The Why Us Essay

The Why Us Essay

An essay prompt found often on applications is ‘Why us?’  Why do you want to come here and what will you do once you arrive?

One of the best ways to attack this question is to learn as much about the college as you can. Set aside an hour to really gain a sense of the place. If you can’t do this don’t waste the college admissions office time, and more importantly your own, by writing generalities about the school’s size, location or reputation, “Northwestern is very well respected…,” and put the $70-90 application fee into something more profitable. 

The Stay on the Wait List Letter

The Stay on the Wait List Letter

To most students one of the most seemingly useless tasks is writing a letter to a school asking to be placed on its wait list.   

Most students consider an assignment to the wait list virtually a rejection, but like many things in the college admissions world, it depends on the circumstances surrounding the wait list.


Best Advice for Selecting College Major

Best Advice for Selecting College Major
Professor Alan Roberts tells us in his The Thinking Students Guide to Colleges, 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education how best to select a major in college. An assistant professor in Political Science at Northwestern University, Professor Roberts knows how majors should be researched and compared, and how students might best select one. In all honesty, don’t head off to a research university without reading this book: its 161 pages brim with sagacious pragmatism.

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.

The Benefits and Limits of Advanced Placement (AP) Courses

Some students in preparation for the challenges of college take four AP courses junior year, and another four or five senior year. Invariably, this makes for late nights studying, even cramming, although for many, this sometimes translates into delving into the subject and gaining a solid sense of the material. Whatever the motivation for joining a AP classes, it’s worth knowing how they’re perceived and used beyond high school.  

Having a number of AP courses on a transcript, and getting either a ‘4’ or ‘5’ (5 being the highest score achievable) on the exams, besides showing a student capable of college level work, can save money and possibly even generate scholarships. Many universities award credit for AP courses. Though, according to Trevor Parker, senior vice president for AP at College Board, gaining college credit was never the original intent of the AP program. Rather, it was to develop college academic skills at the high school level. In any case, the College Board website contains details of how colleges award credits for AP exams:

If a student matriculates into Yale, for example, with a score of ‘5’ in AP Chemistry, Biology, English Language, and a ‘4’ in AP Calculus BC, French, and Computer Science, she will be able to begin her Yale career with 8 credits, just two shy of entering as a sophomore; this is the equivalent of saving on 4/5’s of an academic year, which represents a savings of around $40,000. She’d also be able to accelerate into more advanced biology, chemistry, and other subjects. The downside is, should she apply to medical school, say, Keck Medical School at USC, and she doesn’t have college level introductory biology and chemistry, she would have to take those courses before she can enter medical school. Consequently, the benefits of gaining AP credit and accelerating, in those subjects, would be nullified.

Furthermore, there are discrepancies, even among the top schools, in how credits are awarded. For example, to get credit for AP Biology at Northwestern or Yale requires a ‘5’; at UC Berkeley credit is given for a ‘3’.

Moreover, there is growing doubt among universities about the rigor, content, and especially, the depth of the AP courses. Dartmouth just announced, beginning with the class of 2018, it will no longer grant credit for AP test scores. An independent experiment conducted by Dartmouth’s psychology department took all the Dartmouth freshmen who had received a ‘5’ in psychology and administered them the final from Dartmouth’s intro psychology course. 90% of the students failed. Dartmouth then monitored the students who failed the exam and then elected to take intro psychology: Dartmouth found that these students neither did better than classmates who had never taken AP Psychology, or those who had received below a ‘5’ on the AP test.   Yale, by the way, offers no credit for AP Exams in psychology or history.

Beyond the credit issue, students who take AP exams are eligible for certain scholarships. Siemens awards top students who have taken math and science exams and scored a ‘5’ on at least two of them. There are also a number of AP Scholar awards,

Though the admissions offices like to see AP classes on applicant transcripts, high numbers of such classes don’t necessarily lead to admissions. One student, several years ago, took over 16 AP exams: she was rejected roundly at most of highly selective schools she applied to. Yes, admissions offices want students who are academically capable, but they also seek balance, and too many AP classes and exams are anything but.

AP courses are designed to be a means of rigorously delving into 34 different subjects (details of each can be found at the College Board’s new AP Website, ‘Explore AP,’ anything else they deliver is pure gravy.    

Gaining the Best Financial Aid Packages


  • Don’t Get Intimidated by the Process
  • File FAFSA right after January 1st
  • CSS Profile Requirements
  • Strategies to Lower EFC
  • Useful websites to lower EFC

Financial aid is confusing. It’s even worse than income taxes. According to the American Council on Education, in 2006, 1.8 million students who would have qualified for federal and financial aid failed to apply. There is no reason to be among that number.

The fundamental precept of financial aid is filing the FAFSA as soon after January 1st of senior year as possible. The whole idea is to be at the front of the line when scholarships and grants are being allocated. At most of the public schools, including the University of California system, only filing the FAFSA is required. This vastly simplifies the process. Filing solely by the federal method (FM) makes applying to state schools almost a pleasure.

For private schools the process is often trickier. Many use, along with FAFSA, the CollegeBoard’s CSS Profile. Certain private schools even include their own financial aid form. This means some private schools require three financial aid forms; worse, all might be cross referenced to ensure responses jive. Inaccurate submissions might be rejected, and, as a consequence, though financial aid forms were initially filed prior to deadlines, the application might be shot to the back of the line.     

Northwestern’s undergraduate financial aid website,, contains a financial aid calculator to estimate financial aid packages, and links to the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and Northwestern’s University Aid Application. There are also over a dozen other forms including, if things didn’t work out, the financial aid appeal application. It’s a world onto itself with deadlines, glossaries, and forms that would almost make the IRS proud.

Don’t however be distracted by the forms, the deadlines, and the calculator. The central purposes of the financial aid exercises are to attain as low an EFC (effective family contribution) number as possible, and to fill the gap between what you can afford to pay and your EFC with generous scholarships and grants. Anything else is noise.  

The CSS PROFILE (also called the institutional method—IM) includes in its calculations the applicant’s home equity, non-custodial parent’s income and resources, outside scholarships, money held by other siblings, the applicant’s potential summer earnings, even whether a rich relative might be willing to throw bags of gold at the entire admissions process (if an applicant is willing to volunteer such information). The PROFILE wants to know everything about the past, present, and future of an applicant’s resources. However, it’s not completely cold blooded; if another sibling is paying private school tuition, or the family had excessive medical expenses not covered by insurance, these might be deductible.

Whether you’re applying to a school that is using CSS Profile (IM), or the FAFSA (FM), you might try the following strategies. Each is labeled by whether the strategy is appropriate for the FM or IM:

  1. Use assets to pay off debt: having debt does not help you qualify for aid, so pay it off (IM) or (FM)
  2. Move assets from student to parent account: Parents are expected to pay 5.6% of assets while students 20% (FM)
  3. Make necessary large purchases before base year (the base year is a student’s junior year beginning in January) (FM) or (IM)
  4. Reduce Base Pay in your job or delay any commissions during the base year (FM) or (IM)
  5. Avoid capital gains: selling major stock holdings during the base year will increase your revenues—something you want to avoid  (FM) or (IM)
  6. Start a Home business: you can cut your current pay and reduce personal assets by investing in a home business  (FM) or (IM)
  7. Pay off your mortgage: if the school uses FM you will qualify for more aid should you pay down your mortgage. (FM)

Websites that might be useful in helping to qualify for the greatest amount of aid include TuitionCoach and What really matters in the process is staying focused on getting the lowest EFC and the most scholarship and grant monies available. A good reference for estimating what the school has paid in the past can be found at College Navigator. Future tuition bills, though, can very much be affected by your actions now.

재정보조 포장하기

  • 절차에 눌리지 말자
  • FAFSA 파일은 1월 1일 이후 바로 하자
  • CSS 프로파일 요건
  • EFC 최저 전략짜기
  • EFC를 낮추기 위한 유용한 웹싸이트

재정보조는 복잡하다.  세금보고보다도 힘들다.  2006년 교육부의 보고에 따르면, 1.8 million의 학생들이 연방정부 장학금을 받을 수 있는데도 신청하지 않았다.  이 숫자에 낄 필요는 없다.

재정보조를 시작하는 시기는 12학년 1월1일부터 시작되는 FAFSA를 작성하는 것이다.  일찍 할수록, 장학금과 그랜트 보조에 있어서 우선권이 주어진다.  University of California를 비롯한 대부분의 공립대학은 FAFSA만 요구한다.  이런 경우에는 아주 단순하다.  주정부용 FA (federal method)만 하기 때문에 너무 쉽다.

사립대학은 약간 복잡하다.  많은 대학들이 FAFSA와 College Board의 CSS 프로파일을 원한다.  어떤 대학은 자체 원서도 있다.  이럴 경우 세가지 양식이 되며, 또한 이 세 가지에서 내용이 일치해야 한다.  서로 맞지 않을 경우, 거부될 수도 있으며, 다시 원서를 준비하다 보면, 마감일을 넘기거나 서류가 맨 뒤로 밀려나게 된다.

Northwestern의 재정에 관한 웹싸이트 (에는 FAFSA, CSS Profile, Northwestern University Aid 원서양식과 함께 재정 계산페이지가 있다.  또한 재정보조가 충분치 않을 경우에 탄원을 신청하는 양식도 있다.  마감일, 용어해설, 양식들 모두가 들어 있다.

그러나 이런 모든 서류와 계산 양식, 마감일에 눌리기 말길 바란다.  주 목적은 EFC(가족 공헌)를 낮게 잘 계산하는 것으로 전체 들어갈 비용에서 최저의 EFC를 계산하고 가능한 많은 장학금/그랜트를 받는 것이다.  기타 사항은 무시해도 된다.

CSS Profile (교육기관의 방법: IM)은 응시자의 집의 가치, 부모의 수입과 재산, 외부 장학금, 형제에게 들어갈 돈, 응시자가 벌 수 있는 금액 (응시자가 알리기 원한다면), 혹은 부자 친척이 기부할 수 있는 지 등을 알고자 한다.  이 프로파일은 응시자의 과거, 현재, 미래까지 재정에 대해 알고자 한다.  그렇다고 인정없이 계산하는 것은 아니다.  형제가 사립학교에 재학한다든가, 가족 중 환자가 있어서 치료비용이 많이 지출된다든지 하는 것은 제외된다.

여러분이 CSS Profile (IM)이나, FAFSA (FM)을 사용할 때, 다음의 전략을 따르길 바란다.  각 사항이 IM 혹은 FM 양식 작성시 유용하다.

  1. 자산은 빚을 갚는데 쓴다: 빚이 있을 때는 다시 재정 보조를 받기 어렵다 (IM or FM)
  2. 학생이 자산이 있다면, 부모에게 옮긴다: 부모는 자산의 5.6%를 내야 하지만, 학생은 23%를 내야한다 (FM).
  3. 기본이 되는 해에 큰 지출을 미리하라: 기본이 되는 해는 학생의 고교 3학년 때이다 (FM or IM).
  4. 직장의 기본 월급이나 커미션을 기본이 되는 해에는 될수록 미루어라 (FM or IM).
  5. 큰 수입을 미루어라: 기본이 되는 해에는 주식을 팔아서 수입을 늘릴 필요가 없다 (FM or IM).
  6. 홈 비즈니스를 시작하라: 홈 비즈니스에 투자를 하므로 수입과 자산을 줄일 수 있다(FM or IM).
  7. 집 저당금을 갚아라: FM에서는 이 금액으로 인해 더 많은 보조를 받을 수 있다 (FM).

유용한 웹싸이트로 TuitionCoach and FinAid.org가 있다.  이 과정에서 중요한 것은 EFC를 낮게 계산하는 것과 많은 장학금, 그랜트를 받는 것이다.  CollegeNavigator에서 어떤 학교들이 많이 보조해 주었는지를 알아볼 수 있다.  그러므로 곧 내야 할 등록금의 돈의 액수가 여러분이 지금 얼마나 열심히 노력하느냐에 따라 적어질 수 있다

Writing the Common Application Supplements

Writing the Common Application Supplements

If you’re applying to the Ivies, Stanford, or many other selective schools, there is a good chance you’ve already come face-to-face with the Common Application. Some of the 414 member schools, such as Washington & Lee or Carleton College in Minnesota, have no supplements, in which case you merely submit the main application, with one short and one long essay and, from an essay standpoint, you’re ready to apply. 

There is, however, another type of essay that challenges students, and it’s usually found in the school’s supplemental application. It’s a matchmaker essay, a persuasive essay where you tell the school why you love it, and it should love you.

Treading the Pre-Law Path

  • There is no Pre-Law major
  • Advice on studies for becoming a lawyer
  • Researching various law school programs

Just as there is no official ‘pre-med’ major, there is no ‘pre-law’ major. Some schools, such as Northwestern University (NU), however, have Legal Studies as an ‘adjunct major’. Yet, this means it cannot be a sole major; it must be taken in conjunction with another departmental major, which can be anything from history of art to physics.

As the Northwestern website notes, “What you must do to prepare for law school…is to train your brain…you must develop the ability to write cogently…, to analyze carefully…, to reason logically, and to speak…articulately. These are the skills which will take you farthest in law school and in the practice of law…It doesn't matter so much whether you develop these skills in analyzing political institutions (as a political science major), metaphysical arguments (as a philosophy major)… or molecular structures (as a chemistry major); what matters is that you learn to use your mind effectively in a range of intellectual domains. Look for a major that demands a considerable amount of challenging reading and writing and that gives you some opportunities for small classes and seminars in which you can develop your speaking ability and in which faculty may get to know you better than they can in large lecture classes.” (, 12 January 2011)

While you ‘train your brain,’ you will also need to perfect your test-taking skills. To get into a good law school (and you probably want to go to the best law school you can) you’ll need, in addition to top grades, very solid LSAT scores. LSAT scores are curved on a scale of 120-180, with a 170 considered fairly exceptional. Additionally, once in law school, each semester you’ll be taking a full set of finals. Then, of course, you’ll need to pass the Bar, which is no small feat in itself.

One other component that you’ll need is to gain the internship experience so that you have a solid sense of what a lawyer does. Northwestern is one university that is a steadfast believer in encouraging, to the point of insisting, that its students in virtually all disciplines (pre-med, and journalism included) gain experience to mix with classroom theory. For aspiring lawyers, Northwestern has the NEXT (Northwestern Extern) program that connects you with NU alumni lawyers who are willing to let you job shadow. It’s also important to do summer internships to gain a true sense of legal practice. In addition, joining the Mock Trial Association, on whichever campus you plan to attend is yet another way to prepare yourself for the rigors of law.

Next, you might want to do some research to determine which law schools might be good matches. There are several places where you can conduct your due diligence. The first is at the US News and World Report listing of the top law schools: Not only is US News ranking law schools, it’s also ranking law firms (something new this year). It also divvies up schools by legal specialties such as international, intellectual property and healthcare. Then, if you wish to take your research just one more step farther along, you might research an individual law school to gain a sense of admissions rates, GPA requirements, LSAT score averages etc. at The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools., It has a free on-line component:  which gives you the admission and curriculum details of  most of the top law schools.  

After reviewing all this, ask yourself honestly if you’re ready to commit to a legal career. It is a huge commitment of money (costs vary depending upon whether you enter a public or private law school), and three years of stress and often brutal competition. To gain a sense of just how competitive, dip into Scott Turow’s  One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School. After your research is complete and your commitment confirmed, I’ll rest my case.


법과 대학원으로 가는 Pre-Law

  • Pre-Law라는 전공은?
  • 미래 법률가에게 하는
  • 법과 대학 프로그램 알아보

 Pre-med 라는 전공이 없듯이 Pre-Law라는 전공도 없다.  그러나, Northwestern University(NU)에는 부전공으로 ‘Legal Studies’가 있다.  이 전공 학생은 다른 주 전공, 즉 역사나 물리학 등 다른 분야의 전공이 따로 있다.

Northwestern 대학의 웹싸이트(, 12 January 2011)를 살펴 보면, “법과 대학원으로 가려면, 두뇌를 훈련해야 한다….논리적으로 사고하고, 명확하게 말할 수 있도록.  이 기술이야 말로 법을 공부하면서, 현장에 나와서도 꼭 필요하다.  이 기술을 정치학 전공으로 정치에서 쌓든지, 철학전공으로 형이상학 논쟁을 하든지….화학전공으로 분자구조를 분석하든, 상관이 없다; 중요한 점은 지적분야에서 효과적으로 쌓는 것이다.  그러므로 많은 독서와 글쓰기가 필요하고, 소규모 수업과 세미나에 참여하는 기회가 많고 교수와 잘 사귈 수 있는 전공을 찾아라”라고 추천하고 있다.

한편, 시험기술도 길러야 한다.  명문 법과대학에 입학하려면, 좋은 성적과 LSAT 성적이 중요하다.  LAST는 120-180등급으로 나뉘는데, 170은 아주 우수하다.  또한 매 학기 종합적인 기말고사를 치러야 한다.  그 다음, 변호사 시험(the Bar)에 합격해야 한다. 

또한, 인턴쉽에서 법조계에 대한 경험을 하는 것이 중요하다.  Northwestern 대학은 현장실습(pre-med, 언론학 등도 포함)을 교실 이론과 더불어 매우 중요하게 강조한다.  그래서, 이 대학에서는 NEXT (Northwestern Extern)프로그램으로 학생들을 NU 졸업생 법률가들에게 연결하여 직업경험 (job shadow)을 하게 한다.  물론 summer intership도 실제적인 연습을 위해 중요하다.  추가로, Mock Trial Association(모의 재판 연구회)에 가입하여 법에 대한 열정을 키우는 것도 좋다.

이제 어떤 법과대학이 여러분이 잘 맞는지를 알아보자.  여러 곳을 통하여 가능하다.  먼저, US News and World Report에서는 명문대 리스트를 제공한다

(  법과 대학 뿐만 아니라, 법률회사(law firms)에 대한 랭킹도 알 수 있다 (올해 새로운 정보이다).  또한 전문분야(international, intellectual property, healthcare…)별로 나누고 있다.  더 나아가 각 대학에 대하여, 입학률, GPA 요구조건, LSAT 평균성적 등을 알려면, The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (에 가면 무료제공이다. 

위의 여러 가지를 고려한 후, 솔직하게 자신에게 물어야 한다: 법률가로 헌신할 준비가 되었는가?  물론 공부하는 비용(공립과 사립의 차이가 나지만)도 만만치 않고, 3년간의 스트레스와 치명적인 경쟁을 치러야 한다.  경쟁을 알려면, Scott Turow의 One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School을 권한다.  여러분의 리서치가 끝나고 헌신이 준비된다면, 나도 case를 맡기겠다.