LinkedIn: Your New College Admissions Tool

Sure, you can get a job with LinkedIn, but can it get you into college with it?  Well, LinkedIn certainly hopes so.  See how it might be helpful in this article in CNET:


If it’s been awhile since you applied to college, here’s a bit of news to make you feel your age: it’s not just about SAT scores, transcripts, and personal essays these days.

Social networking plays a role, too.

Starting this college admissions season, teens can use the professional networking site LinkedIn in two ways: to research universities and to create profiles highlighting accomplishments that would otherwise be hard to include in a traditional application. LinkedIn made these features possible by lowering the age requirement for users to 14 in the United States and by launching what it calls university pages.

University pages offer basic stats about a college, but also leverage the power of a user’s LinkedIn network. When you a view a page you can instantly see how you’re connected to the university. Perhaps you know alumni who graduated in a subject in which you’re also interested. “People have said I want to be an astronaut when I grow up and there was never a way to see that footprint or that pathway to get into becoming an astronaut,” said John Hill, LinkedIn’s higher education evangelist. “We give you that through data and that becomes aspirational.”

Students may not see the value in creating a profile if they’ve only worked at a local frozen yogurt shop, but there are ways to beef up your profile. “It’s totally fine to have work experience that may not relate to what you want to be when you grow up,” Hill said. He also urges students to “connect to groups, connect to companies that you’re interested in learning more [about to] make your network a little bit more robust.”

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An Interview with Lacy Crawford, Author of Early Decision…

At this point in the summer, most high school juniors are already acquainted with the horrible agony that is the college admissions process. They’ve taken the expensive SAT prep courses, visited at least a dozen campuses, and spent weeks agonizing over their personal essays.

Wavebreak Media Ltd./Corbis

Indeed, the personal essay in particular causes students and parents to tear their hair out, knowing it could make or break their application. For 15 years, Lacy Crawford worked with high school students to hone these essays, a torturous but rewarding experience that she chronicles in her forthcoming book, Early Decision.

The book tells the story of Anne, a 27-year-old application guru who coaches five high school seniors through the harrowing application process. From the privileged daughter of a Duke University trustee to the inner-city kid who taught herself about immigration reform, their admissions journeys take them through endless rewrites of Common App essays, counseling sessions at their sprawling suburban homes, and after-hours phone conversations with sniveling mothers and passive aggressive fathers desperate to secure their children slots at Ivy League schools.

We talked to Crawford about dealing with overbearing parents, how the admissions process has changed over the years—and how to get into the school of your choice without getting trampled in the college rat race. 

When did you decide to chronicle this part of your life?

My work with students tapered off dramatically in 2010, after I had my first child. And then friends told me I was already too late to apply for preschool for my son and needed to hurry up and get on the list. So I panicked and called some schools and sent over applications. I remember one morning I was working on an application that had essay questions about my son. I looked over and he was lying on the carpet on his back and I thought, “Oh my god, this is how it happens. This is how it begins.” I’d been secretly judging these parents for ten years but there I was, ready to step on the same moving walkway, and I thought, “I know how this ends.” This ends with me hiring someone like me to get my kid into college. So I started writing the book as a private investigation.

“The gift that I could give to these students who had terrible writer’s block was telling them: ‘We need 11 essays and we’re going to do 10 drafts of each of them.’”

You were so entrenched in these kids’ lives—more life coach than college essay counselor.

That may be a mark of how young and naïve I was when I started. I didn’t have a degree in education or counseling or anything, but I had grown up an overachiever in a family and a community that put a lot of pressure on the same type of thing. I felt like I could relate to the experiences these kids were having. I wanted to help shift the frame a little bit away from their parents and under them so they could take control of the process. So yes, I was deeply involved. And the anxiety these mothers face during this process—there are few people they can vent to. I think some of them hired me quite simply so the mothers would have someone to call when they were freaking out after their glass of wine at dinner.

The wealthier families and micromanaging parents really stick out in the book.

There were billionaires who flew me all over the place. That was eye-opening and foreign to me. But there were also plenty of normal parents whose kids were in public high schools and who felt overwhelmed because their college counselors had 100 kids and they had no idea where to begin. I also had students that I took on pro bono from underserved schools who were the first in their family to go to college. We talk about the college application crisis. But the crisis has nothing to do with rich kids not getting in; it has everything to do with everyone else not even knowing where to begin.

Early Decision: Based on a True Frenzy By Lacy Crawford 304 pages. William Morrow. $25.99

Is most of Early Decision based on your first few years working with these kids?

When I first started doing this work I had 15 or 20 students a year, and I focused much more on helping them with the nuts and bolts, helping them to establish deadlines, that sort of thing. As I got older, and I did this more and more, I started to feel that if the student couldn’t work out the deadlines on his own, he didn’t deserve to go to that school and I wasn’t going to do the work for him. What I did instead was help him figure out what it was he loved to study and what he might wish to pursue. I got more involved in their lives as the years went on.

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College Admissions: Parents Gone Wild…

It is just amazing what steps some applicants will take to get admitted to college, but perhaps not as amazing as the steps some parents will take.  Lucy Crawford in a New York Post article describes her first-hand accounts as an admissions adviser and reveals some stories of parents who took it to far:

Here the frenzy is amplified by money and power as it only can be in New York; college admissions are the culmination of a scramble that begins with nursery school. Here, too, the opportunities for obsessive parents to break a student’s heart seem sharper than anywhere else.

My abiding memory of tutoring New Yorkers is of sitting with one girl as night fell late in October. Tears coursed down her cheeks and onto the hem of the distinctive skirt of her elite private school. She was too upset to sip from the mug of hot chocolate her housekeeper had brought up. Her parents were working late, as they always did, and other than the staff, we were alone in the house. Spread on a table before us were college essay drafts.

“It’s hopeless,” she sobbed. “I’ve got nothing.”

From her bedroom window, where we sat, an unobstructed view of Central Park stretched north to the autumn sky.

How does a young woman with so much come to feel she’s got nothing? My students were almost all thoughtful and diligent, but their parents had fallen into a terrible trap, having raised their children to reach for the stars without teaching them how to so much as stretch out an arm.

For many of the children of the most ambitious, wealthiest parents in the city, the college-admissions process begins when a child is 2, with the hiring of a consultant to deliver nursery-school acceptances.

Once in school, if the child is slow in any subject, parents hire tutors. If the tutors fail, the parents will knock on doors until they find a learning specialist who agrees to identify a trumped-up deficit in a student’s capabilities — in other words, to label the child in some way learning-disabled — after which the parents will force their excellent school to exempt the child from certain obligations, so she no longer has to take four years of math, say, or timed tests.

The college list will be drawn up no later than sophomore spring, and it will include only trophy schools — the Ivy League, Duke, Stanford — selected not for fit but according to where the parents have influence. If a parent went to a college, it’s a “legacy school,” and it goes at the top of the list. If they know a trustee, that’s in Position No. 2. And so on down the line.

By junior spring, the “early decision” school is chosen, meaning a single application will be made by Nov. 1 with the promise that the student will attend if admitted. Statistically, this is the best chance a student has of acceptance at top schools, and it’s not a problem to apply so early for students who have had years to tour their choices and who don’t have to fill out financial-aid forms.

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One Perfect College Essay…To Go, Please…

Perhaps there is no greater agony in the college application process than coming up with that perfect essay…which can now be 150 words longer.  Lacy Crawford in the Wall Street Journal, give a little taste of some of the successful and less successful approaches in this article:

This spring, with little fanfare, the folks behind the Common Application—the main application form for almost 500 of the nation’s top colleges and universities—announced a big change: the personal statement, the form’s core essay, has been extended from 500 to 650 words long.

I thought: That’ll be $13,000.


*Ben Wiseman

Several years ago, on a high floor in a midtown Manhattan office, a father offered me $10,000 to write his son’s personal statement. Apparently he had misunderstood what was meant by “independent college applications adviser.” The publishing industry may be in a tailspin, but in some places, writers can still earn $20 a word. Thanks to the Common Application’s changes (and not including inflation), that’s $13,000 a kid.

Though I had other “day jobs,” for 15 years I worked discreetly as a college-applications adviser in cities from Los Angeles to London. I never wrote a student’s essay, but I was practicing a dark art: such tutoring privileges the elite whose parents can afford it and profits from a miserable process.

The grim statistics of the college admissions race (last year Harvard reported a 5.79% acceptance rate), fueled by an obsession with trophy schools, have warped what might be a powerful threshold for adolescents. At the very moment when teenagers are invited to offer what they’ve learned and who they’ve become, their voices are hijacked by well-meaning adults who think kids can’t possibly be allowed to risk answering these questions on their own.

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President Obama Proposes New College Ranking System

Lookout US News & World Report, you have some competition.  President Obama announced a new universal ranking system for college and universities. The Guardian reported the details in their article today:

Barack Obama in Buffalo, student debt

Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Barack Obama took aim at the spiralling cost of higher education on Thursday, threatening US universities with a new official ranking system he claimed would help students identify whether they were getting value for money.

As crippling student loans are increasingly seen as a impediment to social mobility and a check on US consumer confidence, the president used the latest of his economic speeches to propose a series of limited reforms to encourage lower fees.

“We have got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt,” Obama told students in Buffalo, New York. “The soaring cost of higher education has become a barrier and a burden on too many middle-class families.”

Over the last three decades, fees at public universities have risen 250%, compared with a 16% rise in average family incomes. The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing $26,000.

Yet the cost of not completing college is even higher. Incomes for those with only high school diplomas are half those of college graduates, who are also a third less likely to be unemployed.

The president said the $1tn of outstanding student loan debt in the US was creating problems of social mobility that would last for generations.

“We can’t price the middle class out of a college education,” he said. “They have got this crushing debt that is crippling their sense of self-reliance – and their dreams. It becomes harder to start a family or start a business if you are serving $1,000 worth of debt every month.”

However, the highly fragmented US higher education sector offers relatively few ways for the federal government to intervene.

Besides the new ratings system, Obama’s proposals amounted to a call on state legislatures to stop cutting subsidies, universities to stop putting up fees, and Congress to pass laws limiting loan repayments.

There are also plenty of existing league tables that rate colleges, but Obama criticised private-sector rankings such US News & World Report for “sometimes rewarding universities for raising costs”.

“We need to rate colleges on best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck,” he said.

White House officials claimed the rankings would challenge the education industry and encourage more competition on cost.

“The ratings are not going to be popular with everyone, especially those who benefit from from the status quo,” said one senior administration official speaking on background before the speech.

“We need ratings not rankings to give students some guidance about which colleges are producing value,” she added.

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The “March Madness” of College Admissions

With the craziness of college admissions comparisons to March Madness cannot be helped. Rebecca Joseph explains the craziness in her article in the Huffington Post:

Throughout March I empathize with nervous high school seniors and their families as they await college admissions decisions. The seniors have dedicated so much time and effort into their high school experiences, their decisions of where to apply, and their actual applications. The waiting process naturally causes feelings of extreme doubt and stress.

Yet unlike basketball’s March Madness with its set schedules and championship Monday, the college notification process is unpredictable and complex. Thirty years ago as I waited for my decisions, there was only one method of notification — snail mail. That waiting process nearly leveled my parents and me as we rushed to the mailbox every day looking for thick (happy) or thin (unhappy) envelopes.

With the advent of various technologies, notifications now vary dramatically and make the waiting process even more agonizing. High school seniors must now wade through a myriad of college admissions portals, processes, usernames, and passwords — often facing more than one portal for an individual college. Keeping track of all their applications and notifications is incredibly complicated. Some students learn about acceptances via emails. Others must check onto a college portal at a certain time or receive information about decisions via the postal service (thick and thin envelopes still exist).

Sadly, few colleges even post on their websites the actual time and date of their actual releases of decisions. Of course, many colleges notify students over time without one release date. Yet even then, notification of that process would be ideal. One senior I know just found out she has been waitlisted from a one of her top choice colleges after a friend told her to check her portal. She learned that the college’s decision had been there for 10 days and never received an email to check. She could have used that time to prepare a waitlist response and perhaps a new visit to that college.

Fortunately some colleges effectively use technology to announce the exact time and date of their simultaneous decision release methods — (cleverly often on the eve of their spring breaks).

For example, two weeks ago, MIT announced its upcoming simultaneous release of decisions — online at 6.28 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, March 14, International Pi day. MIT’s decisions may ironically turn thousands of kids away from Pi, but not from its notification process. MIT emailed all applicants of its notification plan and posted the exact notification time on its website — well in advance of the release time. Thankfully, after the average high school day ends, all MIT applicants — whether accepted, waitlisted, or rejected — can learn their fate.

The worst occurs when individual colleges do not release decisions at the same time. One college consistently sends out acceptances via snail mail first and then follows a day or two later with rejections. Seniors painfully watch their classmates and friends get in before they receive their rejections — a process that is palpable and unnecessary.

Technology does not cure this notification process. I spent an awful Friday afternoon last week as a senior watched as students around the country posted their acceptances to one particular college on Twitter and on a new Class of 2017 Facebook page. The college emailed acceptances out first and a few hours later, its rejections. After a few hours of hopeful waiting, the senior knew she had been rejected before the email rejection arrived in her inbox.

It would be ideal if the National Association for College Admission Counseling and other college advocacy groups would encourage colleges to develop a unified method of communicating decisions to students. The waiting process is hard enough without the stress of making sure students don’t miss admissions decisions or find out through a process of elimination.

Technology offers us this possibility. MIT and other colleges that use simultaneous notifications and make it clear how and when decisions will be made save so many students and their families from the unnecessary pain of finding out via the process of elimination.

Thank goodness colleges use the same MAY 1st intent to register day. Deciding where to attend is equally confusing for many students and their families, but at least the acceptance deadline is clear. May the same thing happen soon to reduce March Madness for college admissions decisions. We would rather watch college basketball.

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March Madness Bracket 2013

For those looking to take a break from admissions and follow your favorite school.

PDF Version from ESPN

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Location, Location, Location…Of Your Campus…

For some universities, their location is a major selling point…for others, not so much.  And universities account for this accordingly…some emphasize the campus, some emphasize the town.  Monica Disare and Amy Wang discusses  this from a New Haven perspective in their article in the Yale Daily News:

New Haven cities

Cameras and family members in tow, they flock to campus in crowds, and with every step and every curious glance, they come closer to making a decision about where they would like to spend four years of their lives.

Around this time of year, high school students — mostly juniors — avidly research potential colleges to apply to, often taking advantage of their spring breaks to visit campuses and soak in each university’s offerings. But no matter how much emphasis their tour guides and promotional materials place on specific university programs and resources, there is one aspect that prospective students cannot help but notice: the area surrounding the school itself.

Of eight high school students interviewed, seven said that the location of their future university is a consideration to them, even if it may not be the main factor.

“I would love to be comfortable on [a university’s] campus,” said Anika Kim, a high school junior at Phillips Academy in Andover who is embarking on her college search. “At the same time, a city just offers a lot of opportunities, and I would want to take advantage of both.”

Admissions offices understand the importance of a school’s location and market it accordingly in their promotional materials. But for some universities, the task poses more of a challenge than it does for others.


Within the first 20 pages of Columbia University’s 115-page viewbook, the school references its urban setting several times, presents a detailed map of its location and calls New York City a “living laboratory” for students.

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Admissions Officer Mocks Applicant on Facebook

An admission officer crossed the line on Facebook, and it cost her her job.  Linda Sharps explains it in her article in The Stir:

Another day, another story about some poor fool posting something they shouldn’t to Facebook — and losing their job in the process. I almost can’t believe this is still a THING, but apparently no one is learning the lessons of those who have been fired before them. Today’s cautionary tale comes courtesy of an official with the University of Pennsylvania, who was recently dismissed for posting portions of student application essays on her Facebook profile.

Well, not only was she sharing the essay topics — she was making fun of them. So the lady whose job it was to coordinate college applications was OPENLY MOCKING the students’ essays.

Facebook? Facepalm, more like.

Granted, I’m sure this person encountered some real doozies in her daily tasks of organizing the admissions process. And who hasn’t felt the urge to complain about their job online on certain trying occasions? But there’s a pretty big difference between posting something vague like “Having a rough day — can’t wait for happy hour!” and posting an actual student essay in order to ridicule the topic.

Apparently the admissions officer — Nadirah Farah Foley, a 2011 Princeton University graduate — had on one occasion written “Stop the madness” when posting part of one student’s essay in which he cited the fact that he had been circumcised at Penn Hillel years ago as being an example of his “long and deep” connections to the University. Foley also quoted part of another essay where the applicant described overcoming his fear of using the bathroom outdoors while camping in the wilderness, and sarcastically added, “Another gem.”

Sadly for Ms. Foley, her run as Snarky Penn Application Essay Critic didn’t last long, because screenshots of her online posts were sent anonymously to Dean of Admissions and The Daily Pennsylvanian on December 3. She’s since confirmed that she no longer works for the University, and Penn says they’re currently reviewing policy changes that “cover the privacy of applicant data and essay information.”

Man, I can’t even fathom what this girl was thinking. Not only was it beyond obnoxious to post content from those essays in order to make fun of them, it was spectacularly stupid to think she wouldn’t get caught. Not only did she lose her job, but any future employer who Googles her name will likely learn what she did. All for a couple of cheap laughs on Facebook

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Do Grades Matter in College Admissions?

This, of course, is a bizarre question.  The initial response would be…yes…but grade inflation and other factors may dilute the ability of admissions offices to use grades a meaningful way to compare candidates.  Mary Beth Marklein explains this in her article in the USA Today:


Parents and their high school students are fascinated by the grade point average and what it means in college admissions, but the truth is that a number of colleges and universities are not all that interested.

Admissions officers at some of the nation’s most selective colleges, who are now sending acceptance letters for their fall freshman classes, say they barely look at an applicant’s GPA.

“It’s meaningless,” says Greg Roberts, admissions dean at the University of Virginia, ranked as the top public university in this year’s 150 Best Value Colleges, published by The Princeton Review and based on academics and affordability.

“It’s artificial,” says Jim Bock, admissions dean at Swarthmore College, the top private college in The Princeton Review’s Best Value rankings. So unimportant is the GPA that Swarthmore doesn’t bother calculating it for guidebook publishers.

Some confusion among families is understandable, especially because GPAs can confer bragging rights during high school commencement season. At an Arizona high school last May, a dispute over which of two graduates with the same GPA — 4.82 — should be named class valedictorian prompted the school district to scrap the title.

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