When plagiarism and stupidity collide

Last month, I published "30 Colleges, 30 Collegewise Guides to Getting In"
on this blog.  I gave away a lot of advice about how to approach the
application essays for each college, and I even included samples of
what a good response might sound like.

It should go without
saying that you shouldn't lift those responses and use them yourself. 
In fact, you shouldn't lift responses from anyone. 

But you really shouldn't plagiarize sample essays from the college's own website like this applicant did at the University of Virginia.  Wow. 

I know the pressures of college admissions.  I know how hard kids work and how badly you want to go to your chosen schools.  But please, don't be that kid they describe here.  Don't be the kid whose essay gets passed
around the office for a laugh and then gets called out on the school's

This applicant deserved what he got.  If you think you deserve better (I'm sure you do), make sure your essays are your own. You've worked too hard and it's just not worth the risk.

Another reason to love Wikipedia

Sure, you can't necessarily believe EVERYTHING you read on Wikipedia.  But everyone’s favorite research tool can also be used in the
college search.  Wikipedia has great
college write-ups that include information on everything from the make-up of
the student body to dorm life descriptions and listings of notable alumni.  And really, who wouldn't want to know that Ben
Affleck, Luke Wilson, and President Obama all went to Occidental College (although none of them went on to graduate from Oxy.)

Competitiveness Reconsidered

You don't have to spend a lot of time reading our blog or hanging around our offices before you hear our Collegewise mantra.  The bad news you hear about getting into college is only true for about 40-50 schools.  The vast majority of the over 2,000 colleges out there accept most of their applicants.  Relax.  You're going to college.

We'll be using a new study by an economist at Stanford University (one of those schools where the bad news is true) to give our mantra additional legs.  From the article Competitiveness Reconsidered in "Inside Higher Ed"

"A small number of colleges have become much more competitive over
recent decades, according to Caroline M. Hoxby, an economist at
Stanford University. But her study — published by the National Bureau
of Economic Research — finds that as many as half of colleges have
become substantially less competitive over time."

Spread the word. 

(US News) Rankings Have No Place in College Football

Are you ready for some football?  USC is playing Notre Dame today, a
bitter rivalry with Trojans and leprechauns facing off.  It's homecoming
weekend at Penn State where the forecast is 30 degrees and snowing,
but I promise you the Nittany Lion fans will be out there in full force, as will their legendary coach, 83 year-old Joe "JoePa" Paterno. And the Red River Rivalry taking place between Oklahoma and Texas today has always among most bitter rivalries in college football.

Whether or not you're a sports fan, you can't argue with its rich history of college football, or with the energy and camaraderie
it generates for students.  Rain or shine, those students are out there
every Saturday decked out in their school colors, singing the fight
songs, and of course, hurling traditional insults at the other team ("We
don't give a damn for the whoooole state of Michigan, whoooole state of Michigan….we're from O-hi-oooo!").

students can tell you where their team is on the controversial college
football rankings, but most don't know or care if their school is
ranked on the arguably more controversial US News college rankings. 
They're enjoying their college experience too much to be concerned with
an arbitrary ranking of their school's quality.  And those students who get the same enjoyment
playing in the marching band on the field, or doing physics research
with a professor, or being an RA in the dorms, or playing intramural
basketball with their new friends would all likely tell you that their
college's ranking (or lack thereof) isn't influencing their college
experience at all.  

Colleges can be evaluated, but they can't
be measured.  There are no win-loss records to compare for college
quality.  So don't rely on an arbitrary ranking to pick your school. 
It's easier to decide for yourself what you want from your college
experience and to seek out those schools that meet or exceed  your rankings. 

Best of Our Blog Posts for Seniors

We spend a lot of time writing about how to apply and get in to college.  So if you’re a senior trying to figure out how write your essays, how to fill out your applications, or even now to have a great interview, chances are, we’ve already written something about it here.

To save you the trouble of searching our blog, here are ten of our best past blog entries for seniors.  Enjoy, and best of luck on your applications.

1. Five Things Seniors Should Never Do When Applying to College

2. Stay On Their Good Sides      

   Tips to help you make sure you don’t
unintentionally annoy admissions officers

3. Five Things Seniors Can Still Do To Help Them Get Into College

4. College Essay Dos and Don’ts

5. How to Ruin Your College Application

    Sharing some advice from Jay Mathews at the Washington Post

6. Why Parents and College Essays Don’t Mix

7. Five Things Every College Wants You to Be

    And even if you’re a senior, it’s not too late to be them.

8. Inside the Admissions Office

    A reminder that admissions officers are just regular people.

9. Attack of the Killer Cliches

Please oh please, think twice before you write that essay about that one time you worked on a blood drive.

10. The One Thing You Need to Know About

College interviews, essays, getting in to college today–we’ll break them down and share the most important thing you need to know about each topic.

Give us Ninety Minutes, and We’ll Get You a Little Closer to College

Are you a senior (or a parent of a senior) who is applying
to college this fall?

If you answered an enthusiastic "YES!" to that
question and you live in Southern California or the Pacific
Northwest, we'd like to invite you to attend one of our FREE
college admissions seminars for seniors and their parents.

We'll be sharing some of the strategies we've perfected and
used to help nearly 3,000 students in our Collegewise programs get accepted to
college.  There is no cost and no catch–just good information for senior

Click on your location below for a list of available
seminars.  Our free seminars tend to fill up quickly, but we'll save as
many spaces as we can for our loyal newsletter subscribers.

Select your location: 

Angeles, CA

We hope you'll join us!

PS:  Families already enrolled in the Collegewise
programs do not need to attend these seminars.  We'll see you at your next
meeting with us!

Staying Productive and Motivated

Graduating college seniors are facing a tough job search in a down economy.  But that doesn't mean you can't do something noteworthy while you're looking.  This blog post has some great ideas for ways to stay motivated and make yourself even more marketable for potential employers.  I'm posting it here for college grads, but also for high school students who might be looking for ways to spend a productive and fulfilling summer (in fact, it's reminiscent of our list of "50 Fantastic Summer Activities for High School Students").

50 Fantastic Summer Activities for High School Students

The New York Times ran an article today about the National Young Leaders Conference–one of many organizations that offer high-priced summer programs for students, but that misleadingly market the programs as auspicious honors for which only a few outstanding students are selected.  It's a good reminder to be suspicious of any "honor" for which you have to pay (a lot) to receive.

You don't have to spend money on an expensive program to impress colleges.   Here are 50 fantastic summer activities you can do for free or almost free.  All of these are positive, productive and interesting to potential colleges.  Pick the one(s) you feel you could really get excited about, get going, and have fun. 

50 Ways to Spend Your Summer

  1. Take an interesting class at your local community college.
  2. Get a part-time job at the mall. 
  3. See how many books you can read this summer.  
  4. Work in your family's business.  Consider doing so for free.
  5. Think of ten people–teachers, coaches, family members, relatives–who deserve your thanks.  Write them a hand-written letter of at least one page expressing your appreciation and detailing how they've impacted you.  Tell them what you're going to do to make them proud and spend the summer doing it.
  6. Take saxophone lessons.  
  7. Coach little league.  Or basketball.  Or soccer.
  8. Work at a summer camp.  
  9. Volunteer at the local mobile health clinic, or the animal shelter, or the public library.  
  10. Tutor kids.  
  11. Start a business with your friends.   
  12. Set a goal that you are 99% certain you won't be able to achieve this summer.  Then go all out and try to achieve it as though your life depended on it.  You'll either get there or get much, much closer than you were at the beginning of the summer. 
  13. Learn how to write computer programs.  
  14. Read to the blind.  
  15. Teach something.  
  16. Learn to paint.  
  17. Pick something that really interests you and see how far you can go with it.  
  18. Take classes to become an emergency medical technician.  
  19. Learn sign language.   
  20. Pick a cause in your community that you care about.  Find groups who care about it, too.  Organize people. 
  21. Offer to intern for free someplace where the work seems interesting, like the city councilman's office, or an advertising agency, or the local newspaper.  
  22. Play guitar at coffee shops and see how much money you can make this summer. 
  23. Learn CPR. 
  24. Cook dinner for your family once a week.  Each time, learn a new dish that you prepare.  Write your recipes down and make your own family cookbook. 
  25. Volunteer to lead tours of local state parks.   
  26. Buy a college guidebook and learn as much as you can about 20 colleges you know nothing about today.  
  27. Raise money for someone or something that needs it. 
  28. Learn something that is pure fun, like bongos or hip hop dance or how to make your own purses (check out your local community colleges' "community education" programs). 
  29. Pick something you love and figure out how to use it to make contributions to others, like playing piano in a jazz band, teaching residents at a retirement home how to use a computer, or helping run the lights for a play at the community theater.  
  30. Work full time and give all the money to a charity of your choice at the end of the summer.  
  31. Pick a subject that fascinates you and challenge yourself to learn as much as possible about it. 
  32. Learn karate. 
  33. Teach karate. 
  34. Join a book club. 
  35. Organize a book club. 
  36. Go to your school principal and ask what you could do, for free, to improve the school.  You could paint a classroom, clean lockers, or refurbish the lunch benches.  Better yet, enlist five friends to do it with you.  Don't just tell colleges you want to make an impact.  Make one.  
  37. Set a goal to learn as many new things as possible this summer–facts, skills, concepts, etc.  Write a blog detailing what you've learned so you can share it with cyberspace. 
  38. Build an iphone app. 
  39. Master one subject or skill you currently don't know anything about. 
  40. Hold informal soccer conditioning workouts, or barbecues for the new student council members so you can get to know each other better, or meetings at Starbucks with your co-editors to brainstorm story ideas for the paper this fall.  Show colleges you can organize people and lead them.    
  41. Have a neighborhood bake sale for the French Club in which all sales are conducted in French.  
  42. Get a group of kids from the drama club together and enroll in an improv class. 
  43. Pick a classic author and read all of his or her works. Find out what all the fuss is about Twain or Hemingway or Plath or Dickinson. 
  44. Take the hardest college class you can find and enroll in it "not-for-credit" so you can challenge yourself with impunity. 
  45. Visit as many colleges as you can in a 30 mile radius of your house.  Take your friends with you.  Write your own reviews of each school and share them with people. 
  46. Learn to cut and style hair.  You'll be a savior during prom season. 
  47. Vow not to watch any TV this summer.  Not one single second.  Pick something cool and fun and productive to do instead.    
  48. Find a class offered at a local college that looks fascinating.  Email the professor and ask if you can sit in on a session or two just to experience what the class is like.  
  49. Train to run a 10k, or a half-marathon, or a marathon, or to do a triathlon.  And get your friends to join and train with you.  Consider raising money with your efforts and donating to a worthy cause. 
  50. Pick the five most enticing things on this list and do them.  At the end of the summer, email me at kevinm (at) collegewise.com and tell me about your experiences.  I'd love to hear from you, and if you give me permission, I'll share your story here on our blog.

Get Your Bagpipe On

Wooster There's so much to love about College of Wooster, and I'm not just talking about the fact that their mascot is the Fighting Scot and that the marching band wears kilts (though that is admittedly a very good start).

Today, I'll focus on just two things to love about Wooster.

1.  Wooster graduates fondly recount home football games in which the Fighting Scot marching band leads the team onto the field.  Thanks to the wonders of youtube,  you can now see it for yourself.  1:23 is where the mad rush to the field takes place.

2.  This isn't a school where you need perfect grades, perfect test scores, and a certificate proclaiming that you invented your own chemical to get in.  In fact, Wooster admits about 80% of their applicants.

For more information about Wooster (and my obvious affection for the Fighting Scots), here's my February 2007 blog post.