In the late 1800s, elite colleges admitted students from private schools based on entrance exams in Latin and Greek. State schools let in almost everyone who graduated from high schools certified by the universities’ professors. It wasn’t until private colleges opened their admissions to public school students that anyone saw the need for an application. There were more students than the schools could serve, and administrators noted with dismay that selecting based on academic merit alone dangerously increased the percentage of Jewish students.
In 1919, unveiled the first modern college application. The eight-page form requested, among other things, a photograph, “religious affiliation,” and “mother’s maiden name in full.” , and created their own forms, as Jerome Karabel details in his book requesting photographs and instituting personal interviews. As one admiring Harvard board member put it, there was “consequently no Jew question at Princeton.”
The “character”-based application spread from the Northeast across the country. It eventually evolved into what became known as the Common Application, which began in 1975 and currently serves 517 colleges. Where the application was initially devised to exclude, it now serves to include. Schools, not just applicants, want to be “well rounded.” The Common Application gives students the option of including religious preference and race (“please indicate how you identify yourself”).
There have, however, been drawbacks to relying on a single form. This year, the Common App came under fire for the glitches in its new online system: credit cards or essays weren’t accepted; information had to be entered two or three times. Colleges were forced to extend their early-decision deadlines, and some reverted to paper applications. The Common App officials got almost as much flak for changing the essay question: “We got some criticism when we said we were going to get rid of ‘topic of your choice,’ ” says Scott Anderson, director of policy for the Common Application, but it’s “so open-ended that unless students are very skilled writers, they’re hindered by the lack of focus.”
Many schools continue to require supplementary material. Columbia: “List the publications you read regularly, including print and electronic sources.” The at : “What do you hope to find over the rainbow?” That’s because applications don’t just filter students — they’re meant to attract them too. As the ’s website proclaims, “U. ’s provocative essay questions are almost as well known as our Nobel laureates — and at least as entertaining.”
Lee Bierer is an independent college counselor in North Carolina.
What do most applicants tend to have trouble with? The biggest area is the essay brainstorming. Most of them have not been taught to write using “I.” And if you look at the Common App essay- prompts this year, that’s what they’re all about: where students have come from, what’s unique about them.
Why do parents seek you out? A lot of parents want peace in the home. Parents always say: “If I had asked them to do that, they never would have done it!”Continue reading the main story
Some Tips to Consider:
Here is a tip directly from UT Austin:
“Leadership can be demonstrated by positions you hold as an officer in a club or organization, but other types of leadership are important too. Leaders can emerge in various situations at any given time, including outside of the school experience. Please share a brief description of the type of leadership qualities you possess, from school and non-school related experiences, including demonstrations of leadership in your job, your community, or within your family responsibilities, and then share how you hope to demonstrate leadership as a member of our campus community.”
The most effective way to respond to this prompt is to split it into two parts. Part 1 should concern your experience with leadership or cultivating a leadership skill. Part 2 should directly respond to Part 1 by analyzing how the identified skill will apply directly to a campus group or community at UT Austin.
For example, you could begin by describing your experience volunteering or tutoring at a local elementary school. Instead of simply saying you were “a leader” to the younger kids, focus on describing the types of qualities you learned and how. If the kids often struggled with paying attention or staying on task, you could explain how you learned to temper expectations, be patient, and interact with a cool head. When the kids recognized how patient and composed you were, they adopted the same demeanor when solving problems and improved drastically. You could even go in-depth about particular moments or instances in which you learned a certain skill or developed a leadership quality. Further, you can also discuss what leadership means to you, potentially touching on the types of qualities you value in a leader.
Following your anecdote, you can specifically show how your leadership qualities will be used at UT Austin. For example, if you are interested in leading outreach projects in local Austin communities or even other countries, you can explain how the quality of “patience” will come in handy when convincing organizations to let you work with them. If you do a mission trip in another country, patience is often crucial for forming relationships and overcoming social or linguistic barriers, as well. The point of this example is to show how clearly you must organize the response and how the specific quality you discuss in your personal anecdote must also motivate your application to UT Austin.