Tracking Admission’s Yields

Tracking Admission’s Yields

One metric for keeping score on the vibrancy of a college is its yield rate: the percent of students who have been accepted who do, in fact, attend. 

In 2014, Harvard edged out Brigham Young University by 0.1%, to enjoy the highest yield in the country. BYU, which has been the yield champion in several prior years, accepts slightly fewer than half of those who apply, has a 19:1 student/faculty ratio, and tuition and room and board under $13,000. Great education, great football, and access to the Wasatch National Forest enable it to get 80% of those accepted to come.


The Importance of the College Essay Grows

The essay has always been an important factor in the admissions process: this year its import reached an even higher level.

This observation is a product of the sheer number of applicants plying their qualifications for spots in the most selective schools. The number of applications is staggering. If we just focus on the 10 most selective colleges in the US, the Ivy League, MIT, and Stanford, they admit annually about 27,000 students, while they receive over 305,000 applications. To compound the competitive nature of the admissions process, 8,127 admits were given during the early round, with most of them being Early Decision, taking those admission spaces off the table.

Consequently, for regular decision across these 10 campuses there were 297,000 applicants seeking the remaining 19,000 spots, for a collective admissions rate of 6.4%. Now consider the top 10% of candidates from this application pool, the highly competitive 29,700 students. Let’s filter them through the NACAC  (National Association of College Admissions Counselors) top 5 factors affecting admissions: 1. grades in college prep courses, 2. strength of curriculum; 3. standardized test scores; 4. grades across all courses; 5. Essays

 It can almost be taken for granted that this top 10% has high grades in college prep courses, come from programs with strong curriculum, did well on the ACT or SAT, and have solid grades across all their courses. The key differentiator among the top five factors is the essays. These essays must almost perfectly capture the key elements of who you are. This is usually best done within a narrative essay where your actions create character. You’ll need to edit, proofread, revise, get second opinions and make these essays as flawless as possible, 

At the University of California the importance of the personal statement is equally critical. The University of California has few means of appraising a candidate: GPA, test scores, activity and academic honor lists, and the personal statements. Then consider just how many applications the UC System must review. Freshman applications numbered over 500,000. At UCLA alone the number was over 85,000 for the fall 2014 class. Assuming the UCLA admissions office is reading all these over four months, seven days a week, to finish they’ll have to read over 700 applications a day, every day, for the entire four month period. Be merciful. Don’t bore them.  

Think long and hard about a topic that will uniquely present who you are. You want to come off the screen in three dimensions. Steer clear of what the crowd writes about. One admissions officer recently bemoaned having to read one more essay about building or repairing a school, house, or park in a foreign country, or creating a micro-finance project with goat herders in Nepal. Also do not write about a personal tragedy unless you have an uncanny sense of how to present it in a positive form. Some students seek to treat the essay as a personal therapy session. Trust this is not the forum to discuss suicides, divorces, feelings of insecurity, or calamities. Think of the essay as if it were your chance to sit down with the admissions officer and unveil yourself.

The essays must be personal and revealing, giving a sense of the true, honest you. You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Nothing good is produced when you play it safe. The essay demands risk, adventure and bold, stark honesty,

A set of essays that worked with the Johns Hopkins admissions office begin with the following first sentences: “A blue seventh place athletic ribbon hangs from my mantel.”; “One fundamental rule of reincarnation is that you do not know your past life.”; “I was born in the wrong century.”; “Two years ago, I was a spy.” Do any sound bold or adventurous?

Start early, start now, and revise until they’re burnished. They reflect who you are and every word is under your control.  

Alumni Interviews

Alumni Interviews

This year the alumni interviews at a number of schools were a touch more stressful than usual.

Usually an alumni interview is a relatively relaxed exchange done to gain a sense of how applicants present themselves, engage in conversation, and express their curiosities across a range of subjects. If it weren’t for the fact that it’s an element, a small one, of the college admissions process, these interviews could be one of the more enjoyable and interesting conversations a student might have about a college of interest. It often rewards an applicant with a unique perspective of the school.

Enrolling in a MOOC

Enrolling in a MOOC

To add a unique activity to your college application and resume, enroll in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in subjects ranging from essay writing to nanotechnology.

A MOOC is simply an online course with the capability to serve a large number of students (for example Stanford’s initial MOOC in 2011, Introduction into AI, enrolled 160,000 students) with open access via the web. Supplementary learning materials may include videos, lectures, e-books, or problem sets.  

The Ever Popular Computer Science Major

The Ever Popular Computer Science Major

The most popular major at Stanford is not biotechnology or communications, but computer science, a major that declined in numbers by 27% between 2005 and 2010: however, today Stanford counts over 220 students in its computer science major (CSBS). Of the Stanford undergraduates not taking the major, 90% will still take computer science courses prior to graduation, despite there being no requirements. Possibly the poor job market, the high pay (even without a graduate degree) for CSBS graduates or the possibility of changing the world by building a revolutionary iPhone app or tech product is driving this trend. In any case, according to a report from the Computing Research Association, enrollment in computer science programs across many universities has risen steadily over the last three years.

Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.School)


  •          Virtually everyone can innovate
  •          d-School rankings on Bloomberg
  •          Non-degree program features three key precepts of innovation

 “Innovators aren’t exceptional as much as they are confident.” (WSJ, 17 October 2011, R5)

 “…virtually everyone has the capacity to innovate. It’s just that somewhere around fourth grade most of us stop thinking of ourselves as creative…so our ability to innovate atrophies.” (Ibid.)

These are the beliefs, along with a $35 million gift from German software entrepreneur Hasso Plattner, the co-founder of SAP, that have stirred David Kelley to create the d.School at Stanford. The program does not award degrees and is open to Stanford graduate students to learn what it takes to become more innovative. It warrants mention in this column because to survive in the years ahead every student will need to innovate and create both within the classroom and afterwards within their chosen careers.

The recognition by businesses of training  is measured in the popularity and growth of d.Schools. Bloomberg Business Week lists programs at, with d.Schools found on a range of campuses from Arizona State, to an alliance between MIT and  Rhode Island School of Design.

David Kelley wants us to resurrect our latent talent and stretch our limitless imagination around an ‘experience,’ a ‘design challenge.’ He knows that within each of us there is an ossified creative engine; it needs to be kicked into gear and we need to start ‘design thinking.’ That’s a lot of buzzwords that might seem daunting, but they shouldn’t. Design thinking works, and it’s a set of skills that evolve through experience. There is a mythical dimension to the creative process that innovative concepts appear as flashes, or bolts, from the heavens: certainly Hollywood had a bit to do with this perception, but the realities are that innovation is a developed habit and, again, most of us contain the key elements.  Three precepts must be instilled in us to unlock innovative thinking. Mr. Kelley tells us ‘we must be open to experimentation, become comfortable with ambiguity, and don’t fear failure.’ By the way, Stanford d.School actually has a K-12 lab where a lot of these processes are being used to create innovative curriculum and more effective teaching methods.

Here is how Mr. Kelley’s teaching model works. First a student is given a design problem. Yet, rather than just setting off to work on the problem, the student must define the problem in his or her own words, through research, and direct observation. The key is to get a visceral sense of what it is one is attempting to solve, why, and what are the constraints? Defining the challenge also allows for the problem to gel. The second step is ‘ideation.’ Groups of students, and beyond, with disciplines of all sorts: engineering, language, computer science, political science…the list goes on, collaborate in an attempt to brainstorm and visualize a solution.  In such a mix of views, conflicting and contrasting solutions arise and are encouraged. It is through such entanglements that truly innovative paths are illuminated. Moreover, going through this process of search and consideration gets students use to dealing with the wide open nature of innovation, and, more importantly, builds self -confidence with the innovative process.

The third step is ‘prototyping’. This can be done through a series of sketches, or CAD (computer aided design) modeling, or even creating 3-D images or models. It’s not important how the prototype is composed, what is important is to create as many as possible that can be tested, modified, and retested. The innovative process, done successfully is very hands-on and iterative. The more prototypes, the better:  it’s important to fail early and often to get to a plausible solution. This is the heart of design thinking.

Some of the fruits of the process include a number of spinoffs; d.light design produces solar powered lamps for developing countries; and, Alphonso Labs markets an iPhone application named Pulse for news reading. Altogether, wants you to get out and innovate. Yes, some innovations arise through associating two unrelated ideas, but even association is often abetted by questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. These skills, in turn, can be honed through practice. You have the capability and capacity to innovate. Build confidence through action and your creative prowess will be boundless.  

Stanford 대학의 Hasso Plattner Institute of Design(d.School) 소개        

  •          모든 사람은 획기적일 수 있다
  •          의 Bloomberg 순위
  •          비학위 과정으로 혁신을 위한 3가지 원리를 제공한다

“혁신은 예외적인 것이 아니다…모든 사람은 혁신의 능력을 갖고 있다…단지 4학년 쯤에서 우리 모두가 스스로 창의적이라는 생각을 버렸으며…그래서 혁신할 수 있는 능력이 쇠퇴한 것이다.” (WSJ, 17 October 2011)

독일인 사업가 Hasso Plattner은 이런 신념으로 $35 million을 투자하며 스탠포드 대학 내에 d.School을 세우도록 David Kelley를 부추긴 것이다.  이 프로그램은 학위과정이 아니나, 스탠포드 졸업생들에게 혁신이 무엇인지를 알게 한다.  필자도 확신하거니와 앞으로의 세상은 모든 학생들이 공부나 직업에 있어서 창의적이고 혁신적이어야만 살아 남는다.

d.School의 인기도는 이 학교의 성장과 Bloomberg Business Week lists에 나타나며 (, Arizona State대학과 그리고 MIT, Rhode Island School of Design과도 연계되어 있다.

David Kelley는 우리에게 경험을 바탕으로 한 재능과 한계를 넘어 ‘design challenge’를 갖도록 원한다.  즉, 우리 모두 안에는 잠자고 있는 창의적 엔진이 있으며 ‘design thinking’을 하도록 시동을 걸어야 한다고 한다.  이러한 주장이 질리게 하지만, 그럴 필요는 없다.  디자인 사고를 할 수 있으며, 경험을 통한 기술의 집합이라고 할 수 있다.  창의적인 과정으로 나타나는 혁신적 개념은 번개가 천둥처럼 하늘에서 내려온 것이라 믿지만, 사실 혁신은 발달된 습관이며, 우리 모두가 이런 요소를 갖고 있다.  혁신적 사고를 위해서는 3가지 행동수칙이 일어나야 한다.  Kelley에 따르면, 실험에 노출되어야 하며, 모호성에 편안해 해야 하며, 실패를 두려워 하지 않아야 한다고 한다.  한편, Stanford d.School은 이러한 과정으로 이미 K-12 전 학년을 위한 혁신적인 교과과정을 계발하기 위한 교육실험실을 갖고 있다.

Kelley의 교수 모델은 다음과 같다.  첫 단계는 학생이 디자인 문제를 받는 것이다.  그러나 이 문제에 바로 시작하기 전에 학생은 문제에 대해 리서치와 직접 관찰을 통해 본인의 말로 정의를 내려야 한다.  열쇠는 문제에 대한 본능적 느낌이며 한계를 깨닫는 것이다.  그리하여 문제가 풀리도록 하는 것이다.  두 번째 단계는 ‘ideation’이다.  학생들의 그룹은 모든 전공들로 이루어져 있다: 공학, 언어, 컴퓨터 공학, 정치학 등등…  이 모든 종류의 학생들이 문제 해결을 위해 협동하고, 브레인 스토밍, 시각화를 한다.  이러한 여러 견해의 집합에서 갈등과 대조는 해결을 위해 조장된다.  이렇게 얽히고 섞인 관계에서 혁신적인 길이 열리게 된다.  더욱이, 조사와 고려를 거듭하면서 학생들은 혁신의 개방성을 이해하게 되고, 무엇보다 이러한 혁신의 과정에 자신감을 갖게 된다.

세 번째 단계는 ‘prototyping(정형화)’이다.  이 단계는 스케치, CAD (컴퓨터 디자인), 모델링, 3차원 이미지를 통해 이루어 진다.  정형을 만드는 것이 중요한 것이 아니다.  가능한 모든 것이 테스트되고, 고쳐지고, 다시 테스트되는 것이다.  이와 같은 혁신적 과정이 성공적으로 이루어지고 또한 반복되는 것이다.  정형이 많이 만들어 질수록 좋은 일이다.  또한 일찍 실패하고 다시 그럴듯한 해결을 만드는 것이다.  이러한 점이 바로 디자인 사고의 핵심이다.

이러한 과정의 열매는 d.School의 수많은 작품을 낳았다.  d.Light 디자인은 계발도상국에 태양열 전등을 보냈으며, Alphonso Labs는 새로운 독서를 위한 iPone의 app인 Pulse를 만들었다.  d.School은 여러분을 혁신적으로 만들어 내는 것이다.  정말 어떤 혁신은 전혀 관련없는 두 생각을 연결할 때 나타나기도 한다.  이러한 연결은 질문과 관찰, 네트워킹, 실험을 통해 종종 이루어 진다.  한편, 이러한 기술은 연습을 통해 연마된다.  여러분도 혁신의 능력과 재능을 갖고 있다.  행동을 통해 자신감을 갖고 여러분의 창의적인 기량을 펼치길 바란다.

3+2 Dual Degree Program: Engineering (BS) and Liberal Arts (BA) Degrees

3+2 Dual Degree Program: Engineering (BS) and Liberal Arts (BA) Degrees

There are a number of paths for studying engineering. If you’re resolved to be an engineer then state engineering schools (Purdue, Virginia Tech, or Colorado School of Mines) are solid choices. If you’re a cerebral genius who solves Rubric cubes blindfolded in less than 15 seconds then MIT, Princeton, Columbia’s Fu School of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon, or Harvey Mudd should be in your scope.  Even if you’re one of those rare birds who is torn between becoming the next great novelist while solving the mystery of Saturn’s rings, there are liberal arts colleges with very solid engineering programs (Lehigh University, Bucknell, Lafayette, or Swarthmore). There are even boutique engineering schools to accommodate the most discerning students: Franklin Olin School of Engineering, Cooper Union, and the Webb Institute (Naval Architectural Engineering), all tuition free, come to mind.  

Intellectual Curiosity and College

Intellectual Curiosity and College

According to the IECA’s (Independent Educational Consultants Association) ’Top Ten Strengths and Experiences Colleges look for in High School Students,’ number nine is “Demonstrated intellectual curiosity through reading, school, leisure pursuits, and more.