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Ivy League Admission
The Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog

Do College Rankings Matter?

April 23, 2014
College Rankings, Ivy Rankings, University Rankings, College Rankings Matter

Do college rankings matter? Our Founder, Bev Taylor, has an answer for you, as quoted in “Teen Vogue.”

Do college rankings matter? Bev Taylor, Founder of The Ivy Coach, was recently featured in an article of “Teen Vogue” entitled “Do College Rankings Really Matter?” by Sarah Devlin. In the piece, Bev is quoted as saying that she makes great efforts to try to get students — and their parents — from looking at more than just the rankings, but just as you can’t lead a horse to water, it’s very difficult for students and parents to not be strongly influenced by the “US News” rankings. As written in the piece, “‘I try very hard to get students and parents past the rankings,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t always work. It’s so ingrained in the culture that it’s got to be an Ivy League school or an MIT or a Stanford.’ Taylor cites an example of a student who was accepted to a top liberal arts school but was preoccupied with being waitlisted at Columbia: ‘There are only eight Ivies, but there are so many wonderful schools.’ She recommends using in-person visits as the ultimate tool for determining a school’s suitability, since they allow prospective students to get a real feel for campus life.”

The article goes on to cite Bev: “Not to mention, rankings ultimately benefit the school and not the applicant. ‘This whole waitlist process is designed because colleges hesitate to accept kids they may love for fear that that they won’t come if accepted,’ Taylor says. A denial on the part of a student negatively impacts that school’s yield (that is, the number of accepted students who end up enrolling) and therefore its ranking. ‘These colleges are also putting kids on the waitlist who might not have perfect grades or even near-perfect grades,’ Taylor explains. ‘They figure if these students are proactive about getting off the waitlist and do end up enrolling, their numbers aren’t going to be factored into the college’s average GPA or SAT scores.’ This—you guessed it—means rankings don’t suffer if a less qualified applicant ultimately gets admitted, further incentivizing colleges to waitlist students.”

Where do you stand on college rankings? Let us know your thoughts by posting below. And, as a side note, The Ivy Coach is a family business and earlier this week, Bev’s son’s movie to star Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith based on the National Book Award Winner in Fiction by James McBride, “The Good Lord Bird,” was also featured in “Teen Vogue.” Check out that “Teen Vogue” article here.

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

Ivy League Reject

April 23, 2014
Ivy Rejection, Ivy Reject, Rejected by Ivies

Mr. Mihm’s assertion in a “Bloomberg” opinion piece that students seeking admission to Ivy League colleges this year were up against admissions policies designed by anti-Semitic school administrators over a hundred years ago is incorrect. These policies have been overhauled and overhauled again in the last 100+ years. A lot can be accomplished in that span of time!

There is an article up on “Bloomberg” by Stephen Mihm entitled “The Dark Chain of Events to Your Kid’s Ivy League Rejection” that we feel needs a response. In the opinion piece, Mihm, an associate professor of history at the University of Georgia, walks readers through the history of Ivy League admission. For much of the piece Mihm writes how many early Ivy League admissions policies were anti-Semitic so that universities like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton could keep Jewish students off their campuses. With respect to this year’s pool of applicants to the eight Ivy League colleges, Mihm writes, “This may look like meritocracy reaching its ultimate rarefaction, yet the motives that led top colleges and universities to introduce highly selective admissions a century ago were far from lofty. The aim was to keep out one group in particular: Jews.”

We of course are also familiar with the history of Ivy League admissions and Mihm is certainly not incorrect on this point. Preventing Jewish students from getting first-class educations at our nation’s most elite universities was certainly the strategy in the early years of Ivy League admission. It was — and remains — a deeply shameful part of the Ivy League’s history, although precluding Jewish students from top colleges was not unique to the Ivy League. Remember, for instance, when we covered the Emory Dental School scandal?

Anyhow, Mihm makes a couple of points in his piece that are a bit off base. For instance, he writes, “If students could pass an entrance exam, or belonged to the right family, they were in. There was no dossier, no need to show that you were ‘well-rounded.’” If you’re referring to the current applicant pool, Mr. Mihm, showing that you’re well-rounded is not going to help your case for admission. Highly selective colleges stopped looking for well-rounded students many years ago. Also, you write: “High-achieving students probably will find little consolation in the knowledge that their failure to get into the college of the dreams may have less to do with a lack of merit than admissions procedures adopted by anti-Semitic college administrators almost a century ago.”

Seriously? This is completely off base, Mr. Mihm. Students who didn’t earn admission in 2014 didn’t get in because their grades weren’t good enough, their test scores weren’t high enough, their essays weren’t powerful enough, their letters of recommendation didn’t stand out, and/or they didn’t have an activity that differentiated themselves from the pack of applicants…to name just a few possibilities. They didn’t not get in because the admissions procedures were designed by anti-Semitic college administrators almost a century ago. Admissions procedures have indeed changed since then. Now, for example, colleges admit African American, Latin, and Asian applicants! Now they admit tennis players and science researchers. Now they admit entrepreneurs and saxophonists. Come on, Mr. Mihm. While we appreciate your walking us through the important, shameful history of Ivy League admissions in which Jewish students absolutely faced discrimination because of the policies of despicable school administrators, those same procedures aren’t being used now. Quite the opposite in fact. You seem to know your history. But it’s important to know what’s going on in the present, too!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , ,

Affirmative Action Ruling

April 22, 2014
Affirmative Action, Colleges and Affirmative Action, University Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court ruled today on Affirmative Action in Michigan.

The United States Supreme Court has issued an Affirmative Action ruling with respect to the ability of public universities in the state of Michigan to use Affirmative Action in admissions decisions. That answer is no. With a 6-2 decision, the court upheld the Michigan constitutional amendment banning the practice. According to an article on the Affirmative Action ruling in “The New York Times,” “In five opinions spanning more than 100 pages, the justices set out starkly conflicting views. The justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should ordinarily be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.”

It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who issued the strongest of dissents. Notably, it was the longest of her tenure on the Supreme Court. She stated that the Constitution required “special vigilance” in light of America’s history of slavery and continued racial discrimination in the years that followed. According to the piece in “The New York Times,” “Justice Sotomayor seemed to mock one of Chief Justice Roberts’s most memorable lines. In a 2007 decision that limited the use of race in public school systems, he wrote, ‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ Justice Sotomayor recast the line. ‘The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,’ she wrote, ‘is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.’” Touché.

What do you think about the ruling of the highest court in the land? Does it surprise you? Do you think this particular ruling will impact the debate on Affirmative Action in college admissions decision-making in this country? Let us know your thoughts on the topic by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you!

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Fancy College Summer Camps

April 21, 2014
Fancy College Camps, Fancy College Programs, Summer Programs at Colleges

Fancy college summer camps are a waste of time and money. Our Founder, Bev Taylor, is quoted extensively on such programs in today’s “Business Insider.”

Bev Taylor, Founder of The Ivy Coach, is featured extensively today in an article of “Business Insider Australia” entitled “Don’t Waste Money Sending Your Kids To Those Fancy College Summer Camps.” Heck, the title of the article is certainly inspired by many of our blogs and articles. We’ve been calling summer enrichment programs at highly selective colleges fancy college summer camps for years. We sure are glad that it’s catching on! If you haven’t seen Bev speak on the topic of these fancy summer camps at colleges, check out this video from “The Huffington Post Live.”

Anyhow, in the piece in “Business Insider,” Bev is quoted as saying, “‘When mummy and daddy have spent $US 6,000-10,000 dollars so that Johnny can take two courses, when Johnny could have taken those two courses at a local community college for under $US 1,000, it looks bad.” According to the article, “Taylor tells her student clients not to attend the programs. And if it’s too late and they mistakenly spent the summer taking biology courses in Costa Rica, she tells them to leave it off their applications. ‘We see it as a big turn off to admissions counselors,’ Taylor says. ‘These programs are sleep away camp with a couple of courses. It looks like the kid has no imagination and couldn’t come up with something on his own.’” Well said indeed!

The piece goes on to say, “Taylor even goes so far as to say that they can hurt your admissions chances. ‘Lets say a student goes to a Brown summer program and applies early decision to Brown and doesn’t get in. Now they’re applying regular decision to all these other schools and they put Brown summer program on their resume. If you were an admissions person from Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, what would you think?’” Instead, what should students be doing, you ask? As Bev is quoted in the piece, ““Find a local private college, or a community college, or do some research helping a professor. We have students who may volunteer their time working in a local museum giving tours. Find something that you’re passionate about, and do that. And it’s going to have a lot more weight than going to one of these fancy summer camps.” We couldn’t agree more. Which makes good sense. Because they’re quoting us!

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

The Greatest College Applicant Ever

April 20, 2014
Great College Applicants, Greatest University Applicants, Great Ivy League Applicants

The boy who harnessed the wind is the greatest college applicant. Ever.

Recently, a young man named Kwasi Enan was admitted to all eight Ivy League colleges and he got quite the attention in the media for it! While we congratulate Kwasi on his achievement, we can’t help but snooze. ZZZzzz. Big deal. Most of our students here at The Ivy Coach get admitted to one Ivy League college — the one they apply Early to. And then they’re done and don’t have to go through the entirely stressful Regular Decision admissions process. They can relax and live their lives. Anyhow, some folks asked us in the wake of all the press given to Kwasi Enan who we thought was the greatest college applicant ever. We’ve thought long and hard about it and we have an answer.

We don’t know his test scores or his grades because he wasn’t a student of ours. Heck, we don’t even know if his essays were any good. But what we do know is that they could have been, well, extraordinary. Because no college applicant that we can think of has a life story as compelling as that of William Kamkwamba, who will graduate in a few weeks from Dartmouth College. Prior to enrolling at Dartmouth, William co-authored a book entitled “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind” that was a “New York Times” bestseller. But the mere fact that he co-authored a book that became a “New York Times” bestseller does not make him the greatest college applicant ever. William Kamkwamba is the greatest college applicant ever because he, a native of Malawi, built a windmill out of old bicycle parts and other discarded junk to — literally — power his village and, in so doing, change the lives of those around him. William Kamkwamba changed the world.

Highly selective college admissions officers seek out students who they think will be change agents — people who will go on to make this world a better place for all. Prior to applying to Dartmouth, William Kamkwamba already made this world better. Talk about proof of concept! His grades and test scores were fairly irrelevant. William Kamkwamba can do more for Dartmouth in fighting its reputation as “Animal House” than any new policies coming from the office of the president. So, without question, the greatest college applicant ever is Dartmouth’s William Kamkwamba. He is an inspiration to our world. He is…’the boy who harnessed the wind.’

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Abraham Lincoln and College Admissions

April 19, 2014
Lincoln and College Admissions, Lincoln and Harvard, Harvard and Abraham Lincoln

Could Abraham Lincoln not even get his son’s hometown friend into Harvard? Hilarious!

There is a fantastic piece in “The Atlantic” written by Emma Green entitled “Stressed About College Admissions? At Least You’re Not Lincoln’s Kid” that we thought our readers would really enjoy. In the piece, Green shares a story of how Abraham Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln, failed his entrance exam to Harvard University as did Robert Todd Lincoln’s hometown pal, George Latham. The two had to go to Phillips Exeter for a year to brush up on their studies (there were gap years even 155 years ago!) and the young Lincoln ended up earning admission to Harvard the following year. Can you say…pressure? If you thought that your parents put pressure on you, imagine being the son of the man who would become America’s sixteenth president and lead our nation through the Civil War!

What’s most interesting about this article is the note that Abraham Lincoln, prior to his presidency, wrote Latham when he flunked his Harvard entrance exam. From the pages of “The Atlantic,” here is what Lincoln wrote:

“My dear George

I have scarcely felt greater pain in my life than on learning yesterday from Bob’s letter, that you failed to enter Harvard University. And yet there is very little in it, if you will allow no feeling of discouragement to seize, and prey upon you. It is a certain truth, that you can enter, and graduate in, Harvard University; and having made the attempt, you must succeed in it.’Must’ is the word.

I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not.

The President of the institution, can scarcely be other than a kind man; and doubtless he would grant you an interview, and point out the readiest way to remove, or overcome, the obstacles which have thwarted you.

In your temporary failure there is no evidence that you may not yet be a better scholar, and a more successful man in the great struggle of life, than many others, who have entered college more easily.

Again I say let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.

With more than a common interest I subscribe myself Very truly your friend,

A. Lincoln.”

As it turns out, Latham didn’t earn admission to Harvard the subsequent year like Lincoln’s oldest son. Instead, Latham had to settle for Yale! It seems that President Lincoln alluded to the fact that he would make inroads with getting him an interview with the president of Harvard, but maybe even the man who united our nation and abolished slavery couldn’t get Latham into Harvard! Can you imagine?

While you’re here, check out our blog entitled Who You Know in College Admissions.

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

College Admission Expert

April 18, 2014
Expert on College Admissions, University Admissions Expert, Ivy League Admission Expert

Not everyone in the world is an expert on the college admissions process (photo credit: WestportWiki).

Not everyone is a college admission expert. There are thousands of private college counseling companies. There are tens of thousands of folks who think they’re experts on how to get into highly selective colleges. It goes without saying that the vast majority of these private college counseling companies and the vast majority of these supposed “experts” just, well, aren’t. When a recent graduate of a highly selective university writes a book entitled “The College Admissions Bible: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know About Applying To College,” we can’t help but giggle a little. We read through the author’s bio and struggle to understand exactly what her expertise is. She went through the highly selective college admissions process and got into Penn? That makes her an expert? Not so much. We hire many former Ivy League admissions counselors. She isn’t one of them.

Where are her years spent working as a high school college counselor or in an admissions office of a highly selective university? Just because she got into a highly selective college doesn’t mean she knows all the tips and secrets of getting into every highly selective college. Because every university is different. We know. We’ve been doing this for many years. Now there are a couple of private college counseling companies other than ours that you wouldn’t be wrong to use. We respect our competitors, although they are few. This young woman is not a competitor and to write a book on college admissions with no tangible expertise on the subject baffles us.

We don’t mean to be critical of her book. We acknowledge we’ve never read it. But nor should you because why listen to the tips of someone who has no expertise in the area? If you want to learn about economics, do you read a book on the subject by Chelsea Handler? Likely not. Not that this author is Chelsea Handler but you get the idea. Recent college grads from highly selective colleges are not all of a sudden experts on the highly selective college admissions process. Oh, and by the way, neither are their parents!

Categories: College Admissions Tags: , , , ,

Malcolm Gladwell on the Ivy League

April 17, 2014
Gladwell on the Ivy League, Ivy League and Gladwell, Gladwell on Ivy Admissions

Malcolm Gladwell believes the Ivy League isn’t right for everyone and that the Ivy League costs the world future scientists and doctors. Would it surprise you to know that, on some level, we do not disagree? Photo credit: Kris Krüg.

Malcolm Gladwell has raised his voice before on the problems with college rankings. What we at The Ivy Coach have always loved about Malcolm Gladwell is that he doesn’t just state an opinion. He bases his arguments on data and then, through the power of his adept storytelling (a skill we so rarely come across among students applying to colleges), he very simply translates the meaning of this data so the world can understand. And so we figured we’d discuss Gladwell’s latest argument related to highly selective college admissions and Ivy League colleges.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s latest bestseller, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” Gladwell tells the story of a young woman who wanted to pursue a career in science. As he describes it, the young woman had a passion for science ever since she was a little girl, when she had a fondness for bugs. Wanting to pursue a life — and career — in science was all she’d ever known. The young woman was very smart and earned admission to a number of colleges, including the Ivy League’s Brown University. She also earned admission to her safety school — the University of Maryland. As you can imagine, students admitted to Brown rarely — if ever — debate going to a school like the University of Maryland. The two are just not competitors in this way. Brown is one of the top ranked colleges in America. The University of Maryland — while they often have a solid basketball team — just isn’t. Sorry, Maryland.

Anyhow, Gladwell argues that because this young woman attended Brown instead of Maryland, the world lost a valuable scientist in an age where we need more folks in science — especially women. Because at Brown, the young woman was competing against so many other high achieving students that she didn’t excel, got frustrated, and pursued a less challenging course of study outside of the sciences. Had she attended Maryland, she’d likely have excelled in her science courses and pursue a PhD in the sciences, an MD, or both. In this case, Gladwell posits that the Ivy League isn’t right for everyone and, in fact, it can hurt the futures of smart and talented students. Gladwell of course uses data to underline his point and we at The Ivy Coach will not refute his point. Because, on some level, he is absolutely right. The Ivy League isn’t right for everyone — even those who can gain admission. And the world does lose some valuable scientists and doctors because they choose to go to an Ivy rather than a school like Maryland where they can be big fish in a small pond.

But what Gladwell doesn’t point out is how attending an Ivy League schools helps you time and again throughout your life. That first job. Those friends and acquaintances who go on to become captains of industry in finance, tech, education, medicine, and so much more. That alumnus who gives you an interview because you attended his university. The list goes on and on. And there’s data to back all of this up, too. There are advantages to being a small fish — or a medium-sized fish — in a big pond, too.

Categories: Ivy League Tags: , , , ,

Ivy League Discrimination Against Asians

April 16, 2014
Ivy League Discrimination, Asians and Ivy League, Ivy League and Asian Americans, Asian Americans and Ivy League Colleges

The admissions process at Ivy League and other highly selective colleges discriminates against Asian and Asian American applicants. We help our students overcome this discrimination.

There is an article on “Bloomberg” entitled “Are Ivy League Schools Biased Against Asians?” written by Matthew C. Klein that we wanted to take the time to respond to. If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know that our answer to this question posed in the article’s title is a resounding yes. The Ivy League absolutely discriminates against Asian and Asian American applicants in the admissions process year after year. At The Ivy Coach, we work with many Asian and Asian American students to help them differentiate themselves from their fellow Asian and Asian American applicants so that they overcome the blatant, unjust discrimination in the highly selective college admissions process.

What the “Bloomberg” article points out that we find unsurprising but at the same time interesting is this: “Ron Unz looked at the Harvard students inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honors society, which is based on grade-point average, and found that more than a third were Asian. Almost half of the students admitted into Phi Beta Kappa during their junior year — the most-elite group — were Asian. The simplest explanation for this over-representation among Phi Beta Kappa admissions relative to the total student body is that Asian applicants to Harvard were held to tougher standards.” Harvard’s incoming class last year was about 20% Asian and Asian American. And yet “almost half” of the students selected into Phi Beta Kappa — the students with the highest GPAs at Harvard — were Asian and Asian American. We happen to agree wholeheartedly with the assessment stated in the “Bloomberg” piece. Because Asian and Asian American applicants are held to tougher standards in admissions, those who are admitted will invariably rise to the top at Harvard.

Highly selective colleges like Harvard boast about the diverse makeup of their student bodies year after year. But year after year, Asian and Asian American students face discrimination in the very process that they go through to be able to call themselves Harvard students. The time has come to end this senseless, despicable discrimination against Asian and Asian American applicants. And yet, we don’t expect these elite institutions to do anything about this anytime soon. And so we at The Ivy Coach will continue to help Asian and Asian American applicants beat them at their own game. After all, we do it every single year.

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

Common App Shakeup

April 15, 2014
Shakeup at Common App, Common Application Shakeup, Change at Common App

There has been a shakeup at the top of the Common App.

If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know that we’ve been very tough on the Common Application this year, even questioning whether or not the company is restraining trade. We can’t think of a year in which the company has made more mistakes and experienced more public embarrassments than this past college admissions cycle. And so it should come as no surprise that the person at the helm of the Common App. for the last decade, Rob Killion, is out and a new interim CEO has been appointed. The new interim CEO is Paul B. Mott, a Dartmouth alumnus who is a former Williams College assistant director of admissions and, most recently, marketing and communications consultant to Stanford’s office of undergraduate admissions.

According to an article on the Common App. change in leadership in “The Examiner,” “In an email forwarded to Common App members, Thyra Briggs, president of the board of directors and vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College, quotes colleagues who describe Mr. Mott as ‘smart, thoughtful, analytical and a clear communicator.’ She goes on to characterize him as a ‘leader in organizations going through transition.’” Well, the Common App. is certainly an organization going through transition. That’s one way to put it!

This past year, thousands of high school students attempting to submit their applications to colleges experienced glitches with their applications. Thousands submitted help tickets to the Common App. only to get no responses. Thousands tried to click ‘save’ when the Common App. tried to shut down by itself only for these students to realize…there was no ‘save’ button! These are but a couple of the many, many mistakes the Common App. made this year that severely damaged their reputation and cost them some marketshare.

The appointment of a new CEO — even an interim one — is good news for high school applicants and for colleges across the country. The Common App. needs to make some major changes and it should start at the very top. This is a good indicator that they’re listening to our criticism. But, then again, we already knew they were!

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