Yale University

Laura Stewart, Ensworth School

Laura Stewart, our March Counselor of the Month, had both a unique opportunity and challenge when she joined the college counseling program at Ensworth School, an independent college preparatory high school in Nashville, Tennessee. For 46 years -- since 1958 -- the school had served only elementary and middle school students. Then, in August, 2004, Ensworth added grades 9 through 12, opening the new 127-acre Devon Farm campus one month after Stewart joined the school as Assistant Director of College Counseling.

Over the next five years, Stewart rose to become Director of College Counseling -- in 2009, one year after Ensworth School graduated its first senior class. As a result, she has had the opportunity to participate in building a counseling program where there were no preconceived ideas. As Director, she has been able to establish policies and procedures that reflect a philosophy with her own creative stamp and then watch the program grow. "It's hard for me to imagine being anywhere else because I've been so fortunate to get to do what I want," says Stewart.

Scott Anderson of the Common App on the New Essay Prompts

Last year, more than 2.5 million online applications were submitted to the Common Application’s 488 member colleges -- from Adelphi University to Yale. The next generation of the electronic form -- dubbed CA4 -- will launch in August of this year. But in the lead up to the unveiling of the digital makeover, the Common App last week announced new essay prompts, as well as a new length limit of 650 words, which will be enforced by the new technology. (You can see our earlier story here.) The Common Application Director of Outreach Scott Anderson joined us to talk more about these changes.

What was the impetus for the new essay prompts? Why was it seen as necessary?

For the last few years, two of our six essay prompts--topic of your choice and significant experience--have accounted for over 70% of all essays. That clustering prompted us to ask: "Can we make our prompts more appealing and, by extension, more effective, both as an invitation for students to share their stories and as a tool for helping our members make informed decisions?"

The College Road Trip

Many of you are heading out on your first college road trips. Here coauthor Christine VanDeVelde remembers her first college visits with her daughter:

A few years ago, my daughter and I ventured forth on a short tour.  We managed to walk the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville, Tennessee, in the middle of what they call a “dogwood winter” – the trees are blossoming as temperatures plummet. We then flew north to Chicago, just in time for an epic snowstorm that closed O’Hare for a day and a half. After trudging along the campus on the edge of Lake Michigan in ballet flats, we holed up in an Evanston hotel, bundled in our new Northwestern sweats watching Pay-per-View movies.

College Admission on India Ink at The New York Times

Our primer on standardized testing for international students applying from India is up on the New York Times' blog India Ink. Thank you to Jacques Steinberg, education writer and author of The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, who helms the New York Times' blog The Choice, for inviting us to explain the role testing plays in the admission decisions of American colleges and universities.