On The Common App: Introduction and Orientation

When first encountering the Common App dashboard, a lot of students feel overwhelmed and confused before they even start the application itself. However, the Common App is intuitive and easy to navigate with a bit of guidance and knowhow. In this series, we will provide tips and instruction on how to navigate the Common Application interface and how to fill out the Common App itself. To begin, the Common App web interface has five sections: the dashboard, “My Colleges,” the Common App itself, college search, and financial resources. When you first log-on, your dashboard and “My Colleges” tabs are empty. By switching over to your college search tab, you can find your desired schools and add them to your “My Colleges” list, which will populate your dashboard with individual schools’ supplemental requirements. Your dashboard will be an important space for keeping track of writing prompts and upcoming deadlines. Notification and submission of college-specific requirements and essays will be managed through the “My Colleges” section, separate from the Common Application section and your Common App essay.

Having set up our account and dashboard, the rest of the interface itself should be self-explanatory from that point forward. Having orientated ourselves with the platform, we’re ready to move on to navigating the Common Application itself. In the following blog, we will address the structure of the Common App and some common student and parent questions.

Here’s What to Expect on the 2017-18 Common Application

Reprinted from IvyWise College Admissions Blog:

The admissions cycle for the class of 2021 may be over, but the college preparation journey is just starting for current juniors who are planning to apply to college this fall. Students are getting started on their applications earlier than ever, and it’s important to stay informed on the latest Common Application changes before the summer and fall.

Every year the Common Application makes changes and improvements in order to enhance the application process for college bound students. These changes are even more critical as competitors like the Coalition application gain traction in the admissions process.

The announced changes for the 2017-18 Common Application include revised essay prompts, Google Drive integration, Spanish language resources, self-reported transcripts, and over three dozen new member schools. In the following blogs, we will shine a light on what each of these changes are, and what it means for our students.

Closing the Gender Gap: Universities Where Gender Plays a Part in Admissions

The following lists were originally published by the Washington Post as part of their “Grade Point” coverage. To look at statistics for more universities, please click here.

 

Universities with a Gender Gap Favoring Men:

University Admissions Rate Gender Gap
College of William and Mary 28% of women

42% of men

14 points
George Washington University 41% of women

48% of men

7 points
Brandeis University 33% of women

39% of men

6 points
Wake Forest University 32% of women

38% of men

6 points
Tufts University 15% of women

20% of men

5 points
Brown University 7% of women

11% of men

4 points
Vanderbilt University 11% of women

15% of men

4 points

 

Universities with a Gender Gap Favoring Women:

University Admissions Rate Gender Gap
Georgia Tech 41% of women

30% of men

11 points
American University 49% of women

41% of men

8 points
Lehigh University 39% of women

31% of men

8 points
U. of Wisconsin – Madison 61% of women

53% of men

8 points
Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT)

13% of women

6% of men

7 points
U. of Texas at Austin 43% of women

36% of men

7 points
Carnegie Mellon University 28% of women

22% of men

6 points

Closing the Gender Gap: Can Gender Play a Part in Admissions?

Most people don’t think of their gender as playing a roll in a modernized admissions game defined by numbers and percentiles. However, as universities work to improve the diversity of their student bodies, gender, like ethnicity, has become a factor of consideration that can either hurt or benefit a student, depending on the institution. This is because schools seek a balanced population, roughly half male, half female. Of course, not all universities have an application pool that is half male, half female. Accordingly, to achieve a balanced population, admissions offices must accept a larger percentage of the applicants in the less prevalent gender pool to have an equal gender representation.

To cast an example, MIT has many more male applicants than female applicants. For the class of 2019, the acceptance rate for male applicants was 6%, while the acceptance rate for females was more than double that value at 13%. This is not to say that it’s not difficult or competitive to get into MIT as a female, considering that the females in that range are surely extraordinarily qualified, as qualified as any male candidate. However, the numbers do say that it is statistically more likely that MIT will accept a female candidate over a male candidate, given equal credentials. Thus, a competitive female candidate would stand a higher chance of admission compared to a competitive male candidate.

In the second half of this series, I will publish two separate posts, a post for universities and another for liberal arts colleges, sharing lists of top universities and colleges that have a significant gender gap in admissions (4% points or higher).

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Not All That Prospers is Ivy

Previously in this series, I have dedicated posts to exploring what makes each Ivy distinct in an attempt to provide an easy way for students to find their “right fit” school(s) within the League. However, most students are not Ivy bound, and even for those who are, some might find that they don’t quite fit any of the eight schools. Before the panic sets in, take comfort in knowing that there are more options for a top-tier education than what is contained in the “Gang of Eight.” Despite the hype, the Ivy League is ultimately a regional, Division I sports league. As such, colleges in the Northeast with Division II or III sports teams and universities outside of the Northeast cannot join the League’s rank, despite providing an equivalent level of academic rigor and general excellence.

Below is a list of the top 10 “Ivy Alternatives.”

  1. Amherst College (MA)
  2. Duke University (NC)
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aka MIT (MA)
  4. Middlebury College (VT)
  5. Pomona College (CA)
  6. Stanford University (CA)
  7. Swarthmore College (PA)
  8. University of Chicago (IL)
  9. Wellesley College (MA)
  10. Williams College (MA)

*Schools are listed alphabetically and not numerically ranked, as they are mostly equivalent to each other.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Yale University

For students wanting an undergraduate experience that embodies the intimacy achieved at smaller schools like Dartmouth and Princeton without dealing with the “bubble” effect of being located on a small campus, Yale offers the perfect solution. Resting at a comfortable 11,300 students, of which 5,500 are undergrads, Yale has the offerings of a large university with a dedication to undergrads usually exclusive to schools half its size. While most introductory courses are done in a larger lecture hall, professors make an effort to be accessible to every student, and lectures are not led by graduate students like they are at other large Ivies. However, graduate students are utilized in small discussion sections meant to complement larger lectures, breaking down the concepts addressed in lecture in a more open setting that encourages inquiry.

Of course, no discussion about Yale is complete without addressing residential life, both on and off campus. Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, and Brown enjoy easy access to the largest cities in the Northeast; Princeton is located in a chic, safe town; and Dartmouth and Cornell are surrounded with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Yale is located in New Haven, a small city in Connecticut traditionally known for having some rough neighborhoods. This means that the gates blocking Yale’s campus from the rest of New Haven are more than decorative wrought-iron. New Haven is steadily improving and the area surrounding Yale has a college town feel. Students can of course venture further out into the city, but with many feeling uncomfortable with doing so, most of student activity takes place on-campus. Accordingly, Yale has given students reasons to love being on-campus, creating communities called “houses” that both act as social hubs and foster a feeling of comradery some describe as “family-like” between housemates. The entire campus has 12 houses, each with its own library and dining hall. However, your keycard only gives you access to your house, so while Yale breaks down the large campus for intimacy it also somewhat isolates the student body by the House system.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Princeton University

Long-term US News ranking favorite, Princeton is a small school with a low acceptance rate, a laundry list of accomplished alumni, and an enormous endowment. Princeton, on the surface, combines some of best qualities found in other Ivies to create a campus uniquely its own. By offering students world class faculty and copious amounts of endowment money, Princeton is similar Harvard in terms of research quality, with most professors regularly leading ground-breaking efforts in their disciplines. Its small size rings similar to that of Dartmouth, allowing the school to prioritize discussion-based courses and strong student-professor relationships. Utilizing a residential system built around small “house” communities instead of individual dorms, students enjoy a sense of community with their house peers similar to the closeness often lauded by students at Yale under the Yale house system. It seems students at Princeton are able to enjoy the best the Ivies have to offer, further cementing its position at the top of the ranks.

However, no school is perfect for everyone, and what makes Princeton distinct defines its students and their experience. Princeton is notoriously less diverse than the other Ivies, historically similar to Yale and Harvard in its overwhelming catering to the progeny of the highest, and usually Northeastern, elite. Like Harvard and more recently Yale, admissions at the university is working on programs to increase socioeconomic diversity, achieving much success and applause in their endeavor. However, despite its success and a change in policy to admit more socioeconomically diverse students, the campus is still one of the most elite and exclusive in the country, and students from more diverse, less privileged backgrounds may face a great deal of culture shock. Moreover, those who want a balance of upperclassman and underclassman would be left wanting at Princeton, where the house system ensures that class years are largely kept separate.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as UPenn, is a large research-oriented university in a large city, similar to Harvard and Columbia. However, it distinguishes itself from Harvard with its small class sizes and close student to professor relationships, and unlike Columbia’s Core Curriculum, UPenn’s programs seem to contain “undercurrents” of pre-professionalism. For those who are looking to achieve intimate faculty relationships without attending a liberal arts school or adhering to a liberal arts curriculum, UPenn strikes an unusual balance, offering the advantages of a large research university while maintaining the tight-knit community and professor relationships found at smaller colleges.

In addition to its tight-knit community and pre-professional slant, UPenn is known as the “Happy Ivy,” offering the same level of academic rigor as the other Ivies without the same level of stress and competition that plague top-tier schools. This is not to say students at UPenn are not stressed or competitive, but rather that there is a greater work-life balance at UPenn than there is at peer institutions. This work-life balance encourages students to be more social and take advantage of opportunities to blow off steam and alleviate stress. Students participate in a vibrant Greek life culture, attend football games, and adopt a “work hard, play hard” philosophy that separates social weekends from coursework-filled weekdays. Those who desire a challenging, Ivy League education without being confined to the library for days on end will find in UPenn an oasis of balance greater than that found at other Leaguers.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Harvard University

Harvard is one of the most well-known universities in the world, possessing name recognition only matched by Oxford or Cambridge; however, despite its fame, many know very little about the university itself or its students. Often lambasted for its professors’ overwhelming focus on research and graduate school teaching, Harvard is not the school for those who require individual attention or daily access to professors. For many students, the most rewarding form of instruction is the sophomore and junior tutorial, a small-group directed study in a student’s field of concentration that is required in most departments within the humanities and social sciences. However, the tutorial opportunity is an exception to the norm, as most courses outside of higher level seminars are taught by both professors and graduate students in larger lecture halls.

For students who are highly motivated and ambitious, the lack of classroom interaction with faculty is no hindrance, as they are able to benefit from participating in the ground breaking research that otherwise occupies their professors’ time. Furthermore, the widely acknowledged (and debated) grade inflation policy enables students to focus on growing academically without strictly focusing on academic performance and GPA. Being located in the most active academic and social hub in the US, students at Harvard have a front row seat to the wealth of opportunities and activities found in Boston and Cambridge, benefiting from the other 250,000 students and hundreds of internships that call the revolutionary city home. It might be easy to get lost in such a large school in a large area, but for those who are independent and self-motivated, Harvard provides opportunity, money, and resources unparalleled by any other school, within or outside of the Ivy League.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Dartmouth College

Dartmouth is the only Ivy to call itself a college, and this distinction in title encompasses the differences between Dartmouth and its fellow League members. Dartmouth is the smallest school in the League with 4,000 undergrads and 1,600 graduate students. This is a stark contrast to the other Ivies, which enroll anywhere from 3,000 to 19,000 graduate students in addition to the standard 5,000+ undergrads. Utilizing its small size, Dartmouth students not only enjoy small, discussion-based courses from freshman year onward, but also have the opportunity to develop close relationships with professors and advisors. While larger Ivies might have 25% or more of their courses clocking in at 50+ students, over 60% of Dartmouth’s courses have fewer than 20 students, and only 9% of courses have 50+ students. For students who require smaller classes and frequent access to professors, Dartmouth provides a reprieve from the lecture halls common at its larger peer institutions.

Separating Dartmouth’s academics from the pack isn’t their liberal arts focus, which more closely resembles Columbia than Brown, but rather its academic calendar, referred to as the “D Plan.” The D Plan is divides the academic year into four 10-week terms, including a 10-week summer block, with the intention of providing students unparalleled flexibility. Freshman and seniors must attend at least three terms on campus, and every sophomore must attend the 10-week summer term. Otherwise, students may choose which 10-week terms to attend, allowing them to take time-off for internships, research, or travel without any penalty. Like Cornell, Dartmouth is also more isolated than its counterparts, but in turn students enjoy a rich landscape and myriad of outdoor activities.