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Ivy League Admission
The Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog

Connections in Ivy League Admission

March 26, 2015
Connections in Ivy Admission, Ivy League Connections, Ivy Connections

Brian Taylor, Director of The Ivy Coach, is quoted in today’s edition of Penn’s newspaper. Connections in Ivy League admission can indeed play a role.

Brian Taylor, Director of The Ivy Coach, is quoted in today’s “Daily Pennsylvanian,” the newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania, in an article by Caroline Simon entitled “It’s who you know: Connections may play a role in Penn admissions.” The piece of course focuses on the role that high level connections can play in helping students gain admission to highly selective colleges such as the University of Pennsylvania. We have long asserted that letters from senators and state legislators to any institution (other than to our nation’s military academies) can do more harm than good unless that politician 1.) has a strong connection to the university and/or 2.) this person actually knows the applicant (it’s not just daddy’s friend). In many instances, these letters can be quite powerful, but simply getting a letter from a senator who doesn’t know your kid — that’s not going to do it. The letter must contribute to the narrative of the application.

As Brian is quoted in the piece on connections in admission, “Brian Taylor, director of The Ivy Coach, a New York-based college admissions consulting firm, believes that the advantage of connections in the admissions process is not unique to UT Austin. ‘It absolutely happens at every school across America,’ Taylor said. ‘That’s how the world works.’ The Kroll report offered suggestions for UT Austin to make its admissions process fairer. UT Austin Chancellor William McRaven said he will convene a committee to analyze the report’s recommendations. Although the Kroll investigation was undertaken because UT Austin’s policies were seen as discriminatory, Taylor said that this trend is not necessarily unfair — it simply allows applicants to add one more dimension to their application. ‘We’ve had students with terrible grades, terrible test scores who have gotten in because of the way they tell their story. And one of the ways in which they tell their story is a letter like that,’ Taylor said.” We sure have.

Penn’s always candid Dean of Admissions Eric Furda even echoed this sentiment when he says, as quoted in the piece, “I think all of us would be naive to say that there isn’t politics or interest involved in anything that takes place. You want to keep your ears open to those people who are closest to your institution.” It would have been easy for Eric Furda to say connections play no role in admissions decisions. But he was honest. We at The Ivy Coach applaud his honesty and openness.

Categories: Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

The Pathway to Our College Counseling

March 25, 2015
Pathway to College Counseling, College Counseling, College Admissions Counseling

To inquire about our services, click on the orange button on the top and bottom of our website.

A number of folks ask us how we at The Ivy Coach get started working with our students. Well, wonder no more. On the top and bottom of our website is an orange button. By clicking on that orange button, you can sign up for a free 20-minute consultation so that we can answer any questions you might have about our service offerings. Will we review your child’s transcript in advance of the call and offer you 20 minutes of great advice specific to your child’s case for admission? Absolutely not. We are a business, not a charity. And we make no apologies for that. The free consultation is only to answer questions about our services and so you can get familiar with us and how we roll.

If you would like us to offer you fantastic, specific advice about your child’s case for admission to highly selective colleges like the Ivy League colleges, that’s the next step after the free 20-minute consultation. If you’d like to bypass the free consultation, that’s fine by us. But know that as much as we like to set expectations low, parents and students do often come away with a few great tidbits of advice from even the free consultation. We’re all about exceeding expectations at The Ivy Coach.

In advance of the one hour evaluation, we request a student’s transcript, any testing the student’s completed (SAT / ACT / SAT Subject Tests / AP Exams), a list of the student’s extracurricular activities as well as his or her involvement in those activities, Naviance log-in information, a list of colleges a student may be interested in, in preferential order, etc. This way, during the evaluation, we can make specific recommendations on how to help a student stand out not only from other applicants around the world but also from other applicants from his or her own high school. If the student has completed some testing, he or she will also come away with an understanding of which colleges are realistic, which are a stretch, which are entirely unrealistic, etc.

Whether you choose to proceed with our services or not, after this one hour evaluation, you will come away with many insights into how your child can improve his or her case for admission to highly selective colleges. So, to get started, fill out that form by clicking on the bright orange button.

Categories: College Admissions, College Consultant Tags: , , , ,

Affirmative Action for the Rich

March 24, 2015
Affirmative Action, Affirmative Action for Rich, Rich and College Admission

We respect the always outspoken and unapologetic former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. He has a habit of telling it like it is, though we disagree with some of his points with respect to college admissions.

Robert Reich, the always outspoken former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, has published a well argued piece up on “Salon” entitled “Robert Reich: College admissions are affirmative action for the rich.” In his op-ed, Reich argues that parents and applicants are so stressed out these days about the highly selective college admissions process. He states, “I know a high school senior who’s so worried about whether she’ll be accepted at the college of her choice she can’t sleep. The parent of another senior tells me he stands at the mailbox for an hour every day waiting for a hoped-for acceptance letter to arrive.” We sure hope this applicant isn’t standing by the mailbox in the Northeast because it’s pretty cold outside there. Also, most acceptances don’t come by snail mail these days. So this seems entirely counterproductive if you ask us. But some people like to watch water boil. We’ve never met anyone who likes to wait for water to boil while the stove’s off, though. Different strokes for different folks!

Mr. Reich goes on to write, “The same intensifying competition is affecting mid-range colleges and universities that are doing everything they can to burnish their own brands – competing with other mid-range institutions to enlarge their applicant pools, attract good students, and inch upward on the U.S. News college rankings. Every college president wants to increase the ratio of applications to admissions, thereby becoming more elite. Excuse me, but this is nuts. The biggest absurdity is that a four-year college degree has become the only gateway into the American middle class. But not every young person is suited to four years of college. They may be bright and ambitious but they won’t get much out of it. They’d rather be doing something else, like making money or painting murals.” Mr. Reich, we don’t disagree with this point. Not everyone should be applying to four-year colleges, much less highly selective colleges. But students who do graduate from our nation’s most elite four-year colleges often make a whole lot of money upon their graduation. As a former Secretary of Labor, you must know this. You must be familiar with salary statistics of Ivy League graduates. If not, we politely suggest you brush up on the data. And, as for murals, Ivy League grads can paint murals, too.

But, overall, we don’t disagree with much of Mr. Reich’s argument. Not everyone is suited to go to college, much less highly selective colleges. Getting a degree from Kangaroo and Elephant College is likely a total and complete waste. Just like for-profit institutions, as Mr. Reich correctly points out. And we don’t disagree that parents and students shouldn’t get so stressed out about the process. It’s one reason why we write this blog every single day of the week — to put correct information about highly selective college admissions out there into the universe in the hope it’ll decrease a whole lot of stress suffered by a whole lot of folks.

What do you think of Mr. Reich calling college admissions affirmative action for the rich? We’re curious to hear from you.

Categories: College Admissions, Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

A New Day for Ivy Coach

March 23, 2015
Dropping the The, Ivy Coach, New Day for The Ivy Coach

Like Facebook, we’ll soon be dropping the The. And we’re stoked (photo credit: NuServe).

Remember the scene in “The Social Network” in which the Sean Parker character (played by Justin Timberlake) tells the Mark Zuckerberg character (played by Jesse Eisenberg) to “drop the The”? Facebook had previously been named The Facebook, but Sean Parker saw the simplicity in Facebook without the The. Just Facebook. Well, after decades of operating our business under the name The Ivy Coach, today we announce that we shall in the very near future operate under Ivy Coach. We’re making like Henry David Thoreau and simplifying.

If you’re at all curious about the inside business story of how we’ve acquired IvyCoach.com (which we just planted our flag on for the first time today), we figured we’d share. Hey, some of our students are aspiring entrepreneurs so it’s a good lesson in business. We’ve been in business for just about a quarter century, operating under the same name. We’ve been online at TheIvyCoach.com since 2002. In 2001, someone registered the domain for IvyCoach.com and thus we had to use TheIvyCoach.com. But we are the rightful trademark holders of ‘Ivy Coach’ as well as ‘The Ivy Coach.’ The owner of IvyCoach.com had possession of this site for these past fourteen years but never built on it. It remained a blank, unused page (as it is today) and we imagine many folks trying to find us went to this blank page. But soon that will no longer be the case. Soon, you’ll be able to go to this page and find us!

Today, after fourteen years of trying, we’ve achieved this objective. We’re heeding the advice of the eccentric Sean Parker. We’re dropping the The. Whoot whoot!

Categories: College Consultant Tags: , , , ,

Jockeying for College Admission

March 22, 2015
College Admissions Jockeying, Admissions Jockeying, Jockeying for Ivy Admission

Even someone who questions the world’s obsession with the Ivy League on the pages of “The Columbia Tribune” comes away urging readers to go to Harvard if they get into Harvard. Unless, of course, they get into Yale. Cute.

There is a piece in the “Columbia Tribune” by Ruth Marcus entitled “Those jockeying for elite colleges have nothing to worry about” that we figured we’d discuss on our college admissions blog. Ms. Marcus essentially articulates that while she was one stressed out parent going through the highly selective college admissions process — paying for private college counselors (how many exactly did she hire — yikes!) and tutors —  there is no reason to be stressed out. Her piece is in response to Frank Bruni’s book, which we’ve rightly critiqued on our blog for its dearth of research and his overarching point that going to an Ivy League college just doesn’t really matter. We have no problem with that claim so long as it’s based on evidence and the lack of evidence with which Mr. Bruni supports his argument — an argument, we might add, that is very easily disputable by anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of the highly selective college admissions process — is rather surprising to say the least.

But we’d like to draw your attention to the close of Ms. Marcus’ piece more so than Mr. Bruni’s ill-conceived book (although we suspect we’ve contributed to increasing his book sales!). As Ms. Marcus writes, “I entirely agree with his message that we have unduly fetishized the Ivy League and its counterparts, and that success in life — economic and otherwise — is not determined by your college degree. But I retain a nagging conviction, Krueger-Dale notwithstanding, that the credential helps. At the very least, it doesn’t hurt. It signifies competence, a sort of Good Housekeeping seal of academic approval. It provides an on-ramp to internships and connections. So here’s my advice: If you get into Harvard and you can afford it, by all means go — unless, of course, you also get into Yale.” We’ll take it, Ms. Marcus.

What do you think about Mr. Bruni’s book or about this piece by Ms. Bruni on jockeying for college admission? We’re curious to hear from you. We’ve certainly discussed it a bunch on the pages of our college admissions blog and a number of folks have been writing in about the merits of his fundamental argument. Let us know what you think by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Categories: College Admissions, Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Confessions of a Harvard Interviewer

March 21, 2015
Harvard Admissions, Admission to Harvard, Harvard Gatekeeper, Harvard Interviewing

The interview is but a small part of the highly selective college admissions process, including to Harvard.

We came across a very longwinded piece on “Gawker” today entitled “Confessions of a Harvard Gatekeeper” written anonymously. When we were first reading the piece, we were under the impression that this confessor had worked for the last eight years as an admissions officer, but it became clear to us in the course of reading the piece that this anonymous writer had volunteered as an alumni interviewer for her alma mater, likely in charge of a district’s alumni interviewing. As the writer so describes, “A low-level volunteer, sure, but an official one all the same. I served as one of thousands of alumni volunteers around the world—a Regional Representative for my local Schools Committee, if you want to get technical. And, as a Regional Rep, my duties fell somewhere between Harvard recruiter and Harvard gatekeeper.” Admissions officers are not volunteers. It’s an important distinction.

Because in this meandering piece in which the writer complains about just about everything — including tossing a couple of barbs at Harvard’s longtime, well respected Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons — it is never mentioned that alumni interviews carry little weight in the admissions process to Ivy League schools. Are they a component of the admissions process? Yes indeed. Are they one of the two or three most important components? No. That fact alone undercuts much of the writer’s arguments. Complaining about everything from the dress code of applicants during interviews to how Harvard, in the writer’s opinion, seems to only admit the wealthy (this is totally not true), to how stale and overly polished most applicants present themselves as (that is true!), we’re not quite sure why this piece is making the rounds today. Frankly, it’s not all that insightful.

And this story has already been made into a book and a movie. It’s called “Admission.” It starred Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. And the movie about Ivy League admission was fantastic. So we’re not really sure what this anonymous writer’s angle was. It seems like the writer just had some frustration to put out there in the universe and by the end of the essay, we couldn’t help but feel stupider for having read it. There, we said that.

Categories: Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Why Ivy League Degree Matters

March 20, 2015
Ivy Degree Matters, Why Ivy Degree Matters, Why Ivy League Matters

There is a great editorial up on “Quartz” on why an Ivy League degree matters, contradicting the claims of Frank Bruni in his latest book.

We’ve written extensively over the years why an Ivy League degree matters. In Frank Bruni’s latest book, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be,” the “New York Times” columnist argues that going to a great university does not determine your success in life. We of course both agree and disagree. But before we even dissect this argument, we’d first like to echo a point made by Jonathan Wai in his piece for “Quartz” entitled “Frank Bruni is wrong about Ivy League schools.” And, to that title, we say…amen! But here’s the point we’d like to echo: Mr. Bruni is a graduate of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and he earned his graduate degree from Columbia University. UNC is one of the nation’s most elite public universities and Columbia is one of the eight member institutions of the Ivy League. Mr. Bruni, an accomplished author and columnist, is quite successful, we’d argue. Indeed, his life and career is a valid counterexample to his overarching claim.

One of the ways by which Mr. Bruni disputes the notion that an Ivy League degree matters is by citing the alma maters of the American-born CEOs of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500. Mr. Bruni concludes that about 30 of the 100 chief executives attended an Ivy League school. By the way, Mr. Bruni, there are other highly selective colleges not in the Ivy League as well — like Caltech, MIT, Duke, Stanford, Amherst, Williams and, yes, even UNC, among several others we don’t have the real estate within this piece to list. But it’s Jonathan Wai who offers up a great counterpunch to this analysis: “Why stop at 100? Why not examine the entire Fortune 500? That is, in fact, what I did in my research, published two years ago. And in an extended analysis from 1996 to 2014, I uncovered that roughly 38% of Fortune 500 CEOs attended elite schools (see the paper for the full list) for the last two decades.” Go, Mr. Wai! You’ve done your homework. Your data analysis is indeed much more comprehensive than the data analysis that likely took Mr. Bruni a mere few hours to put together (if the list wasn’t already readily available).

And that’s but one example. The fact is, you don’t need to attend an Ivy League college to be successful in life. An Ivy League degree does not mean you’ll be a go-getter, a hustler, someone who will challenge the status quo and redefine an industry. And yet so many of these kinds of people do attend — or apply to — Ivy League institutions. They tend to be go-getters from an early age. The fact is that the data doesn’t lie. A huge percentage of the top folks in business, a huge percentage of the top folks in so many fields from science to education and so many other domains, attended elite institutions. There is a reason so many people whose names we all recognize attended one of a handful of universities. Consulting firms like McKinsey hire almost exclusively out of the Ivy League and other highly selective colleges. It is how it is. To assert otherwise may be a popular argument, but it ignores the data suggesting otherwise. The data presented above is but a small piece of the puzzle. There is lots more to this puzzle that we’ll be discussing in the days and weeks ahead.

Categories: Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Regular Decision Notification Dates

March 19, 2015
Regular Decision Notifications, Notifications for Regular Decision, Regular Decision Notification

MIT already released admissions decisions this year. They did so on Pi Day!

It’s March 19th. Many of our students who first came to us after the Early Decision or Early Action round have already received likely letters and, in some cases very early offers of admission. Some schools, like MIT, have already released their decisions (they were so excited by Pi Day that they just had to). Apparently the admissions officers at the University of Chicago were pretty excited too, because their admissions decisions came out on March 13th. But we figured we’d share with our readers some of the official Regular Decision notification dates, so they have them for their reference. So here are a few…

Brown University releases their decision on March 31st. Columbia University will do the same on March 31st. Same with Cornell University. And Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Harvard University, too. Duke University’s decisions come out on March 26th. Stanford will release their decisions on April 1st. As will Yale University. Boston College will announce decisions on March 19th (today). Carnegie Mellon? March 28th. Emory University? March 26th.

Getting tired of reading about Regular Decision notification dates? We’ll only bore you with a few more. Johns Hopkins University releases their decisions on March 27th. New York University, you ask? April 1st. Tufts will release their decisions, too, that day. Vanderbilt University? March 22nd. Williams College? March 25th. Bowdoin College? March 21st. Amherst College? April 1st. Ok, we’re getting tired. In short, admission decisions sure are coming soon!

Categories: College Admissions, College Decisions Tags: , , , ,

Need Aware in Admissions

March 18, 2015
Need Aware in College Admissions, College Admissions Need Blind, Need Blind in Admissions

We suspect the fellow who wrote into our college admissions blog was not THE Allan Houston. In fact, it probably wasn’t. But we love Allan Houston anyway.

Highly selective colleges are need aware in admissions. They’re not need blind. A gentleman by the name of Allan Houston wrote into our blog about the Ivy League colleges that we don’t believe do right by veterans. Mr. Houston wrote, “As a veteran, all I expected or wanted was to be treated the same as my fellow students. Brown has a strong financial aid program for all students, including veterans. Youe (sic) website assumes veterans want or need something BETTER than being treated fairly. But that is not true.” Well, first off, we’d like to thank Allan Houston for writing into our college admissions blog. Allan, you may not know this but we are huge Knicks fans (we know, it’s embarrassing of late). That shot that you hit against Pat Riley’s Heat team remains one of our fondest basketball memories. Little did you know you were writing to some big 1990’s Knicks fans and you, along with the late great Anthony Mason, were among our favorite all-time players (shout out to Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing, too). But anyway, with respect to your comment (and, yes, we fully realize it was likely either a fake name or another Allan Houston since Allan Houston of the New York Knicks has never served in the military)…

You got us. We do believe veterans should be treated better. We believe they should be treated better than anyone. After all, they risked their lives in service to our country and deserve to benefit from a first rate American education. As to Brown having “a strong financial aid program,” you should know that no highly selective college — including Brown — is need blind. Rather, they are need aware. Think about it…If they admitted a class in which everyone needed financial aid, they’d have to dip into their endowment, which is something a school never wants to do. Also, by sheer virtue of there being a question that is visible to admissions officers if an applicant needs financial aid means that no school that subscribes to the Common Application is need blind. Not for a long shot.

But don’t take our word for it. In 1995, Michael Goldberger, Brown University’s then Dean of Admissions (from 1995-2005) came out and declared that Brown was need-aware. While they may have claimed to switch to a need-blind system thereafter, our arguments above still hold water any way one tries to spin it (even if Allan Houston is doing the spin). And we don’t mean to single out Brown. Brown is but one of many universities that have need aware policies. Brown is no guiltier than any school in America. Need blind admissions is a total and complete farce.

Categories: College Admissions, Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Criminal History and Common App

March 17, 2015
Criminal Record in Admissions, College Admissions and Criminals, Criminal Record in University Admission

“The New York Times” ran an interesting editorial a couple of days ago on criminal histories in college admissions.

There was an editorial a couple of days ago in “The  New York Times” written by The Editorial Board entitled “College Applications and Criminal Records” that we’ve decided to discuss. The editorial focuses on how many college applicants with criminal records grow frustrated with the college admissions process because they believe they often can’t overcome their criminal pasts and earn admission to their dream schools. We empathize with these students. We imagine it can indeed be frustrating. But we also think of the many applicants who don’t have criminal histories who also face tough odds and frustration in the admissions process. Aren’t these students — these students who have never committed crimes — deserving of our empathy as well? Perhaps even more deservedly so? We’re not sure, but it’s something we’ve contemplated.

According to the piece written by The Editorial Board of “The New York Times,” “Americans who have criminal histories are often stymied when they encounter college entry applications that ask if they have ever been convicted of crimes. The process, which often brings greater scrutiny to people who answer “yes,” is driving away large numbers of people who present no danger to campus safety and are capable of succeeding academically…Heightened concern on campuses about criminal records can be traced in part to the 1986 murder of Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old who was killed in her dormitory at Lehigh University. The killer did not have a criminal conviction record. Congress responded by passing the Clery Act in 1990, requiring schools to publicly report violence on campus. The practice of collecting criminal history information on applications became common a decade ago, after questions about an applicant’s criminal convictions were added in 2006 to the Common Application, now used by nearly 500 colleges.”

We believe in opportunities for redemption. But we’re not sure where we stand on this issue because we also believe, generally, that those who have never committed crimes should have a leg up on those who have in admissions. But there are of course exceptions to this rule and for those students who are the exceptions, the Additional Information section on the Common Application is an excellent place to express the circumstances.

Where do you stand on this issue? As you can see, we are entirely undecided. Usually we have a strong opinion on issues related to college admissions but this one is a tricky one. And, to put it simply, we’re torn.

While you’re here, read our newsletter on disciplinary questions on the Common App.

Categories: College Admissions, The Application Tags: , , , ,