Special Guests

Diversity: My "Aha" Moment

The role diversity plays in college admission is complex, sometimes divisive, and often not well understood by students and parents. It is receiving renewed attention in the wake of the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear a case challenging the University of Texas’ admission policy, which will effectively consider whether affirmative action should be eliminated.

Why do colleges value diversity? Is it a worthwhile goal? What are its implications – pro and con?

Today, we begin a new series bringing you stories of what diversity has meant to deans of admission, educators, public figures and others – their personal “aha” moments with the subject.

Jarrid Whitney, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at California Institute of Technology, begins this exploration, touching on a moment in his own undergraduate experience that addresses a side of this issue many students of color may experience as they progress through their college careers. We think his personal and poignant response will resonate with students and families of all races and on all sides of the issue of affirmative action.  Here is his response:

Community Service: How is it really valued?

Yet another article is making the rounds aimed at amping up the pressure on students and their families. Headlined "Community Service Work Increasingly Important for College Applicants," it appeared in the US News and World Report Money section. Promoting the results of a "scientific report," it states that "admission officers place a high value on a student's long-term commitment to a cause or organization." Of course, that's true at face value. But the article goes on to imply that that "cause or organization" must be community service.

As these articles usually are, it's confusing and provocative, offering advice such as this: "Applicants need to take care in how they position their volunteer activities." The implicit message: You had better have community service on your list of extracurricular activities or you will suffer consequences.

Getting Organized for the Last Lap

From time to time, we will be welcoming guest bloggers to the website. Today, we're pleased to host Ana Homayoun, an expert on time-management and organization. You may notice that our guests' recommendations don't always jibe with the guidance in our book -- for example, we recommend that you do your essays first, before the rest of the application! But not all great minds think alike and we believe you can benefit from a broad spectrum of advice and expertise. As you count down to your deadlines, Ms. Homayoun is here to help: When it comes to the college application process, I often think of December as akin to the third of the four laps of the timed mile run in P.E. class. Even though you have already done so much and exhaustion is starting to creep in, there still may be a key amount of work left to do before the finish/submission line. Some students feel as though they have been hearing about college applications forever, and by December many students can find the final details daunting. But some simple steps can make a huge difference in successfully finishing up.

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