within weeks. So you’ve got to act now if your application is incomplete or if there is anything you want to add to your application before a decision is made.

For International Students only: If the college requires you to submit financial documentation regarding your ability to pay (ultimately necessary for the visa process) before the admissions decision, then you need to confirm that you have sent what is required and that the college has received and processed it. Otherwise, your application will be considered incomplete and either no decision will be made or you will be automatically denied.

2) Don't panic if you are chosen for financial aid verification.

About 30% of FAFSA applicants are chosen every year and most of these applicants are chosen randomly. If you are selected then you will be asked to submit a verification worksheet, tax returns, and perhaps other supporting documents.

You can read more about what to do during this phase of the process in Chapters 22 and 23 of our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 12, 2015

Reapplicant: Proving Your Love to a School

What's your opinion of a re-applicant to Law School A mentioning in his/her application that he/she was admitted to but turned down Law School B last year. The purpose of this is to show Law School A how much the applicant wants to attend Law School A---so much so that he/she is willing to turn down Law School B and risk not having any law schools to attend just for a chance at getting into Law School A. Personally, I thought mentioning this might come off as a bit unprofessional. (A and B are similarly ranked and are both among the top of the T14. Neither of them ask for Why School X essays.)

The short answer: I wouldn't bother mentioning having turned down School B in your reapplication to School A.

That's not because I consider it unprofessional, but rather because School A most likely won't care that you turned down School B. If School A doesn't ask "Why Us?" in its application, it's likely (1) already assuming you really want to go there just by virtue of submitting an application or (2) doesn't care much about your motivations for wanting to go there (although probably does care about plenty of other things). They do, however, have to worry about yield protection (what percentage of their applicants accept their offers of admission), so they do care about the likelihood that you would accept their offer if they made one. Some schools have to care about that more than others, depending on how strong a brand they have.

So perhaps that's what you're getting at: Will it help ease their yield protection concerns if you tell them you were willing to turn down a peer school in order to reapply?

There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your interest that I think would work better. You can visit the school, you can apply binding Early Decision (if they offer that), and you can write an essay laying out the case for why you really want to go there.

Given that School A and School B are peer schools, the argument for preferring one over the other comes down to fit — how School A will do a great job helping someone with your background and goals get from Point A to Point B to Point C, and why it would be a great learning community for you to join. For schools that ask "Why Us?" in the essay, those are essential things to address. For schools that don't as "Why Us?", you don't have to write about that, but in your case you probably should, since you feel so strongly about School A. (I assume you didn't write them a "Why Us?" essay the last time around.)

The bottom line is that if you have important things to say on that subject this second time around, stay focused on School A. You don't need to contrast School A to a different school to make your case. I don't know what other schools you might be applying to this year, but if School A is the only one you're applying to, I would tell School A that it is the only one you want to invest in, and that you're not applying anywhere else.* Bonus: If School A offers binding Early Decision (something that maybe you wouldn't have taken advantage of before, but that you would consider now), that's also a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is way to prove your love to a school.

*Can you get away with lying about that? Don't be tempted. Schools can find out pretty easily where else you've applied.

 

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college and graduate school applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and submit their best applications possible. Read more law school tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.

February 10, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 33 -- Does the Letter You Just Got REALLY Mean Anything about Your Likely Admission?

Waiting for an admissions decision to arrive is torture. No doubt about it. So it is perfectly understandable that you will scrutinize everything you get from a college in the hopes that it will give you a preview of good news to come. And some colleges do send some applicants messages that are truly positive signals that good news is on the way. But, most of the messages you are getting from colleges right now are nothing more than good marketing. So how do you separate the truly positive signal from the marketing? It’s not easy. This week we’ll give you a few tips and tricks for interpreting what messages you’re getting from colleges.

Week 33 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

Tips & Tricks 

An invitation is good marketing, not a truly positive signal. You just got an email from the college where you have an application pending INVITING you to apply for one of their merit scholarships. Surely that means that you are going to be admitted to the college, right? Wrong. Admissions and scholarship selection processes are operating simultaneously, not sequentially. So an invitation to apply for a scholarship is simply the college marketing their scholarships well. Every applicant who meets the basic eligibility criteria for the scholarship got the same invitation without regard to the likelihood of his/her admission.

An encouraging shout out from someone outside the admissions office is good marketing, not a truly positive signal. You just got an email from the faculty chair of the department of engineering saying that she would be excited to have you as part of the incoming class and raving about all the cool engineering projects you’ll get to do in your first year. You ignored the email you got from the student president of the Robotics Club, but an email from a FACULTY member has to be different, right? Wrong. Colleges know that a little word of encouragement in this period goes a long way when it comes to making you think better of the college and will positively influence your ultimate choice should you be admitted. So this college is running a really great marketing effort by sending you all this encouraging email now, but it is just good marketing, not a truly positive signal.

A “likely letter” is a truly positive signal. A “likely letter” will have the following attributes: it will be a written communication from the admissions office (usually from the highest ranking person in that office) that includes the magic phrase “likely to be admitted” or something very similar. Likely letters are most often sent to the following types of applicants:

  • recruited athletes applying to Ivy League colleges;
  • visual and performing artists who are applicants to by-audition-only or by-portfolio-review only programs; and, 
  • the applicants who are at the tippy, tippy top of very competitive applicant pools. 

What do these applicants have in common? They are usually going to have multiple offers of admission and the college sending the likely letter wants to beat the other colleges to punch when it comes to good news.

Are you an applicant who is likely (excuse the pun) to get a likely letter? If you aren’t, then chances are the letter you have received is a marketing letter, not a likely letter. If you are someone who might get a likely letter, don’t panic if one isn’t in your box, because here’s the catch. Not every college sends likely letters; and, even if the college does send likely letters, they may not have processed your application in time for you to get a likely letter. One more thing about a likely letter – it is a truly positive signal, but it is NOT an offer of admission. Wait until you get the actual offer of admission to celebrate and withdraw all your other applications. And be sure to stay the course when it comes to doing the things that resulted in your getting the likely letter in the first place!  

For more information on likely letters and how colleges use them as part of their admissions strategy, see this great article in the Yale Daily News

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

February 9, 2015

Good News for February LSAT Takers

What a glorious week all you February LSAT takers are waking up to. Exhausted, curled up, wrung out? Take heart, you could be these people over in Boston:

Twitter: @OnlyInBOS

Here's some of the best news, though. For many years I've been banging the drum to apply EARLY, EARLY, EARLY in the admissions cycle. Recently, though, it's been more of a finger tapping. 

Many people who submitted their applications last fall are already getting acceptances, so that hasn't changed, and that's a nice bonus for them. But the good news for you, dear Februaries, is that there's never been a better time to be applying late in the cycle.

Many law schools are in wait-and-see mode as application volume has dropped like a stone for several years. The result is that many people who applied early in the cycle are going to be hanging out on waitlists while schools see what applications still come in. That's true whether a school calls it an official waitlist or not. The reality is that many applicants aren't going to get a final yes or no answer until the summer or even early fall. 

And some law schools have been quietly pushing out their application deadlines altogether. At the top law schools, February 1 used to be the norm. Many (but not all) have now pushed their deadlines out to the end of February or even March, so you still have time to submit some applications to top schools this cycle. The biggest tip of my hat goes to UNC Law School, whose deadline is August 1. That's right, August. I give them great credit for being honest and putting it right out there that the application cycle is going to be strettttccchhhhed through the summer. That's going to be true for many applicants at a lot of other law schools, too, whether the schools acknowledge that publicly or not. 

Now that the February test is behind you, it's game time. Wrap up your applications so that you're ready to fire them off when your score comes back. And if your score isn't anywhere close to what you wanted it to be, it's OK and even advisable to push off your applications until this fall. I think that's the better way to go than the alternative, which is: apply in February/March with a score you don't like, get dinged a few months after that, and then submit another application a few months after that. If you've given your written materials your best shot for the first application, it's hard to come up with a brand new, whiz-bang application that is both different and plausible just a few months later. Then you're better off waiting and being first in line in September, with a new and improved June score. First impressions matter. (But if you have already submitted your applications, and February was a retake for you, you can let schools know that another score is coming.)

Side note for future applicants: Don't wait until February to take the test. Ideally, take it in the June before applications open up, with October as your retake option if you need it. Plan on submitting your applications in September/October, with November as your worst case scenario. Among other reasons, that timeline will allow you to remain eligible for binding Early Decision programs if you decide that's the best move. Those ED deadlines are typically in November.

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting. She and her team help college and graduate school applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and submit their best applications possible. Read more law school tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions.

February 6, 2015

"Janeille asked questions that made me rethink the entire application"

Some nice feedback from an applicant who worked with our colleague Janeille and is happily headed to Georgetown Law School:

I had worked with an admissions consultant from a different company and thought my application was ready to go. I wanted Anna Ivey Consulting to give a final review and sprinkle their magic dust on the application so I could start pumping out the apps. The conversations I had with Janeille and the questions she asked made me re-think my entire applicaiton. She helped me discover exactly what makes me unique and the most effective way to convey that to law schools. My LSAT score was below the median of my first-choice-school and I truly attribute my acceptance to Janeille's support and assistance. Comparing my original pre-Janeille essay with the post-Janeille final product showed me just how insightful and thoughtful her help was. Thank you!!!!!!

February 3, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 32 -- Managing Your Way through the February Lull

It has finally come.  The February lull.  If you have been working your 52 Weeks plan steadily, you really don’t have much to do with regard to college admissions this week. Maybe an interview or two. Maybe some things related to financial aid. But nothing big. Yay! Stay on track by handling the lull well.

Week 32 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Interview with colleges.
  • Finish your FAFSA and keep copies of all the underlying documentation.
  • Check for new scholarship opportunities and complete applications for any that pertain to you.

Tips & Tricks

Let admissions officers do their work.

Right now admissions officers are incredibly busy reading applications, yours included. You want them to concentrate on that task. So contact the admissions office when necessary, send in the suggested updates, and then leave them alone!

Refocus yourself on doing well to the very last day of your senior year.

Contrary to popular belief, what you do after you submit your applications (and even after you’ve been admitted) matters. It matters because all admissions offers are conditional on your successfully completing high school. It matters because it helps when it comes to getting in off waitlists. It matters because your record follows you. It matters because you’ll feel better about yourself if you end high school well. Keep up your grades, give your senior project in a class your best effort, and go for the gold when it comes to your activities. It matters.

Avoid getting caught up in drama of the rumor mill.

How do all too many applicants (and their parents) occupy themselves during this long period of waiting? Talking, texting, posting with other anxious applicants and parents. News flash: none of this serves you. Obsessing about when decisions will be out doesn’t influence when decisions will be out. Crowd sourcing your chances for admission doesn’t change your chances for admission. So do yourself a favor and stop talking, texting, posting about college admissions.

You can read more about what to do post submission in chapter 23 of our book.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

January 27, 2015

52 Weeks to College: Week 31 — Deferral Updates

If you've already submitted your best and most compelling application — your standout application — is an application postscript ever be warranted? Yes! In three cases:

1. When you have significant updates to your application

2. When you have been deferred

3. When you have been waitlisted

This week, we're focusing on the deferral scenario. 

If you've applied early to one or more colleges, the decision letter might not actually contain a final decision. Instead of being admitted or denied, you might be notified that you've been deferred. Although that news is no doubt disappointing, you have not been denied. And that is indeed good news, because your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. You get a second bite at the apple without suffering any penalty for having applied early. A deferral is basically a second chance at being admitted. Nice!

What does a deferral indicate? It means that the admissions officer is on the fence about whether to admit or deny you. He or she wants more information before a final decision is made. The admissions officer might want to see how things go in your senior year, or she may want to see how you stack up against the larger Regular Decision pool of applicants, or both. 

That's where updates come in. You want to provide updates that have a positive influence on the admissions officer. Not all updates accomplish that. That is why you must update with a purpose

Week 31 To-Dos

Every Week

  • Check your email, voicemail, texts, and snail mail for any communications that relate to applying to college. Read them and take whatever action is necessary.
  • Update your parents about what you’re doing. This regular communication will work wonders in your relationship with your parents during this stress-filled year.  

This Week 

  • Send deferral updates.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Finish your FAFSA and keep copies of all the underlying documentation.

Tips & Tricks

1. Update with a purpose. See our tips in Week 23 for the most effective updates to be sending. 

2. Format your updates as a short essay or a bulleted list. Keep the updates simple and easy for the admissions officer to read and digest.

3. Talk to your college counselor. Ask your counselor for help in the form of an updated note with the midyear report or an optional report.

You can read more about deferral updates in chapter 23 of our book.

About the Authors:

Alison Cooper Chisolm heads the college admissions consulting practice at Ivey Consulting. She came to private consulting after working in admissions for more than 10 years at three selective universities (Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth College).

Anna Ivey is the former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process and make smart choices about higher education.

You can find more college admissions tips in their book How to Prepare a Standout College Application (Wiley 2013), and follow them on Twitter and Facebook

About the 52 Weeks to College Series:

52 Weeks to College is a week-by-week plan for applying to college. It breaks this complex and difficult project down into weekly to-do lists with supporting tips and tricks for getting it all done. Based on the Master Plan for applying to college found in our book, How to Prepare a Standout College Application52 Weeks to College is designed for any applicant who intends to apply to top U.S. colleges. For those of you who are just discovering the 52 Weeks series and want to catch up, click here.

January 23, 2015

Finding Your Voice

Some nice feedback on working with our consultant Greg, from an applicant headed to a T14 law school:

Greg, I am absolutely delighted to let you know that I have been accepted at _________  [T14 law school]!! It is honestly a dream come true for me.  _______ was a reach school for me, as I fell right along the median for GPA, but slightly below for the LSAT. Without stellar “softs” and as someone who had to retake the LSAT, __________ would for most people have seemed like a long shot. But then again, as Ivey Consulting has taught me, the application process is much more than just two numbers. It’s about telling your story.

Looking back I wanted to express my appreciation on two particular items. The first involves the writing and helping me find my “voice”. This is something that I found particularly difficult, since following college I found myself unaccustomed to writing in the first person. Your help and edits allowed me to find my voice and to tell my story in the most effective manner.

Secondly, I would also like to express my thanks for the service as a whole. Ivey Consulting was extremely professional with not only their quick turn around times but also their assistance. I remember having talked to you for not only the essay, but also received advice on how to address the multiple LSAT question.

It has been a very interesting journey and I appreciate having the support and assistance from Ivey Consulting along this process. Please let me know if you ever receive an inquiry from my alma mater. I would be more than happy to be a point of reference.

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