Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How to Research a School



How to Research a School
By Ben Feuer, Photo by tallchris

To gain entry to a top school these days, applicants and parents need to wear a lot of hats – scholar, change-maker, networker. One of the less-appreciated (but vitally important) hats is that of researcher. Across academic disciplines and continents, schools are turning to their full-length bedroom mirrors, striking a pose and whispering to candidates everywhere, “Tell me that you love me.”

The truth is, even though parents and students think of themselves as being in competition for the schools' affection, schools are also in competition with one another to snag the best students. And their preferred mode of salving their academic insecurities, apparently, is by having applicants write worshipful ‘why our school is the best’ essays. It's really not as crazy as it sounds, though, there are some good reasons for it. For one thing, it separates out those who are 'just tossing another on the pile' from those who are serious. And for another thing, schools know that if they make you research them, you just might fall in love with them unexpectedly. That's why somehow, even when essays get cut and word lengths shrink, this topic always seems to stick around.

It ain't because they're popular, we can tell you that much. School research essays drive candidates crazy, and many smart kids who cruise through every other stage of the process get stumped by this one. So we here at Forster-Thomas are taking a few minutes out of our busy schedules to get you up to speed on how to nail your school research.

***

Dig deep on a few topics. Most school specific essays are like aerial bombardments or spaghetti foodfights – throw stuff everywhere and hope something sticks.  But the great ones are like surgical scalpels, cutting to the heart of the inherent bond between the candidate and the school. The key question to ask yourself while researching is – Do I care about this aspect of the school?

Once you pull a list of three or four specific things you care about (for a list of possible research topics, check out our other blog on this subject), it’s time to do your deep dive. Figure out the relevant keywords and Google them in various combinations and iterations. Read the first 5-9 links that come up – news articles, Rate my Professor reviews, EventBrites and Meetups, student blogs, Linkedin profiles, what have you. When evaluating this kind of material, the question you need to ask yourself is -- Does this sound different, or better, than how it’s done at other schools? How? Then -- and this is a key step -- WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. By efficiently combining and clearly referencing your sources now, you’ll be setting the stage for success later.

Think like a reporter. So now you have research. How do you put it to good use? Reporters don’t go into an article wondering what they’re going to learn. They already know most of the basic facts of the case before they set fingers to keyboard. In other words, they have a thesis, just like scientists and sufferers of college writing seminars. When they’re drawing on sources and pulling quotes, they’re filling in the gaps of a story they already know. On the other hand, most candidates approach conversations with adcoms, former students and professors with a nearly total blank slate, expecting their partner to fill them in on everything. Sorry, guys, but that’s not possible!  If you want a useful answer, you need to ask a useful question, which means you need to know what question to ask, which means you, too need a thesis as to why you're a good fit for your target school.

So write one out. Right now. In a sentence or two. It should be different for every school.

Good. Now that's done, you can start contacting your sources and filling in gaps.

Say you’re interested in the XYZ Club at RFD University. It would certainly be a great idea to talk to the former student who used to manage that club – but NOT until you’ve already Googled the club, checked out their Facebook page, studied the programs from their last three events, determined how large it is, how long it's been around, and a half-dozen other similar questions. That way, your conversation won’t consist of platitudes like “How did you like the club?”  You’ll be able to ask them “So last semester, who was it that got Bob Smith to come to campus? How was his talk? Did he recruit anyone out of the club last year? Whatever happened with that power struggle in the leadership where the club split two years ago?” When you then go to write the essay, you’ll be armed with quotes supporting a very specific thesis concerning where the club stands, what it does well, and how you can contribute to its further growth. Sound like too much work? For you, maybe. But the guy next to you is going to do it. And he's going to have a leg up on you. This part of the process is completely meritocratic -- you get out what you put in.

Show your sources. Name names of students and give class years IN THE ESSAY. Name the professors, classes, clubs and initiatives that interest you IN THE ESSAY. Reference the student blogs and websites you have read ... wait for it ... IN THE ESSAY. (Need a list of student blogs? We made one!)

Don’t self-censor early drafts. One mistake many applicants make is collecting a ton of research, throwing up their hands while trying to organize it all into a small word count, and then throwing it away and replacing it with one generic sentence they could have come up with before they ever applied!  This is where having a smart, thoughtful, patient reader comes in handy. Instead of trying to decide for yourself what sounds good, present the most comprehensive and strong argument you’ve got, and let someone else suggest where to trim.

The golden question. Wondering if you’ve gone deep enough on your research? This golden question will give you the answer. If I replaced the name of the school in ANY sentence of this essay with another school’s name, would the sentence still be true and make sense?  If the answer is YES, you need to do more research. If the answer is NO, you’ve done enough. Whether you’ve done it well is another matter.

Cohesion. Although you can’t treat a school-specific essay like a narrative essay (it doesn’t tell a story), you still need to consider whether the topics you’re discussing form a cohesive picture of how you’ll operate at the school. Are you really going to join the consulting club AND the finance club? Are you really going to be active with the East Asian students AND the Mambo club? Probably not, if you’re being honest with yourself. Your choices of what topics to discuss define where you’re looking to grow and how the schools can help you grow, so make choices that cohere.

***

Sound like a lot of work? It can be. But here’s the good news – there actually is a silver lining to this cloud. All that research you’re doing just might actually help you figure out which school you want to attend in real life! You might meet someone, or learn something, that opens up your mind to the wide and wild world beyond the US News Rankings. We could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.


 

Article by Ben Feuer, photo by Paul Townsend

One of the hottest (and for many, one of the most terrifying) trends in college and graduate admissions is the sudden popularity of the diversity statement. Once it was a mere afterthought, of interest primarily to crunchy Berkeleyites and hippie whitebeards eager to preach what, back when they were applying, no one dreamed of practicing. Today, what could be more 2016, more solidly on trend and on fleek, than to flaunt the unique perspective of a Pacific Islander raised in a commune, or to recount the war stories of your first generation Laotian refugee parents?

Certainly, that’s how your friendly neighborhood elite university feels. Which is why you’re seeing more and more essay prompts like these –

Tell us about a time within the last two years when your background or perspective influenced your participation at work or school.

Short and to the point. Or how about this self-congratulatory tongue-twister of a prompt?

Fancypants University’s admission process is guided by the view that a student body that reflects the broad diversity of society contributes to the implementation of Fancypants’ mission, improves the learning process, and enriches the educational experience for all students. In reviewing applications, Fancypants considers, as one factor among many, how an applicant may contribute to the diversity of Fancypants based on the candidate’s experiences, achievements, background, and perspectives. This approach ensures the best and most relevant possible training and serves the profession by training to effectively serve an increasingly diverse society. You are invited to submit an essay that describes your particular life experiences with an emphasis on how the perspectives that you have acquired would contribute to the Fancypants intellectual community and enhance the diversity of the student body. Examples of topics include (but are not limited to): an experience of prejudice, bias, economic disadvantage, personal adversity, or other social hardship (perhaps stemming from one’s religious affiliation, disability, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity); experience as a first-generation college student; significant employment history (such as in business, military or law enforcement, or public service); experience as an immigrant or refugee; graduate study; or impressive leadership achievement (including college or community service).

So if you're that Laotian refugee, answering this prompt seems simple enough (although it isn't). But suppose you grew up white, straight and well-off in a middle-class suburb, where nothing of any particular consequence happened to you? You still have to write the essay. Clearly, this is a situation that calls for some high-level mental jujitsu.

Here’s the skinny. Instead of fixating on that terrifying word diversity, instead turn your head to take in its underappreciated companion, ‘perspective’. Actually, if you dig into that War and Peace of a prompt above, you’ll see that the school hands you some clues of possible topics, including military/employment history, disability or disease, and even impressive leadership achievement, although be hella careful with that last one.

Ultimately, a great diversity essay isn’t driven by some accident of birth. Don’t believe us? Try writing “Hey, I’m black” as your entire response and see how that goes for you. It’s driven by your response to the formative experiences that shaped you.

What was hard for you growing up? What took some adjustment to learn to live with? For one guy we worked with, it was being a rural kid in a big city school. For another girl, it was being an army brat, shuttling from base to base. For yet another, it was being way, way too into cooking.

Whatever the challenge was, first take some time to explore why and how it was hard. Paint a vivid verbal picture of what it was like the first time that mean old uncle of yours said ‘little boys don’t make souffles’. Show yourself struggling, being wrong, doing wrong, if that was how it went down. Adjustments take time, and they often don’t stick right away. And when (and if) you do talk about how you saved the day and fixed everything, please try to address what’s universal about your struggle. Try to relate your experience to that of others, and show the adcom how you’re prepared to use your experiences to contribute on campus, rather than siloing.

Got questions? Call. In the meantime, good luck, and happy writing!


Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A Guide to the Best Summer Filmmaking Programs



Article by Ben Feuer. Photo by Bob Bekian.

One of the questions parents of teens interested in film often ask is, what are the best summer camps to attend?  There’s no perfect answer, and each student’s experience will vary, but here are the details on some of the top programs out there. Please note — this list is not comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. This is a list of well-regarded, long-standing programs.  Also note that many of these programs are competitive, so a strong application will be necessary to get in.

NAME: NYFA
AGE: 10-17
DURATION: 1-6 WEEKS
LOCATION:     •    New York City, Los Angeles, CA, Harvard University, Paris, France, Walt Disney World® Resort, FL, South Beach, FL, Florence, Italy, Gold Coast, Australia, Sydney, Australia
TUITION: $1140 -> $7240
LINK: https://www.nyfa.edu/summer-camps/
DESCRIPTION: In all New York Film Academy film camps, each student writes, shoots, directs and edits his or her own films. Our film camps are designed for people with little or no experience in making films. The programs focus on the fundamental elements of visual storytelling that enable the students to direct their own projects. During NYFA’s teen film camps, each weekday is split between in-class instruction and on-set production. The below subjects are taught both in-class and on set, where students get to apply the lessons they learned in the classroom to a real film set.
REQUIREMENTS: Students must fill out an application.

NAME: CHAPMAN
AGE: 16-17
DURATION: 2 WEEKS
LOCATION: Orange, CA, Shenzen, China
TUITION: $3000 or 18000 RMB
LINK: http://www.chapman.edu/dodge/summer-programs/summer-film-academy/index.aspx
DESCRIPTION: For two weeks students are immersed in the world of film through class discussions, film screenings, guest speakers, field trips, and filmmaking in small groups. They live, breathe and eat filmmaking around the clock while being taught by Chapman faculty who are industry professionals and mentored by current Dodge College grad students and alumni. All of this will be shared with their peers as they work in groups to complete projects to create short digital, narrative projects which are showcased to parents and relatives on the final night of the program in our 500-seat Folino Theater.
REQUIREMENTS: Students must have a 3 or higher GPA, must send in an essay, letter of recommendation, resume and transcript. The program is competitive — about 35 percent of students get in.

NAME: DMA (DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY)
AGE: 6-17
DURATION: 1-2 WEEKS
LOCATION: Austin, TX, Bryn Mawr, George Washington University, Harvard University, McGill University, Northwestern University, St. Mary’s College, Stanford University, UCSD, U. British Columbia, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Toronto & Washington, Stony Brook, Houston, etc.
TUITION: $1200 -> $3200
LINK: https://www.digitalmediaacademy.org/course-finder/results?cf%5Bcategory_tag%5D%5B%5D=Filmmaking+%26+Visual+Effects&cf%5Bpage%5D=&cf%5Bsearch%5D=&cf%5B_token%5D=c25c67e0ee2c267aad636004c484ffb98ae8211c
DESCRIPTION: Founded in 2002 at Stanford University, DMA offers programs in a wide range of disciplines, teaching anything and everything from experiencing Indie Film Production firsthand, all the way to learning how to surf and make films at the same time!  The company’s vision is to be a diverse haven for excellent young filmmakers to hone their craft.

NAME: MAYSLES DOCUMENTARY CENTER
AGE: 7-17
DURATION: 6-10 WEEKS
LOCATION: New York, NY
TUITION: $0-$1000
LINK: http://maysles.org/mdc/education/
DESCRIPTION: The Maysles Documentary Center offers comprehensive, year-round documentary educational programming for filmmakers of all ages. This includes on-site production and media literacy programs for adults and young people, as well as school-based partnerships where our experienced teaching artists work with students to develop storytelling, film production, and community engagement skills. We have partnered with a range of high school schools throughout the city, and currently host six education programs at our documentary center in Harlem including our Filmmakers Collaborative for Adults producing course, our Teen Producers Academy for high school students, our Junior Filmmakers for youth ages 10 to 13, and a film club for ages 7 to 11. All programs are free or low-cost, with scholarships available for those with a fee.

NAME: UCLA
AGE: 20+
DURATION: 6-10 WEEKS
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
TUITION: $3500-$6400
LINK: http://www.summer.ucla.edu/institutes/FilmandTV
DESCRIPTION: The UCLA Film & Television Summer Institute gives students from across the country and around the globe an unparalleled opportunity to study filmmaking at one of the most prestigious film schools in the world.  The UCLA Film & Television Summer Institute shapes the filmmakers of tomorrow right in the heart of Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.

NAME: UNC SCHOOL OF THE ARTS
AGE: 14+ (High school is separate from undergraduate and graduate)
DURATION: 8 WEEKS
LOCATION: North Carolina
TUITION: $4510
LINK: https://www.uncsa.edu/summer/film-summer-intensives/
DESCRIPTION: During the summer at Studio Village, UNCSA’s unique on-campus movie set, high school students and rising college freshmen immerse themselves for five weeks in the exciting world of narrative filmmaking. The conservatory’s dedication to developing the whole filmmaker extends to this comprehensive summer program. Students here will experience all elements of filmmaking first–hand: screenwriting, cinematography, directing, producing and digital editing.

NAME: EMERSON
AGE: 15-17
LOCATION: Boston, MA
DURATION: 5 WEEKS
LINK: http://www.emerson.edu/academics/pre-college
TUITION: $4306-$9099
DESCRIPTION: Filmmakers Studio offers rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors an opportunity to explore concepts and practices in film production. Applicants selected for the five-week program train in the art and technique of single-camera digital film production or 16mm film production.
Film production students gain extensive production experience including, but not limited to, creating story structure, cinematography, lighting, sound recording, and editing. Participants develop strong and practical story ideas, visualize those ideas in storyboards, and realize those ideas in short films. Rising juniors and seniors are welcome to apply to either the 16mm Film Production Track or the Single-Camera Digital Film Production Track. Rising sophomore applicants will be considered for admission to the Digital Film Production Track, only.  College credit offered in some programs.
REQUIREMENTS: Admission is selective. Students must apply via Slideroom with a portfolio and essay.

NAME: NYU TISCH
AGE: 16-17
LOCATION: New York, NY
DURATION: 4 WEEKS
TUITION: ~$9300
LINK: http://tisch.nyu.edu/special-programs/high-school-programs/filmmakers-workshop
DESCRIPTION: The curriculum for the Summer Filmmakers Workshop for High School Students, offered through the Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, is similar to that of the undergraduate degree program. It combines intensive professional training with a comprehensive understanding of the techniques and theories behind the art of film and video production. Prior experience in film or video is not required.
REQUIREMENTS: Admission is selective. Students must apply via Slideroom with a portfolio and essay.

NAME: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STUDENT EXPEDITIONS
AGE: 14-17
DURATION: 12-18 DAYS
LOCATION: New Zealand, Switzerland, France, New Mexico, Arizona, Iceland, Alaska
TUITION: $5700-8600
LINK: http://ngstudentexpeditions.com/find-a-trip-results?destinations=mix&interests=film-video&age-group=mix
DESCRIPTION: National Geographic Student Expeditions are nine day to three week summer programs for high school students that blend hands-on learning and adventure. These unique programs are crafted to cater to each high school student's interests, including Film & Video. Students can choose to focus on filmmaking, working in production teams to document their journey and the people they meet while traveling. The expedition culminates in a final video project. Our Experts and trip leaders help students learn the art and craft of filmmaking, including using production cameras in the field, creating time lapses, capturing great GoPro footage, or even using their phones to craft short digital stories. A National Geographic expert joins each trip to lend an insider's perspective as students explore.

NAME: USC
AGE: 18+
DURATION: 6 WEEKS
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
TUITION: $1666 per credit
LINK: https://cinema.usc.edu/summer/
DESCRIPTION: Summer Program classes are taught by leading industry professionals during two separate six-week sessions. Spend time on our state of-the-art campus taking classes focused on feature filmmaking, editing, animation, writing, computer graphics, interactive game design, and the business of the industry, among many others. Besides having access to the School's unparalleled facilities and equipment, Summer Program students will have many unique opportunities. Several classes take place on major studio lots such as Warner Bros. and Walt Disney Studios.
REQUIREMENTS: Essay and application. The process is selective, not all students are accepted.

Have questions about the application process?  Want to let us know something we missed?  Contact us!



Article by Ben Feuer, Photo by University of Liverpool

More and more business schools are commissioning student blogs about the application process, going behind the scenes for competitions and clubs, and trying to expose what life on campus is really like for all those students unable to visit.  Because we’re awesome, we here at Forster-Thomas have compiled some links for you to make it easier to get first-person feedback on those programs you’re considering spending two years of your life (and a whole chunk of money) on.

Stanford GSB
https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/programs/mba/student-life
https://backinthebay2015.wordpress.com/
frompatotheworld.blogspot.com/
paloaltoforawhile.blogspot.com/

Harvard Business School
http://www.hbs.edu/mba/Pages/default.aspx

Chicago Booth
theboothexp.com/
http://blogs.chicagobooth.edu/blog/Booth_Insider/boothinsider?redirCnt=1&=
https://medium.com/mba-mama-blog/mba-mama-spotlight-louise-chang-of-chicago-booth-d8143303284a#.43vej9rlg

Columbia GSB
https://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/curl/
https://www.knewton.com/resources/blog/test-prep/mba-life-an-insiders-perspective-on-columbia-business-school/
http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-be-a-student-at-columbia-business-school-2012-6
http://www.beatthegmat.com/mba/2011/11/28/columbia-business-school-through-the-eyes-of-four-current-students

Wharton
https://mba.wharton.upenn.edu/category/student-diaries/
http://blog.accepted.com/2014/07/18/reflections-of-a-wharton-student-and-commbond-intern/
http://www.businessinsider.com/student-life-at-wharton-business-school-2012-11

Dartmouth Tuck
http://www.tuck.dartmouth.edu/mba/blog
http://blog.accepted.com/2015/04/24/catching-up-with-dartmouth-tuck-student-dominic-yau/
http://poetsandquants.com/2012/07/15/a-tuck-coffee-chat-leaves-our-guest-blogger-a-believer/

Michigan Ross
http://michiganross.umich.edu/student-voices-blog
http://michiganross.umich.edu/ross-news-blog
http://blog.accepted.com/2011/12/09/michigan-ross-student-interview/

MIT Sloan
http://mitsloan.mit.edu/student-blogs/
http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mba/mit-sloan-community/student-profiles/
http://www.mba.com/us/the-gmat-blog-hub/student-video-bloggers/bloggers/julia-yoo.aspx

Northwestern Kellogg
https://kelloggmbastudents.wordpress.com/
http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/programs/executive-mba/emba-experience/blog.aspx
http://redwolf056.blogspot.com/
http://www.kelloggmbaclassof2011.com/

UC Berkeley Haas
http://blogs.haas.berkeley.edu/the-berkeley-mba
https://haasintheworld.wordpress.com/
http://rabbyatberkeley.blogspot.com/
http://calgradmba.blogspot.com/

NYU Stern
http://blogs.stern.nyu.edu/full-time-mba/
http://blogs.ft.com/mba-blog/author/victoriamichelotti/
http://blog.accepted.com/2012/01/13/nyu-stern-current-mba-student-interview/

Duke Fuqua
https://blogs.fuqua.duke.edu/duke-mba/
http://www.stevensma.com/
https://reachingthethirties.wordpress.com/

Yale SOM
http://som.yale.edu/programs/mba/blog
http://blog.iese.edu/mba/my-experiences-iese-yale/
http://mbaveggie.blogspot.com/2008/09/yale-som-visit.html

And by the way — this should be the beginning, not the end, of your research!  If you see a program or hear about an opportunity that sounds interesting, research it in more detail. See what else you’re able to turn up!




By Ben Feuer, photo by Roman Pfieffer

So you want to travel abroad in order to attend a top American or European business school?  Good for you.  There's just one little problem -- hundreds (or thousands, depending on your country of residence ... I'm looking at you, India!) of other people just as qualified as you are targeting those same exact seats. Fortunately, you have us on your side!  Check out this free three-step primer on how to prepare for your overseas MBA application.

1. Get clear on your goals and why you need a foreign MBA to pursue them.  Let's be honest -- although there are applicants who genuinely need the education a top school like HBS or Wharton can offer, there's also a lot of people who are just looking for prestige, a bigger network or a quick fix for a stalled career. If you fall into one of these latter categories, you have a problem, because no one in admissions wants to hear you whine about getting passed over for a promotion yet again. Fortunately, the trouble is mostly between your ears, and therefore, it's a relatively straightforward fix. Paying attention?  Good.

Past is prologue.

Got that? You are not defined by the four or five things that are currently frustrating you. You are the sum of the experiences, challenges and desires that have brought you to this point. Take a step back and look at your career from a higher vantage point. Where are you headed?  Is it somewhere exciting, inspirational? Who are you bringing along for the ride -- what troubled group out there are you preparing to serve?  It doesn't matter if you're a Private Equity quant jock or a burned-out prince of the non-profits in DC, the question is the same. What's next, and just how amazing is it going to be once it comes?

2. Know your role ... and your history. A good application to business school is an exercise in empathy -- you must put yourself in the admissions officer's shoes. She is trying to build a cohesive class. Where do you fit in? Look at your target schools. How many people like you did Stanford admit last year? What were they up to before arriving on campus?

Review your own work and travel history, both to figure out where you're the best fit, and what you have done that a top foreign school might find attractive.  Have you been the big fish in the small pond, changemaking like a boss?  Have you explored cultures and perspectives a top US or Euro MBA program might find intriguing?  What, and who, do you know that can help you to stand out?

3.  Shore up your fundamentals. Depending on exactly which country you are applying from, you may have an exceptionally competitive regional 'bucket' -- people from your area may only be able to claim seats when their fundamentals exceed even the usual lofty bar set by Booth, Kellogg and other top MBA programs. So make sure not to give them any reason to ding you on this account.  Your GMAT, GRE, and transcripts should be as strong as you can possibly make them. If your percentiles are lacking, study and retake. If you can't conquer one test, try the other. If you need more time and you're under 25, take a year to prepare. If your transcript and resume are thin on quantitative rigor, consider a one-year masters program.

So once you've done all that, what next?  Then, my friend, you are ready to take the plunge and begin planning your actual applications.  And that's when you should probably call us.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Should I keep or cancel my GMAT score?

 

Article by David Thomas, photo by wonderferret

For a couple of years now, GMAC has given students the option to cancel their scores if they aren't happy with how they performed. But control without judgment is a dangerous drug. One question we get all the time at Forster-Thomas is whether to keep or cancel a GMAT score. Although every case is different, here are a few basic guidelines to consider.

When to Cancel. This should go without saying, but if your score is way low, if you were sick or hung over or outrageously distracted, cancel the score. You're all but guaranteed to do better next time.

When to Keep. This category is larger than most people think. You should definitely keep any score that is higher than your previous overall scores, even if quant is lower. You should definitely keep a score with a higher quant score, even if the overall is lower. You should definitely keep a first score within 100 points of your practice tests. You should definitely keep any score of 710 or higher. And you should definitely keep anything with a quant score of 47 or higher.

Why? Say, for argument's sake, you have two tests. One with an overall high score, and a second with a high quant score but mediocre overall. You can refer to that high quant score in an optional essay as additional evidence of how quantitatively brilliant you are -- and schools will factor that in!

Don't panic! Remember -- even if you do cancel a score, you can get it back later. You have 60 days to decide whether to reinstate the scores—for a fee of 100 US Dollars. If you're thinking about reinstating, if you have questions about how your practice tests are going, or you just want to get a better handle on the process -- contact us! We'll be happy to help.

 

 

As one of the top medical schools in America, you might think that getting into JHU is a complex, multifaceted process – and you’d be right!  Fortunately, we’re here and happy to guide you through the absolute basics of what you’ll need to be a competitive applicant.  If you have questions about your specific case, of course, feel free to reach out to us and ask.

School Nickname: JHU

Median MCAT: 36

Median GPA: 3.9

Associate Dean of Admissions: James L. Weiss (Also Here)

Dr. Weiss studied at Yale and graduated in 1968.  He is now director of the Cardiology Fellowship Program, the director of the Heart Station, and the Michael J. Cudahy professor of Cardiology.

Application Overview: Highlights below

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine pioneered modern medical education at our founding and is dedicated today to developing medicine’s future leaders. In our search for students who embody such promise, we look for applicants who demonstrate not just high academic achievement but also leadership qualities, a dedication to service, an ability to work collaboratively and a commitment to medicine. If this describes you, we encourage you to apply. 

Top Residencies: 

Drug and alcohol abuse

Pediatrics

Women’s Health

Geriatrics

Application: More here

Two-stage.  First stage MUST be done through AMCAS, with a deadline of October 15th.  There is then a secondary application for P&S with a deadline of December 1st.

Recommendations can include committee letters, letter packets or faculty letters.

Note: If you have a graduate degree or significant full-time work experience of a year or more, you are also required to send a letter from the individual who supervised your work. If you held more than one position of at least one year, include a letter from each direct supervisor.

Required Courses --

  • A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from an accredited institution.A minimum of 24 semester hours is required in areas of humanities (English, History, Classics, Foreign Language, Philosophy, Arts, etc), social science (Sociology, Economics, Political Science, Anthropology, etc.)  and behavioral science (Psychology, etc.).College biology with laboratory, one year
  • General college physics with laboratory, one year
  • General college chemistry with laboratory, one year.  Acceptable advanced chemistry courses include the following:  a second semester of organic chemistry; a second semester of biochemistry; analytical chemistry (quantitative or qualitative); physical chemistry, applied chemical equilibrium and reactivity, etc.
  • Calculus and/or statistics, one year
  • Organic chemistry with laboratory, one semester (4 semester hours) are required.
  • Biochemistry. Three or 4 semester hours are required. Lab is not required.

ADDITIONAL FACTS:

The School of Medicine accepts prerequisites completed at the community college level. In order to be competitive in the selection process, we encourage prospective applicants with community college prerequisites to supplement these courses by taking advanced courses in related subjects at their four year institution.

  • Extension or evening courses taken in fulfillment of premedical course requirements are not acceptable unless they are identical to courses offered in the college’s regular academic program
  • Online courses are not acceptable
  • Preparation in foreign universities must be supplemented by a year or more of work at an approved university in the United States
  • Prerequisites do not need to be completed to apply but must be completed by August 1, just prior to matriculating at Johns Hopkins. Until successful completion of the requirements, acceptance is considered conditional
  • All coursework submitted in fulfillment of admission requirements must be evaluated on the basis of a traditional grading system. Such a system must employ a range of numbers or letters to indicate the comparative level of performance
  • CLEP credits may not be substituted for any course requirement

Previous Year JHU Questions:

1. If you have already received your bachelor’s degree, please describe what you have been doing since graduation, and your plans for the upcoming year. (This space is limited to 700 characters.)

Answer the question clearly and directly, with an emphasis on approachability and intelligibility. Don’t overthink your responses or shape them in an attempt to ‘look good’, whatever that might mean to you. Just focus on being clear, direct and simple, and wherever possible, show a distinctive, original mindset and a connection to the humanistic principles of JHU (helping people).

2. If you interrupted your college education for a semester or longer, please describe what you did during that time. (This space is limited to 700 characters.)

3. List any academic honors or awards you have received since entering college.  (This space is limited to 600 characters.)

4. Briefly describe your single, most rewarding experience. Feel free to refer to an experience previously described in your AMCAS application.  (This space is limited to 900 characters.)

Don’t repeat yourself here, that’s a waste of an opportunity. Instead, brainstorm a few really meaningful experiences you have had that tie into JHU’s mission and values. Don’t write about a fun party you went to once, but don’t write about a day spent doing beach cleanup volunteering either. Pick out a topic that you can write genuinely about, and expound on what it meant to you.

5. Are there any areas of medicine that are of particular interest to you? If so, please comment.  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)

6. Briefly describe a situation where you had to overcome adversity; include lessons learned and how you think it will affect your career as a future physician.  (This space is limited to 900 characters.)

7. If applicable, describe a situation where you were not in the majority. What did you learn from this experience?  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)

There are some ‘obvious’ ways to approach this diversity prompt, but the question is worded in such a way that anyone should be able to find a compelling response. We’ve all felt out of place. We’ve all felt like something about us is inherently different, that we in some way don’t fit. Explore what you did to respond to those feelings, how you managed them, how you grew as a result of facing them.

8. If applying to the dual MD/MBA program, please describe your reasons for wishing to obtain this degree.  (This space is limited to 1100 characters.)


 

By Ben Feuer, photo by walknboston

A lot of prospective legal eagles' scholastic options are going to be pretty obvious early on in the process, because their numbers are going to match up. For those of you who don’t know, the numbers I’m talking about here are LSAT score and GPA. The real-world LSAT range is from about 145 -> 180, and the real-world GPA range is from about 2.5 to about 4. So here are a few examples of LSAT/GPAs that ‘match up’, and the type of schools they should be targeting.

 

GPA                       LSAT                      PERCENTILE                        SCHOOL TYPE

3.85                        176                         ~90th                                      Top 14

3.55                        170                         ~70th                                      Top 50

3.1                          159                         ~40th                                      Top 100-150

 

Sounds simple enough. But what about the strange case of the splitter? Splitters, with their high marks in one area and low marks in another,  confound this process. In most cases, LSAT is going to be weighted more heavily than GPA. But that depends on your age, which school you’re coming from, and how many years you’ve been out working. Certain types of schools prefer candidates with certain types of profiles, as shown by their admissions data over the last few years. So if you’re a splitter, here are some schools you should definitely be looking at.

 

High LSAT / Low GPA

Virginia

Duke

NYU

Illinois

 

Low LSAT / High GPA

UC Berkeley

Minnesota

BYU

Pittsburgh

 

It’s also important to remember that your LSAT, unlike your GPA, can to some extent be improved with additional training and effort. If you’re serious about law school, this is one of the most valuable things you can do to help yourself get in. And the good news is, with applications down at almost every law school, there’s never been a better time to take your shot.




By Ben Feuer

There has been a lot of ink spilled lately on the subject of whether law school is in a death spiral.  Almost everyone knows that applications are way down over the past few years, and newspapers, always excited to be in at a kill, are stoking the fires of resentment for all they’re worth.

The truth is always more nuanced than a simple-minded fairy tale about greedy schools and vulnerable students.  The truth, however, can be a hard commodity to come by. That’s why I’m going to break down for you exactly what you need to know before deciding to apply to law school.

Ultimately, whether you are economically satisfied with your law school experience will boil down to three essential factors.

1.  Did you have to take out loans in order to attend, and how large were they?  If you add to your debt load by over $100,000, think of it as taking out a second (third?) mortgage, with servicing costs exceeding $1200 a month in many cases.  Even amortized over time and a long career, the average Mom and Pop law shingle isn’t going to earn you back significantly more than you would have made in your previous career.  That said, everyone’s financial situation is different, and if your college degree is unlikely to ever provide you the opportunity to earn a reliable living, law school may make financial sense despite the debt load.  Talk to an expert, and crunch numbers, before rendering your final judgment.

2.  What kind of schools are you getting offers from?  Law schools can be roughly divided into four categories: top 14, top 100, ABA accredited and non-ABA.  Let me be exquisitely clear — at this stage of the game, no one should be applying to a non-ABA law school.  Learn technical writing, project management or internet marketing instead, if you’re humanities oriented.  ABA schools outside the top 100 should be examined very carefully.  Talk to at least a dozen alums, including those who finished in the bottom half of the class. Ask what their job prospects were after graduation.  The top 100 is a little bit safer, but you’ll need to perform well academically (think top quartile), and you should expect to stay and work in the region where you are attending school.  Top 14 schools are still a no-brainer to attend, with a large plurality of students receiving need-based aid and compelling job offers.

3.  Are you ready to work hard?  Although there are plenty of exceptions, the average student finds law school to be difficult, stressful and tedious. This is more true of lower-ranked law schools, because the competition is fiercer for fewer jobs.  After graduation, law school students must pass the bar exam, which can be a brutal slog in and of itself. And finally the work itself is detail-oriented, repetitious and exacting.  It’s completely reasonable to expect your professional degree to provide you with a solid living, but don’t be surprised when it’s an onerous one.

The world is an uncertain place, always. And there’s little doubt that recent trends in America point to more econonmic instability, rather than less.  A well-chosen professional degree is an investment in oneself and a hedge against future economic uncertainty.  Just make sure that you choose the right degree; with an ever-lengthening menu of options, there’s no reason to settle for easy answers.

If you have questions about whether law school is right for you, contact me and I’ll be happy to advise you.

 

By Ben Feuer, photo by Damian Gadal

So here we are again, smack dab in the middle of another admissions season. Medical school, college and business school students around the world are clearing their schedules, holding their calls and barricading themselves in their rooms in a frantic first-ditch attempt to write some cool, sexy essays.

Bet you never thought you’d see the phrase ‘cool, sexy essay’ in a sentence, huh? Actually, around here you hear it a lot. Also things like ‘terrible, mind-numbing essay’. But I digress.

So here’s a question everyone decides, but most people never think to ask. How long should I be spending on a draft of an essay? There’s no definitive answer, but I’ve seen some of the best (and some of the worst) at work, and I can give you a few handy rules of thumb.

1) Don’t overthink your first draft. This is really, really important. Type-A people, particularly business types, are used to presenting material that’s ‘perfect’ on the first pass. To them, hearing feedback like ‘this doesn’t work at all’ is deeply unsettling. They’ll pour six, eight, sometimes twenty (!) hours into a first essay draft, and send it off to me thinking, OK, got that taken care of. Unfortunately, writing doesn’t work that way. It’s an experimental process of trial and error, failure and re-failure (followed, ultimately, by success). That’s why you should time limit first drafts to about four hours. Even if your English isn’t perfect, that’s more than enough time to get your main point across, without obsessing over word choice, sentence structure, punctuation … all for an essay that may not even work.

2) Don’t underthink it either. College applicants in particular are often guilty of this, but it can happen to anyone. They’ll look at a word count of, say, 500, and think, heck, I can knock that out in no time. They think of essay writing as filling a quota, instead of distilling a lot of good ideas into a limited space. These essays are often unfocused, and the people who wrote them have a certain hallmark attitude of, ‘Hey, it’s just a first draft’. No, it’s the beginning of a conversation about who you are. And you just lead off with, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Whatever.’ If this could be you, force yourself to spend at least two hours per draft. It doesn’t matter if they’re productive. Just spend them thinking about your essay and yourself.

3) Don’t ‘cap’ your drafts. If you had just decided to run a marathon, how would you decide to train? Would you research online about successful practice routines and approaches, or would you walk out your door, run until you got tired, say ‘I’m all set’, and wait for the day of the marathon to arrive? It sounds ridiculous, but people writing essays assume this kind of attitude all the time. They say, ‘I’ve already written a draft of that essay’. Well, so what? You might have written five. The question is, are any of them any good? You need to get objective feedback on every draft and every story you write. Until your readers say it’s good, you can’t be sure it is, and you certainly shouldn’t place arbitrary limits on how much revision you’ll do.

4) Don’t be streaky. You know how some baseball hitters are streaky? They’ll have a few good weeks, a few bad ones? Nobody likes that in sports, and it doesn’t work for essay writers either. Once you start, don’t put down your pen until the last essay is 100 percent finished. Don’t take a few weeks off to recharge. Don’t take breaks to redo tests or focus on something else for awhile. You may get tired -- that’s OK. Your focus will produce more consistent, coherent work, which is vitally important when you’re trying to present a complete picture of yourself to admissions committees.

So there you go, a few useful guidelines to get you started with your essay writing timeline. Need some advice on your personal timeline? I’d be happy to help!