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Sarah Lawrence has a new evaluation rubric -- but it's not only useful for teachers.  You can use it to review your application.

By Ben Feuer
Sarah Lawrence, a liberal arts school whose primary distinction is being the most expensive school in the United States, has "invented", or at least revived, a system of evaluation that serves as an alternative to grades.  They have chosen six categories they feel cover the most important qualities a liberal arts education provides. 

 The good news is, these six categories aren’t just useful for assessing students currently in school — they’re also top qualities employers look for in employees and admissions committees look for in prospective students, and therefore, they are great things to think about when you are trying to distinguish yourself from a pool of candidates in (for instance) a school application.  So take a look over these six criteria and see whether you can find instances of them in your own life — then think about whether you can pull stories from that. 

1.  Thinking analytically.   This is the bread and butter of a liberal arts education — basically, it just means that you don't accept things at face value -- that you turn them over, examine them from a range of perspectives and (hopefully) come to inventive and informed decisions.  You can certainly demonstrate strength in this area by choosing stories that highlight this ability, but you can also show your ability to analyze yourself by explaining, in a clear headed and sensible manner, why you chose to pursue certain courses of action or make certain choices.  Essays about your favorite XYZ or a major dilemma you faced are great for this kind of thing. 

 2.  Communicating effectively in writing.  You can demonstrate this simply by writing your essays well and presenting strong, well thought out, persuasive arguments — but you can also look to your recommenders to bolster this aspect of your candidacy. 

 3.  Exchanging ideas effectively orally.  With the rise of video essays and the continuing importance of in-person interviews, your ability to confidently and persuasively make a case for yourself without being brash or overbearing (or fading into the furniture) is definitely worth a couple of practice sessions with a Forster Thomas interview coach. 

 4.  Bringing innovation in your work.  This has (fairly) obvious ramifications for talking about leadership, volunteering — it might play into peer recommenders as well (remember that these qualities may be qualities your peers see in you and can use to recommend you!).  Put simply, you have to first explain the situation, then the typical way it was addressed before you showed up, and then explain how you altered the pattern or broke the cycle.  And it doesn’t have to be a huge change like revolutionizing the way your internship office handled its workflow.  It can be about how you found a more effective way for your family to have Thanksgiving together too.  Innovation is innovation. 

 5.  Thinking independently.  When everybody went one way, I went the other.  That kind of action takes courage.  Again, this can be in the context of leadership, but it doesn’t have to be.  Sometimes simply expressing yourself — artistically, socially, intellecutally — constitutes independence, especially if no one else is speaking up.  Sometimes it’s going to bat for someone else, someone in trouble like a brother or a best friend, someone you care deeply about.  You may see their actions in a different light than everybody else does. 

 6.  Taking and acting upon criticism.  This is a natural fit for a failure or setback essay or prompt, but it can also work in the context of leadership, or even diversity.  The key is to understand that in order to make good use of criticism, you first have to hear it in a useful way, and then figure out how to translate it into something you can take action on.  In other words, you need #1 to do a good job of #6.  But if you are sitting on a great story about how you impressed a person you had previously disappointed or offended, or if you have an example of when you let a colleague down but were able to come through for another colleague (or the same one!) in a different situation, it could definitely speak to your ability to take criticism and make good use of it. ---- Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.