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December 15, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 25 — Submitting Your Regular Decision Applications

Now that your early applications are out of the way, it's time to turn to your regular decision applications (assuming you're not accepting an early offer, in which case... congratulations!).

Week 25 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 

  • Submit your regular decision applications.
  • Interview with your regular decision schools.

Tips & Tricks

1. Respect deadlines. College application deadlines are firm. No exceptions! Make sure to meet them, and don't wait until the absolute last possible minute to submit. If you can beat the deadline, so much the better. That gives you some cushion in case you encounter technical difficulties. Don't wait until the day the application is due to submit.

2. Save a copy. Using the Print Preview feature of the online application, save a PDF copy of the application you're submitting to your hard drive (or in the cloud), and also print a hard copy.

3. Confirm submission before logging out. Print a copy of the online page that confirms you've submitted. You'll need it in case there are technical glitches with the online application system. That way, if your submission date ever becomes an issue, you can give the college proof that you did in fact submit on time.

You can read more tips for submission logistics in chapter 22 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.

December 8, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: Navigating the Waitlist

While the past few weeks have seen a number of admits and rejections handed down to round one MBA applicants, the fate of many remains uncertain.  There is no reason for waitlisted candidates to lose hope, as the top programs admit a fair number of individuals from the waitlist in round two and thereafter, but we know that cautious optimism does not make the wait for an answer any easier.  To help those in this situation make sure that they’re doing all they can, we wanted to share a few waitlist tips:

1. Know—and follow—the rules.  Schools vary in their stances when it comes to interaction with those on the waitlist; some shun communication from applicants and even go so far as to discourage on-the-record campus visits, whereas others welcome correspondence and assign waitlisted candidates to an admissions office liaison.  We know that the natural impulse is to reach out to the adcom and update them on that recent promotion or the final grade from that accounting class you took to bolster your academic profile.  At first blush, it might seem that there’s no harm in sending a short letter or making a call, but no matter how exciting the information you wish to communicate, ignoring the adcom’s instructions is ultimately going to reflect badly on you.  Though such a policy may seem frustrating or unfair, it’s important to respect and abide by the preferences of each school.

2. Communicate if you can.  For those programs that do permit or encourage contact from waitlisters, it’s absolutely a good idea to send an update.  In addition to the obvious news items mentioned above, it’s beneficial to read over your essays and reflect on whether there is some piece of your background or interests that you haven’t gotten across yet.  Taking the time to write about your relevant recent experiences, positive developments in your candidacy and ways that you’ve enhanced your understanding of the program is a nice sign of your interest in the program, and is a good strategy for telegraphing your commitment to attending.  It is, of course, also in your interest to make sure that the adcom has the most up to date information so that they can make an informed decision the next time your file comes up for evaluation.

3. Keep in touch.  Don’t disappear after an initial note to the adcom or phone call to your waitlist manager (if applicable).  If you have plans to be on or near campus, for instance, send a quick email to alert your waitlist manager (or whoever you may have interacted with on the adcom) to this fact.  In many cases, you’ll find that the adcom offers to have you stop by for a friendly chat about your candidacy—something that can go a long way towards helping your case.  Beyond a visit, sending a brief update every few weeks or so is another way to reaffirm your interest in the school and keep you fresh in the minds of the adcom—something that could work to your advantage in a discussion of which candidates to admit from the waitlist.  In all cases, it is important to remember that there is a fine line between persistence and pestering, so please use good judgment!

4. Have a contingency plan.  While it’s important to be consistent and enthusiastic when waitlisted and communicating with staff at your target program, it’s also wise to have a backup plan.  With the Round Two deadlines for several top programs about a month away, there’s still time to put together a solid application to another school.  Even if you’re waitlisted at the school of your dreams and intend to reapply if not admitted, it’s also never too early to start thinking about the coming year and what steps you might take to enhance your candidacy before next fall.

For valuable guidance about being on the waitlist, check out the Clear Admit Waitlist Guide.  This guide will teach you to understand the ground rules of a program’s waitlist policy, formulate a plan to address weaknesses in your candidacy, craft effective communications to the admissions committee and explore every opportunity to boost your chances of acceptance.  This 23-page PDF file, which includes school-specific waitlist policies and sample communication materials, is available for immediate download.

Best of luck to those of you playing the waiting game, and feel free to contact us to learn about our application feedback and waitlist counseling services.  Hang in there!

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

December 8, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 24 — Reviewing Your Next Round of Applications as a Whole

It's time to turn to your regular decision applications (assuming you're are submitting applications for the regular decision deadline).

Week 24 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 

  • Respond to news from your early applications.
  • Notify and thank you recommenders and interviewers (for interviews you've already done).
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Finalize your 5th scholarship application.
  • Negotiate or appeal your financial aid award, if it's insufficient.
  • Take the ACT.

Tips & Tricks

1. Review your next round of applications as a whole to make sure they convey your story. Remember your story from Week 3? Go pull it up again. Are all the elements of your story coming through when you read your application as a whole? If not, which elements are missing or getting lost? Where can you incorporate them in your application materials?

2. Make simple, easy tweaks. There's still time for you to change up your really short answers, switch out your short answers, and realign your essays.

3. Proofread. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. You should be getting pretty good at proofreading by now.

4. Be smart about negotiating financial aid. Financial aid awards can be appealed or negotiated, but you must be polite and have something to say beyond, "It's not enough." You'll need to make an argument about why their calculations or analysis wasn't appropriate in your case.

You can read more tips for reviewing your application as a whole in chapters 5 and 21 of our bookand you can learn more about financial aid in the excellent companion book Admission Matters.

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.

December 1, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 23 — How to Handle Deferrals

If you submitted early applications, you should be seeing some decisions roll in. You probably already have a good handle on what it means to be accepted or denied, but what if your application gets "deferred"? Below are our top tips for giving your deferred application the most punch.

Week 23 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 

  • Finalize your 10th application.
  • Turn your full attention back to school. (Remember school? :) )
  • Interview with colleges.

Tips & Tricks

1. Treat your deferral as a second chance. If you have applied early to one or more colleges, the decision letter you receive might not actually contain a final decision. Instead of being admitted or denied, you might be notified that you have been "deferred." Although you'll probably find that news disappointing, it means you have not been denied, and that's good news, because it gives you a second chance to be admitted! Your deferred application will be reconsidered in the regular round of decision making. Assuming you have continued on a positive course in the first part of your senior year, you have new information that can and will make the best and most compelling application — which you've already submitted — even better. 

2. Use your judgment about what additional material to send.  In order of most to least influential, here are the five kinds of updates that can help your deferred application:

  • New (and good) grades
  • New academic honors or awards
  • New (and higher) test scores
  • Anything that demonstrates your Core Four
  • Anything you have done that demonstrates interest in that college

You can, of course, also submit other kinds of updates, like additional essays, recommendations, or supplementary materials. But we're not as enthusiastic about encouraging you to submit those, because those kinds of updates get mixed reviews from admissions officers. They tend to be more of the same, and they usually serve only to make your file fatter and more time-consuming for an already harried admissions officer to get through. 

3. Submit one bundled update: Rather than sending things in dribs and drabs, assemble all your updates into one package of materials and submit them all together with a short and polite cover letter. That way, all the updates together will make a cohesive and persuasive statement about you. (Sending updates individually also makes it more likely that something will be misfiled or lost.) If that college remains your first choice, make sure to reiterate that in your cover letter.

You can read more tips about deferrals (and waitlists, too) 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.

November 25, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 22 — Prepare to Be Contacted

Once you have submitted your applications, be aware that admissions officers or others related to the college admissions process might actually contact you! Here are some good habits that will serve you well throughout the process (and beyond).

Week 22 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 

  • Finalize your 9th application.
  • Revise your 10th application.
  • Interview with colleges.

Tips & Tricks

1. Answer every call from an unidentified caller. When you do, use your professional-level manners. If you're in a place with a lot of noise in the background, let the call go to voicemail, and then call that person back as soon as you can have a quiet conversation.

2. Tweak your voicemail greeting. Make sure your voicemail greeting is G-rated, courteous, and appropriate for anyone (including admissions officers) to hear.

Not appropriate: "Hey, what's up, I'm busy playing Assassin's Creed, leave me your deets."

Appropriate: "Hi, you've reached Josh. Please leave me a message and I'll call you back."

3. Check your snail-mail, voicemail, and email regularly. And then respond. If you tell people that they can contact you through one of these methods, then you are making an implied commitment that if someone contacts you, you will respond. Promptly. It's best to respond within 24 hours, so that means checking and responding daily.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 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.

November 17, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 21 — Final Push for November 30

This is your final push! You're so close!

Week 21 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 

  • Revise your 9th application.
  • Draft your 10th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Confirm that the early applications you submitted are complete (see Week 20).
  • Finalize your 4th scholarship application.
  • Verify your CSS/Profile data report and update colleges directly if there are any changes or you spot any errors.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.

Tips & Tricks

1. Commit to your final push. Make a pact with yourself to have all of your applications done and ready to submit by November 30.

2. Review your financial aid documents carefully. Fix any errors as quickly as possible, because they can snowball. That would be bad (and potentially expensive) for you.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 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.

November 12, 2014

52 Weeks to College: Week 20 — Following Up On Your Submitted Applications

Hitting the "submit" button doesn't mean you're done just yet. This week is all about learning how to follow up on your applications after you've submitted them — a very important step!

Week 20 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 

  • Draft your 9th application.
  • Interview with colleges.
  • Revise your 4th scholarship application.
  • Prepare for standardized tests.

Tips & Tricks

1. Confirm that your early applications are complete. The only way to know that your application is complete is for you to have confirmation from the college. Just because the Common Application says "downloaded by the college," or your counselor has confirmed to you that something was sent, does NOT mean that the college has received that item and put it in your application file. Until you have confirmation from the college, you don't have confirmation, period. If you have not received confirmation within two weeks of (1) having submitted the application or (2) the deadline (whichever comes first), contact the admissions office to check the status of your application.

2. Resolve problems promptly. If your follow-up reveals that something is missing from your application file, then it is up to you to fix the problem. Clarify exactly what is missing. Identify the fastest way to get the missing item to the college and into your application file. Then take action and get it done. Be as proactive as necessary. (For example, volunteer to mail the recommendation yourself rather than wait for the recommender to find the stamp and mail it.) Let the college know that you are aware of the problem and working to resolve it. 

3. Call rather than email. You can often get the whole problem resolved in one phone call, whereas email often requires a long chain of back-and-forth correspondence.

4. Always be polite and respectful. No matter how frustrating these snafus are, being angry with others will probably make it harder to solve your problem, not easier. Any rudeness towards the admissions staff will also be noted and could be held against you.

You can read more tips about things to do after you submit in chapter 22 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.

November 11, 2014

New York Times Op-Ed on Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day! As some of you already know, I also help run a non-profit called Service to School, which provides free application help to veterans. Our goal is to help veterans get into the very best colleges and graduate schools as they transition into civilian life and navigate the sometimes strange world of higher ed. 

Today, one of my S2S colleagues and I have an op-ed in the New York Times on the subject of veterans' education, the G.I. Bill, and for-profit schools. You can read it here: "Fix the New G.I. Bill."

For any veterans out there who are reading this, thank you so much for your service.

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, law school, and MBA applicants make smart decisions about their higher education and navigate the application process. She is the author of The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions and How to Prepare a Standout College Application, and also serves on the leadership team of the non-profit Service to School.

November 11, 2014

How to Approach the Last 4 Weeks Before the December LSAT

Today’s advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep. Blueprint students can enroll in live LSAT prep classes throughout the country, online LSAT courses from the comfort of their own home, or self-study with Blueprint’s new Logic Games book 

Halloween may be well behind us, but for those taking the December LSAT, the truly scary time of year is just beginning. With just about a month left until the Big Day, you might be stressing about being behind on your prep. The good news is that almost everyone feels that way – this is around the time when people start realizing that although they’ve come a long way in terms of LSAT prep, they still have a long way to go. The other good news is that even if you do feel that way, you might actually be right on track.

If you haven’t started your prep at all yet, the prognosis is not good. The general recommendation is to prep for 2-3 months at minimum. Sure, there are people who have prepped for a month or so and done very well, but those people are extreme outliers.

So if you haven’t even cracked a book yet, you should probably wait for a later test date, even if that means delaying your applications by a year. If you have your heart set on taking the December LSAT, be aware that you’ll need to make the LSAT your life for the next month, and you won’t have time to prepare to your full potential.

Okay, so the bad news is out of the way. Let’s talk about where you should be if you are in the thick of your prep!

If you have already started studying (and we mean really studying, not just idly flipping through an LSAT book from time to time), then you’re probably in a better spot than you think. For instance, if your practice test scores have been lower than you’d like, there’s no need to be concerned just yet – there’s still ample time to improve your score, and it’s pretty common to see a big score increase in the last few weeks of prep.

This is the period of studying when you will hopefully see things start to come together. You should’ve been spending most of your time at the beginning of your prep learning the techniques and making sure you understood everything. Now, it’s time to start trying to speed up. 

If you’re still struggling with getting through questions quickly and efficiently, you’ll want to start incorporating more timed practice. You should start at a pace that is a little quicker than normal, but not so fast that you’re getting everything wrong. Once that pace feels comfortable, lower your time goal again.

You can start with smaller chunks of questions and work your way up to full sections. This timed practice should be interspersed with taking full practice tests; after each practice test, make sure you thoroughly review the test and spend some time working on anything you struggled with before you take the next test.

Around this time, LSAT preppers sometimes start to feel overwhelmed by how much work they still have to do. It can seem intimidating, but try not to stress too much just yet – there’s still a lot of time for things to click, and you’ll have ample opportunity to stress once the test date gets a little closer! For now, keep plugging away – all of that hard work will pay off over the next month.

For more study tips from Blueprint visit their LSAT blog, Most Strongly Supported

November 3, 2014

MBA Admissions Tip: The Long Essay

Essay content you’ve polished for one school often serves as a great starting point for the next application, but as we’ve often said, customizing this text for the school in question is key.  One particular challenge we see applicants struggle with each year is effectively expanding a short essay they’ve written for one program in responding to a question on the same topic but with a longer limit.  With this in mind, we’d like to offer some pointers on converting condensed comments to more extensive remarks.

1) Expand in proportion.  When taking an existing response as a starting point for crafting a longer document, one good rule of thumb is to build upon each subject to more or less the same extent.  While elaborating on your work to date might involve less time and work than the more research-intensive “why School X” discussion, it’s generally prudent to maintain balance among subjects and provide all of the major pieces of information a school requests in equal measure.

2) Maintain focus.  One frequent issue with long essays is that they sometimes lack a clear sense of direction.  To ensure that the reader is able to understand the relevance of your remarks and follow the connections among the various ideas, it’s a good idea to include transition sentences at the beginning of each paragraph that tie the subsequent remarks and examples to the topic of the essay and clearly state how certain statements relate to the question.  This exercise also serves as a check for the applicant in making sure that all of the details in the essay are related to the subject.

3) Finish when you’re finished.  While it’s important to take advantage of the opportunity that each essay presents to share information about your candidacy, you shouldn’t feel obligated to reach the upper end of a suggested word limit/range if you feel that you’ve already addressed the question and presented a full picture of your interests and background.

Good luck to everyone composing essays with an eye to R2 submission!  For more tailored guidance on essays in particular or the application process in general, feel free to contact us.

About Clear Admit:

Ivey Consulting is proud to partner with Clear Admit to provide comprehensive admissions information and consulting services to business school applicants. Learn more about Clear Admit here.

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