In the post-college application response period, high school seniors are eagerly (sometimes anxiously) anticipating admissions decisions from colleges. The University of California campuses will be returning Freshman admissions decisions along the following schedule:
Limited Release Mid-February & Late March
- UC Irvine
- UC Berkeley
- UC Merced
- UC Riverside
- UC Davis
- UC San Diego
- UC Santa Cruz (March 15)
- UC Santa Barbara (Week of March 20)
- UC Los Angeles
NOTE: all Freshmen admissions decisions will be released by March 31, 2017, and have until May 1, 2017 to make enrollment decisions.
UC Transfer Applicants can expect to receive admissions decisions by April 30, 2017, and have until June 1, 2017 to make enrollment decisions.
The Common Application members have changed the prompts for current juniors in the Class of 2018, who will become college applicants in Fall 2017. The word count remains unchanged at a maximum of 650 words. Applicants will still be required to only choose one of the seven prompts listed below.
The Common Application administrators have identified the prompts which changed, with notes at the end of the question. Also, words in italics represent a changed term from the current 2016-17 Common Application prompts.
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. [No change]
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? [Revised]
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? [Revised]
4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. [No change]
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? [New]
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. [New]
The rules of grammar can be annoying, especially when an English paper is “bleeding” with red ink marks, noting every single punctuation and grammar error. However, the purpose for grammar, which is to articulate the author’s ideas clearly to the reader, can get lost in trying to follow the rules of grammar.
To help all the college essay writers with “meaning what they say” and employing grammar to assist them, watch The New Yorker Magazine’s Comma Queen, Mary Norris, shed light about when to employ “that” and “which” in writing:
Not a day goes by, when I don’t hear from a concerned parent that their kid isn’t doing enough community service. The unsaid part of the concern is “not enough for a competitive college admissions resume.” Although community service IS recalled in college applications and can matter in demonstrating the interest and commitment of an applicant outside of her/his academic achievements, caring for others as a self-serving resume bullet point may miss the mark.
A recent New York Times opinion piece featured several college admissions officers formally confirming that community service and charitable acts with a self-interested motive can be recognized and diminish the applicant’s competitiveness.
In the case of drive-by charity work, the checked box can actually be counterproductive, because application readers see right through it.
“The running joke in admissions is the mission trip to Costa Rica to save the rain forest,” Ángel Pérez, who is in charge of admissions at Trinity College in Hartford, told me.
The FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the government form required to apply for financial aid at any U.S. college or university, will be released on October 1, 2016. The October date is a full three months earlier than previous years, when the FAFSA was released on January 1.
What the earlier release date means:
- Families will use 2015 Federal Tax returns to complete the FAFSA for the 2017-18 school year.
- The IRS Data Retrieval Tool will allow families to connect their FAFSA application to their already filed 2015 Federal Tax Returns, autofilling some data points, speeding up completion of the form and reducing potential for typos.
- Current college students who filed a FAFSA between January 1 – June 30, 2016 for the 2016-17 school year, will need to complete an additional FAFSA during the 2016 calendar year for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.
- Some college and university financial aid offices are moving priority FAFSA filing dates forward to January 2017. Be sure to check the financial aid websites for specific dates.
In addition, families may receive financial aid award letters sooner than in previous college admissions cycles, especially for those students applying in the early admissions rounds, which can assist in choosing a college.
About the author: Born and raised in Northern California, now studying at New York University, Daniel is majoring in Business with a concentration in Accounting and Information Systems with a Minor in Computer Science and Mathematics. After gaining three job opportunities and extensively volunteering in Brooklyn over the past year, here is Daniel’s reflection of his first year of college:
As a native Californian, the idea of an underground train system sounded like an alien concept. Naturally, the question, “Why can’t you just drive there?” would enter my mind. A system of many connecting lines that can take me anywhere was an inconceivable dream.
Once I started school at New York University and began working fifty blocks north of my dorm, I was confronted with the fact that I was dependent on this underground train system called the subway. Taking part in the ritual of riding the subway to work made me feel a lot more a part of the city. I felt like a true city dweller with New York as my home. Seeing the multitude of faces everyday, with the train’s increasing population and decreasing comfortability with each stop, made me realize just how many people live in this city. Although we were together on the train, the atmosphere never led to close personal interaction. With the amount of life and experience in a single car, I’m sure I would have had an eye-opening exchange with each and every rider. But it was too early in the morning and naturally, we were tired, so we rode in silence. read more…
[Sung to the tune of Heigh Ho from Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs] “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go…”
Even though I remember singing this refrain in jest, Millennials, the current generation between age 18 – 35 , may not be so light-hearted.
According to Bloomberg News in April 2016:
A new survey conducted online in February by research agency TNS on behalf of Citizens Bank found 59 percent of those [Millennials] polled have “no idea” when they will be able to pay back their student debt.
The survey found millennials, defined as those between the ages of 18 and 35, have an average student debt of $41,286.60. That’s significantly higher than the national average amount of debt for college graduates, which the Department of Education determined is $29,400.
Current student debt totals more than $1.3 Trillion, but estimated to be growing at $2726.03 per second, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that in multiple states, childcare expenses are greater than college tuition…
Malia Obama recently became a famous representative of a Millennial trend, The Gap Year. Defined as a “year-off” between high school and starting college, most “Gap Year-ians” aren’t just loafing around, playing video games and drinking Bobo teas all day. For a generation raised on scheduled play-dates, year-round athletics, and regimented community service activities, the gap year is similarly purposeful and structured.
The New York Times stated:
In deferring her start date until 2017, Malia, 17, is availing herself of the opportunity to take a “gap year,” a popular option for high school seniors who are seeking experiences outside the classroom — some in far-flung parts of the world — before they begin pursuing a degree.
Many students want a “break” from the prescribed learning that comes in the standardized curriculum of many modern high schools and will continue with the required General Education (i.e. G.E.) classes once joining most colleges and universities. Although gap year activities are constrained by the responsibilities of an internship or the service project in an international location, the natural uncertainties of life can feel less constraining to a maturing adult freed from the confines of school. read more…
About the author: I’m Karli Ching and I graduated with C.K. McClatchy High School’s Class of 2015. I attend University of California, Davis as a biological sciences major pre-med student.
When I was taking the ACT for the second time during my senior year in October, I was taking it to improve my math score because I was applying to competitive schools and wanted to increase my chances to be accepted. The night before the I had laid everything out on the kitchen table: pencils, erasers, water, granola bar, and calculator; but in the morning pre-test panic, I grabbed everything except for my calculator. I didn’t realize this until I sat in the desk, preparing for the test. Every little bit of fear I contained within me filled my body and I broke into a cold sweat. read more…
In the last several years, our middle class clients are being confronted by flattening incomes and college costs that have risen over 1000%. More and more families are finding themselves not only planning to pay for college when their children are quite young, but asking for more financial assistance when their children are ready to enroll in college.
With families earning less, but the costs of college skyrocketing, families may be spending a greater portion of their total budget to pay for college.
Prices of educational books and supplies have increased 141 percent, and college tuition and fees have increased 146 percent since January 2000.
Average American’s Cost of Living Falls, February 1, 2016, American Institute of Economic Research
Even if parents of today’s incoming college Class of 2020 began saving when they were young, at the average savings account interest rate of 3% (FDIC, 2016), (and of course, depending on the amount saved annually), the nest egg may not be enough to compensate for the 146% rise in college tuition over the same time period.
Millennial youth have achieved academically, dutifully served their communities, run thousands of miles in year-round sports leagues and led many sundry student organizations—both to develop character and compete for college admissions. Yet, parents who face the chasm separating their income and savings from rising college tuition, may be forced to choose between: lowering their standard of living, limiting younger children’s educational opportunities to the benefit of older child(ren), seeking greater financial aid and even curtailing their children’s college prospects. Not Enviable.
The stress from the continuous reduction in state funding over the last decade has finally come to the University of California’s flagship campus, Cal Berkeley. The Washington Post reported on April 13:
a workforce reduction of about 6 percent that comes as the prestigious public flagship is moving to erase a large budget deficit.
In February, [Chancellor Nicolas] Dirks had warned “painful” measures were needed to deal with a “substantial and growing” budget deficit.
Berkeley officials said at the time that the school’s expenses were projected to exceed revenue this year [2015-16] by about $150 million, or 6 percent of its operating budget.
Creative Marbles Consultancy Class of 2016
for acceptances to:
Arizona State University
Bryn Mawr College
California Lutheran University
Cal Poly, Pomona
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
California State University, Channel Islands
California State University, Chico
California State University, Fullerton
California State University, Long Beach
California State University, Monterey Bay
California State University, Sacramento
California State University, San Marcos
Case Western Reserve University
Christian Brothers University
Colorado State University
Cornell University read more…
“Well-lopsided” is the new catchphrase in college admissions. In CMC’s recent conversation with an Ivy League admissions officer, she mentioned that the trend for applicants are either well-rounded, with depth in each activity or well-lopsided—which means if applicants are going to focus on one activity, like a sport, Olympic training should be in view for such a candidate.
In Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of The American Elite & The Way to a Meaningful Life, former Yale Professor, William Deresiewicz, echoes the Ivy League admissions officer’s sentiment when recounting his service on a Yale admissions committee:
With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”—personal qualities—that were often revealed by the letters [of recommendation] or essays.
I’d been told in the orientation that morning that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”—outstanding in one particular way—but if they were pointy, they had to be really pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.
So, for generations of youth who may be groomed from kindergarten to position for the most selective universities in the United States, (for example, Harvard’s effective admit rate is 5% for Fall 2016) the strategy to be competitive for admissions, is once again being turned on its head. Where today’s parents (i.e. Generation X) may have been admitted to college with a smattering of extracurricular activities demonstrating the breadth of one’s interests, their children may be encouraged to commit at a young age to a single activity to create the well-lopsided, pointy resume seemingly prized by today’s admissions officers.
In Fall 2016, both freshman and transfer applicants to the University of California (UC) will choose from brand new writing prompts when composing the required personal application statements. After ten years, the UC has retired their previous two essay prompts. With annually record-breaking numbers of applicants—which increases the selectivity in admissions—admissions officers are seeking a fuller understanding of each applicant. read more…
When the #1,256 ranked student at your high school gets into a highly selective university and you don’t:
About Karli: She’s a freshman at the University of California Davis, currently studying Biology and Chemistry. Karli is a former Creative Marbles Consultancy client; we advised her as a high school senior through the college admissions process, knowing the pressures she experienced in completing her college applications.
In response to a recent New York Times editorial, Karli and I discussed the state of college admissions. I asked Karli, “What changes would you make to the college admissions process?” Our texts are what follows.
[K] I feel like… In ways I can agree with this process because I’ve gone through high school thinking that everything is getting the “grade” to move on to a good college. But now that I’m at [University of California] Davis, I feel this pressure to still do well, and still get the grades. But I’ve struggled with chemistry and bio this quarter, and even math! Which is so highly unusual.
My friend gave me a different perspective. This entire journey is not about these grades that we are trying so hard to achieve. But it’s the battle to be the person you want to be, and acquiring knowledge. It’s about building character. Grades don’t help build character, they build a piece of paper with letters and numbers that aren’t going to tell the person on the other end about you, except maybe that you can memorize stuff and regurgitate it. It’s not going to tell them that you can apply the knowledge. It’s not going to speak of the struggle. Only the person can speak of the struggle.
All of that doesn’t really answer your original question. So what would I change? read more…
….University of California Santa Cruz!
We’ve all “clicked prematurely”, but on Wednesday, March 15, 2016, the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC regional admissions officer for UC Santa Cruz sent 4000 “Congratulations on your admissions to UC Santa Cruz!” emails to students who hadn’t even applied.
At least this application season (knock on wood), only UC Santa Cruz college admissions officers have had to send apologies to applicants. Carnegie Mellon in 2015, Johns Hopkins in 2014, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014, Fordham University in 2013, Vassar College in 2012, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2012, and University of California San Diego in 2009 learned the premature clicking lesson the very hard, very embarrassing way.
UC Santa Cruz just provided Reason Number 4,281 to send acceptance letters the old fashioned way—The Big Envelope.
Clicking “Submit” only allows momentary relief.
New anxieties rise
Leaving many to exclaim, “Good Grief!”
The months long wait for a response has begun
The compulsive checking of the email inbox
Seems to only mock
The seriousness of the hunt for the (virtual) “large envelope”
“Maybe tomorrow…” they hope
Others who’ve heard
Gleefully, spread the word
Social media buzzes
Their friends feign a smile
Trying to vainly reconcile
Their chances too for the prized acceptance letter
The roller coaster of hope and doubt
Knocking back even the most devout
The new mail alert bings delightfully
Defying school rule
A Senior hurriedly reviews
The latest email with the Good News!