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School Nickname: UW

Median MCAT: 31

Median GPA: 3.70

Dean: Stella V. Yee

More about the school: Also read this

Founded in 1946, the University of Washington School of Medicine is a regional resource for Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho - the WWAMI states.

It is recognized for excellence in training primary-care physicians and for advancing medical knowledge through scientific research. The school's students, staff, faculty and alumni demonstrate commitment to community service through volunteer activities.

Top Residencies: Primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics

Application: More here.

Two-stage.  First stage must be done through AMCAS.  The UWSOM secondary application follows, including additional statements, letters of recommendation, course requirement workshop and TRUST application.  The secondary application deadline is December 1, 2014.

Prescreening: Applicants with approx. 2.9 GPA AND approx. 20 MCAT score will be rejected
        International students without US citizenship or permanent residency will be rejected
        Applicants who have three previous applications will be rejected
Typically more than 95 percent of UW School of Medicine acceptances are applicants from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana or Idaho (WWAMI).

Required Courses: full list here
    •    Four semesters of social sciences
    •    Six semesters of chemistry and biology
    •    Two semesters of physics
    •    Non-applicable social sciences or humanities: “how to courses”, English composition, English grammar, foreign language composition, foreign language grammar, journalism, leadership, music composition, music lessons, performance (dance, instrument, voice, etc.)
    •    Non-applicable science courses: laboratory courses, research, courses taught by a department other than basic science (for example, courses taught by the nursing department and listed as NURS rather than BIO on your transcript)

Secondary Statement Questions:
An autobiographical statement which should include (250 word limit)
    •    the origin and development of your motivation to be a physician
    •    your prior experiences in health care
    •    steps taken to explore a career in medicine
    •    your eventual goals as a physician
    •    and other issues of importance
The Personal Comments section of the AMCAS application may be used to satisfy this requirement, or an additional autobiography may be submitted with your secondary materials.  Your AMCAS personal statement will already be on file with our office.

At first blush, this is a pretty intimidating prompt.  The list of things they want to know is longer than the allowed word count all by itself!  But notice that they view this as a supplement to your AMCAS personal statement.  The most important thing, then, is to add to what you wrote for your general AMCAS statement any material that is specifically relevant to UW.  Did you have regional experiences or professional goals that would be of particular interest to them?  Is there anything that did not make sense for a broader audience but would for the more targeted audience of UW?

3 additional short essays (250 word limit each)

    •    How have your experiences prepared you to be a physician?

This prompt runs the risk of being doubly redundant with your AMCAS statement and your UW supplement.  Avoid this pitfall by focusing in on two specific experiences that you can discuss in depth, subjects that you did not analyze deeply elsewhere.  The experiences you choose don’t have to be professional, by any means, but they should have prepared you, either in terms of experience, values or character, to be a good doctor.

    •    What perspectives or experiences do you bring that would enrich the class?

This is a ‘diversity’ prompt — whatever makes you stand out as a person, be it your personality, your ethnic, racial or geopolitical background, or your experiences working with (and ideally bringing together) a wide range of different people, is fair game for this type of prompt.

    •    What obstacles to your goals have you experienced and how have you dealt with them?

Again, the prompt asks for multiple examples of obstacles, so don’t pick just one.  Do, however, limit yourself to two, as otherwise this would be extremely difficult to answer in 250 words.  In this case, the school is asking for obstacles you have overcome already, and how you overcame them should be the focus of the essay, rather than describing the situation, or worse still, the build-up to the situation.

For re-applicants: From your most recent application until now, how have you strengthened your application?
Have more questions?  Email us!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Top Architecture Graduate Programs – Yale

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Yale's outstanding graduate architecture program offers remarkable flexibility for students with previous work experience, as well as opportunities for those interested in environmental impact.


•  Ranked #2 overall in DesignIntelligence’s 2014 top architectural program rankings.
• Offers several program options, a three year pre-professional and a two year post-professional M. Arch as well as a joint M. Arch / MBA and a Masters of Design
•  A fundamentals-driven approach — Yale believes that architecture is a palpable art form, not a CAD tutoring program.
• Collaboration with the school of forestry and environmental studies for sustainable design.
• A dedicated urban design workshop, founded in 1992.


Start by registering for an open house to become better acquainted with the program.  You can choose which faculty members you would like to meet.
The application is available here.   Deadline to apply is January 2, 2015.
The application system is online only.  Do not send materials to the school directly.
You must submit transcripts, GRE, a current CV, and three letters of recommendation.  At least one recommender should have direct knowledge of the applicant’s professional potential and academic ability.  For international students, TOEFL is required.  All programs except M.UP require a portfolio — an optimized PDF of under 64MB, 150DPI.  No video.
An essay, not exceeding one page, that includes a brief personal history and reasons for applying is required and must be uploaded to the online application.  Take note that this is also where you mention if you are a minority.

For more information, check out Yale’s website or contact us.

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University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration is one of the top social work schools in the world.  Here's how you can get in.

U. Chicago School of Social Service Administration

Weighted Ranking #1, #3 US News, #1 Goucher.

Why to Go

The University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration offers an “AM” degree, equal to an MSW but adding interdisciplinary theory and research, leading to even greater career flexibility after graduation.

After completing the core curriculum, students focus on clinical practice or social administration. The school offers 9 programs of study that allow students to specialize their degree, but 60% of graduate students create their own specialization through related electives and internships. The diversity of course and internship offerings are among the best in the nation.

Chicago also offers part time, 15 month accelerated and extended evening programs.

How to Go

Applications are accepted between September 1 and April 1, but it is strongly recommended to apply by the December 1 Round 1 deadline or the January 15 Round 2 Deadline.

You will need Three Letters of Recommendation. References should be qualified to discuss your aptitude for both graduate study and social work.

Current undergraduates or recent graduates must include at least two academic references;
15-Month Accelerated Program applicants must include two academic references;
Transfer students and 15-Month Accelerated Program applicants must include a reference from a current or recent practice professor or field instructor who can evaluate your performance in field placement or submit a final field evaluation;
Applicants who are or recently have been employed must include one reference from an employment supervisor. Ask your professional references to speak to your analytic and critical thinking skills.

For both the Master’s and Doctoral Programs: Candidate's Statement. Those applying to the Master’s Program must write a 4-page, double-spaced statement that addresses all of the following:

a social problem and how a direct practice or policy intervention might provide a way to engage that problem; specific short and long term personal goals; and  how a social work education at SSA provides a way to achieve those goals.

For more coaching on how to write this personal statement, check out our blog on the subject.

GRE scores are not required for the masters program.

Campus visits are strongly recommended.


Like what you're reading? Want to learn more? Contact one of our experts right now and get a free evaluation of your candidacy!

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By Ben Feuer

Kellogg has finally released its essay prompts for this year, and you can read them right here on our website.  As with almost every other school this year, Kellogg has trimmed both word count and essay count.  The trend is shorter and sweeter, or as Kellogg admissions prefers to frame it, "a nice amount of space for an applicant to give a well thought out answer but not to feel constrained".  We will let you be the judge of that.

One other useful tidbit -- although the questions are different this year, Kellogg stresses that the themes are the same.  They still view team skills and resilience as very important qualities in developing leaders.  So when you set your pen to paper to answer that first prompt about a challenge you have faced, remember that the size and intensity of the challenge really matters if you are planning to craft a compelling response.

The video essay also survives for another year -- once again, candidates will have twenty seconds to prepare a response, but this year, they will have only sixty seconds to answer.  But don't worry, you are not supposed to feel constrained there, either.  For more information on how to ace the video essay, check out this great video from Forster-Thomas interview skills expert Tom Locke.

1. Resilience.  Perseverance.  Grit.  Call it what you will…. Challenges can build character.  Describe a challenging experience you’ve had.  How were you tested?  What did you learn? (450 words) 

This is what we at Forster-Thomas call a "setback" essay.  It's a kissing cousin of the "failure" essay, which you can read all about in our book.  In fact, you could answer this prompt by writing a failure essay as well, and for certain candidates (particularly those that come across too shiny and well-manicured in their resume and professional experience) it can be really nice to have that humanizing element, especially for a more socially adept student body like Kellogg's.  Just remember the two most important elements of a failure essay -- that you own the failure and take responsibility for it, and that you show us how you learned from it going forward.

But back to the setback essay.  Setback essays are about something you were trying to achieve, be it personal or professional, when ONE SPECIFIC obstacle came up and prevented that from happening.  That obstacle can be concrete (a hurried deadline) or more ambiguous (your boss's controlling attitude stifling innovation), but in order to answer the question, you must write about how you RESPONDED to the crisis -- or as Kellogg puts it, how were you tested and what did you learn?  And of course, you finish up by telling the reader what happened to the project or relationship.  Did it work out?  How?  Are there any relevant metrics?  Was the achievement a first of its kind for that setting?

2. Leadership requires an ability to collaborate with and motivate others.  Describe a professional experience that required you to influence people.  What did this experience teach you about working with others, and how will it make you a better leader? (450 words)

This is a standard 'leadership' essay (covered in our book), meaning that the focus should be on a specific, single event that took place over a well defined period of time (a month, two weeks, et cetera) where some organizational goal needed to be achieved.  In the best leadership essays, the candidate identifies the problem, finds a solution, lobbies to have it implemented and then sees it through to a successful conclusion, creating legacy going forward.  The bigger and more diverse the team, the more important and powerful the leadership experience.

Please note that Kellogg asks you to focus on professional experiences here.

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So you're interested in law school?  Fantastic.  But first, visit these websites and do your due diligence.

By Ben Feuer

Most prospective lawyers are cautious by nature, and eager to do their homework before taking on the huge commitment of time and money that is law school.  But just in case you're one of those 'fly by the seat of your pants' people, take this blog post as a wake-up call -- you need to do some serious thinking about your application.

Naturally, any good lawyer-to-be wants to know the prestige factor of his perspective school.  Is it top fourteen, second tier, etc?  At the moment, the two key sources of law school rankings are Above the Law and US News and World Report.  Their methodologies differ somewhat, but their results are fairly similar, especially in the top ten.  ATL focuses more on the employment side of things.  US News also has some intriguing alternative rankings, including ranking part-time law programs and ranking by diversity.

But rankings are just the beginning of the story when it comes to choosing the right school.  Although they are not rankings per se, LST (Law School Transparency) carries very important and interesting information about the true outcomes of students at particular schools and has a lot of important stats -- this page is definitely worth a visit.

Top Law Schools has a fascinating chart where students self-report their stats and announce which schools they got into -- over time, this gives a surprisingly accurate picture of your odds of acceptance or rejection based on numbers alone.  Here, for example, is HLS.  They also have tons of resources for pre-law students, including advice about where (and whether) to attend.  Law School Numbers offers a similar service.

Although I'm not going to name names, most law schools have a lot of very useful resources on their own websites -- you can find out the best timing for campus visits, learn more about profs and news from the campus community, and see what students are up to at the school.  Of course, this is no substitute for visiting in person, but it is a good supplement.

And last but not least, no list of this kind would be complete without mentioning LSAC, the dreaded body that administers the LSAT.  But the truth is, smart pre-laws flock to LSAC -- they are a well-organized hub of information and opportunities, offering personal advising, hosting local forums in your city of choice, diversity grants and prep tools.


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to trim your essays

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Many people find rewriting to be the toughest part of writing -- here are a few time-honored tricks to help you kill off surplus verbiage.

By Ben Feuer

The New York Times has a fun article today about the importance of editing to good writing.  This is especially true for writing with a word count -- as you do when, for example, you are writing an essay for school!  Most people are able to get something down on paper, but then they have no idea what to do next -- so we have put together some important tips to help you shave excess words.

1.  Avoid redundancy, weasel words, and the passive voice.   To be fair, this is an easy trap to fall into -- after all, it can be hard to come up with exactly the right word to describe the job you did on your most recent volunteering trip to Guatemala, or the look in your boss's eyes when he told you you were getting promoted.  Unfortunately, people try to solve this problem by putting in EVERY relevant word they can think of.  Look out for obvious cases of redundancy -- using synonyms or restating an idea multiple times in slightly different ways.  But also be wary of superfluous adjectives -- your massive, amazing, innovative and revolutionary idea is probably really just a good idea with too many clothes on.  And above all, those words that people write when they are coming around to the thing they mean to say but not quite wanting to say it until they finally get to the sentence's end -- that's called the passive voice.  It stinks.

2.  Get fresh eyes.  Not your mom, not your best friend, not your coworkers, not alumni.  Those people have agendas.  You want someone who knows nothing about your subject matter and ideally, nothing about you -- because that person is as close as you're likely to get to the perspective a real admissions officer will have on your essay.

3.  Cover less ground.  Essay writing is not informational, it's persuasive -- forget trying to give a comprehensive account of your actions, or your time at a company.  Focus on one tiny sliver, one simple story, with powerful emotional roots, like the moment you convinced your boss to hire his first gay employee, or the time you finally got healthier options added to the lunch menu.


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

How to get unstuck writing your essay

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When your writing hits a wall, Forster Thomas coach Susan Clark has the answer for how to break out of your doldrums.

By Susan Clark

Let’s say you’re into football (I mean American football, not that goofy European game where no one scores).  The quarterback is back in formation and hands off to the running back – and the guy doesn’t move.  Linebackers are tearing up the turf and the team is going to take a big loss – but the running back is just sitting there, waiting for specific instructions about how to get through the defense.  

Sound ridiculous?  Marco, a candidate I coached last year, was that running back.  I took care of the game plan, telling Marco exactly what we were out to achieve with each essay.  I called the play, helping Marco find structure in his personal stories.  But then Marco dropped the ball.  He accepted everything and added nothing, ceding all control. When I asked him how he felt about his experiences, he replied, “What do you think I should say I was feeling?”

I am a coach.  I can help my clients find their most interesting stories and steer them around pitfalls and mistakes.  I can generate ideas, and I have tons of experience building applications. But I can’t supply the authenticity.  The essays needed Marco’s flair, his voice, his thoughts, his feelings, to bring them to life.

So I had Marco do a simple improvisational exercise that I learned while running logistics for acting workshops. I started a story with a random sentence.  Marco had to build on that story for a bit and then hand it off to me.  After passing it back and forth for a while, laughing the whole time, we returned to his essays. At first I had to coax him to apply the same loose logic to his own life, but Marco soon realized that his honesty made the stories sparkle.  After that, he didn’t struggle any more.

Are you stuck?  Here are three tips on how to get unstuck!

1.  Break out of your rut.  Had trouble thinking of what to say?  Chances are that you (and Marco) are a little short on innovation in your life, and it is affecting your ability to reflect on your life.  Go someplace you haven't been in a while.  Talk to some new people.  Try a new activity.

2.  Have fun with it.  It isn't a coincidence that Marco and I made our best progress in a humorous moment.  Sometimes a joke is exactly what you need to take your mind off your troubles and get you going again.

3.  Don't be your own editor.  No one can wear two hats at once except Zaphod Beeblebrox.  Your job is to come up with ideas, not decide whether or not they work.  Let your reader (or your essay coach) be the judge of that!


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

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Just as social profiles are becoming key tools for employers, your target schools are also considering your online presence when you apply.  Here's how to manage what they see.

by Ben Feuer

It's a weird new world -- just a few short years ago, a resume was the be all and end all of your professional life.  Now, nearly anything is fair game, and not just for employers, either.  Surveys show 30 percent of admissions officers are checking up on what you do online, and that number will only grow.  So here are a few Forster-Thomas-style tips to help you manage your online presence.

1.  Don't whitewash.  White's NOT your color.  In all seriousness, though, one of the first things you'll read online is to delete all sorts of pertinent, identifying information like your religious and social convictions and causes.  Well, don't.  Remember -- you WANT admissions to get to know you better, and seeing what you stand for is a great way to make that happen.  Of course, use your best judgement -- that keg stand you pulled off last week might NOT look quite so impressive to Harvard.

2.  Be logical, be consistent.  Wherever possible, purge irrelevant or misleading details or elements of style -- they may lead a reader who does not know you well down a rabbit hole you'll have trouble getting out of.  Consider what your TOP links on Google are -- are they representative?  If not, can you try to push up some content that is, by updating it or refreshing it?  Are your social media presences well managed -- do you have outdated or inaccurate information in some old profile setting you forgot about?

3.  Be lovable.  Love is a greater motivator than fear, and ultimately this process is about falling in love -- you with the school, and hopefully, them with you.  So don't post a lot of negative, flaming comments (especially if they're true), and don't get a rep as a can't-do person or a naysayer.  Project your best self -- an image that is active, engaged, thoughtful and caring.

4.  Friend means friend.  The last thing you want is to content with ridiculous wall posts or junk Zynga game invites all over your profile because you friended someone who doesn't get tha interwebz.  Keep your friends close and unfriend your enemies.

Don't wait until you apply -- start taking action NOW.  Some of this stuff may take time to filter out of internet search caches and the like.


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

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How to Write the Perfect Medical School Personal Statement

Med School graduate guru Kirsten Guenther shares her unique insight into crafting the ideal personal statement for your application.

By Kirsten Guenther

Admit it. You’ve watched at least one episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Even if you rolled your eyes the whole time, and made a gagging motion when they removed that kid from a block of cement with no permanent damage. (Okay, I’ve watched more than a couple of episodes.)

Although Grey’s Anatomy (sadly) is more Fabio than Florence Nightingale, it might actually be worth another look, because believe it or not, Grey’s Anatomy could help you with your personal statement for medical school.

Tom, one of my medical school hopefuls last year, had beaucoup internships and shadowships, a 37 MCAT score and a 3.9 G.P.A from Yale.  What he didn’t have was a compelling story for his personal statement.  Rather than writing about who he was, Tom just listed facts about himself—where he was born, what classes he had excelled in, all his fabulous qualities and qualifications.  Dullsville.  So I gave Tom some homework – he was to watch season one of Grey’s Anatomy and report back. 

Next week Tom gushed, “Kirsten! It was amazing! It’s called Grey’s Anatomy because it’s the Anatomy of Dr. Grey! The episode is like an x-ray of her soul.”

Yes, Tom …

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy is centered around a deeply personal revelation for the main character. And the show is narrated by her—so you really get into her head and her heart. The character is self-aware—she shares her fears, her goals, her strengths, and her weaknesses. And at the end of each episode, (or for purposes, essay) she shares a revelation that changed her.

Tom eventually found his inner Dr. McDreamy and got into his top choice of school, and you can too, as long as you follow these FIVE SIMPLE TIPS.

  1.  You are writing an autobiography.  And the heart of this autobiography is simply this -- why do you want to be a doctor?  Tell admissions the story of your evolving relationship to medicine, and make sure to demonstrate how passionate you are about medicine through self-understanding and action.
  2. Show compassion. Notice I said show, don’t tell. Do not FYI them that you are understanding and patient. Walk them through the time you broke through to that tutoring student that just ‘didn’t get it’, or the time you helped that patient at the free clinic deal with a diagnosis of cancer.
  3. What kind of doctor are you?  I don’t mean your discipline – pediatrician or brain surgeon, it’s all good.  I’m talking about your bedside manner. The way you describe your internship experiences, in particular, should provide clues on how you will treat your patients once you become a doctor.
  4. Demonstrate self-awareness. How scary would it be to have a doctor who thinks he or she is perfect? Exactly. You are not perfect, thank goodness, so be clear about your strengths and weaknesses. Where can you grow and develop at medical school?
  5. Evolve.  Even if you are into Intelligent Design, you can still benefit from some personal evolution. Each experience you describe must build on the previous one – not only will your essay become infinitely more dynamic, you will show a pattern of progressing maturity over time that will reflect well on you as a candidate.

By the end of the essay, admissions must be certain you will be come a doctor. That it is in your bones, and this is their chance to help you get there.  And if you still don’t understand what I’m talking about, I sentence you to watch more Grey’s Anatomy! (Best to stick to the first three seasons.)


Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

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To reveal or not reveal other awards? That is the question.

During this time of year—and more and more, during this economic climate—my accepted students revisit, meet with, and ultimately follow-up with financial aid appeal letters to their top-choice colleges and universities, asking for more financial assistance. And why not? It never hurts to ask—especially if you are a top, sought-after candidate at that college. Right?

Maybe. All too often, the request from the college-of-your-choice is the same:  “Please attach the offers you have received from the other schools to which you were accepted.”

So what should you do? Is it ethical for your first-choice school to see what other institutions have offered? Is it anyone’s business? Should you ignore the request?

Let’s work through these questions for some peace of mind.

Recently, a student of mine who was accepted to her first-choice private university, and offered $10K per year. Nothing to sneeze at, but not enough. What she needs is $15K to make it possible for her to attend without taking a job. After her second visit to the campus, the financial aid office asked her to reveal the other colleges’ offers. That’s when my student asked me, “What should I do?” After all, no one had offered her $15K. Her second and third choices offered her $11K and $13K respectively. She was worried she had boxed herself in.

Are you in a similar situation? Have you already met with the financial aid office? If so, here are a few questions you might be asking yourself:

If my first-choice college—the one I want the $15K from—sees the lower offer from another school, are they likely to meet it or beat it? What is the benefit of showing them a better offer? Isn’t it like showing your poker hand?
Should I reveal the lower offer, but explain that although my first-choice college is A, I will have to go with College B—a great school, but not the one I have my heart set on?

Since it’s my number one choice, should I just take the 10K offer and figure out a way to make up the difference? Work at Starbucks or the bookstore?

Obviously, you get that all of the questions depend on how bad you want to be at your number-one choice, here are some responses from the wisest colleagues in the admissions biz.

First off, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples—make sure the tuition is frozen for the next four years—meaning the colleges you received financial awards from are similar in rank and style…

1. Go ahead and show your number-one that better offer from the other schools. All colleges base their calculations on the same federal methodology, but alter their offers based on their particular financial policies. So, seeing a higher offer just might get you the extra $ you need. If the margin is small, my colleagues assure me, your top-choice will adjust their original offer to match the other schools.  But make sure you’re only sharing the letters of “comparable” schools…for example, a highly selective college won’t care that you got a full ride from a local “suitcase school.”

2.  When you’re sending in that “please, sir, I want some more” request, make sure you do it with grace and respect. Express your regret at even having to make the choice between your number-one and the other schools.

3. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If your number 1 is really your number 1—has the programs, the people and the professors you want—then rise to the occasion and don’t let a few thousand dollars come between you and dream school. Who cares if you spend a few hours a week in college asking “would you like fries with that” if you’re set up for the career you’ve wanted?

Finally, I’d go with what Nirav Mehta, the associate director of admissions at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, said when I asked him the above three questions:

“I believe the other offers should be revealed, as requested by the Financial Aid Office. But it's equally important to highlight the real financial need without an adversarial approach. Financial aid officers are interested in helping young people realize their educational dreams, but they're making decisions with limited information. Helping financial aid officers get an honest picture of the situation will be the most effective approach. I have seen modifications in the financial aid package with this kind of approach that focuses on the need, especially if [you’re] academically stellar.”

Thanks, Nirav!

Don't be shy! Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you.

Bottom line: It never hurts to ask, and honesty is the best policy.

Auntie Evan