To Those Who Were Rejected

Keep Your Chin Up

March has come to a close, and with it has come a bulk of college decision letters. While many will undoubtedly be celebrating, many will also undoubtedly be angry and disappointed with the news they have received.

To those who belong to the latter group, I say: I’m sorry. I get it. I feel you.

You scoff. Perhaps you look at my byline and (rightly) conclude that I am a Harvard student. By most people’s definition, I won the college admissions game show. What makes me qualified to offer advice and condolences to students who are struggling with the news they’ve received this week?

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Harvard students get rejected too.

A lot.

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The Big Decision

The Big Decision

By this time, you should have received most if not all of your college decisions. Some of you may feel really happy about your decisions while others may feel understandably dejected. Regardless of how you feel, you now need to go forward with the next step of this college process. So after getting over the initial excitement or disappointment of your offers, you have to take the time to decide where you will end up. This decision is not one you can take lightly, so before you declare where you want to spend your next four years, here are some things to consider.

Your Financial Aid Package: The amount of financial aid you can receive from an institution can be the main reason you decide to go to one college over another.  When you receive your package, check over the all details to make sure you understand it all. Especially take note of: 1) how much the college is giving you, 2) how are they giving you the support (i.e. scholarships or loans), and 3) how much you are expected to contribute. Misreading your financial aid package could mean missing vital information that could alter your decision. If you discover that your package is inaccurate or less than what you might need, talk immediately to someone from your college’s financial aid office or change your package to something more suitable for you.  A bad package can turn a dream school into a nightmare.

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Admissions 2014: By The Numbers

All About The Numbers

UPDATED: March 31, 2014, at 3:40 p.m.

Yesterday at 5 p.m., the fates of many high school seniors were altered as top U.S. colleges released their Regular Decision results. But what do the numbers tell us? First, let’s take a look at the acceptance rates of the most prestigious universities in the country for the class of 2018.

Colleges whose acceptance rates decreased:

Brown University - 8.6%, down from 9.2% last year.

Yale University - 6.26%, down from 6.72% last year.

Princeton University* - 7.28%, down from 7.29% last year.

University of Pennsylvania* - 9.9%, down from 12.1% last year.

Cornell University -  14%, down from 15.2% last year.

Duke University* - 9%, down from 10% last year (record low acceptance rate)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology* - 7.7 percent, down from 8.2% last year.

Colleges whose acceptance rates increased:

Harvard University - 5.9%, up from 5.8% last year.

Dartmouth College - 11.5%, up from 10% last year.

Columbia University - 6.94%, up from 6.89% last year.

Colleges getting more applications:

University of California, Los Angeles received 86,472 freshman applicants, up 6.9% from last year.

University of California, San Diego received 73,356 freshman applications, up 8.8% from last year.

Stanford University received 42,167 freshman applicants, up 8.6% from last year,

Cornell University received 43,041 freshman applicants, up 7.6% from last year.

Colleges getting less applicants:

Dartmouth College received 19,235 applications this year, down 14% from last year.

Harvard University received 34,295 applications this year, down 2.1% from last year.

Other fun facts

At University of California, Berkeley last year, offers to international students increased by 44% (from 1,137 to 1,638). As a result, the number of international students admitted to Berkeley last year was larger than MIT’s entire class of 2018.

MIT admitted only 1,419 students this year, a 9% less than last year. This was partly account for by the loss of accommodation provided by an undergraduate dorm, Bexley Hall, which was closed down last year after the building was deemed unsafe for residents due to structural problems.

Dartmouth welcomed its first-ever admitted students from Fiji and Iran.

When answering the MIT Class of 2018 Facebook group’s poll question "How did you feel when you got accepted?”, around 20% said that "[MIT admissions] made a mistake."

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 31, 2014

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the direction in which Brown's admissions rate moved from the Class of 2017 to the Class of 2018. In fact, it decreased from to 8.6% from 9.2%.

Congratulations, Harvard Class of 2018

Welcome 2018

Congratulations, Harvard Class of 2018! At last, the wait is over: the long nights of tweaking your Common App essay, the nervous weeks leading up to today, the anticipation as you constantly refreshed your inbox, and the spark of both excitement and dread that made your stomach jump the moment the email actually appears.

Amidst the excited yells, the hugs and congratulations, you'll find yourself thinking about your life here at Harvard. Maybe you're looking forward to "pahking yah cah in Hahvahd Yahd" as you arrive to move in to your new home and meet all the other freshmen just like you. You'll all be curious, perhaps a little scared, but excited to be starting a new chapter of your life at such a beautiful, historic, and prestigious place.

Maybe you're looking forward to late night conversations about aldol condensations and the latest posts on your favorite tumblr blogs, debates about the merits of capitalism and whether Berryline is better than Pinkberry, or even the constant searches for people who share your interests, intellectual and otherwise.

Perhaps you can't wait to meet all your professors, inviting them to dinners or being invited into their homes for dinners instead. You'll spend hours discussing the newest scientific article that really caught your attention and work with them on projects you both are passionate about. You'll come in to talk to them about your passion for a subject you never knew you even liked.

Maybe you'll explore and see all Harvard has to offer. You'll wander through the Harvard libraries, discovering hidden gems you never knew were there. You'll take a class on the History of Art and Architecture, intensive Russian, the Science of Cooking, Justice, Anton Chekhov, and even organic chemistry. You can't wait to see where your interests and passions take you.

Or maybe you'll make memories. Your first of four Harvard-Yale games—maybe even your first football game ever! The excitement and nervousness leading up to Housing Day, then the bliss of finding that your assigned House has really and truly become your home. Jammin' out at Yardfest to the tunes of Janelle Monae. Spending late nights in the Crimson or the radio station, just to hang out with your friends.

Whatever you're looking forward to, welcome to Harvard, Class of 2018. We can't wait to meet you.

A Look Inside the Harvard Class of 2035


It is a temptation as a college student in the Class of 2017 to imagine that somehow

college was always like this. Particularly at Harvard, it is obvious that, in recent decades, the demographic makeup of our classes has undergone a revolution in terms of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity.

Recent data published and analyzed by the Chronicle of Higher Education reveals that the revolution is set to continue, and that the Harvard Class of 2035, as well as other college classes across the United States, will change dramatically in the coming decades. Here are the top five major changes:

1. “Two or more.” Will categories of ethnicity fade into less and less relevancy? The number of students choosing the category of “two of more” for ethnicity will explode to 46.6%. This follows a sharp decline in the number of white, black, and Asian students.

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A Numbers Game


A revolution quietly took place during these first few months of 2014, changing the face of standardized testing. The next day, the evidence of the brawl was spread across the Internet, lining the pages of newspapers- the SAT had been completely overhauled.

According to a NYTimes article, as of 2013, the ACT had won the testing race, with 1,666,017 students taking it, versus 1,664,479 for the SAT. It has become the clear favorite of harried and stressed high schoolers looking for their golden ticket to college across the country.

That isn’t to say that the SAT has stopped growing; rather, both tests have seen spikes in the number of participants, with the ACT simply pulling in more. It seems that students are trying to make sure that they have done all they can to get into their university of choice. Perhaps an extra grade, a solid score on the ACT can push them over the hump and through the admissions door. This played a role in prompting the newly announced changes to the SAT format.

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The New SAT: Paradigm Shift or More of the Same?

SAT Craze

Have you heard? The SAT is changing! Everyone panic!

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the recently announced changes to the College Board’s perennial pain-in-the-butt. College students and alumni around the nation are indignant that younger generations will not have to suffer through painful analogies, senseless vocabulary words like “grandiloquent,” and an essay graded more on the use of semicolons and complex adjectives than its content or structure. We suffered—why shouldn’t they?

Meanwhile, high school students and parents are in a frenzy. “Does this mean I can’t prepare for the test!?” “What will become of my years of test prep!?” “Does Kaplan’s Higher Score guarantee still apply!?” Most likely, all of these reactions are unnecessary. While the announced changes certainly sound like the beginnings of a paradigm-shift, the reality is that the “new” SAT promises to be more of the same.

In case you haven’t followed, the College Board recently announced several changes to the new SAT, which will start in the spring of 2016. Among these changes are:

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Institutions Clarify Financial Aid Application Instructions after Congressman's Letter

FAFSA's Not The Only Problem

One hundred and eleven institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, have made changes to their financial aid instructions after the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform alleged they were potentially misleading financial aid applicants.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne S. Duncan '86 in early February, Maryland Congressman Elijah E. Cumming expressed concern that many universities were not making it clear to applicants that the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is used only for purposes of institutional aid, while the FAFSA is used only for determining federal aid.

The Committee’s investigation indicated that Harvard’s financial aid instructions informed applicants to fill out the FAFSA and CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE “without any explanation of use or purpose.”

Harvard’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid made changes to its online instructions approximately a week after being identified in the report to clarify the purpose of each form.

In another letter to Duncan on Monday, Cummings wrote that he was pleased that all universities cited in the initial letter clarified their aid instructions.

“The changes made by these institutions demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that students receive appropriate instructions when applying for financial aid,” Cummings wrote.

Are the SAT and ACT Too Distanced From High School Work?

The Irrelevant SAT

Are the SAT and ACT too distanced from the current work of high school students? This question has been debated for a while, but with the recent changes to the SAT, the president of the College Board, David Coleman, has also joined the discussion.

But does this issue of the SAT and ACT's "irrelevance" entirely miss the point of these tests? If, as the College Board claims, the SAT and ACT are designed to test general knowledge, then the purpose of these tests does not need to closely resemble what schools teach students. If test-makers want to use these exams to tell college admissions officers something about “natural intelligence,” then the tests should not be expected to closely resemble what students learn in school at all.

The announcement of the new SAT brought to the forefront many of the dissatisfactions that students, teachers and parents have with the standardized exams: they can be “gamed.” The content of the test, as it currently stands, favors those who can afford a tutor to teach them the tricks of the test, or who can afford to take them multiple times. This is the glaringly identifiable problem with standardized testing today. The new changes are meant to combat this issue by tying the SAT more closely to the materials the general high school curriculum.

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Advancing Advanced Placement

AP Test Picture

According to a recent report released by the College Board on Feb. 11, the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement exams has been consistently increasing over the past 10 years.

Of the high school students graduating in 2013, 1,003,430 have taken one or more of the AP exams, compared to the 514,163 students in the high school class of 2003. The number of AP Exams taken has more than doubled in the interim, rising from 1,328,511 in 2003 to 3,153,014 in 2013.

There has been an even more significant—to be precise, 371.65%—increase in the number of AP examinees from low-income families, which has risen from 58,549 to 275,864 since 2003. However, the expansion of access to AP exams is still an ongoing effort.

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Changes to SAT May Put International Students at a Disadvantage

U.S. History for all?

With its well-intended changes, the SAT seems to have unconsciously alienated the international community of high school students who wish to pursue an education in the US.

According to an announcement made early Wednesday afternoon by David Coleman, President of The College Board, the SAT will undergo major changes starting in the spring of 2016. Amidst changes including an optional writing section and the return of the overall scoring to a 1600 scale, one key change will have a profound effect on international students.

As stated in the New York Times, “Every exam will include a reading passage from either one of the nation’s ‘founding documents,’ such as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, or from a "global conversation" of such texts, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’” For an international student, this will have frightening implications for those of us who have not studied American history or literature.

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SAT Changes: From A College Freshman Perspective

SAT Breakdown

For students who are planning to take the SAT starting spring 2016, we have great news: The College Board just announced great changes to the structure and format of the infamous exams. For those who read the news and still don’t understand what it exactly means, here is a breakdown of some of the most important changes:

No more guessing penalty: Under the old system, every multiple-choice question you got wrong meant a quarter of a point subtracted from your overall score. Now, future test-takers don’t have to feel that sort of pressure.  No longer will playing “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” between two possible answers feel like a life-or-death situation. Only have a few of minutes left and a bunch of questions unanswered? Feel free to fill in those pesky bubbles. Go wild.

Vociferous vocabulary: The SAT is known for its use of somewhat outrageous vocabulary words in its Critical Reading section. Now, you don’t have to know or even care for the definition of the word “raconteur” or “sagacious”. Instead they plan to focus on words you would actually use in college. I expect the most popular words would be “thesis,” “freshman fifteen” and “problem set.”

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